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Belmont Club

As It Was in the Beginning

August 13th, 2013 - 5:05 pm

Victor Davis Hanson argues that the Obama administration has become one big mass of scandals. The scar tissue has piled up and overlapped such that it is impossible to simply refer to them individually. Today the ‘IRS’, ‘AP’, ‘NSA’ and Benghazi are one big ink blot. And speaking of Benghazi, a British newspaper screams out these headlines: “400 US surface-to-air missiles were ‘STOLEN’ from Libya during the Benghazi attack and are ‘now in the hands of Al Qaeda’, claims whistleblower.”

Four hundred American surface-to-air missiles were ‘taken from Libya’ during the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, a former U.S. Attorney who represents whistleblowers claimed on Monday.

He added that the U.S. intelligence community is terrified they might be used to shoot down airliners.

Joe diGenova, whose wife Victoria Toensing – a former deputy assistant attorney general – also represents Benghazi witnesses and others with knowledge of the terror attack, told WMAL radio that the loss of those missiles is also one the reason the U.S. State Department shut down 19 embassies across the Middle East last week.

But of course we can’t take these charges seriously until the allegation of the missile theft is investigated by a grave and sober select committee.  Nor can we look into the Washington Post report that al-Qaeda is expanding in Syria and even Turkey. These scurrilous rumors must await their turn, after the IRS, AP, NSA, Benghazi and whatever other phony scandals are lurking about. Which means that in the nature of things it will never be investigated.

In the meantime, while awaiting results which may never be forthcoming, here are a number of books which might be worthwhile but which I will never have time to read. A reader who enjoyed the discussion on the Heart of Darkness over the weekend suggested hosting such events more often. So I’ve listed out some for those who feel like they might want to take a crack at them.

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

Collusion: How the Media Stole the 2012 Election

A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State

The Brotherhood: America’s Next Great Enemy

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die

Well why not?

Of course the books are unlikely to be classics, which are rare, though who knows? Nothing starts out as a classic. Besides, a friend pointed out the fundamental unseriousness of  literary discussions. If you want to be remembered by history burn books instead. Jorge Luis Borges recalled that “the man who ordered the construction of the nearly infinite Wall of China [the] First Emperor, Shih Huang Ti … likewise ordered the burning of all the books before him.” Borges has a theory why Shih Huang Ti did both together. Borges writes:

That the two gigantic operations—the five or six hundred leagues of stone to oppose the barbarians, the rigorous abolition of history, that is of the past—issued from one person and were in a certain sense his attributes, inexplicably satisfied me and, at the same time, disturbed me. …

Perhaps the Emperor hoped to recreate the beginning of time and called himself The First, in order to be truly the first, and he named himself Huang Ti in order to be in some way Huang Ti, the legendary emperor who invented writing and the compass.

It makes sense for the man at the bedrock of Chinese history to write himself into the first chapter, to pile its pillars on a blank sheet. Thus could Shih Huang Ti become first emperor and progenitor of the Great Wall. And who will gainsay him, since there aren’t any books that say differently? Maybe its the same with the Obama administration scandals. The foundation stone in the monument to his greatness must be forgetfulness too. And it simply a matter of convenience to lump the myriad scandals together in a huge ball the better to chuck it down the Memory Hole than to perform a hundred individual delete operations.

Perhaps the saddest headline in the last week belongs to the Wall Street Journal: A Primer on Japan for Caroline Kennedy. “President Obama’s choice as ambassador may find herself dealing with a Beijing-Tokyo military confrontation.” What’s wrong with the picture of an American ambassador to Japan, on her way to one of the hottest troublespots on earth, being offered a tutorial titled “Japan 101″? Why nothing. Nothing at all that the Obama administration will notice. What can be wrong in a world where knowledge is nothing and forgetfulness is everything?

