Strange Times Are These

When conspiracy theories don’t sound so crazy.

Dear Reader (and those interested in advertising the Sussex Royal brand on my podcast),

So at The Dispatch—up and fully running for three days nowwe talk a lot about being fact-driven and opposed to hot takes, click bait, and conspiracy mongering. 

Three days of that is probably enough. So, here’s a completely unsubstantiated, unverified, and probably unlikely theory inspired in part from some chatter I heard at my cigar shop.

Suleimani was set up by the Iranians. He was too much of a hot head, growing his own power base independent of the mullahs and making it harder for Iran to get out from underneath sanctions. The Iranian leadership couldn’t stop him from conducting a series of dangerously provocative terror attacks, so they basically gave him to the Americans in exchange for … something. I’m not sure what, but maybe withdrawal from Iraq.  

By burning Suleimani the Iranians lose a loose cannon and gain a useful propaganda martyr. The fact that CIA Director Gina Haspel perfectly predicted the Iranian response beforehand suggests she may have actually negotiated it from the beginning. 

Also, something about lizard people. 

Now, I don’t actually subscribe to this (though I don’t think it’s as crazy as it probably sounds).  But this whole thing feels weirder and weirder to me, even if we don’t have enough facts for me to put my finger on why. 

Maybe I’m just a little confused because I think Trump was right and his critics are wrong, and that’s not an entirely familiar feeling for me. 

Of course, there is no reason to take the president’s word for it that an attack on our embassy—or embassies—was imminent, but I don’t think the soundness of the decision hinges on that anyway. As I wrote last week, Suleimani needed killing. And the only argument against killing him, particularly when he was flying into Baghdad to help plot terror strikes against America and our allies, was that the price of the Iranian response would be too high. 

But if the only price was the missile attack the other night—still a big if—then it’s a no-brainer. I’m always being told I have Trump derangement syndrome and that I never have anything good to say about him or his administration. Well, given what we know right now, I fully support Trump’s drone strike. Again, if the missile strike is the only response we get from Iran, then this was an unmitigated national security win. Trading some buildings for the architect of Iran’s proxy war is a no-brainer. 

But I just have a feeling the story won’t end here. 

War powers, what are they good for?

Things get weirder still. I cannot stand Rep. Matt Gaetz, and not just because he looks like he could play himself in Team America: World Police. Similarly, I am not exactly on up-to-date on my dues to the Rand Paul fan club. But I agree with them about reining in the president’s war powers, though I’d prefer to have Mike Lee do the talking on the issue. I like that guy.

As I often rant, Congress might as well be a movie set or an exhibit at Epcot Center, given its refusal to actually do the hard work the Founding Fathers intended for it. 

Some quick background: First there was a thick primordial stew covering much of the surface of the planet. Then … okay I’ll skip ahead.

 For reasons that are hard to summarize pithily, much of the political class has convinced itself we live in a parliamentary democracy. We think presidents are like prime ministers and therefore when you vote for a president you vote for a party and that all the legislators in the president’s party should follow the president’s lead. 

Even though most GOP senators either outperformed the president in 2016 or weren’t even up for election in 2016, the president’s “mandate” somehow supersedes their own. This is a bipartisan mistake, which is why nearly every Democrat running for president—with the exception of Joe Biden—has talked as though being elected president would guarantee that the legislature would rubber stamp his or her agenda. Elizabeth Warren even seems to think that all that is keeping her from abolishing the Electoral College is being elected. 

Stop laughing.

But the problem is worse than that. Legislatures in parliamentary democracies actually do stuff. Congress has outsourced vast swaths of its responsibilities to the executive branch, the courts, and the permanent bureaucracy. 

Okay, now, here’s the point. Because of all of this, the only time either party talks about restraining the president’s war powers—or the deficit, or the debt, or federalism, or transparency, or a thousand other things—is when that party doesn’t hold the White House. In short, they are foul weather constitutionalists and statesmen. (It’s like so much of our political culture: Standards and principles are things you hold the other team to.)

When the other party holds the White House, legislators take to the floor of the House and Senate and wax prolix on the need to restore the constitutional balance, restrain the imperial presidency, check runaway spending, etc. But when their guy is in the Oval Office, Katie bar the door, let’s go for transformational change, baby. 

The only way this will ever get fixed is for elected officials to actually step up and restrain a president from their own party. But restrain is the wrong word, because the Constitution restrains the president, yes, even on foreign policy. The correct word is “restore.” Nothing being proposed by anyone would move more than a few inches toward the proper constitutional balance, but even a few inches in the right direction would be better than continuing to slide in the wrong direction.

Frankly, my attitude toward the war powers debates has always been a bit like The Tick’s to PowerPoint presentations, “slideshow … boring, losing consciousness.” And if I could choose just one issue for the GOP to start growing a constitutional spine, it probably wouldn’t be this one.  But I’ll take it. 

Various & Sundry

If this “news”letter doesn’t quite feel like I’ve checked the box on a proper Goldberg File, let me just say the feeling is mutual. It’s been a crazy day for personal and professional reasons (I recorded two podcasts, in two locations, with two great guests: Jake Tapper of CNN and Ross Douthat of the Scheinhardt Wig Company). Launching a start-up has broken all of my writing rhythms and I hope to get back to normal soon. I really appreciate your patience and understanding.

Canine Update: The girls have been through the wringer. The Fair Jessica and I were gone for a couple weeks, then I came back for like 36 hours and had to leave town for 24 hours for a speech, but not before Zoë tore out of her collar to chase a bunny. Then the Fair Jessica Returned (to a frantic welcoming committee) only to leave town again 24 hours later. The result has been two extremely needy dogs with a pronounced sense of entitlement, even for them. Worse, this morning, we discovered that we were out of the jerky treats (Rocco and Roxie to be exact. They should advertise on The Remnant). I gave them both the rawhide Dingo ball things and Pippa rebelled. Worse, Pippa’s limp just won’t go away, so Monday I have to take her to the vet. They said she needs to be on restricted duty until then, which is a concept Pippa doesn’t really understand. But I am doing the bare minimum. Gracie is also super needy. And, in the most shocking development in feline affairs in decades, Ralph is even being nice to me


Last week’s G-File

Trump's moment-by-moment Iran policy

The right's B.S. problem

This week's first Remnant, the Dispatch

The Matzneff cautionary tale

And now, the weird stuff.

Begin the Butlerian jihad

Who among us

Why though? 

