The Anti-Communist Manifesto

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I saw it on the "New Non-Fiction" table at the Portsmouth Public Library. The title certainly appealed. How bad could it be?

Reader, it could be very bad. With two and a half months left, this book is pretty much a lock for Pun Salad's "Worst Non-Fiction Book Read in 2023".

I was reminded of that insightful line in George Orwell's classic 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language":

The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’

The author, Jesse Kelly, similarly drains the word "communism" of all meaning. He uses it to signify anything he doesn't like.

Now much of what Kelly says isn't that objectionable. Marxism is junk, both sociologically and economically. Marxism put into practice, i.e., Communism, is a disaster for the citizenry, full of misery, oppression, war, and murder. American universities tilt wildly to the left, to their own detriment, and ours. Tearing down American history into simplistic fables of racism, sexism, rapacious businesses, etc. is despicable. BLM and Antifa are evil grifters. And so on.

But you can learn about that anywhere else. (And I recommend you do.)

One amusing (well, sort of amusing) feature is Kelly's near-complete lack of introspection or self-doubt. He can observe (for example) that in Weimar Germany, communist militants "used the term fascist to describe pretty much anyone with who they disagreed." Exactly what Orwell said! But…geez…has Kelly looked critically at his own use of "communist"?

Also on a more serious note, Kelly cheers on "cancel culture" as long as it's being used by the right people against the wrong people. He's a big fan of Ron DeSantis's use of governmental power against the Disney Corporation, because they took a political stand he disagreed with. They were being disloyal to the state! Must be punished!

It's become tiresome to read about the rise of illiberal tactics on both sides of the political debate. The "war" is no longer about reducing the power of the state to oppress the citizenry; it's about grabbing onto the power of the state so you can go after the Other Side. This is a negative-sum game in both the short and long runs. Kelly wants to play that game badly.

The style is grating, all the way through. He has a radio show, and a lot of the stuff here "reads" like lightly-edited spoken rant-monologues. You are never more than a few paragraphs away from wild overstatement. Picked at random from the gun control chapter: "The appetite of the communist will not be satisfied until civilian ownership of firearms is a thing of the past and Americans are at the complete mercy of the government.") He's also a practioner of what Jon Steward made famous: the “clown nose on, clown nose off” approach to commentary. Except the nose-on jokes seem to mostly involve observing that a lot of feminists are fat and ugly.

Last Modified 2024-01-10 5:48 AM EST

Their Eyes Were Watching God

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I was prompted to put this Zora Neale Hurston book on my get-at-library list after reading this article at Reason by Damon Root last year: Zora Neale Hurston’s Inconvenient Individualism. If you're interested, John McWhorter's 2011 take is also expectedly good: Zora Neale Hurston Was a Conservative. Confession: I like both those things!

But enough about the politics, what about the book? Published in 1937, it's the rocky odyssey of Janie Crawford, as she navigates through her young life and three marriages. (I might have missed something, but I'm not sure she bothered to get a divorce from Husband One before taking up with Husband Two.) It's set in 1920s Florida, and it's a—no pun intended—colorful tale of black folks navigating in a Jim Crow world. And they did a decent job of it.

Janie is abandoned by her mother, and raised by her grandma. Who notices her eventual budding interest in men, and responds by arranging a loveless marriage to a much older farmer. Janie is neglected and abused, and is therefore easy pickings for Jody, a very glib go-getter, who takes her to the black township of Eatonville (an actual place with a fascinating history, where Hurston grew up). Jody soon becomes a relatively wealthy shopowner, and mayor of the town. But he disrespects Janie. Who eventually commits the unforgivable sin of disrespecting him back, in public. Which winds up seemingly killing him. Janie's left with a fortune.

But she's still easy pickings for the fast-talking, guitar-playing, dice-throwing "Tea Cake". He sweeps her off her feet, taking her (and her money) off to the swampy Everglades. Their wedded bliss is soon interrupted by a massive hurricane. Their efforts to escape the storm seem successful, but Tea Cake is… well, no spoilers, but there's some courtroom drama as Janie goes on trial for murder.

One of the barriers to enjoying the book was its unapologetic and relentless use of black dialect. ("What dat ole forty year ole 'oman doin' wid her hair swingin' down her back lak some young gal?") Note: Hurston was a trained anthropologist and it's a safe bet this is accurate and honest.

And I couldn't help but notice a precursor to modern "Yo mama's so fat" jokes: the "Yo mule's so skinny" jokes (Chapter 6).

Last Modified 2024-01-10 5:47 AM EST

Another Weasel Word For "Lie"…

… helpfully translated at Twitchy: Another 'embellishment' from President Biden: this time he's lying about his support of gay marriage. Sample rebuttal tweet:

Were Trump's lies ever described as gingerly by the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler as this, from August:

But throughout his career — most famously in his first presidential campaign, in the 1988 election cycle — Biden’s propensity to exaggerate or embellish tales about his life led to doubts about his truthfulness.

Ya think, Glenn?

Anyway, it's Sunday, so it's time to look at the oddsmakers:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 34.4% -0.2%
Joe Biden 33.1% +0.3%
Gavin Newsom 6.5% +0.1%
Michelle Obama 4.7% -0.6%
Robert Kennedy Jr 4.3% unch
Nikki Haley 3.9% +0.6%
Ron DeSantis 3.8% +0.4%
Kamala Harris 2.1% ---
Other 7.2% -2.7%

Well, Kamala's back in the table, surpassing our 2% inclusion threshold.

I can imagine a track announcer calling this horse race: "Bone Spurs is holding onto a slim lead, but Wheezy is making a strong charge. Snake Oil is far behind, with Ma Belle, Famous Dad, Underestimated, and Overrated well back in the pack. Word Salad brings up the rear, with a really poor performance."