Before the Would Be Greats can be assured of eternal fame, they must engrave that fixed idea on the minds of men, supposing of course that human memory is the only record that ever survives, and delete all else.  Then what they say goes. Borges’ insight was to realize that that some sense books and remembrance were always potential enemies of tyrants. They want no eyewitnesses to their pettiness to conflict with their pretensions to greatness. Maybe that’s Benghazi in a nutshell.

As to the proposition: can you truly position yourself at the beginning of time? I don’t think so, but every aspiring great will try.

Margaret Sanger Slee, the founder of Planned Parenthood, announcing her intention to remake the world. British Pathe was laughing then. Who’s laughing now?

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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Top Rated Comments   
Year Zero happens with unfortunate frequency. Cambodia will not be its last appearance.

Bernard Lewis wrote of how Islam is anti-historical. It scrapes away the past.

We need to reclaim History, to reclaim the universities and schools. Get into local politics. Our motto should be "Fire the Bastards."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

If there were a beginning, then before that there had to be nothing, and if there was nothing then how could there be a beginning? One can imagine the universe we live in as being conceived in the Big Bang, as I believe it did, and growing, step by step, like ascending a stair, into its current form. But for there to be a Big Bang, there had to be something there to go Bang, so it could not have been the beginning. So the question is, what or who was on the first step of the stair?

In the beginning there was nothing
Though the nothing wasn’t there
So there could be no beginning
Without someone on the stair
A someone who stepped lightly
As he rose with weary tread
With his fingers brushed the handrail
As he went upstairs to bed
Where he dreamed of streaming starlight
As the galaxies were formed
And his hand set them in motion
As the cold of space was warmed
As he dreamed a thought came to him
Many worlds would come to life
Though he knew that his new creatures
Would be born to war and strife
It was there the dream had ended
In the morning he awoke
And his house was filled with starlight
As the dawn upon him broke
Through his window he saw blossoms
Moving gently with the breeze
In a bright and verdant pasture
Stretching to the distant trees
He turned and on the landing
He thought of all the cares
His dream had set in motion
Then he started down the stairs

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In this administration, there is no future and no past, not even the past four plus years of the first term----only the present moment. Aside from the crumbling edifice of the ACA and the debacle of various other failed policies, O'Bama has nothing to show for his time in office, and he becomes more uninvolved and more disconnected from reality with every day. This is the government of default. He is the man of the age held in awe by the paparazzi; a hollow man of weak character fit for nothing but an elective place marker.

As the left ascended over this generation, it has elected three presidents, each one worse than the one before. This hollow man of little substance may be the end of the road for them. After this comes ruin, desperation, and criminality.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (51)
All Comments   (51)
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"And speaking of Benghazi, a British newspaper screams out these
headlines: “400 US surface-to-air missiles were ‘STOLEN’ from Libya during the Benghazi attack"

Intrigue Surrounding The Secret CIA Operation In Benghazi Is Not Going Away:


"Also in October we reported the connection between Ambassador Stevens,
who died in the attack, and a reported September shipment of SA-7 surface-
to-air anti-craft missiles (i.e. MANPADS) and rocket-propelled grenades from
Benghazi to Syria through southern Turkey."

I wonder if we'll ever hear the full story behind this mess?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Probably not knowing the nature of these thugs running the joint.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
tp said: But how does one approach history without an impulse to synthesize, to construct another Narrative?

Well ya don't, but that isn't a problem, it's just the rules of the game. Nobody much worried about history and "narratives" fifty years ago, they just "did" history. Different people did it different ways no doubt, but that's the ball game, it's not a problem. People have a "narrative" in the way they drive a car or do anything else. It's a shared narrative that makes a culture and a nation. The problem is when someone tries to hijack the narrative, and that's not uncommon, again, it's something of the rules of the game. "Narrative" is neither a dirty word nor an obscure study, it's just what people do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I want my bank to extend those "extraordinary measures" that Treasury Secretary Lew is using to keep the National Debt just below the Legal Limit for 28 consecutive days even with a massive deficit during those very same days. Think my bank will go along! (Do you think its “TurboTax” fault) Folks it is over! As Dr. Hanson says the Demoncrats won’t save America when it’s their Frankenstein that’s driving us into the Black Hole and the RINOs are simply Zombies to everything, Conservatives heads are spinning around and around by all the scandals they can’t get anything done… really it is time to let go, it’s time to refresh the tree of liberty, all you have is not yours any more, you only get what they want you to have.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The correct image of the GOP beltway crew:

Huddled in the back of the plane while the Democrats fly the economy into the ground.

