Miami Vice, Machiavelli, and Modernity

Just finished the book Miami Vice by philosopher Steven Sanders (2010, Wayne State U Press), and it was quite a read. He makes several points, some of which I suspected, and some of which I did not know. First, Sanders says, as I’ve long thought, that MV features both substance and style. Much was made of the show’s visuals — the cars, the clothes, and the city — but its stories featured significant themes and content, which the visuals supported. Specifically, Sanders discusses the “film noir” background of crime thrillers that are strange, erotic, ambivalent, cruel, and dream-like. MV exhibits these qualities, but it does so in a modern, visually bright way through the beauty and beaches of Miami in what Sanders calls, “Sunshine Noir.”

Second, MV uses its protagonists, undercover Miami vice detectives Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs, to explore themes of disassociation, confusion, and anomie associated with, if not a breakdown of society, the significant social changes of the 1980s. Working undercover is part of the job of being a vice detective — the show uses the names Burnett and Cooper for their alternate egos — but there is more going on there. The vice detectives are constantly being exposed to temptation in the form of money, drugs, and women, but they are also exposed to risk, danger, and exposure. Their existence is an unnerving double world at the line between law enforcement and criminality, and sometimes that line gets blurred, resulting in personal fear and confusion. Sanders explores these themes through authenticity and redemption — what is real, and what is good? The confusion comes in doing things that don’t come naturally to a regular person — leading a double life, which requires lying, and associating with criminals to enforce the law and protect society.

Here, the crime thriller genre of film noir starts to edge into more espionage territory, which also features undercover operations for the good in the form of international intrigue, but the mental stresses are similar. Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold is a related noir genre that concludes with moral ambiguity — the Soviets and the Eastern Block are essentially the same as the British and Americans. This was seen as perhaps an insightful conclusion in the 1960s, but in hindsight it seems too facile, and here’s where modernity and Machiavelli comes into play. Machiavelli represents the verge of modernity in which the traditional moral precepts were seen as, in some ways, unworkable and that to be an effective leader, and the achieve a successful and moral society, the guardians of that society may have to engage in behaviors that are not, strictly, moral. This seems to be what Crockett and Tubbs are trying to do — go undercover and be exposed to criminality for the greater good. The problem is that the systems being manipulated — criminal Miami and the Cold War — are both complex and the time lines are long, so activities, operations, and missions undertaken for the greater good may remain unknown to the protagonist or actor. The costs however, are immediate, significant, and sometimes fatal. Even though the efficacy of actions undertaken in Machiavelli’s modern world are uncertain, the fact we are living in his modern world are far more certain.


Juliet was quite the Polish girl. She was from Poland and head a full scholarship to get her PhD from either Chicago or MIT. She chose MIT because she could take classes at Harvard and, let’s be honest, Cambridge, Mass. is more fun than South Chicago. Julia however was not really about having fun. She was on a mission, an anti-communist mission. For me, as an American, post-war communism in eastern Europe was a something I read about in the history books and Solidarity was something in the news. For Juliette though, WWII was far more immediate. She didn’t have one family member killed, entire swaths of her family were wiped out. War killed some of them, but many were killed in the concentration camps, many of which were in Poland. In fact, Auschwitz-Birkenau was only a few kilometers from her hometown of Krakow. While the Nazis were bad, she thought that the communist Soviets were even worse. She felt they had enslaved and debased Poland, which had just broken free from the Soviet and had its first elections. Like so many countries in eastern Europe, the historical one-two punch of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union spanning decades had been beyond traumatic.

Julia’s inner story  was not known to most people who instead focused on the fact that she was — photogenic. She had taken a few modeling jobs, but she found the work sometimes creepy but more frequently boring and instead chose to focus on her intellectual passion, fighting communism. She had achieved her dream of being educated in the United States and had the fervor of a new convert. Her hope and dream of coming to America after communism died in Poland seemed to be a dream come true.