!elbissop si levart emiT

Mysterious creatures

The dead speak! 

Loyal customer

Bad scam


Take the Voight-Kampff test

Poorly researched men's fiction


Forget Baby Yoda; we've now got a Baby Bigfoot

You know the guy...

This is the future Integralists want

Sick dance moves

Airport reunion

Did HAL commit murder?

Photograph of Donald Trump by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Good Riddance to a Bad Man

The death of Qassem Suleimani is not an occasion to mourn.

Dear Reader (and those who are merely reader-curious),

Qassem Suleimani is dead and I feel fine. 

He was a bad guy, and I don’t mean in the glib Good Guys vs. Bad Guys sense. I mean, he was literally a bad guy. I do not mourn for him. Indeed, even if it were to turn out (and I don’t think it will) that his killing was unlawful, bad policy, based on bad intelligence, or sold with lies, I would still not feel sympathy for Suleimani, because he did a dozen—two dozen? A thousand?—other things that would make almost any death overdue.

This is a point a lot of people seem to struggle with. Forget foreign policy for a second. Say Joe commits murder, but the police can’t prove it, so they end up framing Joe for the crime he committed, or even some other crime. Being outraged by such violations of due process is right and proper, and I have no quarrel with people who blow a gasket when things of this sort happen. But I don’t feel a lot of sympathy—any, really—for Joe. When you break all the rules, you may not have forfeited your legal right to complain when the authorities don’t follow them either, but you have forfeited your moral right to whine about it.

I sometimes feel like I’m in the minority about this sort of thing. There’s something about the human brain that makes it hard for many people to make such distinctions. If they’re angry at the cops, they also need to be less angry, or even sympathetic for, the “victim.” Just to be clear: I’m using quotation marks around victim because I don’t mean the murdered person; I mean the murderer. 

I’ll never forget the angry reaction I got when I wrote, years ago, that if the “pre-crime” system in Minority Report actually worked, there’d be nothing wrong with using it. My larger point, which drew much condemnation, is that we have due process rules to protect innocent people, not guilty ones. If there were some safe, non-intrusive, and foolproof way of determining guilt—“pre-cogs,” mind-reading, a divine oracle, 100 percent-reliable truth serums, whatever—we could dispense with Miranda warnings, lengthy trials and appeals, the right to confront your accuser, and all the rest, and just go straight to sentencing. 

The problem, of course, is that we don’t have any such shortcuts, and so we have to set up elaborate rules to ensure that the innocent aren’t wrongly punished and that the state doesn’t abuse its power. Those elaborate rules are important, because they ensure fairness (as much as practicable) for the innocent. That the guilty sometimes benefit from them is the price we pay for that fairness. There’s a reason we call them procedural rights and not natural rights—because in a state of nature we’re not born with the right to a lawyer.  I’ve never really understood why this opinion draws such rage from some people, but it does. 

There’s a similar distinction to be made in foreign policy. Saddam Hussein deserved to be killed many times over. In fact, while there are plenty of good arguments for why he shouldn’t have been fed alive to hogs, none of them has to do with his not deserving it. The Iraq war, for all its failures, doesn’t change that fact. Likewise, Qassem Suleimani had it coming, regardless of what comes next or what factors led to the decision to kill him. 

Not this time.

But first, since I brought up the Iraq war, I feel like I should make another point. The Iraq war was a mistake, on its own terms. I don’t think it was an evil war for oil or Israel or any of that garbage. I think people of good will, acting on the best information they had, made the wrong decision(s). I supported the war at the time, quite vociferously, because I thought the facts and the arguments were on their side. But the WMD program wasn’t what we believed. That was a colossal intelligence failure. Yet the even bigger intelligence screw-up was our failure to understand the true nature of Iraqi society and the limits of our ability to stand up a functioning democracy once Saddam was gone. 

But that’s not the point I want to make; it’s just the context for it. The two biggest shocks to my worldview in the last 20 years were the Iraq war and the election of Donald Trump. Both, in their own ways, were wrecking balls to my pillars of certainty. I’m still an advocate for a strong foreign policy that protects American interests, including support for democracy and human rights around the world. But I’m much more skeptical and, one might say, humble about how to do that. I’m slower to trust the government, not in a conspiratorial sense, but in a prudential one. 

This will confuse people who think “neoconservative” means “bagel-snarfing-warmonger.” But these experiences have made me more neoconservative in the original sense. The first neocons weren’t foreign policy hawks; they were mostly former liberals and leftists who became more skeptical about what government could do and more aware of the law of unintended consequences. 

The election of Donald Trump—and the subsequent transformation of so much of the right—only compounds my skepticism. I’ve lost my taste for the rah-rah boosterism, the glib way a cult of personality or the cult of the presidency substitutes for arguments. I don’t think even at my most partisan or asinine depths I’ve ever been close to the sort of insecure goon Sebastian Gorka is on any given Tuesday. But the mere thought of being on the same team as him elicits the sort of pre-vomit reflux I normally associate with encountering the interior of under-serviced Porta-Johns in August. 

Upon the news of the Suleimani strike, the first instinct of all these self-avowed experts on terrorism was to give voice to their tumescent infatuation with Trump, to act as if they have some ownership of the flag, and to prattle on about “beta males.” 

Is there anything more “beta” than literally auditioning daily to be some alleged alpha’s sidekick? If Gorka hadn’t been fired, he’d be like Chester, the little dog from Looney Tunes that follows Spike around: 

Instead, he provides an interesting codicil to Bismarck’s observation that “No man is a hero to his valet.” It turns out that some men are heroes to the creatures dreaming of being his valet. But Gorka and his ilk have served a purpose. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts’ tactic of developing immunity to iocaine powder by ingesting small doses over time, exposure to these charlatans has inoculated me to these cheap partisan patriots and their grifts. 

The Bourne legacy.

When Randolph Bourne said that “war is the health of the State,” he meant something very specific. He did not mean that war is the health of the government. For Bourne, the government and the state were very different things, perhaps even opposites. The state, for Bourne, is most akin to the crown in a monarchy. It is the all-encompassing symbol of the nation and the people (which is why the monarch in Great Britain is the head of sate but not the head of government). The government is where we hash out our political differences systematically. Government, like democracy, is the process of reconciling disagreements between interests, factions, branches of government, and policymakers. The state is both the catchall and the spirit of us.  Government reflects the gloriously messy disunity and disagreement of a liberal society, the state claims to speak for everyone and disparages those who don’t speak for it. 

