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    Monday
    Nov172014

    The Long View 2002-06-02

    Parkes 64m Radio TelescopeJohn was interested in Fortean phenomena. While this subject provides plenty of opportunity to poke fun at the credulous, every so often fish and frogs really do rain from the sky. One might also note that the spectacular electrical phenomena known as sprites and blue jets have been observed for over a century by pilots, but such reports were widely dismissed until someone managed to catch one on camera.

    Cold fusion and reactionless thrusters keep disappointing everyone, but there is a big enough payoff in these things that federal agencies with no sense of humor keep funding small experiments in the hope of a breakthrough.

    I am disinclined to dismiss data out of hand. I am also disinclined to give an n of 1 more weight than it deserves. I think John understood this pretty well.

    Science!

     

    Apropos of nothing in particular, here are some science stories I have been following. They are not quite fringe science. All they have in common is that, if they have substance, the world will never be the same again.

    Talking to Extraterrestrials: I have my own, rather convoluted ideas about the likelihood of detecting extraterrestrial intelligence with radio telescopes. The fact is, though, this is one of those questions about which almost all speculation is equally ill-founded. The matter is bound up with fashions in evolutionary theory and often driven by bad metaphysics. There really is no way to settle these issues other than by experiment; that is, to just search.

    Let us assume that signals are detected, and the source is near enough for an exchange of messages. This leaves us with the problem of communicating with a non-human intelligence. The difficulties in this connection may have been underestimated. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein went so far as to say that, if a lion spoke, we could not understand it. The idea is that understanding language is as dependent on the nature of the hearer as on the structure and use of the language. Even creatures as closely related as a human being and a lion experience the world so differently that they could not be expected to devise a common code.

    Scientists often skip over this problem by asserting that "mathematics is a universal language." This position is known as Mathematical Platonism. It is one of the perennials of philosophy, but so is the position that mathematics is just another arbitrary language. John Barrow, in his wonderful book Pi in the Sky, considered whether and to what degree mathematics is culturally conditioned. He even considered the possibility that we might contact extraterrestrials who have no concept of a "theorem." He came down, grudgingly, on the side of Platonism, though he admitted he had no answer for the old objection that there is no obvious way to connect the Platonic world to this one.

    I write about this now because I recently came across some research from Yale that might cast light on the matter. The study concerned the way that autistic people watch movies. Both the autistic subjects and the normal control group were highly intelligent and verbal. Nonetheless, the researchers found that the two groups watched movie dialogue differently. The normals watched the eyes of the characters, while the autistic people watched the mouths.

    As with so much else about autism, probably we are just seeing an extreme manifestation of ordinary behavior. If you watch a film in a language you do not know well, for instance, you might find yourself looking at the mouths, too. In any case, what seemed to be happening was that the normals assembled what they saw on the screen into the integral Gestalt we call a person. The autistic people were processing information, without integrating the behaviors they saw into persons. Autistic people can do that, of course, but it takes work.

    This could be the kind of problem we might have with extraterrestrials, and they with us. We might be able to mirror signals that refer to the same physical events, but we would not see what the events meant, or indeed that they meant anything. At least initially, the flow of data would not suggest mind or consciousness. We would be lucky to spot the flow as artificial. At that point, we might do well to send for special education teachers.

    Black Light: I fell for Cold Fusion from the time when the claims to have produced it first surfaced in 1989. There were so many other wonders in that year; the discovery of a perpetual source of virtually free power seemed to be natural. I was inclined to attribute the early skepticism about the discovery to malice and jealousy on the part of the skeptics. The subject still makes me grumpy.

    I still think that, if I wait long enough, some table-top physics will come along to change life as we know it. The best contender at the moment is "black light," ultraviolet radiation produced by an excited plasma. Black Light Power, a New Jersey company, has already built some interesting batteries and generators using proprietary Black Light technology. Even more interesting, NASA has invested some money to pursue Black Light. The technology's proponents say they can make a hydrogen plasma rocket engine that will work in the atmosphere.

    The problem is that the technology may require ripping up 20th-century physics. The Black Light people say they have found classical solutions for quantum phenomena. They say they are getting energy from hydrogen atoms below the ground state. They have peer-reviewed articles documenting some novel effects. I don't understand the claims well enough to say whether the hair-raising physics has to be correct for the technology to work.

    As we say in New Jersey, it's nice work if you can get it.

    Lost Civilizations: When people claim to have found a lost civilization, they are usually either (1) lying; (2) failing to recognize the remains of some known culture; or (3) mistaking natural formations for artificial ones. I was thus somewhat surprised that last year's reports about submerged megalithic structures off western Cuba's Guanahacabibes Peninsula have not gone away. The observations were made by a Cuban-Canadian partnership looking for sunken treasure ships. What they found, using sonar and robot submersibles, looks like an extensive area of roads, walls, and pyramids. A sunken city is not by itself so remarkable. The problem is that this one is 2,000 feet down.

    Even in the geologically unstable Caribbean, there is no obvious way this could have happened. The region in question probably once connected Cuba with Central America, but that was on the order of 50,000 years ago. At that time, there were no civilizations. There were some barely human hominids in the eastern hemisphere, but no one in the west.

    The odds are still strong that the find will turn out to be natural structures after all. If they are not, then no doubt special explanations will be found to fit the subsidence into known history. Huge, submarine landslides are not unheard of: a ridge might have slid into the sea just a few thousand years ago, raising a great tsunami in the process. To discover that such a thing had happened would be wonder enough.

    The alternative is too disconcerting to be wonderful. We would not be talking about Atlantis anymore, but of a city out of Lovecraft.


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    Sunday
    Nov162014

    The Long View: World Government

    If I hope John is remembered for something, it would be his indefatigable efforts to wrest the idea of world government away from the kooks. It seems likely that some sort of universal state is the political future of the West, although how likely and how universal are matters of some uncertainty. John felt it was pretty likely, and what we do over the next two or three generations will have a lot to do with how it all turns out.

    This topic grew on its own. World government is a theme that plays a large role in many eschatological scenarios. It is also often touched on in foreign policy these days, at least obliquely.


    The image to the left is a modification of Thomas Cole's Consummation, from his series, The Course of Empire (1845).