January at MIT was taken up with Independent Activities Period (IAP), basically a break between the high-pressure semesters. I sat in on a few classes, went on a trip to Woods Hole, and even gave a course on speed reading. After that though, it was time to shop for classes. I signed up for classes in American politics, computer simulation, and international relations with Prof. Oscar — in fact, Julia and I were both Oscar students — but I still needed a political philosophy course. I went to the first class taught by one of Kilo’s colleagues, and it was all about Marxist unionization and social movements. Julia was there, and she argued fiercely and frequently with the professor. I said nothing, but I knew I didn’t want to take that class, and I was running out of options.

Julia and I walked out of the classroom together, and I asked if she was going to take that class since she obviously knew a great deal about the topic. “Oh no,” she said. “I just went to argue with that professor. He knows nothing.”

“So what classes are you taking?” I asked, “I need another philosophy class and am running out of options.”

“I’m taking Tocqueville with Professor Fox at Harvard,” she said. “We can cross-register — it’s easy!”

I was already in trouble with Prof. Kilo, and it was looking increasingly likely that I would not be continuing at MIT having alienated such an important professor, so why not?

I said, “I’ll think about it.”

Messenger of Truth

Last night I watched Messenger of Truth (MoT), the tragic but inspiring documentary about the martyrdom of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko at the hands of Polish communists. I watched it to gain perspective on the ongoing attacks against the United States (US). These attacks have badly injured many Americans who, belatedly, are realizing that they are in a serious fight with an opposition who doesn’t fight fair in the marketplace of ideas. What does this mean exactly? MoT is worth watching not only to remember the bravery and sacrifice of Father Jerzy but also to see the recycled tricks of communism that are being seen for the first time, unfiltered and full strength, in America.

Father Jerzy gave sermons on the Bible as well as Polish nationalism, and nationalism is a good thing as compared with communism and its cousins, socialism and globalism. The communists however described these sermons as, “seances of hate,” which should sound familiar to those paying attention to the rhetoric of today’s Democrats. His sermons were re-broadcast by US-funded Radio Free Europe back into Poland where they found a large audience that, in turn, generated massive crowds at Father Jerzy’s church in Warsaw.

These crowds unnerved both Polish and Soviet communists who sent criminals to attack Polish Christians, and when that didn’t work the communists attacked them with armored vehicles with water cannons to prevent Poles from attending  Catholic mass. When none of that worked, the communists resorted to physical threats. First, they murdered the teenage son of one of the women who worked with Father Jerzy, and convicted the man who drove him to the doctor while he was still alive for the murder, which is a revealing communist touch. Father Jerzy knew they were coming for him, but he wouldn’t back down – he  couldn’t back down. In seminary, the communists forced him to perform military service, which was basically a lengthy punishment to get him to quit studying the word of God, but he wouldn’t. Finally, because Father Jerzy wouldn’t back down, the Polish communists murdered the Catholic priest by beating him to death. Pope John Paul II was the leader who helped spur the Polish nationalism that eventually ended communism in Poland. 21st century communists realized their error and have placed a communist as pope.

I went to graduate school at MIT with a woman from Poland, Julia, who grew up in communist Poland where they  murdered priests. In some ways I was responding to communist excesses too, having grown up in California with its never-ending parade of, “each more horrible than the last,” Democrats. My critique of communism was more philosophical, distanced, and mathematical, while hers was more historical, personal, and emotional. Like Father Jerzy, she was incredibly brave, intelligent, and passionate. And like Father Jerzy, Julia – the Polish variant of Juliet – suffered a tragic fate. She was not physically murdered, but she was intellectually murdered, which may be worse because you remain alive to relive the embarrassment of having lost and remember the potential of what might have been. The fact that she was betrayed by communists in America, the purported land of freedom that helped free Poland, was particularly painful. In contrast, I was less brave – perhaps more realistic, certainly more junior – and lived to fight another day. Now I want to tell Julia’s story not just as a testament to a friend but as a lesson to today’s too-trusting and naïve Americans about the dangers of communism.

God and Nature

One of my favorite sayings comes from the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in which he says,

“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.”