“In times of peace,” Bourne observed, “we usually ignore the State in favour of partisan political controversies, or personal struggles for office, or the pursuit of party policies. It is the Government rather than the State with which the politically minded are concerned. The State is reduced to a shadowy emblem which comes to consciousness only on occasions of patriotic holiday.”

But, he adds further on, “With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again.” And later still: “The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government.” Debate is synonymous with disunity. Decisions are left to the state without even a nod to democratic processes. 

(This is why the left has been making “moral equivalent of war” arguments for domestic policies for a century now—they love the unquestioned authority the state gets during war; they just don’t like the war part. This is also why I dislike so much of the talk about nationalism. When you make “The Nation”—the country, not the magazine—the philosophical lodestar of everything, you make the government more like Bourne’s state, because it is the only institution that claims to speak for the whole nation.)

Now, I don’t think that is about to happen here. War remains unlikely, and total war seems even less probable, perhaps even impossible, for a host of reasons. You have to go back to the world wars, particularly the first, to find an example of this sort of thing happening across nearly all of society. But something like this did happen to the GOP during the Iraq war, and you could see glimpses of it on the left when Obama used force as well. If war with Iran is required, I’ll support war with Iran. But count me out of anything like a Freedom Fries redux (though I do like the sound of Liberty Carpets.) 

That doesn’t mean I will join the left-wing asshat chorus either. 

Nonsense like this puts teeth to Robert Frost’s line about how a liberal is too broadminded to take his own side of an argument. The notion that if you’ve haven’t heard of Suleimani your ignorance should translate into a presumption that he did nothing wrong is quintessential Michael Moore: Make people feel smart for being dumb or uninformed.

Look, I don’t think I’m in some ivory tower. If you define the remnant as the people between the antipodes of asininity that are Moore and Gorka, than most Americans are part of the remnant. But that’s not going to be reflected in the national conversation as we head into the 2020 campaign. Which is just one of the reasons why I feel like my affinity for Bourne, Mencken, Nock, and the other superfluous men is going to get more, not less, acute. 

Still, it’s worth pondering the question: What if Trump really needs the support of more than just his base? He might get it, if Iran overplays its hand. But one of the reasons presidents act presidential during times of peace is so that they have the benefit of the doubt during times of war. The problem is Trump himself has been governing as a war president from the first day of his presidency, conflating nation, government, state, and, of course, Trump whenever it suits him. It’s just that, as Ron Brownstein has argued, he normally aims his bellicosity against internal enemies. So it will not require much of a change in posture for Trump. The Gorkans won’t even have to get new pom-poms and the Moore-ons will barely have to update their talking points. But for Americans not already on board, Trump will have a hard time earning the sort of credibility a president needs during a crisis. 

Various & Sundry

Get ready for the full Dispatch! Starting Tuesday, the website goes live. We’re still connecting all the wires and refining the dilithium crystals, so fingers crossed. If you haven’t signed up for our wares, please do. Indeed, if you find yourself agreeing with—or intellectually or ideologically challenged b —the idea of an outlet that is conservative but not cheerleading, I implore you to give us a try and tell your friends. We need not just your support, but your participation. 

Travelogue: This is my last night in Spain. The Fair Jessica and I had a wonderful time with my daughter (they’re currently in Vienna for a few days). It was hard saying goodbye (she’s staying behind because she’s spending her junior year of high school in Zaragoza). I’m also a little concerned that I may be doomed. On New Year’s Eve in Spain, the tradition is to eat 12 grapes as the bells ring in the New Year, one grape for each gong. If you can keep that pace, it’s supposed to bring you good luck. I was doing great…until the end. when I somehow managed to crack my tooth on a grape seed. (Seedless grapes, like proper martinis, haven’t made it to Seville apparently.) That can’t be good luck. It’s like rubbing a rabbit’s foot and cutting yourself on the claw. So I’m more than ready to get home, and not just for the access to dentistry. I’ve had my fill of Iberian ham and cobblestone streets. Also, I really can’t wait to see my dogs and at least 50 percent of my cats. Which brings me to the…

Canine update: Except I don’t have much to report. We got regular proof of life videos, and the dogs by all reports were very good girls under difficult circumstances. Because the Iran news broke in the wee hours, Declan Garvey, a correspondent for The Dispatch as well as a fine canine caretaker, had to rework The Morning Dispatch. The dogs monitored the situation closely, even though Declan informed them that they could go back to bed. Watch my Twitter feed Saturday night for the first video of the Welcoming Committee. 

I talk about my trip a bit—and this G-File—in the latest episode of the Remnant


Last week’s G-File

The coming ugly 2020 campaign

The EU's fatal flaw

And now, the weird stuff.

Seinfeld by a pro bassist

The Ohio River sea serpent


Sports broadcast champion

Who among us

Tom Cruise running

Misunderstood cannibal sandwiches

How news savvy are you? 

Swimming rabbit

Happens to all of us

Don't move, he can't see us if we don't move

One woman, 17 British accents

Butterfly memories

Time, Warped

Reflections on a decade of disruption.

Dear Reader [Including those of you who gave their last full measure of devotion in the War on Christmas and those unsung heroes of the forgotten War to Save Thanksgiving],

I’m writing this from a park bench right by the royal palace in Madrid. The little concrete and brown dirt plaza I’m sitting in is apparently a make-do dog park, which is nice because I miss my canine quadrupeds quite a bit. The dogs are centered around a statue of a soldier. If I weren’t in Spain, I’d assume it was a member of the French foreign legion. But that would be odd. I’ll get up and read the plaque in a bit and let you know what it is. 

That’s the funny thing about this kind of writing. I can get up, find out what the statue is about, go back and delete a couple sentences and make it seem like I knew what the statue was all along. But the whole point of this “news”letter is that it’s supposed to be stream of consciousness (okay, maybe not the whole point, but certainly a defining feature, like the nudity and Aramaic puns).  The “news”—often silent—is in quotation marks, not the letter. 

If I were writing in a journal with ink, I couldn’t go back and amend the sentence without creating a mess of cross-outs. But with a computer, you can sort of go back in time and clean up your mistakes, leaving the reader none the wiser. Of course, you could achieve the same effect with paper and ink, too. It would just require a lot more effort; writing a messy draft or two and then rewriting a final clean version in which the stream-of-consciousness seems more real by being more fake.  