That's how they roll.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is one thing to reject The Narrative. But surely we don't want to replace it with our own imperial fairy tale. Do we want to rule the left or wait patiently for its empire to crumble?

This makes "taking back" history a problem to consider. Surely we don't want to lose all historical memory, but at the same time can anyone construct a metanarrative that is not a claim on central control and direction? After all even the old national histories beloved of nostalgiac patriots was a ramp for building centralized institutions.

But how does one approach history without an impulse to synthesize, to construct another Narrative? What does the narrative of freedom look like other than simpy a constant return to the beginning of humanity thought and re-written with an eye to the guaranteed open-endedness that is our specifically human origin? Fukuyama's much-maligned "end of history" was really an attempt to articulate a narrative of open-endedness for a time when the need to reject narratives attempting to direct History were rightly crashing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't dispute anything Professor Hanson has written in the piece. My only observation is the far greater scandals are the election, twice, of a person so thoroughly lacking in qualifications and temperament for the office he holds, and the manner in which his candidacies were portrayed in the two elections by mainstream news organizations.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Wan stacks scandals the way MacBeth stacked atrocities.

He is man, not of Hawaii born.

Hildebeast, Valerie Girl, and Oprah...

The Perfect Stew.

Something bigot' this way comes.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Certainly the biggest scandal of the Obama administration was that someone so manifestly unqualified to serve as President was elected and then reelected. Truth-to-tell, Obama was unqualified to serve in the Senate and his performance in the Senate made that abundantly clear. The MSM was supposed to act as the "watchdog" and prevent this sort of political malfunction from occurring. Instead, we saw the MSM acting as the main instigator of the malfunction.

I fear that the root problem was people being more focused on the entertainment value of having someone like Obama as President versus the consequences of what would happen after he was elected, i.e. "Let's elect Bozo the Clown as President and see what happens! Won't that be fun!". We are entertaining ourselves to death....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
O/T But presumably interesting to Wretchard

News about Joint Philippine/American naval cooperation.

"Philippine defence undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino told reporters on Monday the new talks would also seek to allow the "prepositioning" of US military assets back on Philippine bases.

He said, in return, the Philippines wanted to use the assets to help defend its sea territory, although he did not specifically mention the dispute with China.

"We believe that those US equipment to which we will agree to be temporarily deployed could supplement the (Filipino military's) capability to perform its functions in key mission areas of maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian response and disaster relief," Batino said.

"We will insist on that," he said, when asked whether the Philippines wanted to use the American military hardware.

The talks will begin in Manila on Wednesday. Philippine officials said they wanted to finalise the agreement this year."

Read more:
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I missed this from Aug 6

The Philippines commissioned the former USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716) as BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

She's old, but another of the ships my father did the design work for. So she's got a great bloodline. Paul Merzlak has a comment Papp on the editor's page of the U.S.N.I.'s Proceedings in which he wrote

"...This month’s Coast Guard coverage provides further perspective on the Commandant’s vision. Vice Admiral John P. Currier, the service’s Vice Commandant, says the hallmark of a consummate professional is the ability to effectively manage operational risk. The on-scene commander is responsible for correctly determining whether the risk is worth the probable gain. This is quite a departure from the early days of the Coast Guard, then known as the Lifesaving Service, when those entrusted to watch over the seas lived by Keeper Richard Etheridge’s quote: “The book says you have to go out, but nothing is said about having to come back.” Vice Admiral Currier writes that such an expectation is an “antiquated vestige” of Coast Guard history. Instead, while today’s Coast Guardsmen are still required to go out, the service also expects them to complete the mission and return safely. "