    2011

     

    How Civilizations Die (David Goldman, also known as "Spengler," gives us another Demographic Dreadful.) The Katechonic Commonwealth (A comparative approach to the Western Universal State.) The Origins of Political Order (Francis Fukuyama explains the origins of the state.)

     

    2009

     

    Caritas in Veritate (Benedict XVI's specifications for an ecumenical polity.) Rites of Peace (Adam Zamoyski recounts the oddly neglected Congress of Vienna.) The Next 100 Years (George Friedman does a geopolitical projection of the 21st century.)

     

    2008

     



    Empires of Trust (Thomas Madden updates the analogy of Rome to America for the 21st century.)

     

    The Return of History (Robert Kagan makes short work of Fareed Zakaria and Francis Fukuyama.) The Post-American World (Fareed Zakaria reveals an Indian future for America in an anti-apocalyptic model of history.) The Nomos of the Earth (Carl Schmitt reveals how the Belgians unhinged the Eurocentric world.)

     


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    Tuesday
    Nov112014

    The Long View: Spelling Reform

    This was definitely John's least popular enthusiasm. There is just about no easier way to get a guffaw or a snicker than talk about spelling reform. Nonetheless, John did. He was even on CNN once for this I think.

    August 27, 1906: On this date, President Theodore Roosevelt directed Charles A. Stillings, the Public Printer of the United States, to use 300 simplified spellings in all the executive-branch documents printed by his office. The documentation for this characterically bold initiative is here made available online for the first time.

     


    Click Below For:

    The Mysterious "Executive Order"

     

    The List

     

    The History

     

     


    To contrast the president's lucid and manly views with the obscurantist sophistries of the Dark Lord of Lexicography, click on the image of Dr. Samuel Johnson:

     


    Click here Spelling Reform Links


    Various Schemes to Reform English Spelling
    Famous Dead People Who Have Promoted Spelling Reform
    Fiction, Nonfiction in Reformed Spelling
    Spelling Progress Bulletin Samples

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    Monday
    Nov102014

    The Long View: Science and Cosmology

    John was not a scientist. He never pretended to be one. I think that gave him a certain clarity of vision. I always respected his views on science, because he approached it as an interested outsider. This may be the shortest of his topical collections, but one of my favorites. This is an area where I had read most of the books before John reviewed them, but I did manage to learn a few things from John.

    His review of a biography of Kurt Gödel is one of his more popular items he wrote, and it was influential in my own views of strong AI. John also was a bit sceptical of Stephen Jay Gould and Malcolm Gladwell, which increased my respect for him. Although I do feel a bit bad for Gladwell now that he isn't a media darling anymore. I guess I just don't like kicking a man while he is down.

    Science and Cosmology


    I suppose it is hard to have a broader interest than "cosmology." For some reason, I have always believed it to be a virtue to resist limiting my curiosity to things I might actually be able to understand. In any event, here are some pieces I have done about really, really big questions.


    2011
    Being and Time (Martin Heidegger explains the world in terms of Death and Equipment.)
    2007
    An Army of Davids (Glenn Reynolds argues for homebrewed beer and transhumanism.)
    2006
    Two Scientists (Some thoughts on biographies of Albert Einstein and Marie Curie.)

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    Sunday
    Nov092014

    The Long View: Black Hawk Down

    I think I read Black Hawk Down after I read John's review of it. It has been long enough that I'm not quite sure anymore. Regardless, this is a classic of war journalism, and is worth reflecting on the Battle of Mogadishu twenty-one years later.

    Our involvement in Somalia's civil war in 1992 and 1993 is the connection between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the Global War on Terror, even though we didn't know it at the time. Somalia's collapse was what the other end of the peace dividend looked like. We [and the Russians] stopped spending money in Third World shitholes, and some of them imploded from the sudden change in cash flow.

    We got involved because this was arguably partly our fault. The original mission was primarily to protect aid workers who were distributing food. Once the famine ended, and most of the troops went home, local political entrepreneurs began looking to fill the power void. If Mohamed Farrah Aidid had avoided targeting local collaborators and UN peacekeepers in his quest for power, likely we wouldn't have bothered to get further involved.

    However, Somali rules for war don't include niceties like "non-combatants". All that matters is whose side you are on. If you want a battle where the rules of war were observed to the letter by both sides, you need to go look at Gettysburg. This was definitely not Gettysburg, although it was a pivotal battle in United States history.

    In principle, it shouldn't have been. These were routine snatch and grab type missions. Fast rope in, handcuff some guy, toss him in a waiting truck and drive off. In many ways, this kidnapping operation was also a success. The intended targets were indeed captured. Unfortunately, the Somalis seem to have been the first to really exploit the weakness of helicopters to RPG fire. In the firefight that ensued after two Blackhawks were shot down by RPGs, the Rangers clearly gave much better than they got, no matter whose account you credit.

    Nonetheless, this was widely perceived as a failure of will on the part of America [which is at least partly the argument of this book]. That may or not be a fair judgement, but public opinion is notably unfair. One might even go so far as to suspect that this event played a role in the formulation of Osama bin Laden's campaign of bombings intended to break the will of the American people. It does seem clear that we were sucked into a war we didn't understand, with unclear goals and an infinite faith that our technological superiority would allow us to eventually prevail. As such, Mogadishu seems to be more typical than not of our never-ending war.

    Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War
    by Mark Bowden
    Penguin Books, 2000
    392 Pages, $13.95 (Paperback)
    ISBN: 0-14-028850-3

     

    In this account of the battle of Mogadishu of October 3, 1993, Mark Bowden, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, says that he "wanted to combine the authority of a historical narrative with the emotion of a memoir, and write a story that read like fiction but was true." While a theoretical argument can be made that this ambition is impossible, readers will have trouble avoiding the conviction that Bowden succeeded. The book is based on dozens of interviews with the hundred or so Rangers and Delta Force members who spent the night pinned down in an armed and hostile city, as well as with their commanders, elements of the relief column that finally extracted them and a sample of Somali bystanders and militia. These people get to speak for themselves through the author's narrative, which adopts the point of view of the primary sources for each incident in the story. The result is more than a Tom Clancy novel with better characters: the accounts of combat in Black Hawk Down are an important contribution to military history. The book also examines the leadership and tactics that lay behind the engagement. While Bowden, commendably, does not present any easy answers, one could argue that there were in fact glaring errors in these areas.