I said this and a Christian immediately engaged me quoting John 14:6,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The implication is that taking nature — that is, the natural environment — and the stewardship of His creation seriously is not the same as worshiping nature. The relationship between has been fraught with tension, as indicated by my Christian interlocutor, with the fundamental divide being that between a human, social, or anthropomorphic and natural, environmental, or biocentric view of the world. While there’s a bit of tension and history there, the perspective will be fundamentally philosophical as the relationship here is dialectical in the Hegelian sense. That is, there is the concept of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis that is confusing in the social, verbal world but is totally normal and almost easy in the natural, mathematical world. It also goes, almost without saying, that trinitarianism isomorphically relates to dialecticalism — that is, it maps in a one-to-one fashion. Although the social and natural environments are separate, they are also related. There are some details to work through here, but I want to concentrate on one interpretation, which starts with Psalm 19.

  • 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies pr`oclaim the work of his hands.
  • 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
  • 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
  • 4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
    In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
  • 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
  • 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.
  • 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
  • 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
    The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
  • 9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
    The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
  • 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
    they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
  • 11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
  • 12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
  • 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
    Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
  • 14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

God is the mysterious, complex, infinite first moving force that gave us life. However, understanding that force is much more than one person could hope to accomplish. Therefore, we count on previous generation trying in good faith to understand God in the form of religion. Also, might I proffer that as Frank Lloyd Wright said, there is a unity between the concepts of God and nature. However, I propose considering that Jesus is who teaches us about God and helps us to understand God. As it is written in John 14:6, 

“No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Nostradamus Trump

The last post was on Trump speaking at CPAC, which was posted on leap year, 29 Feb 2020, based on some notes taken before the whole COVID-19 pandemic. There were some high points — Mike Bloomberg, Socialism, and the DC Swamp — but there’s one brief segment that bears some additional analysis. After Trump makes his Bloomberg comment to big laughs, he pauses for a very long time, which is just masterful. A standup comic would say, “he’s killing it.” After that though, Trump talks about the American left, which is to say Democrats, and here’s what he says:

Far left radicals have become increasingly desperate and increasingly dangerous in their quest to transform America into a country you would not recognize. A country in which they control every aspect of American life. Just as socialist and communist movements have done all over the world. They’re cracking down on all dissent and demanding absolute conformity. They want total control. They want to: 1) massively raise your taxes, 2) bury you in regulation, 3) take over American healthcare, 4) indoctrinate our children from kindergarten to college — and you see that happening! Kids are coming home saying, “What’s going on here dad?” Kids get it! — 5) impose a fanatical code of political correctness, 6) bombard our citizens with fake news propaganda, and 7) implement policies that would very quickly turn America into a large-scale Venezuela.

They want to take away your money, take away your choice, take away your speech, take away your guns, take away your religion, take away your history, take away your future, and take away, ultimately, your freedom — but we will never let them do that.

Consider Trump said this less than 3 months ago, look at all the changes that have taken place in America since the COVID virus crisis — which should really be called the CCP virus crisis — and think about how Democrat governors have reacted. There’s a whole thesis that could be written on this, but as a simple exercise, consider all the well-known Democrat states and look at how they’ve implemented the types of types of controls that only a few months ago seemed completely impossible in America. Most notably, Democrats have shut down small businesses where people earn their livings, which was only supposed to be for a short time but has been extended. Moreover, dissent has been essentially banned. Whenever progressivism, socialism, or communism is criticized, then leftists immediately call their critics Nazis. Finally, there has been almost a worship of the healthcare profession, which is fine, but this can quickly edge into the Nanny state and and socialized medicine of the British National Health Service (NHS). The list could continue, but isn’t it kind of coincidence that these once-in-a-lifetime societal changes happen mere months before the far-left radicats would have lost another election? As a wise internet analyst observed, “There are trillions at stake.”


