Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Isn’t it Ironic?

Donald Trump gave his first speech at the United Nations. 

Irony: the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.

Henry Watson Fowler, in The King's English, says, "any definition of irony—though hundreds might be given, and very few of them would be accepted—must include this, that the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same."

Also, Eric Partridge, in Usage and Abusage, writes that "Irony consists in stating the contrary of what is meant."

Let’s examine Trump’s speech; his words will be in italics, below.

Verbal Irony

Verbal Irony is a statement in which the meaning that a speaker employs is sharply different from the meaning that is ostensibly expressed.

We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government…

Strong sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.

In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone…

For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the UN Human Rights Council.

Tragic Irony

Tragic irony is a special category of dramatic irony. In tragic irony, the words and actions of the characters contradict the real situation, which the spectators fully realize.

Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terror but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, people, force dislocation and mass migration, threaten our borders and new forms of aggression exploit technology to menace our citizens.

[The United States Constitution] has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe…

In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign.

…we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return.

Our citizens have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom and the freedom of many nations represented in this great hall.

…we did not seek territorial expansion or attempt to oppose and impose our way of life on others.

We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife.

[Regarding Iran] …it is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime, one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran's government end its pursuit of death and destruction.

…in Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honored to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations. We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamic extremism that inspires them.

We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology.

In Syria and Iraq, we have made big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS.

The actions of the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad, including the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens, even innocent children…

Situational Irony

Situational irony is a relatively modern use of the term, and describes a sharp discrepancy between the expected result and actual results in a certain situation.

It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.

My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms.

The Criminal

Certain of Trump’s statements fall into a category all their own:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it. Believe me.

I have also totally changed the rules of engagement in our fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

We have also imposed tough calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse.


Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever…

We can only hope.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Miscellaneous Peterson

Returning to my journey through Jordan Peterson’s videos, I offer several paraphrased tidbits.  I believe most, if not all of these come from his series entitled “Professor against Political Correctness,” but I won’t swear on it.

Argumentation Ethics?

You cannot derive an “ought” from an “is.”  You cannot derive ethical guidelines from factual knowledge.  The reason is that there are an infinite number of facts from which to choose, so which facts are you going to pick?  Merely by attending to some and not another you are already using an ethic.

When I hear this from Peterson, why do I think of Hoppe’s argumentation ethics?

Hoppe states that his theory is an a priori, value-free praxeological argument for deontological libertarian ethics. Argumentation ethics asserts the non-aggression principle is a presupposition of every argument and so cannot be logically denied during an argument.

When two parties are in conflict, they can choose one of two means to resolve this conflict:

Engaging in violence, or engaging in honest argumentation.

Choosing violence to resolve conflict does not strike me as something sustainable for human life on earth (have I just made a value statement, I wonder?).  If they choose argumentation, they inherently reject violence as the means for resolving conflict – hence coming to the non-aggression principle.

Ok, I have taken this one about as far as I am able (probably even beyond this); your thoughts are more than welcome on this.

The Value of a Value System

No value system, no positive emotion.  The post-modernists complain about a value system, because it includes some people (winners), and excludes other people (losers).  So they flatten the value system, so there will be no losers.

When you flatten the value system, you don’t get rid of suffering.  When you flatten out value systems you still have the losers; you merely get rid of the winners. 

We see the radical left’s attempts and successes at destroying all value systems.  But I will focus elsewhere.

Regarding the non-aggression principle: can this be considered a “value system”?  Is there some positive emotion that comes from the absence of the initiation of aggression?  Perhaps yes, if one were living in Central Europe at pretty much any time between 1914 and 1991. 

But even in this case, it still seems to me that non-aggression results in the absence of a negative emotion; this doesn’t strike me as the same thing as a positive emotion.  Is there meaningful “life” in this, a life where all we have is the absence of negative emotion? 

Does one even require “positive emotion” in life?  Who says this is of value? 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Reflex Movements

Reflex movements have been reported to occur in up to 75% of brain-dead patients…

McMeekin offers his analysis of events in Russia during 1917 and how these effected Russia’s involvement in the war.  The connection of this to the title should become apparent shortly, if you haven’t already figured it out.
[It would be] absurd and criminal to renounce the biggest prize of the war…in the name of some humanitarian and cosmopolitan idea of international socialism.

-        Pavel Miliukov, Foreign Minister, Russian Provisional Government; March, 1917

Miliukov was an advocate of continuing the war after the February Revolution; needless to say, this did not garner him much support from the supporters of Lenin.  On 20 April, 1917, he sent a telegram to Britain and France, stating that Russia would continue to support its allies and wage the war to the end.

In the first week of May he resigned his post.  But I am getting ahead of myself….