What’s that sound? Oh no. It’s an alarm. You’ve stumbled into a metaphor, which once made explicit will be forever turned into a simile, or perhaps an analogy.

Out of time.

Earlier this week, I had a wild idea for my Los Angeles Times column, one that turned out too wild for 750 words. Or at least my editor thought so. She was probably right. So I bagged it and wrote this one instead. 

It was a weird column, because I intended to do a decade-in-review column and then someone on Twitter pointed me to this brilliant essay, “The 2010s Have Broken Our Sense of Time,” by Buzzfeed’s Katherine Miller. It got in my head like Buddy the Elf in the Empire State Building’s elevator, lighting up all the buttons

It’s a bit of a cliché to talk about how we live in an age of disruption. But that’s only because it’s true. The usual examples are familiar enough: Uber, iPhones, streaming videos, robots, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, internet this, digital that, social media the other thing. But Miller pointed out, in a way I hadn’t really thought through, a major theme to the pudding. 

Time seems to be losing its grip on us, or rather we seem to be losing our grip on it. Technology may be the great disruptor of our age, but the disruption can be measured in more than the changing nature of the means of production. More and more, time is like a middle man we want to cut out. Amazon’s same-day delivery may be killing retail, but it’s also making us think of time as a major part of prices. It always was, of course. But in so many ways, it’s never been as negotiable. 

Miller points out that, “within a few months in 2016, both the primary catalog for millions of lives (Instagram) and the primary channel for news and culture (Twitter) switched from chronological to algorithmic timelines.” These algorithms rank the events in our “timelines” not by chronological sequence, but by presumed emotional importance.  Every few days, I must wrestle my Twitter account out of this algorithm, because Twitter insists it has a better idea of what is good for me. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if Twitter were 100 years old. Would I wake up in the morning to see a tweet by Winston Churchill DESTROYING Neville Chamberlain? Who cares if it was so long ago; Chamberlain’s tears are so delicious. 

And because we live so much of our lives through our phones and similar gadgets, we are pulled through our handheld Narnian wardrobes into a place of increasingly personally curated time. The disappearance of appointment television (with the exception of live sporting events) is one obvious example. We used to carve out time for the unmovable moments in our common culture. Now, those moments come to us, on our schedule. 

You can find one obvious sign of the transformation at a concert or perhaps your kids’ school play. Now, people experience the event through the screens on their phones to make sure it’s captured for all time in a little portable flask of meaning, one they can sip from when psychologically thirsty for a little emotional inebriation. Not being fully present in the moment is the Faustian price we pay to make such moments permanently accessible. But we also ornamentalize our “moments,” posting them for others to see, and perhaps envy, like jewels of time others can’t afford. (This phenomenon probably explains the current obsession with income inequality more than the distribution of per capita income.)  

Time is on my side, yes it is.
We tend to define our differences as cultural ones. And that’s fine. But culture is sometimes the way we describe differences in time. Almost 30 years ago, I was on a train station in Belgrade. I was transferring trains for an adventurous trip to Istanbul from Prague. I had a few hours to kill and I walked around. I saw men in uniforms that looked like they were from the costume department of Doctor Zhivago. I remember seeing a man with a bandaged headwound smoking a cigarette. We were about the same age. But I couldn’t help but think we weren’t just from different places and cultures, but from different eras. He still lived in a time when killing people for not wanting to be part of your country not only made sense, but was a moral obligation. I imagine if I were to ever meet someone from one of those tribes still living in the jungles of the Amazon that the feeling would be even more acute. 

Progress is a thorny topic. But an essential part of it is the idea that wisdom and knowledge accumulate over time. Perhaps our loss of confidence in progress—evident in our exhaustion with once-settled ideas and commitments—is attached to our loss of a sense of time? 

I’ve written a bunch about how what we do now can change the past, not literally, but in terms of how we think about it. For the first half of my life, the most important dates of the 20th century were either 1914 or 1917. The former was the year Gavrilo Princip opened Pandora’s box and the first World War sprung forth, smashing the old order. The latter, the Russian Revolution, is impossible without the events of the former: 1914 begat 1917. But wherever you hear the starter’s pistol, the defining events of the 20th century spilled out: the implosion of Weimar Germany, the rise and fall of Nazism, fascism, the rise of the United Nations, NATO, the Cold War and all the little hot wars fought in its name. 

But in 2001, after a brief “holiday from history” as my friend Charles Krauthammer put it, the September 11 attacks suddenly made 1914, 1917, and all that seem less important, and 1923 (when the Ottoman Empire disappeared) and 1932 (when the Wahhabis took control of Saudi Arabia) seem like the inflection points of the previous century we all failed to appreciate.

The apparent rise of jihadism was fresh evidence that the mere passage of time does not bury old ideas. Rather, it allows them to ripen beneath the surface, like Lovecraftian titans waiting to be called forth when the moment is right.

The importance of those dates wasn’t just marked by battles, gravestones, and political systems, but by the ideas that drove people to kill and die for some larger cause in the name of some collective idea of progress. The conflicts were real, but they were largely shared by across or between societies. 

That sense that we were all living in roughly the same timeline is gone, replaced by a tribalism that is defined as much by competing senses of time as competing ideas. Everywhere you look, cultural combatants are ransacking the past to rewrite the present. 

The New York Times, with perverse irony, has responded to literally centuries of once-unimaginable racial progress with the idea that 1776 and 1789 are no longer the most obvious birthdates of the United States of America. Instead, 1619, the year when 20 or so African slaves were deposited on our shores, is now the moment of our creation and we remain frozen in its shadow. It’s an arbitrary choice (there had been Africans in the New World before then), chosen out of an aesthetic desire to mark the 500th anniversary of our “founding.” It’s also a ludicrous argument, deployed to undermine or discredit objective measures of progress. No one not already in possession of—or possessed by—an ideological conclusion about the way we live now would reverse-engineer the last five centuries to reinvent the past in this way. 

Donald Trump ran for president on the phrase “America First,” by his own admission ignorant of its meaning and historical context, vowing to return us to an imagined time of greatness. That’s all it took for an idea presumed dead to come back to life.

Nationalism, too, was once one of the Old Ones thought to be in permanent slumber. Its time has come again. It’s like members of the cult of Zuul, Baal, or Ra have been living among us in modern mufti, waiting for the right moment to awake their chosen god. We took a wrong turn with the Enlightenment or the Founding, they believe, and the time has come to get us back on the right path. 