    The battle of Mogadishu (sometimes called "the Battle of the Black Sea" after the neighborhood in which most of it occurred) was the climax to the UN-sponsored, American-led intervention in Somalia that began in 1992. That country had disintegrated politically when both superpowers lost interest in supporting its tyrannical government after the end of the Cold War. The resulting famine in the south provided several weeks worth of photogenic misery for global television, which in turn led to widespread calls for international humanitarian military intervention. After some delay and despite its better judgment, the outgoing Bush Administration committed 28,000 Marines as the backbone of an international contingent to provide security for famine-relief organizations operating in and around Mogadishu, the nominal capital.

    The effort succeeded. The famine ended, and the warring clans into which Somali politics had decomposed largely stopped fighting each other. The new Clinton Administration honored its predecessor's pledge to withdraw American forces from Somalia as quickly as possible. The Marines were brought home, and only a residual American force remained. The peace thereafter was supposed to be overseen by a modest international contingent as the UN assembled a new Somali government. This is not what happened. Clan violence resumed, due in no small part to the ambitions of the Habr Gidr clan and its leader, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who hoped to dominate any new government. Aidid's forces assassinated Somalis working for the UN and began attacking UN peacekeeping forces. In one incident in July, 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed and their bodies mutilated.

    The chief of the UN mission in Somalia at the time, retired US Admiral Jonathan Howe, was outraged by this turn of events and determined to intimidate the Habr Gidr into cooperation. Using his connections in Washington, he contrived to secure the deployment of a special operations force, Task Force Ranger, including a contingent of the legendary Delta Force.

    Army Rangers are select paratroopers. Typically, they are about 19 years old, sport brutal crew cuts and go "Hoo Ah!" when they greet each other. (Other sources say they go "Ooh Rah!") While they are a formidable force, the Rangers are not trained or intended for special operations. D-boys, as Delta Force members are called, really are special operations troops. They are older than the Rangers and cultivate a studied indifference to things like rank and uniform. They are also probably the best soldiers in the world for what they do. What they were supposed to do in Mogadishu was raid the residences and bases of the leaders of Habr Gidr. The Rangers would provide a screen while Delta extracted the bigwigs. Any one raid involved about 160 men. They might arrive in Black Hawk helicopters and then leave with their prisoners in a convoy of Humvees and trucks that met them at the target, or they might arrive by convoy and leave by helicopter. These raids occurred for the most part in densely crowded civilian neighborhoods where a substantial fraction of the population was hostile militia. The trick was to get in and out before resistance could be organized.

    There had already been a handful of American casualties in Somalia, and one Black Hawk associated with the 10th Mountain Division, the principal US reserve in the country, had even been shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade. Nonetheless, Task Force Ranger managed to complete five raids of this type with only trivial injuries to themselves. On October 3 their luck ran out. Around three in the afternoon, the force arrived in helicopters at the site of a meeting of Habr Gidr notables. They quickly secured some of the surrounding streets and bundled the prisoners into a truck in a small convoy. Then one of the Black Hawks was shot down, crash-landing nearby. The force then had to go to that site to rescue survivors (there were some) and to destroy sensitive equipment. A few minutes later, another helicopter was shot down.

    What turned an unfortunate mishap into the biggest fire fight involving American forces since the Vietnam War was that the convoy was unable to find the first crash site. (The second site was soon overrun, despite a last-ditch defense by two members of Delta, and the pilot taken prisoner.) Whether despite or because of the guidance it received from observation aircraft, the Lost Convoy, as it became known, blasted its way up and down the city, narrowly missing its destination on several occasions and taking 50% casualties before arriving back at its base. A relief convoy was soon organized, manned in large part by support personnel, but was similarly defeated by the terrain of the city.

    The Somalis' new-found facility with rocket-propelled grenades argued against extraction of the force around the first crash site by helicopter. In fact, three other helicopters had been badly damaged but managed to return to friendly territory. It was not until nearly midnight that a relief column of 500 men could set out, including tanks borrowed from the Pakistanis and armored personnel carriers from the Malaysians. (For a variety of reasons, the interface between the Rangers and the Malaysian drivers was not altogether happy.) This column knew exactly where it was going, and it was big enough to ignore most obstacles in its way. Nonetheless, mostly because of a long delay at the crash site to remove the body of a pilot from the Black Hawk, it was not until after sunrise that the column pulled into a sports stadium that was pressed into service as a field hospital.

    The toll for the Americans was 18 dead and several dozen wounded. The figure usually given for deaths among the Somalis is 500. The most disturbing feature of the book is the account of the casual killing of civilians.

    Since the objective of capturing the Habr Gidr notables was achieved, the Rangers insist to this day that the mission was a success. By most accounts, Mohamed Farrah Aidid was indeed deeply shaken. After the dispatch of an aircraft carrier and some diplomatically phrased threats from Admiral Howe, the captured pilot was released. However, such support as remained in the US for the Somalia intervention collapsed. The raids by Task Force Ranger ceased. The US withdrew entirely a few months later. Aidid was back in the diplomatic loop until his assassination in 1996. (His son, oddly enough, is a veteran of the US Marine Corps Reserve.) Somalia in the year 2000 remains a legal fiction.

    Black Hawk Down is not about high politics. Still, Bowden does have some sensible if debatable things to say about who was responsible and what, if anything, should have been done differently. He is something of a partisan of the Task Force Ranger commander, the now retired General William F. Garrison. Bowden debunks the strange stories that had arisen in which Garrison is pictured as conducting the battle from a high-flying helicopter, and says that his extensive interviews with the members of the force did not reveal the unhappiness with Garrison's style of command that other writers have alleged.

    Nonetheless, the fact remains that a unit under Garrison's command was being sent out to perform what was pretty much the same maneuver, time after time, in the same area. It really is predictable that, in such circumstances, the enemy will develop counter-tactics. There may have been some good reason Task Force Ranger had to persevere with the snatch-and-grab strategy, or perhaps the operations themselves were significantly varied. If so, however, these things are not apparent from the text.