CPAC, Day 4: President Trump

CPAC 2020, as some may have forgotten, occurred before the outbreak of the Coronavirus. At the beginning, Infowars did some good reporting before they got thrown out and noted that the obvious popularity of the event highlighted the obvious unpopularity of socialism, leftism, populism, and 0bama-ism. This was obviously a problem for Democrats, but luckily now with social distancing, events like CPAC and Trump Rallies are no longer possible, which is why CL calls it the CCP virus.

While aware that Donald Trump was the President of the United State (POTUS), CL had never spent much time analyzing his speaking style. Reviewing the best parts of Trump CPAC speech reveals something undeniable: he’s hilarious. Trump memorably makes fun of Mike Bloomberg as he has Warren, Biden, and Sanders, which drives Democrats to distraction. In fact, he’s so funny that it’s almost standup comedy, which is not said pejoratively. Stand up is incredibly hard, and the people who do it are both brave and intelligent, so no higher praise can be given.

However, besides being funny Trump is also inspiring, especially when he says clearly, directly, and unambiguously that America will never be a socialist country. While given the corruption of socialist places like Russia, China, and Venezuela may make this statement seem obvious, it is not obvious to the denizens of the DC Swamp, which needs to be drained because is a very different place than America. It is different because its incentives are not aligned with America, they are antithetical to America because, as DC gets rich, America gets poor because DC lives on taxes. Therefore, the DC Swamp is socialist due to individual incentives — as politicians, socialism is good for them even though it destroys the very people and political system it is supposed to help.

Trump talk about them wanting to take away your freedom, which at the time seemed abstract but freedom has been taken away from many Americans now — not just economic freedom but actual physical freedom including the right to peaceably assemble. Let’s be clear who “they” is, a loose coalition of Democrats, establishment Republicans, the mainstream media, and leftist activists. The question then becomes, what motivates this coalition? Part of it is that Trump threatens the wealth, power, and status of the whole DC Swamp, and that’s a big coalition of powerful people. It has been said that Republicans think Democrats are dim, while Democrats think Republicans are evil, and that is due to their talent and status asymmetry. Talented people are confident, so they can do lots of different thing. Untalented people, in contrast, are constantly frightened that they will be, “found out.” That explains the way the DC Swamp and all socialist systems operate: they are run by untalented people who have elbowed their way to the top and this is their one shot at success. Being fundamentally untalented, they can’t do anything else, which is why they fight so hard — it’s a long way down. This is a dynamic that needs to be understood and addressed, as President Trump says, to prevent America from becoming a socialist country.

CPAC, Day 3

I pulled out 3 highlights from CPAC Day 3 that provided insight into the conservative movement.

First, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked about his job and that the, “State Dept is winning for America again.” Think about this for a minute, and it is, in its own way, an amazing statement. “The State Department is winning for America again.” Does that mean that the State Department, under John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, was losing under America? Just a quick search on John Kerry reveals that his son, along with Hunter Biden, was involved with the corrupt company Burisma in the Ukraine, he’s been working with Iran on interests counter to America, and he admits that 0bama supported ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In this context, Pompeo’s State Department, in contrast, puts America’s interests firsts, supporting the military engagement with America’s terrorist enemies, and support worldwide Christianity. It’s strange that these basic behaviors and formerly common-sense policies need to be stated at a conference apart from the conventional wisdom of the National Capitol Region.

Second, Tom Fitton From Judicial Watch spoke, and I have a lot of respect for his organization because they’re always fighting, often alone, against the Lawfare leftists who currently infect America’s government and educational institutions. He hit upon themes that have been discussed frequently by other CPAC speakers including the importance of strong borders and detail of the Democrats’ attempted coup on President Trump. What separates Fitton and Judicial Watch from most of the other conservative commentators is that Fitton actually goes to court to force Democrats do what they don’t want to do, reveal details of their perfidy and crimes. Fitton also talked about the DC Swamp third rail, sending corrupt Democrats to jail. Most conservatives talk, but Fitton does, which is appreciated.