Further out on the fringe, not necessarily at Trump’s bidding but often on his behalf, other Old Ones have roused themselves, loosing even darker eldritch ideas and forces, happy to play the demons in the 1619 eschatology. Youthful idiots have exhumed Nazi kitsch and proclaimed it “real conservatism.” 

And of course, socialism, never fully put to rest, has been rejuvenated, not by new facts but by a recommitment to an old faith. Socialism is the economics of the caveman, or rather that imagined caveman we have called the noble savage (credit Jean-Jacques Rousseau for the idea, though he never actually used the term). All share equally in the provisions of the tribe, because all contribute equally. Never mind that this was never true of actual cavemen—if those who study such things are to be believed. The strong ate first and ate best. Those who could not carry their share of the burden were left behind or killed. Still, there was much more economic equality back then, but only because all were poor and possessions amounted to what you could carry. Our brains have a sweet tooth for such arrangements though, because the socialistic rules of cooperation are what allowed our species to survive in a world where mere survival was the name of the game. This is why socialism must be argued away in every generation. Every human today begins life with the same programming we had before the rules of the game improved.  

Improvement is another word for progress, rightly understood. But we take the improvements for granted, thinking we can keep the good stuff we have now, all the while ransacking the past for narratives we think we can adopt like some retro fashion we can make stylish once again. 

Chronology used to be understood as an actual science, the science of ordering things in temporal sequence. But now we know the word only as a label for a list of such things. Chronology has lost its attachment to science in the popular imagination--and what is science other than the technique of accumulating knowledge about the world? We live by an algorithm now, one that prioritizes emotional meaning above mere chronological advance. Time is not a flat circle, but we are treating it like one. It’s like a giant buffet of moments we can choose from, a series of top tweets brought forth by an algorithm that lets us help ourselves to whatever ideas we have the appetite for, heedless of the fact that those moments have come and gone, and the ideas that gave them power have been discredited or simply bled of context by the passage of time.

I’m no longer in that park by the royal palace, but thanks to the miracle of digital living, I can now go back to find out the name of that statue. But that would change the moment, and you can’t go back again. 

Various & Sundry
Canine Update:
We are getting regular reports on the critters from our dog/cat/house sitter, Matt. They have his number (though Pippa apparently has trouble with Risk management). Matt even took the girls to his folks’ place in Virginia, where Zoë behaved herself and Pippa was the target of Chief’s affections. And so long as the two of them are together, I don’t think they get all that stressed. Still, I can’t wait for the Welcoming Committee. 


Last week’s G-File

Our confused decade

This week’s Remnant, with Phil Klein

And now, the weird stuff. 

Invisible Bigfoot

Grave-dwelling cockroaches

Bigfoot and the police

Do dogs understand numbers?

Oregon Bigfoot

Photograph of fans watching Imagine Dragons at Lollapalooza through their phones by Santiago Bluguermann/Getty Images.

Conservative Whine Caves

Dear Reader [including denizens of wine caves],

The day President Trump was impeached, he went to a rally in Michigan to bask in the uncritical love of a crowd. At the rally, he suggested that John Dingell, the recently deceased long-serving Michigan congressman, might be burning in hell. (He didn’t use the term burning in hell, but that was implied by the suggestion he was looking “up” from the Great Beyond.)

The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, was asked about it the next day.

She explained that the president is a “counter-puncher” who has been under attack. She also emphasized that this was a “political rally.” “It was a very, very supportive and wild crowd, and he was just riffing on some of the things that had been happening the past few days," 

Given that Dingell retired from Congress before Donald Trump was elected and passed away some 10 months before the impeachment vote, I was curious what kind of punch the congressman might have delivered from the very depths of hell. 

It was explained to me that the president was responding to the fact that Dingell’s widow—who now holds her husband’s seat—had voted for impeachment, even though Trump allowed the Dingells to receive “A+ plus treatment” (Trump’s words) for the man’s funeral, including the use of military transport for a bipartisan delegation to attend services in Michigan.

Before I get to the important point, let me start with a familiar one. One of my great peeves is the way people think an explanation is an excuse. “I overslept” is an explanation for why you were late; it’s not an excuse. 

(For most of my life, this is one of the things that vexed me the most about the left. Some Palestinian terrorist wipes out a bunch of kids, and the defense takes a form of an explanation about Palestinian grievances. They feel this. They experienced that. The “this” and the “that” may be true or false or some mix of the two, but none of it adds up to an excuse for murdering people.) 

Trump’s defenders routinely conflate or confuse explanations for excuses. They offer explanations—He’s taking care of his base! He doesn’t apologize! He’s a businessman not an ideologue—as if A) these were really penetrating insights and B) they’re some kind of absolution for being an ass. 

Saying that the president was at a rally and has been under attack is an explanation. Saying that he wasn’t really attacking John Dingell, just Dingell’s widow, is an explanation. Saying that he was just riffing because he was in front of a big crowd of supporters who like it when he’s cruel is an explanation. 

None of these things is an excuse. 

On that last point, I often invoke that line about how “character is what you do when no one else is watching.” I still like it and believe it. But I think it’s insufficient. Character is also what you do when lots of people are watching, particularly people who will let you indulge yourself. It seems to me a really big test of character is when a crowd of people want you to be bad and it takes some strength and will to disappoint them. President Trump has said more than once to his adoring admirers that it would be easy to be presidential, but it would bore his fans. I am sure in his mind this counts as an excuse. And that’s about as good an explanation of his bad character as I can think of.  But I am sure some conservative writers will explain why I am wrong, while using a lot of fancy Greek words. 

Whoop, There He Is

So far, I’ve done precisely what everyone else has done about this seemingly routine example of Trump’s boorish pettiness; I’ve buried the lede. 

Trump’s primary defense for asking the Ukrainian president for a “favor” is that he used the word “us.” From his letter to Nancy Pelosi:

I said to President Zelensky: “I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” I said do us a favor, not me, and our country, not a campaign. I then mentioned the Attorney General of the United States. Every time I talk with a foreign leader, I put America's interests first, just as I did with President Zelensky.

Look again at why he suggested Mrs. Dingell’s husband is in hell. 