    The battle of Mogadishu was prominent among the reasons for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, but Bowden finds the decisions made by the Bush and Clinton Administrations at least defensible. Aspin was most faulted for turning down the initial proposal to include heavy armored vehicles in the residual force the US was leaving after the Marines pulled out. Later, when Task Force Ranger was deployed, it did not ask for armor, for the excellent reason that they were not an armored group. Still, one could argue that the dispatch of Task Force Ranger should have caused a reassessment of the decision not to send armor, since obviously the new force would have far more occasion to get in trouble than the force originally contemplated. The estimate that the armored vehicles could not have reached Mogadishu by October 3 in any case is probably exaggerated.

    As for President Clinton, Bowden finds that, despite reports to the contrary, he was following developments in Somalia before October 3 as closely as could be expected. Clinton had approved the task force on expert advice, and the experts never gave him any reason to think that there was a fundamental flaw in the strategy. Bowden suggests that, after the primary goal of relieving the famine had been achieved, the US would have been better advised to have suffered the renewal of civil war. He quotes an anonymous source at the State Department as saying people in places like Somalia "don't want peace. They want victory." On the other hand, he also echoes what seems to have been the universal opinion among the veterans of the battle: having taken a position in Somalia's civil war, the US should have continued the policy until Aidid was killed or captured. There is certainly a very good argument that the Clinton Administration's decision to withdraw simply promoted the idea that the US, or at any rate President Clinton, would not persevere in any military commitment that could involve even small casualties.

    While there is little to quarrel with in these assessments, there is one point of my own that I would like to add. What was Task Force Ranger doing? Was it a war? A police action? A safari? I don't understand where a strategy of repeated kidnapping raids into a city the attacker has no intention of governing fits into the categories of political science. Were we trying to annoy the Somalis into responsible self-government?

    The task of special forces is to make assaults that are sudden, surprising and limited. Such operations can be an invaluable component of a larger campaign. The special forces operations in this instance, however, were the whole of the campaign. This was something like using a scalpel to cut down a tree. At the end of the attempt, the tree will still be standing, and the effect on the scalpel is predictable.



    Copyright © 2000 by John J. Reilly


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    Monday
    Nov032014

    The Long View: Dreamer of the Day

    Francis Parker YockeyI am astonished that men like Francis Parker Yockey actually exist. Yockey is a reminder that truth is always stranger than fiction. The closest literary analogue that I have read is Tim Power's Declare. Of course, that is a secret history, based on the very real life of Kim Philby. You can't make this stuff up.

    For example, Yockey supported himself as a gigolo. I suppose in way he was the dark shadow of James Bond. Yockey really was an international man of mystery. He was certainly a spy, and traveled all over the world in the pursuit of secret goals. Unlike Bond, he was also a man of letters. He had a law degree from Notre Dame and wrote a book that is more cited than read. In the end, Yockey was unmade by a very prosaic method: the airline lost his luggage containing all his fake passports.

    Yockey was primarily of interest to John because he was a posthumous prophet of the one twentieth century ideology that never ran a state: Tradition. Tradition is thankfully rather obscure. I had never heard of it until I started reading John's website. You should be glad you've never heard of it, because that means it has not been successful.

    It would be easy to paint Yockey as a tool of fascists, but in truth he was a fellow traveler with the communists as well. The movement with which he was associated also influenced the Third World. There are interesting connections between Yockey and his ilk and the modern Islamists that plague the Middle East. He was after something quite different than most of the Nazis, which is why he is so interesting.

    John finishes up this review with an aside about Spengler that is most illuminating. John felt that Yockey mis-interpreted Spengler's ideas, but that very mis-interpretation demonstrated a clear flaw in Spengler himself. Toynbee probably understood the nature of universal states better than Spengler, but you had to read a lot more to get there.

    Dreamer of the Day:
    Francis Parker Yockey and the
    Postwar Fascist International
    By Kevin Coogan
    Autonomedia, 1999
    644 Pages, $16.95
    ISBN: 1-57027-039-2

     

    Francis Parker Yockey was born in Chicago in 1917 and committed suicide in 1960, when the FBI finally caught him. He dedicated his life to reversing the outcome of the Second World War, a project he believed could be accomplished by 2050. From an early age, he identified anti-Americanism with antisemitism and supported both. He opposed early steps toward economic globalization and gave covert assistance to Muslim enemies of the West. He speculated hopefully that an enemy to whom it would be impossible to surrender would eventually attack Americas' cities. He worked to create a pan-European superstate, indeed a Eurasian superstate including Russia, that would displace America's global influence. He expected that the world would someday be ruled by elites for whom hermeticism had replaced Christianity. On the whole, he probably would have been pleased by the state of the world today.

    One should not exaggerate the degree to which the recent prominence of Yockey's constellation of enthusiasms is due to his influence. His great ideological tome, "Imperium," has had some currency in fascist and occult circles on both sides of the Atlantic. Still, though extremists from American Satanists to Russian revanchists may sometimes invoke his name today, they generally do so without much knowledge of his ideas. A few references to Yockey himself turned up in the popular press in the 1950s, as a mystery man somehow linked to both Soviet espionage and the world's neofascist network, but Yockey never even rose to the level of infamy. He remained a denizen of the fringe of the fringe. This does not make Kevin Coogan's treatment of Yockey's life and times any less valuable. Yockey's life intersected with 20th century forces and ideas that were often obscure. That is not to say they were not also powerful, and may be more so in the 21st century.

    "Dreamer of the Day" wanders amiably back and forth between high theory and very informed rumor mongering. We get useful pocket summaries of the ideas of some of the chief ideologues of the "Conservative Revolution" of the first half of the 20th century, a "movement" that ranged from Martin Heidegger to Ezra Pound. The book continues through the tangle of small organizations and petty conspiracies that maintained this tradition in the second half of the century, after it was eclipsed by the overthrow of openly fascist governments. You have to read the book to appreciate the full sweep of history between the Thule Society of Munich and the Ancient and Noble Order of the Blue Lamoo of Leonia, New Jersey. The book also treats of matters such as Yockey's posthumous effect on Satanism, as well as the sexual ideologies that percolated among Right and Left in the postwar era. Coogan usually manages to relate all this fascinating material to Yockey, but the connections are often tenuous. This is not the author's fault. Even after exhaustive research, we still know little more about Yockey's life than a disturbing outline.

