Category Archives: History

Brexit And Trump

What do they have in common with Rob Ford?

I think this is right. I wish very much that I didn’t think this is right:

…for the people living through it, as with the World Wars, Soviet Famines, Holocaust, it must have felt inconceivable that humans could rise up from it. The collapse of the Roman Empire, Black Death, Spanish Inquisition, Thirty Years War, War of the Roses, English Civil War… it’s a long list. Events of massive destruction from which humanity recovered and move on, often in better shape.
At a local level in time people think things are fine, then things rapidly spiral out of control until they become unstoppable, and we wreak massive destruction on ourselves. For the people living in the midst of this it is hard to see happening and hard to understand. To historians later it all makes sense and we see clearly how one thing led to another. During the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme I was struck that it was a direct outcome of the assassination of an Austrian Arch Duke in Bosnia. I very much doubt anyone at the time thought the killing of a minor European royal would lead to the death of 17 million people.

My point is that this is a cycle. It happens again and again, but as most people only have a 50–100 year historical perspective they don’t see that it’s happening again. As the events that led to the First World War unfolded, there were a few brilliant minds who started to warn that something big was wrong, that the web of treaties across Europe could lead to a war, but they were dismissed as hysterical, mad, or fools, as is always the way, and as people who worry about Putin, Brexit, and Trump are dismissed now.

Then after the War to end all Wars, we went and had another one. Again, for a historian it was quite predictable. Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.

That was Hitler, but it was also Mussolini, Stalin, Putin, Mugabe, and so many more. Mugabe is a very good case in point. He whipped up national anger and hatred towards the land owning white minority (who happened to know how to run farms), and seized their land to redistribute to the people, in a great populist move which in the end unravelled the economy and farming industry and left the people in possession of land, but starving. See also the famines created by the Soviet Union, and the one caused by the Chinese Communists last century in which 20–40 million people died. It seems inconceivable that people could create a situation in which tens of millions of people die without reason, but we do it again and again.

But at the time people don’t realise they’re embarking on a route that will lead to a destruction period. They think they’re right, they’re cheered on by jeering angry mobs, their critics are mocked. This cycle, the one we saw for example from the Treaty of Versaille, to the rise of Hitler, to the Second World War, appears to be happening again. But as with before, most people cannot see it because:

1. They are only looking at the present, not the past or future

2. They are only looking immediately around them, not at how events connect globally

3. Most people don’t read, think, challenge, or hear opposing views

Trump is doing this in America.

Yup. Read the whole thing, despite how depressing it is.

It is similar to people who think that the climate is going crazy, because they didn’t live through the 30s, or the 50s. Let alone times farther past.

Jimmy Carter And The Space Shuttle

Did he save it? And if so, why? An interesting bit of history of which I’d been unaware. Mondale wanted to kill it, and did manage to reduce the fleet size from seven to five (including Enterprise, which never flew). Which was economically stupid, because it saved very little money. If we’d had six vehicles, we’d have still had four after the losses of Challenger and Columbia (assuming that we hadn’t built Endeavour from spares after Challenger, and those two events would have occurred in that alternate universe). A four- or five-ship fleet would have made for a slightly different calculus after the loss of the latter, because part of the reason the program was ended was that three was too small a fleet to continue to operate for long.


Thoughts from Leon Wolf about the cause:

…people’s willingness to act rationally and within the confines of the law and the political system is generally speaking directly proportional to their belief that the law and political system will ever punish wrongdoing. And right now, that belief is largely broken, especially in many minority communities.

And it’s the blind, uncritical belief that the police never (or only in freak circumstances) do anything wrong that is a major contributing factor to that.

We should also consider it in the broader context of an administration, and future president, who think themselves above the law. When people decide the system is rigged against them, the social compact breaks down, and it doesn’t end well.

[Update a few minutes later]

Earlier thoughts from Radley Balko last year. Note the irony of this happening in one of the most enlightened police departments in the country.

[Update a while later]

Is it 1968 again? I don’t think the music is as good.

And Apollo 8 wasn’t the only good thing about the year. It was a World Series for the ages, that helped Detroit heal from the riots the summer before.

[Update a few minutes later]

Yes, part of the solution is to end police unions (along with all public-employee unions) and sovereign immunity.

[Update a while later]

More thoughts from Richard Fernandez:

Was terrorism involved? Were the ideas of Ferguson taken to their final, frightening conclusion? While the individual culprits of the shooting have yet to be identified, the factors which have turned the summer of 2016 into a witches’ brew were clear for all to see. It is the culmination of decades of identity politics, the fruit of open borders, the outcome of an unwarranted disdain for Islamic extremism, the destruction of everything once held in common. Most of all it is the product of a collapse in legitimacy that has soured the public on nearly every institution: the political parties, the Supreme Court, the presidency, the police and the FBI. Now at the very moment when the public needs to trust someone the question is: whom can you trust?

It’s depressing.

The Comey Presser

This has already started to be discussed in comments at yesterday’s post, but I want to start a new one: The fourteen worst things for Hillary to come out of it. He basically said she was guilty of pretty much everything, except he wasn’t going to indict her because she was a Clinton.

[Update a few minutes later]

Comey’s remarks were devastating to Hillary. And no “reasonable” Attorney General meets with the spouse of someone under FBI investigation.

[Update a few minutes later]

Comey sells out the rule of law. And “today’s the day that rule of law died.” And did Comey “destroy Hillary by ‘exonerating” her“?

Pro tip: He didn’t exonerate her any more than Bob Ray did in Whitewater. “Insufficient evidence to indict” is no an exoneration.

[Update a few minutes later]

This is amusing. The State Department refuses to say whether or not Clinton and her aides have retained their clearances.

No one else in this situation would. They’re refusing to say because if they say she and they haven’t, they know the damage it would do to the campaign, as Obama flies her around on AF1, and lets her speak with the presidential seal in front of her lectern.

[Update a while later]

A ” target=”_blank”>mashup from ReasonTV of Comey’s presser and Hillary’s lies. Expect to see a lot of SuperPACs showing this.