Then you have this Dingell. Dingell, you know Dingell, from Michigan. You know Dingell? You ever hear of her, Michigan? Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty. So she calls me up like eight months ago. Her husband was here a long time, but I didn’t give him the B treatment. I didn’t give him the C or the D. I could’ve. Nobody would have—I gave the A+ treatment.  ‘Take down the flags.’”

Here he was referring to ordering flags to be flown at half-staff. He goes on, miming his instructions to staff. “While you’re taking them down for ex-Congressman Dingell … do this, do that, do that, rotunda everything.” He goes on like this for a while. “I gave him everything. That’s okay. I don’t want anything for it. I don’t need anything for anything. She calls me up …”

And then Trump explains how Debbie Dingell thanked him. But then eight months later, she voted for impeachment anyway. 

Do you see what I’m getting at? I was no cheerleader for John Dingell, but let’s stipulate that affording the longest-serving representative in U.S. history, who was also a World War II veteran, certain ceremonial honors for his funeral is a proper action for the chief executive to take. 

Despite saying “I don’t want anything for it,” it’s obvious that Trump does want something for it (just as saying “there’s no quid pro quo” doesn’t mean there wasn’t). Trump thinks Mrs. Dingell owes him because he used his presidential power to assist with her husband’s funeral. 

Let’s assume Debbie Dingell believes what Trump did vis-a-vis Ukraine was impeachable. By what constitutional theory should she not vote to impeach him because Trump thinks flying flags at half-staff was a personal favor? 

One can make too much of this, to be sure. But when I hear Trump or his defenders pretend to be outraged by the suggestion that he might have conflated state interests with his own narrow personal interests in his phone call with Zelensky I have to laugh. He sees nearly everything he does that way, including allowing funerals to proceed.

The Jewell in the Crown

Peter Suderman begins his Richard Jewell movie review thus:

I am not entirely sure whether Richard Jewell is a great movie—probably it is—but I am certain that it is a fascinating cultural document. For in addition to telling a startling true story, it acts as a feature-length thought experiment into the question: What would Hollywood look like if it were stridently, self-righteously conservative instead of comparably liberal? 

I don’t think it’s a great movie, but it is a good one. But my real disagreement with Suderman is his premise that this is what Hollywood would produce if it were unabashedly conservative. 

The so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, for all its flaws and pseudonymous Communist screenwriters, was actually pretty conservative. It was patriotic. It upheld all sorts of moral codes of decency. It might have been too nationalistic in its support of big government, particularly during the New Deal, but—hey—there are lots of conservatives today who are nostalgic for that junk. 

Richard Jewell—the movie—is not any of those things. It’s an angry affair, wallowing not in righteous conservatism but in a righteous sense of conservative victimhood. Clint Eastwood’s primary target isn’t left-wing Hollywood but the news media, with a second punch to academia. And it scores perfectly defensible direct hits on both counts. But subtextually, it’s also an implied shot at Eastwood’s fellow filmmakers, because their tastes and assumptions align almost perfectly with most of Hollywood’s.

But that’s my point. Eastwood’s movie is reactionary—not in the Marxist sense, but the literal one—it works only as an indictment of the non-conservative institutions today’s conservatives feel besieged and aggrieved by. It’s a form of protest at what America has allegedly become. It’s only possible to make a Richard Jewell movie like this in a world where Hollywood—and other elite institutions—are not conservative. A world where all of Hollywood is actually conservative wouldn’t produce a movie like this because such a movie would make no sense. 

I am sympathetic to Eastwood’s indictment. But I’m also dismayed by the degree to which the self-pity and victimhood baked into the movie make it “conservative.”

There’s a tremendous amount of whininess to conservatism these days. It starts at the top, with a president who sees whining as just another tactic to get what he wants. “I do whine because I want to win and I'm not happy about not winning and I am a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win,” he once explained. Once you notice it, it’s remarkable just how much of Trump’s rhetoric about “presidential harassment” is part of this broader strategy. 

But it doesn’t begin or end with Trump. When drug addiction was seen as mostly a problem for blacks and the “underclass,” conservatives talked a lot about zero tolerance, tough love, and individual responsibility. In the wake of the opioid crisis, the rhetoric has changed remarkably. Suddenly, it’s supply-side problem, not a demand-side one.  

Similarly, during previous periods of economic disruption, conservatives were far more confident in rugged individualism, bourgeois values, and the importance of lifting yourself up by the bootstraps. Today, it’s easier to find conservatives blaming economic hardships on “the system,” globalists, libertarians, the establishment, and the evils of the “meritocracy.” The system is rigged, don’t you know, so your problems aren’t your fault.

Now, I am not saying that the old Horatio Alger and tough-love talk was always right, nor am I saying that all of the complaints about our political and economic institutions are all wrong. Context matters. But it is remarkable how so many on the right are making their own versions of the “root causes” arguments they once mocked. I don’t think race explains all of this. But if I were black (or a woman), I’d be more than a little vexed by the new standards.

It was remarkable to listen to Rep. Jim Jordan and other Republicans try so hard to turn impeachment into an attack on “real Americans.” The unsubtle message is: “Trump is you.” Lest you think I’m imagining things: 

December 19, 2019

Lindsey Graham detested Donald Trump in 2016, and now he thinks hostility to Trump is a form of snobbery. He’s hardly alone. It’s a form of pandering to grievances that speaks of to a remarkable loss of confidence in our country and in conservative values that is widespread on the right. 

As I note in my column today, a lot of conservatives have to work from the ludicrous premise that Donald Trump did nothing wrong and that the forces arrayed against him rank alongside the crucifixion of Jesus and the Salem witch trials in the annals of injustice. This is preposterous, even if you believe Trump has serious reasons to complain about how he’s been treated. Whether you think Trump deserves to be impeached or not, the simple fact is he’s brought a great deal of his grief upon himself. But conceding this incandescently obvious fact muddies the water of the victim narrative the right has become besotted with. Every day someone tells me that Trump critics dislike only his “style,” as if he’s done everything else right. 

Even if that were true—it isn’t—his style is a bland euphemism for his character, which includes everything from bragging about sexual assault to mocking a widow about her possibly hell-bound husband. That’s not the “style” of the people who voted for him. Trump isn’t Richard Jewell and neither are they.  