    Yockey's family was of the professional classes, though in somewhat straitened circumstances after the coming of the Depression. His people were German, Irish and French Canadian. Coogan does dangle the rumor of a Jewish grandfather, just for the sake of completeness. In any case, the family was Catholic. Yockey himself later drifted into the theosophical Nietzscheanism that characterized his underground milieu.

    He was a small man, about five feet, seven inches. There is one picture of him, on the book's cover. Readers may be reminded of Rod Serling, the somewhat funeral creator and master-of-ceremonies of the original "Twilight Zone" television series. All sources agree that Yockey was highly intelligent. He was a concert-level pianist, though he could only rarely be persuaded to play. All sources also agree that he had a difficult personality. Nonetheless, he was able to support his political interests in part as a gigolo and occasional bigamist. He seems to have appealed to slightly older women who liked to talk about Hitler and to be whipped.

    Francis Parker Yockey was involved with organizations of the radical right in the 1930s. This included such groups as William Dudley Perry's Silver Shirts and the various incarnations of the German American Bund. Such connections, however, did not exclude other links, with Stalinists and Trotskyites. His Chicago-area home was a time and place when the semi-fascist followers of Father Coughlin might make common cause with the most radical Progressives. This common front against capitalism was, for radicals like Yockey, also part of the struggle against the Jews.

    Yockey for most purposes was a "National Bolshevik," a tendency that in the German Nazi Party was represented by the Strasser brothers, Otto and Gregor. As the term implies, National Bolsheviks supported radical socialism, but for the preservation of the "Volk," the ethnic and cultural unit of the People, rather than for the proletariat. They also supported a policy of alliance with Russia against the West. "Strasserism," as this tendency was also called, was disfavored: after the Nazis came to power, Gregor was assassinated and Otto escaped to Latin America. Still, it continued to appeal to some leading Nazis, notably Joseph Goebbels. He actually took the opportunity to implement some of the Strasserist program right at the end of the regime, in the WerwolfMovement

    Rather like the young Goebbels, Yockey pursued an academic career at so many universities that it is hard to settle on a final count. We know that he finished a law degree at Notre Dame and that he qualified to practice. The most important part of his undergraduate career was probably his stint at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. That was, perhaps, the only place in America where he could have been introduced to the ideas of two leading lights of the Conservative Revolution, Karl Haushofer the proponent of geopolitics and Carl Schmitt the jurist.

    Haushofer is best known for the propositions that the key to world dominion is the control of Central Asia and that, as the Strasserists said, the proper role for Germany was as the western wing of a great Eurasian power. Furthermore, he argued that Germany was essentially a "have-not" nation. Its proper allies were not in the liberal West, but among the anti-colonial resistance movements of what would later be called the Third World. In Europe, he hoped, Germany would eventually be the center of a hegemonic system that was not quite an empire, but no longer a system of truly sovereign states.

    Schmitt is a famous "anticonstitutionalist," whose ideas are somewhat reminiscent of the pragmatic Legal Realists in America during the 1930s. In his view, the real law was what happened at the "Ernstfall," the point of decision where one party succeeds and another fails. He is best known, perhaps, for his definition of "the sovereign" as the entity that can designate who is an enemy.

    Between them, Haushofer and Schmitt disposed of the notion of the rule of law both domestically and internationally. There were no principled norms, but simply the exercise of power, which could be more or less predictable. One may note that the Jesuits of Georgetown studied the theories of these two men chiefly in order to refute them; in those days, the Jesuits were less susceptible to intellectual fashions.

    By far the greatest intellectual influence on Yockey, however, was Oswald Spengler. Yockey spent his adult life believing that he was implementing the ideas about the future implied by "The Decline of the West." Yockey was also heavily influenced by "The Hour of Decision," a tract Spengler published at the beginning of the Nazi regime. As we will see, Yockey's interpretation of Spengler was somewhat idiosyncratic.

    During World War II, Yockey secured an Army commission. Soon afterward, he briefly deserted. Coogan notes that Yockey had many connections with the German sympathizers who probably aided the famous infiltration of German saboteurs into the United States, and that this happened at just the time that Yockey was missing. Coogan makes a plausible case that Yockey was part of a German-American espionage network that lead to the German Embassy in Mexico City. Plausibility is not proof, however. All we know is that Yockey returned to duty after some weeks. He persuaded the Army that he was suffering from a mental breakdown; he received a medical discharge with little trouble.

    Through some appalling oversight in the vetting process for federal employees, Yockey landed a job after the war as an attorney with the war crimes tribunal in Germany charged with prosecuting lesser Nazis. He seems never to have actually function in that position; he was eventually discharged for abandoning his post. He would later do the same thing with a job with the American Red Cross, using it to finance another trip to Europe and then simply deserting. Yockey used these opportunities to make contacts with the growing pan-European fascist network.

    In a way, the loss of the war liberated international fascism. As we have noted, it was only when the Nazi regime no longer had much of a country to govern that Goebbels was able to give effect to his revolutionary impulses. The same thing happened in Italy. After the Allied invasion in 1943, the Germans rescued Benito Mussolini. He briefly ruled the "Social Republic" of Salò, a rump state in the north of Italy that finally carried out the radical fascist ambition of nationalizing most of the economy. Fascism after 1945 was entirely free of the responsibility for government, and so could pursue the most radical agenda.

    It is really as an ideologue that Yockey's chief significance lies. In 1948, working at Brittas Bay on the Irish coast, Yockey produced his masterpiece, Imperium. The book tried to update "The Decline of the West," but in many ways it stood Spengler on his bald head. Spengler, who died in 1936, had not wanted a war with Russia, but neither was he a Strasserist. He feared that Russia and the "Colored World" would make alliance against the West, in collusion with the radical Left of the Western nations. Spengler believed that the West was headed into a period like the Roman Empire, and that the elites of the West needed to cultivate Nietzschean virtues in order to make the transition. Yockey, in contrast, spoke of the need to create what in effect would be a new race to govern the coming Imperium. This notion, as Coogan points out, has more in common with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's prophecy of the coming Sixth Root Race than with Spengler's concept of "race" as the lineages of cultivated families.

