SubscribeStar Saturday: International Relations

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Continuing somewhat on last Saturday’s post, I’ve been thinking more about the war in Ukraine this week, specifically pondering how surreal it all seems.  Obviously, it’s quite real for the people in the Ukraine and Russia, as well as the various volunteers from around the globe who have enlisted to fight on behalf of the Ukraine.

But part of the surrealism—at least for those of us, like yours portly, who are swaddled in luxurious comfort here in the United States—is that we didn’t have to worry about international relations and foreign policy in any immediate way for at least four years.  At any rate, during the Trump administration, foreign policy largely receded from the national consciousness as a major concern.

Sure, there was the constant banging-on about “Russian collusion” and interfering in the Ukraine, and early hysterical rumors of nuclear war with North Korea.  But President Trump silenced the Norks, the Russkies, and even, to some extent, the ChiComs.  I was dismayed, initially, by the rocket launch in Syria early in Trump’s administration, but in retrospect it seems like that was a convincing show of force to the Russians (who have all sorts of interests in Syria).

After that—and after dropping some big ol’ bombs in Afghanistan, etc.—foreign policy seemed like an afterthought.  For years that had dominated headlines and—given my own interest in the topic—my mental conception of America’s role in the world.

Perhaps one of the great overlooked achievements of the Trump administration is that it achieved—however fleetingly—a semblance of global order and peace, so much that we didn’t have to think about foreign policy and international relations in any deep, consistent way for a few years.  I have no doubt that a second Trump term would not have seen the current escalation in the Ukraine.

A bold claim, but I think it’s accurate.  Regardless, the focus of this post is on that brief moment when the woes of the rest of the world seemed distant, and the United States could focus instead on its own domestic woes (of which there are many).  Now that that moment—gauzy and illusory as it turned out to be—has passed, we may be facing some profoundly existential questions about the future of the global order.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: War Pigs

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My music students have been attempting to learn Black Sabbath’s classic anti-war song “War Pigs.” To be clear, this isn’t an example of a radical teacher attempting to indoctrinate his students with anti-war propaganda—it’s just a really rockin’ song (and features a killer, groovy introduction in 6/8 time, before transitioning to a brisk, sludgy 4/4). We were working on the tune before Russia invaded the Ukraine, and before there were really even murmurs that this quixotic invasion might happen.

Also, I am not reflexively anti-war. My instincts are to abhor war (which would have been news to my teenaged self, who still believed war was a glorious test of courage and mettle—it can be, but it’s much more complicated than that two-dimensional, chivalric notion I harbored as a doughy teen), but war is inevitable. The Bible prophesies about “wars and rumors of war,” and not all war is inherently bad.

It’s not all inherently good, either—sometimes war is just that—war.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Decline, Part I: Afghanistan

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Events of the past few years give one the distinct sense that the United States—and, indeed, Western Civilization—is in a steady decline.  As I wrote in an old post:

We’re no longer the Roman Republic, but we’re not the Roman Empire in the 5th century, either.  We’re more like the Roman Empire in the 2nd or 3rd centuries:  coasting along on the remnants of a functioning system, with a play-acting Congress shadowing the motions of republicanism.

We’re in what might be called the “decadent” phase of our existence:  past generations forged a nation from their sweat and blood; their successors solidified and consolidated on those gains, creating a powerful economy and culture, and winning major wars; their successors are currently coasting along on the fruits of their ancestors’ efforts.  But a culture, a nation, a civilization can only coast for so long before it loses all momentum entirely.

The recent unpleasantness in Afghanistan is a stark illustration of our current decadence—and our blind arrogance.  We believed we could plant a functioning democratic republic in a land that has been war-torn and riddled with autocratic warlords since time immemorial with an investment of twenty years of blood and treasure.  Instead, we botched a pull-out, abandoning American citizens and military equipment in the process, allowing the Taliban to seize control of the entire country in a leisurely weekend.

Ironically, The Pretender Biden was probably the perfect patsy for American withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was about nineteen years overdue.  Every administration has known we needed to get the heck out of a place known as “The Graveyard of Empires,” but no one wanted the bad optics of a withdrawal.  Biden is so senile and mentally foggy that he probably still doesn’t realize what he did, and certainly doesn’t feel any shame about abandoning Americans to the Taliban.