Various & Sundry

For years, if Rush Limbaugh mentioned me on air—which he used to do on occasion (almost always positively)—I’d get flooded with email alerting me to it. Interestingly, I got one email, about three days late, letting me know he mentioned both Steve Hayes and me. It was a silly and factually inaccurate swipe in which he suggested we have something to do with the Lincoln Project. I have nothing to do with that, and neither does The Dispatch. What we’re gearing up to do is offer fact-driven news and analysis from a conservative perspective, heedless of party line or personal loyalty to the people we golf with. It’s telling that Limbaugh now sees such an effort as something to deride not with facts but with innuendo and guilt by association. 

Canine update: We left the beasts behind with a sitter. The moment they saw the luggage, they knew what was up and started plotting their revenge. As you can see, they are holding a grudge. Word is they’re doing fine, though. In fact, it may be for the best that they’ll do fewer big adventures while we’re gone. That way Pippa can mend from her exertions. Plus, we’ve learned that they are very concerned about the plastic bottle menace, so it’s probably for the best they wait for it to subside. 


Last week’s G-File

American victims

This week’s first Remnant, with Jim Geraghty 

On Trump’s impeachment

This week’s second Remnant, with Gary Schmitt

And now, the weird stuff. 

Ancient dwarfs

Porch pirate vs. glitter box

Sex shop pulls out

The Far Side returns

Another Easter Island mystery

Dinosaurs might have been poisoned 

Dancing Soviets 

UAE haunted palace tour


Photograph of Donald Trump at his Michigan rally on Wednesday by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Postmodernism and the Narrative Wars

From word magic to the Democratic primary to the Horowitz report.

Dear Reader [including Boris Johnson’s dog],

I’m going to be unfair to a writer because of a tweet. I know this sort of thing never happens, and since it’s such a violation of norms, I wanted to be upfront with my readers. 

I loved this formulation: We’ve been talking about something for a long time, so it should be real by now. 

I know the feeling. I’ve been talking about how the pope should have a squad of ninjas for decades, and yet we don’t seem any closer. My Dad liked to talk about how if we just shrunk every human being on the planet down to the size of a G.I. Joe (preferably with the kung fu grip), we’d never worry about scarce resources ever again. And yet, we’re no closer to UHM (universal human miniaturization). 

Jetpacks, a sequel to Logan’s Run, good flan, space elevators … the list goes on and on. We talk about all sorts of things for ages and yet they fail to materialize. It’s almost like word magic—as opposed to blood magic—doesn’t really work. 

Now, I understand the example I started with is a good case of toxic pedantry preying upon innocent idiom in service of authorial desperation. The actual article about the four-day workweek is pretty good. And the formulation, “We’ve been talking about doing X for Y time” is a perfectly acceptable colloquialism. A major answer, by the way, for why we don’t have a four-day work week is another perfectly acceptable colloquialism: Some things are easier said than done. 

Moreover, because I’m a defender of words and labels, I should point out that talking about doing something is almost always a necessary precursor to do doing it. We only go to war after talking about it first (whether we talk enough is a legitimate question). Americans talked about freeing the slaves for a very long time before we did it. The only really important exceptions to this rule are monumental and accidental discoveries. Columbus didn’t talk about finding America. Microwave ovens came about because while Percy Spencer, a researcher at Raytheon, was working on a radar doohickey, he discovered a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. He hadn’t been talking about discovering a way to heat up leftover pizza; he just stumbled into it. (I also hope he had his fertility tested given that microwaves don’t just seek out chocolate.)

I mentioned “word magic” earlier mostly as a nod to a favorite scene from the TV series Angel, but the truth is that word magic is kind of a thing. I don’t mean if I say “abracadabra” or “Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha” I can make a plate of nachos appear or a Kardashian disappear (alas). But you can understand why words could seem magical to people. 

There’s a great scene in Game of Thrones in which Sam is recounting all sorts of facts he learned from reading books. His illiterate wilding common-law bride, Gilly, is amazed:

Gilly: "You know all that from staring at marks on a paper?"

Sam: “Yes.”

Gilly: “You're like, a wizard.”

Earnest Gellner and Yuval Hariri have written about how writing seemed like magic for early societies for precisely this reason. Information for how to do stuff could be transported across comparatively vast distances—and times. It’s difficult for our brains today to conceive how magical this might have seemed to a society with no conception of writing. Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law comes to mind: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Or as Heinlein put it, “One man’s “magic' is another man’s engineering. ‘Supernatural’ is a null word.”

Okay. Like the bird dog that spent too much time licking his nethers rather than working said to himself, I better get to a point. 

Bipartisan postmodernism. 

Perhaps because I was drenched in postmodernism, hermeneutics, and all that stuff in college— and hated it—I’ve always had a thin skin about people trying to argue that words could do more than the factory specs allow (see, for example, this fun G-File from 17 years ago). Words can move people. They shape culture. They can change history. But words can’t change the boiling point of water. In other words, words can’t make certain untruths into truths.  Some smarter postmodernist types don’t really dispute this. Rather, they fall back on the more defensible claim that we can never really know the truth of something. Postmodernism, Stanley Fish explained, “maintains only that there can be no independent standard for determining which of many rival interpretations of an event is the true one.”

A decade ago, I was convinced that Barack Obama was a postmodernist. I wrote a piece for USA Today (but findable here) making the case. Ten years later, I’m undecided on whether he was actually a postmodernist or simply an adept politician who mastered the ability to pretend things were true if he said them. But what comes through powerfully is how similar Obama and Trump are in this regard. Some excerpts:

•Obama sometimes literally gets exasperated with people who think his words can mean anything other than what he thinks they should mean.

•On the troop surge, Obama's position has changed countless times, but he says it's unchanged. Worse, he has this grating habit of prefacing his new positions with something like "as I said at the time." But he didn't say "it" at the time, he said the opposite of "it." But saying that he said "it" is, to him, the same as having said "it."[

And finally:

•The Obama campaign has a postmodern feel to it because more than anything else, it seems to be about itself. Its relationship to reality is almost theoretical. Sure, the campaign has policy proposals, but they are props to advance the narrative of a grand movement existing in order to be a movement galvanized around the singular ideal of movement-ness. Obama's followers are, to borrow from David Hasselhoff  —  another American hugely popular in Germany—hooked on a feeling. "We are the ones we have been waiting for!" Well, of course you are.

 The mind floods with examples of how all of this could apply to Trump and Trumpism. If you can’t think of any, you might be as blind to Trump’s relationship to the truth as Obama’s followers were to his. At Trump rallies, he touts policies and accomplishments, many I agree with. But the people aren’t cheering for that stuff; they’re cheering for him—and, in a very real sense, themselves. Whether you call it MAGA, KAGA, nationalism, or Trumpism, the same feeling of “we are the ones we have been waiting for” suffuses the whole spectacle. 