Those Hamilton class cutters have been bringing Coasties safely home from harm's way for decades. They may not have been guaranteed to come back, but they did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I hope they're retiring the triremes.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld had a bigger navy -- and look what happened to him.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Sanger interview was cut short. I wonder, did the interviewer ask her about her apparent intention to "exterminate the Negro race?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sanger's ground zero was Hell's Kitchen.

Not a lot of Negroes there.

Her (original) ambit was to throttle back Irish, Italian and Jewish rug rats.

She didn't run across Negro poverty until AFTER she was already on her crusade.

Just one of the consequences of (de facto) urban segregation a century ago.

Hell's Kitchen was Irish, deep and through. It NEVER picked up a Negro component. Guess why.

(Which see, self-segregation in the NYPD ranks -- even in the present day. Visit any NY City marathon race.)

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Despite his travels, Hanson seems unaware that the ‘mass of scandals’ is normal government in most of the world, and ending American exceptionalism is the purpose of the Obama administration.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To put a positive spin on what Obama is doing, he's trying to "harmonize" America with the rest of the world. "Harmonization" is a favorite term of Euro-weasels. Obama is a Euro-weasel with a serious tan.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Once upon a time the German term for such harmonization was "Gleichschaltung".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In addition to the philosophical support year zero gives to The Narrative™, there is a more mechanical issue here. The year zero thing takes on even greater significance when viewed against the backdrop of an economic down time.

A perpetual state of year zero insures that those who worship at the altar of perfect income stream security guaranteed by the taxation and police power of the apparatus of state, those who are reciipients of the magic checks, get what they crave most in perpetuity. As long as nothing changes the magic checks keep showing up. Fix the problems with the U.S. and the West in general , and that will necessarily mean 50% of the money currently spent on salaries and pensions for government workers, welfare recipients, grant recipients, and rent-seekers disappear overnight, meaning greatly diminished or evaporated standard of living for them.

In the past, when the private economy was robust and the public sector work force stayed within the confines of the social contract with the private sector by having a vastly lower pay scale than private workers, the incentive to do this was far less. Only the hardcore addicts of government-provided income stream security would forgo the larger pay in the private sector due to their perverse fear of any risk at all.

Now even the marginally afraid have ducked into public employment, because the private economy has been so looted by taxation and hyperregulation and printing-press inflation.

The left has taken notice and now has even more incentive to diminish and impoverish private industry, because it has seen that the current scenario keeps many voters whose sensibilities and morals might be disposed against them instead become loyal to voting for Democrats purely on a financial/material basis.

Perhaps they back The Narrative™ because fear of losing their cash cow is more than the fear of looking stupid. From where I sit it sure looks that way.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
unsk: " And they do not fear looking stupid for backing the Narrative. "

I agree.

Lefty knaves are also usually lefty buffoons. We might think buffoonery to be a characteristic that weakens except when we consider Dictators who were/are buffoons. Generally nasty and often just plain evil the list of buffoon dictators includes:

Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus. Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Turkmenistan. Colonel Gaddafi, Libya. Hugo Chavez, Venezuela. Benito Mussolini, Italy. Idi Amin Dada, Uganda - the last King of Scotland.

Sadly being a buffoon does not make a dictator or any other narcissistic power seeker any less dangerous. Nor is the narrative made any less dangerous by being a tale of buffoonery fashioned by a bunch of buffoons for a bunch of buffoons.

That is what scares me - being silly does not weaken the power of the Narrative, of its purveyors or of its subscribers.

Now that's a conundrum and an enigma. In my experience when something simultaneously displays conundrumability and enigmaciousness - AND it's downright silly - then watch out.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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