The war was not going terribly well for the western allies during this year – not much ground lost, but not much ground gained.  The same could not be said for Russia and her advances in Anatolia and the Middle East.  While Congress Poland and the oilfields of Ploesti were lost to them…

…the Russians, after an initial disaster at Lake Narotch in March, had won victory after victory in the East, from Brusilov’s numerous (albeit tactical) breakthroughs in Galicia to northeastern Turkey, where the Caucasian army was carrying all before it.

A year earlier, in 1915, Russia suffered from regular shell shortages.  No longer:

Russia produced four times as much shell as Austria-Hungary in 1916 and nearly as much as Germany, which was sending most of it is own output to the western front.

Foreign capital flowed into the country; the economy was “thriving,” according to McMeekin.

In the meantime, the war on Russia’s south was going well.  Advances were made in Persia and Mesopotamia.  Things were even better in Turkey; the northwestern portions of Turkey were secured during the Anatolian campaign of 1916.  The winter of 1916 – 1917 was harsh, but there was every reason to believe that with the spring, Russia could continue consolidating further gains at Turkey’s expense.

One of Russia’s long-time objectives, the one that would secure the warm-water access that was so coveted, was within sight.  When this was stated openly in the Duma by the new chairman of the Council of Ministers, the announcement was met by “the usual mob of hecklers” – led by Alexander Kerensky.


February saw, with today’s knowledge of what was to come within days, a surreal event in Petrograd.  A conference of the Allies was held: France, Britain, and Italy, along with Russia.  Maurice Paléologue, the French ambassador to Russia offers extensive notes regarding the internal situation in Petrograd.  For those interested, I offer some passages here.

It was in this environment where Pavel Miliukov made the statement regarding Constantinople, cited above.

The picture was surreal in the war offices as well – war planning for 1917 continued unaltered, unaffected by events in Petrograd.  Planning was moving forward for more aggressive amphibious assaults along Turkey’s Black Sea coast, to even include the Straits. 

March 14 saw the issuing of “Order No. 1” by the new provisional government, abolishing most elements of officer control in the armed forces and mandating the election of “soldier soviets.”  The order was received by Baratov in Persia, as one example, as if it came from “outer space.”  He was not forced to withdraw until June 1918 – fourteen months after the order was issued.

On the European front, however, morale was breaking down – then again, on the European front there were no military advances that might offer a boost to morale.  McMeekin offers this picture as an image of the Russian morale on the European front during 1917; it depicts Russian soldiers fleeing the Germans on the Galician front, July 1917.


The Bolsheviks seized power on the night of 7-8 November, 1917.  They immediately petitioned for and were granted an armistice by the Central Powers, culminating with the Brest-Litovsk negotiations; they repudiated all obligations to their former Allies; Trotsky leaked the “secret treaties” – of which the most important, perhaps, was the Sykes-Picot Agreement – to the Manchester Guardian.

Russia was thrown into Civil War – primarily the Red Army against what is referred to as the White Army.  The most significant fighting occurred within the first three years and the war ended by 1923.  Perhaps 300,000 were killed in the fighting.

The Red Terror, the White Terror, summary executions, Cossacks killed and deported, the economy devastated.

You know the rest.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

An Exercise in Self-Indulgence

Given all of the free time I have created for myself by eliminating, at least for a time, certain subjects for my writing, I thought I would explore other topics of interest.

You all know that I am a fan of progressive rock, given my many cites of lyrics from Rush and Dream Theater (Primus is something else, indeed.  You classify them, I cannot).  I would like to examine a bit of the most progressive rock album ever released by Rush, Hemispheres.

As described at Wikipedia:

The album contains examples of Rush's adherence to progressive rock standards including the use of fantasy lyrics, multi-movement song structures, and complex rhythms and time signatures.

Believe me, it is complex music; way over the top.  In fact, so over the top that…well…

In the 2010 documentary film Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, the band members comment that the stress of recording Hemispheres was a major factor in their decision to start moving away from suites and long-form pieces in their songwriting.

I recall hearing them say something about the songs being so complex that they had a hard time figuring out how to even play them live.

What Good is a Rush Reference Without Some Lyrics?

I can live with it, but…

I have heard Neil Peart (the lyricist and drummer for the band) describe himself as a bleeding heart libertarian (heaven help me…but don’t lose hope).  From the opening song of Hemispheres, part VI. The Sphere A Kind of Dream:

We can walk our road together
If our goals are all the same
We can run alone and free
If we pursue a different aim

Let the truth of Love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Armed with sense and liberty
With the Heart and Mind united
In a single perfect sphere

Yet, I don’t believe he is offering this “bleeding heart libertarianism” as a political philosophy, but a personal philosophy.  I offer, from another song on this album, The Trees:

There is unrest in the Forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the Maples want more sunlight
And the Oaks ignore their pleas.