I used to make great hay out of Obama’s statement that “You know, I actually believe my own bullshit.” Credit Obama for at least allowing the clever ironic distance of calling it bullshit. But is there a more apt epigram for Trump’s attitude? The fact that he comes to his bullshittery through marketing, sales, and reality shows rather than an Ivy League law school seminar is interesting. But it doesn’t reflect on the sophistication of Trump’s flimflam. It illuminates the flimflammery of post-modern “sophistication.” 

The narrative wars.

Whatever label you want to put on it—magic, B.S.. postmodernism, your better idea here—our political life overflows with people using words to shape a perception of reality that is way ahead of the facts. 

Nearly the entirety of the Democratic primary field seems to think they possess some kind of magic wand, in the words of Jim Geraghty. Elizabeth Warren thinks saying she will do something is tantamount to getting it done, despite the fact that vast swaths of what she proposes are illegal, unconstitutional, or both. And even if you think the law and Constitution are trivialities, there’s still the more basic fact that much of what Warren and others want to do is impossible. She recently said she wants to be the last president elected by the Electoral College. That’s nice. Why not add that you want to be the last president bound by the second law of thermodynamics? 

For my latest column, I spent Thursday going through all of the complaints from leftists that the Democratic primary field is becoming too white. It was fascinating. To listen to Democratic activists (and the journalists who love them), the most diverse field in history is the product of structural racism because Kamala Harris—an awful candidate—dropped out. The fact that Democratic voters tell pollsters they don’t care about the race of their nominee and are happy with their choices (which still includes a gay guy, several women, two black guys, one Hispanic guy, and two Jews) is a moral outrage. If you described this situation to liberal Democrats in 1969, they would be gobsmacked by the idea that we’d make this much social progress in just a half-century. This hits on a point I and many other conservatives have been making for years: Much of what passes for social justice and political correctness is really just a way of weaponizing principles of tolerance and equality for partisan or cultural advantage. 

No doubt many people sincerely believe America is structurally racist and drenched in white supremacy, despite the fact that America is among the least racist countries in the world and has been getting less racist for decades. And when they aim this rhetoric at Stephen Miller, or Trump, or the alt-right, you may be inclined to forgive their rhetorical overreach (or you might not). But when they start taking out the same weapons and turning on each other, it shows you how much of this is simply a reflection of the fact that they don’t know how to make other arguments. When all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail; when all you have is “Racism!!!!!,” every problem looks like white supremacy. 

Whatever you think of the Horowitz report, it’s not a total vindication of the Trumpists or the anti-Trumpists, but a mixed bag that offers facts and conclusions inconvenient to everyone who claimed their outsized story of the Russian investigation was gospel. Rather than respond with a little humility, the combatants in the narrative wars are holding up whichever facts support some sliver of their preferred storyline and holding it up like a trophy of total victory. I was never deeply invested in either narrative, but going by the report, I was wrong about the propriety of the Carter Page FISA warrant. I was right that the grand Deep State conspiracy theories were wrong. I have no problem admitting I was wrong in light of new facts. I’m in a distinct minority in this regard. 

Similarly, the impeachment debates are increasingly disconnected from the facts we know—and the facts we know are damning enough. Nancy Pelosi seems desperate to prove that Trump’s Ukraine skullduggery proves the Russia collusion narrative. House Republicans are even more openly desperate to claim that facts are lies because they don’t conform to the story they’re telling. 

Talk to some Republican politicians— away from a microphone—and they’ll tell you this is what the base wants, as if that alone is a defense. To be fair, it is what big chunks of the base wants to hear. But, telling the base the story it wants to hear—while a good business strategy for some pundits—has a cost. Because if you feed people just the broth of narrative with a few chunks of the most convenient facts to fill out the stew, the people who don’t like the dish will not be persuaded by new facts. The groups that are most likely to say they are better off since Trump was elected—college-educated whites, young people, and Hispanics—are among the groups where Trump performs the worst

If you’re going to put all your political chips in a story, you should probably make sure it’s a story that a majority of people want to hear, with a protagonist they like. 

Various & Sundry

Last week, I offered a table of contents thingamabob at the top of the “news”letter. A bunch of readers said they didn’t like it because it detracted from the sense that this “news”letter is written as stream of consciousness. I take the point and I have banished the device. But, just for the record, I wrote that G-File the same way I write nearly all of them: I took a can opener to my forehead and dumped the contents into my laptop (most of it was written in my car with the top down, the heat on, and a cigar in hand). The last thing I wrote was the table of contents, because sort of like Obamacare, I had to write it to know what was in it. Because it’s raining, I wrote this “news”letter in my cigar shop in about three hours (“It shows.” – the Couch). 

Canine update: So Pippa keeps getting a recurring limp. We will probably take her to the vet soon, but we’re pretty confident it’s simply the result of her lack of respect for her physical limits. This means we need to do a better job restricting her activity. But it is hard. Very hard. Particularly if the crows start talking smack. Regardless, we’re taking the best care of her we can. Zoë too.

In other exciting news, Kirsten, our dog-walker, has added a new member to the weekday pack: an adorable puppy named Warren. We were concerned that Zoë might not be altogether welcoming of the whippersnapper. But she’s been a great girl. Listening to all those Marianne Williamson audiobooks has really contributed to Zoë’s spiritual growth. Or maybe it’s because Zoë and her best friend, Sammie, have been seeing each other a lot lately. Here they are playing tag or hide-and-seek.

Another interesting development: Pippa and my wife’s cat, Ralph, have taken to enjoyingmorning naps together. I’m not sure what that’s all about. 


Last Friday’s G-File

Ukrainian 'interference' is nothing like Russian interference

This week's first Remnant, with Ramesh Ponnuru

This week's second Remnant, with Declan Garvey

The Democrat diversity panic

And now, the weird stuff. 

Debby's Friday links

Music history

Dog pets cat

Christopher Lee on what stabbing someone sounds like

Uh, erm, well, uh...

The ocean



"Silent Night" by Chewbacca

Gamers...don't rise up 

Boris Johnson's dog

Suspicious cat

Earth's deadliest animal 

Confused dog

Andre the truly giant

Photograph of Boris Johnson casting his vote with his dog Dilyn, on December 12, 2019 in London, England, by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

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