Trump-supporting Diamond and Silk also trashed Bernie Sanders at CPAC, noting correctly that he can create no jobs because he’s never had a job. They also state, that America needs more free thinkers and fewer free loaders. This is a curious performance because is it high intellectualism? No, but it’s curious how much of the socialist palaver, say from talk show hosts or actors, is never subjected to rigorous critical analysis. At least what Diamond and Silk say is true! One of the phrases used at CPAC this year has been “social proof,” the idea that if everyone is doing it, like socialism, then you should do it too. This has always been a feature of communism, which historically has gone under the banner of “Commanding Heights,” the struggle for positions of high status, which demonstrate their being correct through position, which doesn’t necessarily square with actually being correct.

Finally, Dan Bongino Talks With Devin Nunes About Spygate, which I won’t go into because it’s been addressed elsewhere. However Nunes, like Fitton, deserves high praise because he’s been doing the hard work in Congress, which can’t have been pleasant nor easy. However, John Ratcliffe has been renominated to be the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which is good news for two reasons: 1) Ratcliffe is outside of the traditional — which is to say, “corrupt” — Intelligence Community (IC) circles, so there may be some actual accountability as recommended by Fitton and Nunes, and 2) Ratcliffe has been nominated once before, so President Trump wouldn’t have nominated him again unless he had a plan for ensuring he will be confirmed.

CPAC, Day 2

Day  2 featured a few moments of unique insight that bear highlighting, though I’ll have to make this quick.

First, VP Mike Pence said that, “President Trump has no higher priority than the health, safety, and well-being of the American people.” I believe this is true not because VP Pence said it, or because I’m a conservative Republican, but because President Trump proves this every day. But more than that, conservatism correctly understood is all about acknowledging reality and complexity, while liberalism, progressivism, communism, and yes, socialism are all about rhetoric, politics, partisanship, and propaganda. Philosophically this is known as the “fact-value” distinction, but let’s have a concrete example to pin down the idea. Democrat-socialists, while criticizing Trump and Pence, simultaneously argue that borders should be left open which only increases the risk of infection and contagion through uncontrolled immigration that is a well-established disease vector. Of course Democrats criticize Trump and Pence and support open borders not because it’s logically consistent, scientifically supportable, or in the best interests of America but because it’s politically expedient and is in the best interests of the Democrat Party.

Second, Sara Carter of FOX News interviewed Rep. Doug Collins from Georgia about Spygate, the 0bama administration’s use of the Federal Government’s intelligence capabilities to influence political outcomes, including American political processes and the Trump campaign. While these stories are well known to those who have been paying attention to to the corruption of the previous administration, it was instructive to see how Ms. Carter and Mr. Collins presented and addressed the topic. It’s complex and there’s a lot to know, so I won’t critique them on the quality or thoroughness of the discussion but will instead applaud them for introducing this topic to a wider audience despite the best efforts of the mainstream media to hide, obfuscate, and diminish the issue.

Third, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA talked about the big problem of socialism on campus. Kirk is young so some of his observations may seem hyperbolic and lacking nuance, but has done the legwork of “visiting these campuses so you don’t have to,” so his insights derive from direct experience, which is important. The public for decades has realized this, but they thought, incorrect, that socialists are, “well meaning and kooky but essentially harmless.” Like Californians are quickly finding out, this is a personally convenient but dangerous view. Too many American universities have been transformed into incubators and engines of socialism, and Venezuela is only the most recent example of socialism’s consequences. I remember being on the Stanford campus with lots of proud parents and kids hoping that they’ll get in, but I was thinking, “They’ll go deep into debt to have their kids indoctrinated into socialism. Is that really what they want?” America got in introduction to Stanford socialism when they met Prof. Pamela Karlan during Pelosi’s sham impeachment proceedings and thought to themselves, “Who is this person.” She’s representative of the unelected Lawfare Deep State that fights President Trump from within the government, which is why this year’s CPAC theme of “America vs. Socialism” is so timely and appropriate.