After a bit more explanation:

So the Maples formed a Union
And demanded equal rights
‘The Oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more Oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet,
And saw…

From the entirety of the lyrics (you can check the above link if you are interested), it is clear that Peart isn’t happy with this outcome.  It seems clear that Peart views the “bleeding heart” portion of his self-description as a personal philosophy and not a political philosophy.

I am with him on this.


Back to the music.  Perhaps the best example of progressive rock on this most progressive rock album is an instrumental piece, almost ten minutes long and divided into twelve distinct sections.  As if to emphasize the excess progressive in this progressive rock piece, it is entitled “La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence).” 

(Forgive the strange introduction, but this is a great live version of the song…and, also, don’t be fooled by the audience shots that include three different females.  That’s all of them.).

There you have it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Surrealism of War

I was beginning work on my final post regarding Sean McMeekin’s book The Russian Origins of the First World War, when in my further research, I came across the notes of Maurice Paléologue, the French ambassador to Russia during the war.  The specific section is regarding an inter-Allied conference, held in Petrograd amongst the Allies: Britain, France, Italy and Russia.

What is of primary interest to me at this moment is the date of the conference: it began on January 29, 1917.  If I must put this date in context, the Russian February Revolution was only weeks away.

Reading these notes, I am struck by the dialogue – and I will focus here on the portions of the dialogue pertaining specifically to the internal situation in Petrograd:

[After having just arrived, Gaston Doumergue] asked me about the internal situation in Russia. I painted it without sparing the darker colours, and drew the inference that it was necessary to hasten military events.

"On the Russian front," I said, "time is not working for us now. The public does not care about the war. All the government departments and the machinery of administration are getting hopelessly and progressively out of gear. The best minds are convinced that Russia is walking straight into the abyss. We must make haste."

"I didn't think the mischief had got so far."

"You'll be able to see for yourself."

Imperial Household Minister, Count Vladimir Frederiks, was responsible for the administration of the Imperial family's personal affairs and living arrangements.  He offered:

"The conference must agree together that after the war the Allies shall come to each other's aid in case of internal disorders. We are all interested in fighting revolution!"

To which Paléologue wrote in his notes:

He is back in the days of the Holy Alliance; only a century behind the times O sancta et senilis simplicitas!

At a small private lunch:

The conversation, which was quite unrestricted and very animated, was mainly on the subject of internal politics.

At one moment, Doumergue thought that my guests were a little too impulsive, a shade too eager to take the field against tsarism, and was advocating patience.

At the very mention of the word "patience," Miliukov and Maklakov burst out:

"We've had quite enough patience! ... Our patience is utterly exhausted! Besides, if we don't act soon, the masses won't listen to us any longer."

Maklakov went on to remind us of Mirabeau's remark: "Beware of asking for time! Disaster never gives it!"

The advice to the Russians from the French was for patience, not resignation.  And: “…whatever you do, put the war first!”

Not for much longer….

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Partitioning the Ottoman Empire

We are all familiar with the story of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the agreement between Britain and France for carving up and dividing large portions of the Ottoman Empire after the war.  There is one Entente power not formally included in this common narrative, despite being involved in some of the heaviest and most successful military campaigns in Anatolia, Persia, and Mesopotamia.

Let’s rectify this…

On 4 March 1915, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov delivered to his ambassadors in Paris and London a message that came directly from Tsar Nicholas II: a formal sovereign demand for postwar control of Constantinople and the Straits.  That the Russian’s had their eyes on this prize was no surprise – this had long been an objective for the Russians.  Despite this…

Sazonov’s historic aide-mémoire does, however, seem to have offended French and British sensibilities in its deeply inappropriate timing.

It was delivered right in the middle of the bloody Dardanelles campaign, a campaign for which Russia was contributing, as of yet, nothing.  Despite this lack of contribution, the British Cabinet formally endorsed Russia’s claim on 12 March.

The author, McMeekin, is surprised by this approval – it is one of many examples he offers through which he concludes that the British diplomats were dupes and the Russians were brilliant.  As I have mentioned, this seems unlikely to me – and even in this case there is a reasonable alternative interpretation.

As Peter Frankopan offered, Britain wanted Russia focused on Europe so it would not focus on Britain’s Asia.  Had Britain turned down the Tsar’s demands, there was concern that Germanophiles in Russia would convince the Tsar that Britain never intended to support Russia’s claims in Asia Minor.

In the meantime, what was Britain’s formal endorsement actually worth?  Had Britain been successful in the Dardanelles campaign (aka Gallipoli), she would have controlled the Straits.  Postwar, what would any promises be worth, once there would have been one hundred moving pieces on the map to be sorted out – with possession being nine-tenths of the law and all that.

And if Britain failed to secure Constantinople and the Straits – well, she would owe Russia exactly nothing.  So, Britain’s endorsement of the Tsar’s demands would keep Russia fighting in Germany and leave Britain free to secure (or not) Asia Minor…and keep Russia out of one of the key passageways of the east.