    The biggest difference is that anti-Semitism as a major historical force is wholly absent from Spengler's philosophy. For Yockey, modern history was about little more than the cultural distortion caused by the Jews. So great was their effect on the United States in particular, Yockey counseled, that the temporary domination of Europe by the healthy barbarians of Russia was the best short-term goal.

    The original two-volume edition of Imperium ran to just 200 copies. There would have been more, but Yockey aliened the British Fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, who had once expressed an interest in promoting the work. Still, it was not without early admirers. The military historian, Basil Liddell Hart, wrote a favorable review. The hermetic Italian ideologue, Julius Evola, also praised it, though he observed that Yockey had misread Spengler. Yockey's book was more a rumor than a source for the fascist revival in the 1950s. It was not until after Yockey's death, when the radical-right publisher Willis Carto brought out a paperback edition of Imperium that the book began to reach a sizeable readership. Still, Imperiumdoes provide some guide to what important fascists were thinking in those days.

    Acting in large part under the inspiration of Evola, postwar fascists cultivated ideas that had existed for decades, but that had become muted during the time of fascism in power. Evola was the chief inspiration for a Swiss-based umbrella-organization called the New European Order, or NEO. The group cultivated his favorite themes. These included government by a Platonic, "solar" hierarchy, the notion of sacred kingship, and myths of Aryan origin in the hyperborean north and in Atlantis. On a more practical level, these people were no longer constrained by Hitler's foreign policy. They could deal with the Soviets to oppose Western interests; they could and did deal with the CIA to give radical-right organizations some breathing room, particularly in Italy. (Carl Gustav Jung, also widely considered a Conservative Revolutionary, was CIA chief Allen Dulles's family psychiatrist.)

    They were also able to do business with the Third World. A number of exiled Nazis moved through the Muslim capitals, organizing anti-Zionist propaganda. Notable among them was the Strasserist exile, Johann von Leers, who was an important figure in Nasser's Egypt. The network did not neglect Latin America, where the Red and the Brown made common cause on the question of anti-Americanism. Indeed, Coogan makes a good argument that the original post-revolutionary model for Fidel Castro was the Social Republic of Salò.

    Amidst all this devilry, Yockey was a jobbing imp. He may well have acted as a courier for Czech intelligence. He may have spent a substantial blank space during the 1950s behind the Iron Curtain. He did work with Leers in Egypt. He even tried to sell the Egyptian government some bogus Argentine nuclear technology. Back in the United States, he worked briefly as a speechwriter for Senator Joseph McCarthy. He lived in New York City for some time, consorting with a strange section of New York's political bohemia. At least one host among his acquaintances kept a frame with a picture of Hitler on one side and of Stalin on the other, the better to accommodate the tastes of his guests. He attended the salon of the right-wing poet, George Sylvester Viereck, who had worked with Aleister Crowley when Crowley was a propagandist for Germany during the First World War. In that set, Yockey may also have met the sexologist, Alfred Kinsey. We know Yockey spent time in New Orleans, writing propaganda for use in Latin America. Coogan takes care to squelch the rumors of a link between Yockey and Lee Harvey Oswald, whose history was not altogether dissimilar.

    As Yockey moved across borders, he acquired a bewildering number of identities. The American authorities realized early in the 1950s that whatever this man was doing, it probably was not good. In 1952 they stopped renewing his passport and the FBI started looking for him. His accumulation of false passports was his downfall. Some of his luggage went astray when he flew into San Francisco; his embarrassment of documents came to light in a lost-and-found center in Texas.

    The FBI confronted him in Oakland, California, originally planning to arrest him for failure to register under the Selective Service Act. Yockey had in fact registered and served in the military, but the false identity he was using had no such record. The FBI was spared the embarrassment of using this perfunctory device when Yockey tried to run away, injuring an agent in the process.

    Yockey was detained while participating in a series of ever less satisfactory immigration hearings. More of his identities surfaced. The list lengthened of things the FBI wanted to talk to him about. In some way that has never been explained, he obtained potassium cyanide. Like the Nazi leadership he so admired, he died by self-administered poison on June 17, 1960.

    For me, "The Dreamer of the Day" clarified the Conservative Revolution as a form of existentialism. It began by valuing the clarity afforded by those situations where existence is at stake; it ended with the determination to wager the world's existence. Schmitt's "Ernstfall," Hitler's death-or-glory foreign policy, Evola's faith in lethal violence as the means to individuation, all of this is part of the same cultural moment as Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre. For existentialists of all political persuasions, we can experience reality only at the limit, on the edge of the abyss.

    This is a terribly distorting way to think. Now that I can recognize the pattern, I see that it is the chief flaw in Spengler's philososphy of history. I would still argue that his insight about a common morphology of cultural evolution is basically correct. The problem was that his existentialism caused him to read history, and particularly Classical history, through a Nietzschean lens. Spengler came to confuse realism with desperation, political skill with ruthlessness. He extolled the improvident genius of Caesar and belittled Augustus's respect for tradition, though in fact Augustus was arguably the most successful statesman who ever lived. Spengler's taste for politics on the edge made him dismiss constitutional forms and the principles of legitimacy as mere "literature."

    This, perhaps, is why Spengler paid relatively little attention to the Roman Empire itself, or to any of the final societies that Toynbee later called "Universal States." Spengler's existentialism required him to view those late civilizations as essentially historyless. For Spengler, the Roman Empire was a paradise of will, where unfettered supermen did as they would. In reality, the history of the Universal States displays a morphology as clear as that of any period in a Culture's life. Except in their final decay, they are marked by piety and convention rather than by the antics of supermen. Artist politicians, the high-stakes gamblers, are creatures of modernity. It is a mistake to project them into the future.

    The distortions of twentieth-century existentialism are not confined to political history. Those exhortations we have been hearing all these years to turn our attention to marginal people and liminal situations begin to look like a lethal misdirection. This is the nonsense that anarchism, fascism, and every avant-garde for 150 years have had in common. Let us beware of living on the edge. Francis Parker Yockey could still reach up to drag us over it.