But even given our incompetent, mentally hobbled executive, the withdrawal from Afghanistan—quite necessary, I think—was botched so terribly, it condemns the entire US government and our military leadership.  Any ten-year old could have said, “Yeah, get all the weapons and people out first, then withdraw the last of the American troops.”  Instead, we did the exact opposite.  Ripping off the Band-Aid and getting out of Afghanistan was necessary, but did we have to rip the skin clean off the arm?

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

Binge-watching The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs has introduced me to some obscure and forgotten flicks.  Several of the films the freedom-loving Texan screens are deservedly forgotten, and even hard to watch, with only Joe Bob’s off-the-cuff rants and film history knowledge keeping me going.  Others, however, are real gems—rough-cut and a little sooty, but gems nonetheless.

One such film is Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action-comedy starring wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.  Piper is better known for his role in They Live (1988), the John Carpenter classic in which Piper’s character discovers a pair of sunglasses that show the world for how it truly is.  They Live—with its infamous six-minute fistfight—is the better film, but Hell Comes to Frogtown is really delightful.

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Wayback Wednesday: Memorable Monday: Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies

While preparing a separate post on hymns (which I will likely post Friday), it occurred to me that today is Veterans’ Day in the United States, the observance formerly known as Armistice Day.  I’ve never thrown back to past posts on a Wednesday before, but it seemed fitting to recognize our fallen heroes on the day.

Last year I looked back at a Veterans’ Day post from 2018.  The post itself was originally delivered as remarks to the Florence County (SC) Republican Party, and was the most affecting of my old “Historical Moments” I’ve ever delivered.

It’s hard to believe that the centennial observance of the Great War has already passed, yet we’re still dealing with the fallout from that terrible war just over a century later.  The more I’m learning about the great Baroque, classical, and Romantic composers of Europe, the more the senseless loss and nihilistic destruction of that conflict weighs on me—and that the shimmering, confident civilization that fostered those composers also destroyed itself.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: 9-11

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Yesterday I launched Five Dollar Friday, a series of 2020 election series posts for $5 a month and higher subscribers.  Just another perk for my subscribers.

Nineteen years ago yesterday, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and—thanks to the bravery of Americans aboard Flight 93—a field in Pennsylvania.  2977 Americans lost their lives that day, with another 25,000 injured in the aftermath.

I was a junior in high school when the attacks occurred.  My classmates and I first heard about it during trigonometry class with our ancient math teacher, one of those public school double-dippers who was pulling a pension but still teaching (to her credit, she was a good math teacher).  The psychology teacher from across the hall—a large, red-faced woman—burst into the room, blubbering, “They’ve attacked the Pentagon!”

To my shame, the class erupted in laughter.  We weren’t laughing because we thought it was good news—like those Muslims partying on rooftops and those public school kids in New York cheering at the destruction.  We laughed because it was so absurd (it didn’t help that a very rotund, hysterical woman shouted it hysterically).  America, attacked?  Who would do something so foolish?  It was so beyond our comprehension, we couldn’t believe it.

As the day wore on, we realized pretty quickly that something terrible had happened.  I don’t remember if we watched news footage during the day, but we were not sent home early.  Indeed, we had marching band practice that afternoon.  But there were real fears:  would terrorists attempt an attack on the Savannah River Site, where we used to process tritium for nuclear weapons?

My dad was in Pennsylvania at the time at a work conference.  Of course, Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania, and all air travel was shut down (my German teacher commented on how it was probably the first time since the rise of commercial aviation that no aircraft were in the skies).  Fortunately, he was safe, and road the rails back to South Carolina.  My grandparents were out in the Southwest, and rented a Toyota Camry to drive cross-country (they went on to purchase the vehicle).

In the coming days, we came to find out it was the work of radical Islamic terrorists.  I recall a conversation with friends in which I suggested we ban any travel and immigration from any countries with a majority Muslim population until we got this terrorism threat worked out.  It wasn’t long after that President Bush started in with the “Islam is a religion of peace” nonsense, but there was a brief, albeit very mild, nativist flare-up (when the French refused to join us in the Iraq War, restaurants changed French fries to “freedom fries” on their menus).