The famous Sykes-Picot Agreement was negotiated in the period January – May 1916.  It was negotiated during the time when Britain suffered perhaps its two most humiliating defeats in the Ottoman territories: Gallipoli and Kut.

The Gallipoli campaign began as a naval assault in February 1915. In April, British forces landed on the peninsula.  The battle lasted until January 1916, ending with a British evacuation.  Casualties on the Allied side numbered almost 190,000, including 27,000 from France.  This does not include over 100,000 evacuated due to sickness.

The British first took Kut, in today’s Iraq, in September 1915.  In December 1915, the Turks began a siege of the city.  In April 1916, the British surrendered, but not before some 23,000 British and Indian soldiers died in trying to retake it.  Some 8,000 British soldiers survived the siege and were taken into captivity.

Meanwhile, Russia was achieving meaningful successes in Anatolia. The Russians began their campaign in January, taking Erzurum, moving along the Black Sea and taking Rize and Trabzon.  Further successes were to follow; as these came after the Sykes-Picot Agreement was ratified, these are not germane to the current topic.

So, Britain was failing, Russia was advancing; Britain carved up the Ottoman Empire with France, Russia was not involved?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Enemy Population

Forced displacement or forced immigration is the coerced movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region and it often connotes violent coercion….Some migrants are impelled to cross national borders by war or persecution, due to political, social, ethnic, religious reasons.

Deportation is the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country….Definitions of deportation apply equally to nationals and foreigners….Deportation is the removal of an alien out of the country, simply because his presence is deemed inconsistent with the public welfare…

Population transfer or resettlement is the movement of a large group of people from one region to another, often a form of forced migration imposed by state policy or international authority and most frequently on the basis of ethnicity or religion but also due to economic development.

Events such as these have occurred innumerable times over the course of recorded history.  Perhaps the largest in number (and, curiously, least available to the conscious of most people outside of the regions in which this took place) is the expulsions of Germans after World War II, with as many as 14 million forced from various countries in Eastern Europe to Germany.

A fifth column is any group of people who undermine a larger group from within, usually in favor of an enemy group or nation.

How do you define the word “group”?  Who should be considered part of this “group”?  What to do with such a “group”? 

Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people (usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group) in whole or in part. (Emphasis added.)

Well…I guess this is one possible course of action.

McMeekin devotes a chapter to the situation in Eastern Anatolia, where the Ottoman Empire met Russia.  It is a chapter devoted to Russia’s relationship with the Armenians who lived in this region, and Russia’s role in the eventual fate of these same Armenians.

Most scholars refer to this event as genocide – a deliberate and conscious action to destroy a people, in whole or in part, in this case perpetrated by the Ottoman government.  I have written about this event once before – what is known as the Armenian Genocide.  This post was written about two-and-a-half- years ago, on the occasion of the 100th commemoration anniversary.  If you are not familiar with the event, it might be worth a read.

I guess it might be relevant to note here that the author of this book, Sean McMeekin, was – at the time the book was published – an assistant professor at Bilkent University located in Ankara, Turkey.  Why is this relevant? 

Article 301 is an article of the Turkish Penal Code making it illegal to insult Turkey, the Turkish nation, or Turkish government institutions.

The law has been used many times to charge those who speak of the Armenian Genocide.  To note: there are a few countries where denial of the Armenian Genocide is illegal. 

History, perhaps even more than science, is never settled.  All I can say – to both the Turkish law and these other laws: truth doesn’t need a law to promote or defend it.  I say the same regarding all similar laws (yes, also that one) designed to protect someone’s version of history.  It strikes me that the more prevalent the number of such laws on any issue, the more concerned one should be about the truth of the protected narrative.

Keeping the author’s sensitive position in mind, let’s begin.

In the case war breaks out [between Russia and Turkey], the Armenians and Assyrian Christians may be of great help to us.

-        S.D. Sazonov, Russia Foreign Minister, August 1914

Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Armenian minority in the Ottoman Empire – like other minorities in the empire – lived in relative harmony with the majority population.  The relationship dated back centuries – perhaps for as long as it had been since Turks overran Byzantium.

One reason for this relative harmony was the allowance for each minority to hold to its own customary law:

In the Ottoman Empire, a millet was a separate court of law pertaining to "personal law" under which a confessional community (a group abiding by the laws of Muslim Sharia, Christian Canon law, or Jewish Halakha) was allowed to rule itself under its own laws.

A system was also in place to deal with the situation where the crime involved parties from different millets:

When a member of one millet committed a crime against a member of another, the law of the injured party applied, but the ruling Islamic majority being paramount, any dispute involving a Muslim fell under their sharia−based law.

As a minority, it is difficult to ask for much more; if the minorities demanded to be treated equally under the law, all cases would be decided under sharia law – probably not an improvement for the various Christians and Jews in the empire.