     

     


     

    Copyright © 2002 by John J. Reilly

     


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    Sunday
    Nov022014

    The Long View 2002-06-16: Ministers of Terror

    John's surmise here about Jose Padilla was very much correct. Once the Department of Defense had custody, they sweated him for three years, and probably only put him back into the criminal justice system because he had no further information of value. The civil rights issue was willfully delayed until the national security issue was taken care of, which is probably appropriate.

    I like John's suggestion that the Department of Homeland Security be renamed the Department of Public Safety, and then we put someone in charge of it who is half a general and half a secret policeman. The image I get is of a very patient spider, waiting in the middle of its web. The kind of man you want running it probably looks a lot like J. Edgar Hoover. On the other hand, maybe you don't want to give that much power to someone that competent.

    Ministers of Terror

     

    Perhaps I am alone in thinking this, but it seems to me that the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla is far more defensible than the trial of John Walker Lindh. Both are American citizens with connections to Al-Qaeda, and both are now being held in the United States. Lindh, however, is going through the conventional criminal justice system, while Padilla is being held as an enemy combatant "for the duration" of the war against terrorism.

    I discussed the Lindh prosecution in January, and nothing has happened since to change my mind. From what I can tell, he was apprehended outside US jurisdiction while doing nothing demonstrably illegal, unless membership in a foreign militia is illegal, and that's not what he's charged with. Prosecuting Lindh does nothing to advance either the rule of law or national security. With Jose Padilla, matters are quite otherwise. If the information we have is correct, he was actively engaged in a conspiracy to set off particularly loathsome terror weapons in American cities. In his case, it is irrelevant that the evidence against him might not support a conviction for conspiracy. His detention is a national security issue, not a question of law enforcement.

    Of course, the arrest and indefinite detention of an American citizen on American soil should give us all pause. Laurence Tribe argues in today's New York Times that Padilla and persons similarly situated should get at least a hearing in federal court, including access to attorneys. Tribe tells us that:

    The administration cites decisions from 1942 and 1946 in support of military detention of combatants who are United States citizens. But there's an obvious point worth noting: these decisions arose only because the federal courts were considering the constitutional claims in the first place.

    That's perfectly true, but there is another point worth mentioning. Padilla's case is most like that of the German-American saboteurs during World War II. They were tried by military tribunals, but appealed in the federal courts, arguing in part that they should have been tried in civilian court. The convictions were upheld, but certainly Padilla could appeal to the federal courts if he were ever convicted in military court. Anyone tried before a military court can. However, he will not be in that posture unless he is first tried. The Department of Defense seems to have little interest in doing that. They don't want to punish him. They want him to tell everything he knows.

    A book I recently reviewed about Francis Parker Yockey, Dreamer of the Day, has quite a lot about the German underground in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. Yockey was a member of that underground, and later of the Communist one. One thing I did not mention in my excessively long review was that the FBI acted as a recording angel throughout Yockey's mysterious career. Though we also have some reminiscences by friends and family, we see Yockey in large part from the reports of informers and undercover agents. The FBI never did a better day's work than when it kept tabs on the German-American Bund, which it started to do long before the outbreak of World War II. A little more fruitful snooping of this sort would be in order now.

    It is because of the important distinction between law enforcement and national security that I must take issue with Peggy Noonan's endorsement of Rudolph Giuliani to head the new department of homeland security. She makes this endorsement in her column of June 14, Rudy's Duty, and for once she is quite wrong. (This is something of a first for her in this area: her column about the Terror War that everyone should read appeared on June 6, The Other Shoe.) Rudolph Giuliani is a terrifying prosecutor. He's a forceful administrator. He's a riveting public presence. What he is not is a general, or a secret policeman.

    The head of the new security department has to be a bit of both. His mission is not to get the bad guys, or to uphold the law. His mission is to prevent the mass murder of American civilians. The department will not fight crime. It could succeed if not even a single terrorist is ever brought to trial. Victory might also require the death of a thousand terrorists in pre-emptive raids. Most of the department's duty will be to simply watch. Rudy would not be good at this.

    Finally, we come to the question of what the security department is to be called. For myself, "Department of Homeland Security" sounds fine. Many people, however, including Peggy Noonan, think that "Homeland" sounds too German. (The word ultimately responsible for their discomfort is "Heimat," which makes Germans become misty-eyed about haystacks and lederhosen and the indestructible peasantry.) Noonan's own suggestion is "Heartland Security," which she admits may be too precious.

    The obvious solution would be something like the "Home Office," the department of the British government responsible for internal police. In most countries, that function is handled by a "Ministry of the Interior." One of the trials of diplomatic protocol officers in Washington is that they have to explain to visiting dignitaries that, yes, of course they may meet the Secretary of the Interior, provided they want to talk about the national parks. Of course, "Home Office" might be difficult to fit into federal nomenclature. Would the head of the department be called the Secretary of Home?

    Another possibility would be some variation on "Committee of Public Safety," which has a historical ring but is not ominous. In many jurisdictions in the US, the police and fire services are managed by a "Commissioner of Public Safety." So, for the national department, I would suggest a "Department of Public Safety." This would better reflect the department's function, which would also include disaster relief. The department would be headed by a "Secretary of Public Safety."

    To some people, this might sound like a fitting title for a national crossing-guard. If so, then let the innocent be comforted, and the wicked misled.


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    Saturday
    Nov012014

    The Long View: Anno Dracula

    It helped that John and I shared similar tastes in fiction. John was a fan of Jerry Pournelle, one of my all time favorite authors, and in general I found his reviews and suggestions interesting. I decided to read Anno Dracula after reading John's review of it. I agree with John, it should be a terrible novel, but it isn't.

    I would like to read it again, ten years later. I think I might even find more interesting things in it the book than the first time I read it. John doesn't use the term in this review, but this is a Wold Newton story, it brings together all of the most famous Victorians, fictional or otherwise, in one grand narrative. Farmer's Wold Newton concept isn't all that well-known, but the most famous character in it is: Sherlock Holmes.