CPAC, Day 1

Today was the first day of CPAC, so let’s start with its leader, Matt Schlapp who says that 2020 CPAC has record intensity: ‘We’ve Never Seen Anything like This.’ The theme of CPAC this year is, “America versus socialism,” which strikes me as a little strange. You see, I spent way to long in school — in fact, I describe myself as a “recovering academic” — and debates about socialism there sometimes got heated. When I tried to tell conservatives about it, they basically didn’t care. Now, years later, suddenly they car, and with good reason: socialism is a very real threat, as demonstrated by the Democrat Presidential candidates.

First, this threat of socialism has greatly increased conservative Republican response to CPAC, with Schlapp saying that CPAC has sold tickets at three times the pace of last year — not 30% but 3 times. Part of this can be attributed to it being an election year, but still. Finally Schlapp talked about conservative Republicans needing to tell the story not only of the Democrats weak impeachment but of their false accusations of Russian spying or Spygate. Sundance at The Conservative Treehouse has done amazing research on this issue, but it’s important that CPAC is helping to bring this important to a larger audience as the mainstream media (MSM) won’t do it.

Second, Owen Shroyer of had a great report today done while walking to the line just to get into CPAC today, which was a long line. His point was that Donald Trump gets more people out to see him hours before an event than Democrats can get at the event. Moreover, there is massive deception by the MSM to try to undercut the conservative message generally and Trump’s popularity specifically.

Third, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Navy SEAL from Houston, spoke today. He was elected in 2018 and is regularly described as a rising star in the Republican Party. He lost his right eye from an IED attack in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, so he’s done some good things in his life and will doubtless do more. His speech today focused on a describing the threat of socialism, which is something that today’s young conservatives need to hear. Heck, it’s something that a recovering academic needs to hear. But more than that, Crenshaw said that conservatives need to tell their story and need to tell America’s story. By that I think he means we as conservatives need to tell a good news story that rival and beats that of the socialists. Crenshaw, after he said this, went through a list of topics that while important and true, made my attention wander because they were disconnected and critical. It’s easy to do, and I’ve done it lots too. Also, the quality of the video was lacking and it was hard to understand him, which didn’t help. However, looking to Venezuela, it’s obvious that conservatism is superior, but there’s a reason why socialism sells, and it’s the story. We may argue that this is wrong or unfair, but it’s reality and the fate of America is at stake, so Rep. Crenshaw is correct that formulating and telling the story is important.

CPAC 2020, Pre-game

Super exciting news — the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) 2020 at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center starts today! As a preview I did a pretty much-exhaustive keyword search in YouTube to see what the impending issues and topics were going to be.

First, the CPAC website features the big 3 of American conservative politics — President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Matt Schlapp. I confess to not having heard of Matt before, but perhaps his most impressive achievement for me was that he got President Trump not just to attend CPAC 2019 but to talk for over two hours — good job!

But let’s not look at the past, let’s stay focused in the now, or at least recent history. Mitt Romney was dis-invited from CPAC this year due to his Shampeachment treachery. It’s easy to forget that the Democrats’ impeachment debacle was only a few weeks ago, but that will be one issue to watch at CPAC this year. How will conservatives and Republicans respond to Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler’s cobbled together and shameful political acts?

Second, my philosophical guru and life coach (/sarc) Alex Jones will be invading CPAC this year, and when he does, I hope he buttons the top button on his shirt. Seriously though, there is a long-term simmering divide between conservatives and Republicans which Bill Rusher talked about in his book, The Rise of the Right (1984). Today this takes the form of establishment “Never Trumpers” and the “Freedom Movement” with which Alex Jones identifies.

In addition to Alex Jones invading CPAC, a group of Republicans from the University of Maine will be joining him. And really, this is what CPAC seems to be about because it provides an opportunity for young people to meet and interact with the conservatives they see in the media. It also allows them to meed and share ideas with other young people and talk about new ideas. Chief among them is “creeping socialism” in America, as identified by Dan Schneider, the director of the American Conservative Union (ACU). That’s enough of a preview, so looking forward to it actually getting started!