Also of note:

  • Turn off the burner. Time was unkind to this article from Portsmouth NH-based Caroline McCaughey in the New York Sun: As RFK Jr. Readies an Announcement Monday, Speculation Is Simmering Over Whether He Could Find a Path Forward Via the Libertarian Party. There's plenty of cold water to be sprinkled:

    Mr. Kennedy is adept at appealing to libertarian crowds, promising to pardon Julian Assange and saying he won’t take people’s guns away. His platform, though, is not libertarian. He may be anti-interventionist and anti-war, advocating for “unwinding empire” and for withdrawing “our troops and nuclear-capable missiles from Russia’s borders.” He might be for pushback against big tech censorship and vaccine mandates in a way that aligns with the Libertarian Party.

    Mr. Kennedy’s economic and environmental policies, though, do not. Mr. Kennedy supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and recently proposed locking home mortgage rates at three percent with tax-free bonds to “make home ownership affordable” — both policies the Libertarian Party rejects.

    Mr. Kennedy has also railed against free trade, which is a foundational principle of libertarianism. He supports a ban on fracking and has equivocated on nuclear energy, while the Libertarian Party’s platform says its members “oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.”

    Mr. Kennedy says he is “not going to take people’s guns away,” but he’s also said he would support a bipartisan assault weapons ban. The latter statement riled many Libertarians.

    And this small-l libertarian is pretty riled too. (For that matter, I think his foreign policy is full of shit and would be a recipe for quick disaster.)

  • Post-announcement analysis from Michael Graham at NHJournal: RFK Jr. To Run for POTUS as an Independent. The amusing bit is how quickly our local Dems can turn on ya:

    When Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. came to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in March, state Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley was there to greet him in the front row, along with state Senate Democratic leader Donna Soucy and Sen. Lou D’Allesandro. RFK, Jr. even gave them all a shoutout from on stage.

    But when Kennedy stood before thousands of supporters on the lawn of Independence Hall in Philadelphia Monday to announce he was running for president as an independent, Buckley’s attitude was very different.

    “Let’s be clear: RFK, Jr. was never running as a Democrat,” Buckley posted on social media.

    <sarcasm> I'm tremendously excited! </sarcasm> To have yet another candidate on the November ballot that I wouldn't vote for in a million ye—no, make that a billion years.

  • I wouldn't want to belong to a cult that would have me for a member. Especially not the one Patterico's JVW calls the Sad Cult of RFK Jr. A report at the Spectator is extensively quoted:

    Had you blindfolded me yesterday morning, led me to the front lawn of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, removed my blinder and asked me to guess where we were, I would have said, “A James Taylor benefit concert for NPR.”

    In the crowd on this sunny fall day was a heavy contingent of the boomer delegation, of various stripes and checks. There were even some traditional tweed, and, with blazers out in full force, on both men and women, paired mostly with denim — though late-season red chinos and season-rushing corduroys were on display, too — and invariably some statement eyewear, leather dress shoes, and baseball caps keeping flowy silver hair tamed and sun-spotted skin safe. It was plain from their collective style that this group was at least self-aware. Their well-thought-out attire was meant to send a message: they are (average age sixty-seven and a half) intentional. Deliberate. Outside thinkers. Borderline intellectuals… but still also down to hang as one of the gang! Sure, their designer jeans cost more than the average American’s monthly car payment, but they’re still jeans! Blue-collar workwear! And yes, Vassar College costs $63,000 a year, but the fact that the Brewer field hockey ball cap is faded offsets that.

    Perhaps the most telling observation: "Someone near the front of the crowd held up a sign that said it all: ‘I want Camelot’".

    If you have no idea what that means, congratulations on your youth. But be aware that someday the youngsters will undoubtedly be making fun of your age cohort.

  • And now our usual plug for our favorite candidate. George Will has some advice for one of the more obscure Republican candidates: Tim Scott, please drop out, urge others to follow and unite behind Haley.

    There is national incredulity, exhaustion, embarrassment, disgust and fatalism about the political parties’ inability to generate palatable presidential choices. Tim Scott could alter this with a trifecta of statesmanlike acts: withdrawing from the competition for the Republican presidential nomination, challenging others to do likewise and exhorting them to join him in supporting Nikki Haley.

    This is the South Carolina senator’s choice: He can acknowledge that his energetic campaigning has failed to enkindle sufficient enthusiasm and depart as he campaigned, cheerfully. Or he can try to become someone whom, to his credit, he has no aptitude for being — another peddler of synthetic anger, stoking today’s rage culture.

    Of Scott we may say what Sam Rayburn, Democratic House speaker for 17 years, reportedly said of Dwight D. Eisenhower when in 1948 Democrats contemplated giving Ike their presidential nomination: “Good man but wrong business.” Actually, Ike was, like Scott, a good man and, as Scott someday could be, a fine president. Scott is not, however, the man for this season.

    By catalyzing a coalescence around Haley, Scott could transform the nation’s political mood. As long as the Republican race pits Donald Trump against a cluster of lagging pursuers, the nominating electorate cannot ponder a binary choice. When, however, it is Trump against one experienced, polished, steely and unintimidated adversary, voters can internalize this exhilarating reality: There is a choice suitable for a great nation.

    GFW makes me wish I was running for President, so I could drop out and endorse Nikki.

    And I love the disclosure that (I assume) GFW added to the top of the column:

    Disclosure: The columnist’s wife, Mari Will, an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), disagrees with this column.

    I hope their love survives.

Last Modified 2023-10-15 3:55 PM EST