    Sherlock Holmes is so real to us that we can't stop acting as if he is. For years, a bank building in London received letters addressed to Holmes at 221B Baker Street, and for just as many years, the bank actually answered those letters. The bank fought a nearby Holmes museum for the privilege of answering the letters, insisting that since 221B Baker St. fell within the addresses of their building, they had the right to receive the letters.

    It is relatively rare that a literary character affects the public so much that we cannot but help act as if he were real. Holmes is perhaps the most perfect example of such a character. I think we ought to be able to appreciate how legends and myths grow, when you see how someone we can all admit to ourselves is a fictional character inspires real disputes over who gets his mail. Or even realize that the otherwise staid Post Office insists on delivering that mail.

    Holmes is also remarkable in that other authors simply cannot resist telling stories about him. One of my other favorite Holmes stories by an author other than Doyle was in the short story collection Fragile Things, edited by Neil Gaiman. This is actually kind of an odd thing: I hated Fragile Things so much it put me off Gaiman for 5 years. But I really liked the Cthulu-mythos Holmes short story, "A Study in Emerald".

    Sherlock Holmes may seem to be something of a tangent to John's review of a vampire story, but I don't think John would have thought so. He was able to blend sober analysis with an appreciation for how myth and legend are real forces working in history. I don't think we can appreciate either alternative or actual history without an appreciation for how the stories we tell ourselves change what we do.

    The Vampire State

    Anno Dracula
    by Kim Newman
    Avon Books, 1992
    $5.99, 409 Pages
    ISBN: 0-380-72345-X

     

    It may not be proper to include discussion of a novel with occult elements on this alternate history group, but I have to recommend Kim Newman's 1992 book, "Anno Dracula." It does actually pose some serious alternate history questions. The premise of the book is simple enough. Dr.Van Helsing and his merry band of vampire slayers, who destroyed Dracula (a.k.a. Vlad Tepes) in Bram Stoker's nineteenth century novel of the same name, fail to do so in this book. Dracula goes on to become a figure in London society. By 1888, when the story is set, he has married Queen Victoria and is gradually imposing a brutal dictatorship.

    The novel should be junk, but it isn't. For one thing, it is very well-informed about Victorian social history. Much of the action centers on Toynbee Hall in the East End of London, historically one of the centers of the Settlement Movement, a feature of nineteenth century reform that sought to bring adult education and social services to the poor through private philanthropy. The Hall figures in the book primarily as the link in the Jack the Ripper slayings, which here are an anti-vampire vendetta (vampirism has spread through London's prostitutes like venereal disease did in the real world). As in the Victorian era, there is a new social type called the New Men and New Women. The difference in the book, as you might expect, is that these New People prefer to work at night and cannot go out during the day without dark glasses and black umbrella to shield them from the sun. Real, slightly obscure Victorians, such as Marx's unfortunate daughter Eleanor and her loathsome paramour, Edward Aveling, are deftly alluded to. Merrick, the Elephant Man, is among those who die to save Britain.

    Of course, the real fun in the book is not the historical people from the era, but the fictional characters. Who should appear to testify at the coroner's inquest for one of the Ripper's victims but the esteemed Dr. Jekyll? The Prime Minister is Lord Ruthven, the first of the great literary vampires. (Here he is a sort of cynical Gladstone, a man with no ideas but who talks so incessantly that he is sometimes "transported on wings of rant.") Sherlock Holmes is in one of Dracula's concentration camps; Holmes's brother Mycroft is one of the leaders of the conspiracy to bring down Dracula's regime. We get to meet everyone from Dr. Moriarity to the Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. (Is Fu Manchu a Victorian villain? I'm not sure.) All of this is handled very wittily, but the book is not so camp that it cannot be horrifying when necessary. The climactic chapter, "The Home Life of Our Own Dear Queen," has to be seen to be believed.

    While the plot is mostly concerned with solving the Ripper murders, the interesting feature of the book is the way it subtly suggests a society that is decomposing under vampire influence. Inspector Lestrade still works for Scotland Yard after he has become a vampire, for instance, and he is still in many ways the Lestrade who played straight man to Sherlock Holmes. However, he is becoming a ghost of himself, a creature that continues in its old habits because it no longer has the initiative to change. Lord Ruthven's government is outwardly like any other cabinet, but the state increasingly relies for protection on the Prince Regent Own Carpathian Guard, an army of mercenary vampires with a nasty tendency to turn into werewolves in hand-to-hand combat.

    While reading this, I could not help but be reminded of books like Davidson and Rees-Mogg's "The Great Reckoning" and Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers." These writers make the point that the long financial preeminence of England was due to the reliability of its legal system and the relative physical security of the country. Compared to the rest of the world, people in the UK and USA are remarkably willing to hold paper assets because generations of experience have taught that the governments of those places will not expropriate the holders of capital, and that these countries are unusually secure from foreign occupation and pillage. Neither of these things applied to the world of "Anno Dracula," since people were being routinely imprisoned without trial, and the Carpathian Guard was given to looting. Dracula's fiscal policy is not described in any detail, except to note that silver, a poison to vampires, is removed from the coinage. One suspects, however, that London was no longer a place that foreigners did their banking in by preference.

    The serious alternative history point is this: what effect does an obviously eccentric but non-socialist government have on a major power's economic performance? If the Scientologists came to power in Germany, say, or a group like Aum Shin Rikyo in Japan (assuming it did so peacefully), what effect would it have that have on savings and investment? Would you put 10-year money into a country run by Lyndon LaRouche? Historical analogies are welcome.

     

     



    Copyright © 1997 by John J. Reilly


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    Saturday
    Nov012014

    CrossFit 2014-10-31

    1 RM back squat

    31 Heroes

    31 minute partner workout

    • 8 squat thrusters [N/A didn't do any]
    • 6 rope climbs
    • 11 box jumps [30"]

    Partner does 400m run with sandbag [40#]

    Rounds 4+8 reps

    Saturday
    Nov012014

    CrossFit 2014-10-29

    Push jerk 1RM

    Escape from Wonderland

    3 rounds

    • 150 single unders
    • 50 air squats
    • 25 Calorie row

    Time 17:16

    Last time 17:31