It felt like our Pearl Harbor.

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More Tech Censorship

Another round of tech censorship is upon us.  The Trump campaign has been banned from streaming service Twitch (which I thought was just for gamers and girls with big boobs).  A bunch of conservative and Right-leaning personalities have been banned from YouTube, including Gavin McInnes, who built his own platform at Censored.TV.  Immigration patriot website VDare may lose its domain registrar, forcing the website to the Dark Web and TOR browsers.

Probably the most shocking is the digital defenestration of Stefan Molyneux, the grandiloquent Internet philosopher.  Molyneux’s Freedomain Radio touts itself as “the world’s number one philosophy show,” and Molyneux’s output is ponderously prolific.  Within hours of major news events, Molyneux will have long “The Truth about [Insert Controversial Figure or Event Here]” videos uploaded, meticulously researched and supported with fact-filled PowerPoints.

Lately, though, Molyneux has been posting videos of his daughter’s tadpole pool, or of the two of them building a turtle garden.  He’s also been livestreaming Doom—controversial in the Tipper Gore era of schoolmarmish censorship of video games and music, maybe, but not thirty years later, and certainly not grounds for deplatforming.

So why did the Left decide to destroy Molyneux’s livelihood?  The simple answers:  because he’s Right-wing, and because they could.

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Thalassocracy

The Internet is a funny thing.  Anyone that’s ever gone down a Wikipedia hole realizes that, pretty soon, that one thing you needed to look up can turn into a two-hour deep dive into barely-related topics.

It’s also weird.  There’s so much content—so much that we can’t really quantify it—you’re bound to stumble upon something interesting.  It is, perhaps, a sad commentary of the human condition that, given unlimited access to information and knowledge, we use the Internet primarily for mundane purposes, and frequent the same dozen websites everyday.

Of course, that’s also the problem of abundance.  People can’t handle that many choices, and there are only so many spare hours to cram in unorganized knowledge.

That’s how I came to stumble upon the topic of today’s post, thalassocracy, or “rule by the sea.”  I recently purchased a very nerdy space exploration strategy game called Stellaris (itself a recommendation from a member of Milo’s Telegram chat).  Stellaris has a steep learning curve, so it’s a game that basically requires the player to do homework to figure out what they’re doing (my race of peaceful, space-faring platypus people has surely suffered from my ignorance).

That homework assignment (no, seriously, it’s a fun game!) sent me down a rabbit hole on the game’s wiki, and one of the in-game events involves a group called the Bemat Thalassocracy.  I’d never heard the term before, and searched out its meaning.  That brought me to a website called Friesian, which is apparently a site promoting the philosophy of Jakob Friederich Fries, an eighteenth-century philosopher opposed to that ponderous windbag Hegel.  The website dates back to 1996, when it began as a community college website.

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Birth(day), Death, and Taxes

“Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes,” the old saying goes.  But we are also born, those of us fortunate enough not to fall prey to the abortion industry.  Today marks my thirty-fifth birthday.  I celebrated by paying $162.57 in vehicle property taxes to Darlington County, South Carolina.

Yesterday, I purchased a new vehicle, my first new car in thirteen-and-a-half years, and only the third I’ve ever owned.  It’s a 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV.  The other two were a 1988 Buick Park Avenue Electra, which I bought from my older brother for $800, after my grandparents gave it to him one year, and a 2006 Dodge Caravan, which those same grandparents gave to me as a college graduation gift (after the Buick was totaled when a lady ran a yield sign and smashed into me).

The Buick is long gone, but I kept the Dodge.  I figure it’s worth more to me as stuff-hauler than I would have gotten in trade-in value.  Of course, that means maintaining insurance on both vehicles, and paying taxes on each.

Well, I awoke today to the news that our military assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleiman last night.  When I first read that Soleiman was “assassinated,” I was picturing a fate similar to the death of the “austere religious scholar,” the ISIS guy, al-Baghdadi: covert operatives swooping in under cover of darkness, swiftly and surely relieving the general of his life.

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