Nicholas Strakon's The Last Ditch continues to serve up its strange and sporadically stimulating mix of radical libertarianism and racialist provocation. A recent article has Douglas Olson musing impolitic on post-Katrina Houston's unjust rewards:
Houston, Texas, the city with such a big heart that it took in the lion's share of New Orleans' "refugees" from Hurricane Katrina, has been suitably rewarded for that humanitarian effort.
In the first 51 weeks of 2005, the city saw 324 homicides — an increase of 24 percent over the same period in 2004. More specifically, the "refugees" began arriving in late September and October. Fifty-one of the killings occurred in November and the first three weeks of December, representing a fantastic 70 percent jump over the same period in the previous year — making it impossible to believe that the massive influx of New Orleans Negroes was not a primary contributing factor.
Houston Mayor Bill White is demanding that the feds fund a $6.5 million task force to fight the rise in crime, which he attributes to increased gang activity and "population growth" from Katrina. "We had criminals here before the evacuation, and we had some more criminals here after the evacuation," he stated obliquely.
"Some people who preyed on the vulnerable and broke the rules in Louisiana have gravitated to certain apartment complexes which already had a high concentration of crime," noted police chief Harold Hurtt, who came closest to admitting the truth of the situation.
But before you dial up the Morris Dees hotline, consider that Senior Strakon also makes approving reference to Yumi Kim's contrarian essay on the state of stateless Somalia. Citing the late Michael van Notten, "a Dutch lawyer who married into the [Somali] Samaron Clan and lived the last dozen years of his life with them," Kim argues that UN-enforced efforts to impose statecraft on the war- and famine-ravaged region are doomed to clash with customary legal practices that provide the best hope for eventual order and stability:
The traditional Somali system of law and politics, he contends, is capable of maintaining a peaceful society and guiding the Somalis to prosperity. Moreover, efforts to re-establish a central government or impose democracy on the people are incompatible with the customary law.
Van Notten distinguishes between the four meanings of the word "law" — statutory, contractual, customary, and natural law. The common misunderstanding is that legitimate rules only come from formally established entities and that therefore a country without a legislature is lawless. Refuting that misunderstanding, van Notten explains that a perfectly orderly and peaceful country can exist when people respect property rights and honor their contracts. While natural laws denote peace, liberty, and friendly relations, statutory laws represent commands. Statutory laws reflect the preferences of legislators, who impose "morality" on those they govern and regulate their ability to voluntarily enter into contracts. This, according to van Notten, is wrong from the standpoint of both morality and law.
Customary laws develop in a country like Somalia in the absence of a central legislating body. Rules "emerge spontaneously as people go about their daily business and try to solve the problems that occasionally arise in it without upsetting the patterns of cooperation on which they so heavily depend" (Van Notten, 15: 2005). Van Notten contends that the Somali customary law closely follows the natural law and therefore should be preserved.
The Hayekian hope is, I think, laudable and plausible, even if patterns of Somali-style spontaneous legal order seem, as Kim concedes, a bit "unsophisticated or odd." To wit:
The extended family is the core of Somali society. Families descended from common great grandparent form a jilib, the basic independent jural unit, and a number of jilibs in turn form a clan. Each family, jilib, and clan has its own judge, whose role is to facilitate the handling of disputes by deciding where the liability lies and what compensation should be paid. For example if a man is murdered, the murderer's clan gives the victim's clan one hundred camels (the blood price). Verdicts are widely discussed, and a judge who does not base his decision on norms prevailing in the community is unlikely to be asked to settle further disputes. Thus while a judge may form his own principles, his customers will decide his competence as a judge.
The family of the successful plaintiff can resort to self-help to enforce a payment, or the court can order the men of the community to do so. Every clansman is insured by his jilib. For instance, if A violates B's right and it is held that A should pay compensation to B, A's jilib will provide the compensation. Hence the jilib functions as "a safety net, venture capital, protection, and insurance" (Van Notten, 74: 2005).
If a clan member constantly violates others' rights and his jilib repeatedly pays compensation, the jilib can expel him. On the other hand, there is nothing to stop someone from leaving his jilib and joining another, if it will have him, or setting up his own. A person without a jilib is unthinkable, an outlaw, because he is not insured against liabilities he might incur toward others. Hence he loses all protection of the law.
Decisions are enforced and oaths taken in ways that may seem unsophisticated or odd, yet they are the custom and must be respected. If, for instance, the defendant refuses to comply with the verdict without appealing his case to a higher court, he can be tied to a tree covered with black ants until he agrees. When evidence is sketchy or lacking, several types of oaths are available. A strong oath is one that is repeated fifty times. Another type is a divorce oath. If a man testifies under divorce oath and it is later found that his testimony was false, his marriage becomes null and void.
In other news, the earnest comic-geek-cum-paleocon blogger known as Glaivester, refers us unrepentant glass teat devotees to this enjoyable waste of time supplementing The Hoover Hog's favorite popcorn teledrama, House.
But if fan fiction creeps you out as much as it does me, you can always seek cerebral refuge in the latest additions to the Nine-banded Bookcase.
The one I'm most looking forward to is Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Racial Prejudice, by Universite' Laval anthropologist, Peter Frost. In a nutshell, Frost's thesis is that color prejudice arose from naturally and sexually selected aesthetic preference for fair skinned women, with Western colonialism providing the social pretext for this innate chromocentric bias to secure a cultural trench in the structure of Foucaudian hegemony with which we are all too familiar. Frost is one of those rare birds who seems equally at home with the vicissitudes of evolutionary biology and cultural semiotics, and if you're not inclined to buy the book his seldom-addressed "chicken or the egg" problem is well summarized in the essay, "Unraveling the Origins of Color Prejudice." I'd love to hear this guy's take on King Kong.
Chalk it up to cheap nostalgia, but I can't wait to get my mits on Art That Kills, which is George Petros' forthcoming anthology of "aesthetic terrorism" culled from the halcyon days of mail order samizdata, when gestures of transgressive whateverthefuck still had the power to trip the synapses. If you belong to that special class of geek who discovered The Fountainhead around the same time you picked up Apocalypse Culture, I imagine you'll know the whole sordid scene. The bottom line, however, is that GG died like any other confused rock star, and it's hard to play up the old rationalizations about thanatoxic expiation when those Islamist goons keep sawing off heads. Just wallow, and tell it to the judge.
Then there's Mr. Evolutionary Psychology, David Buss, whose latest pop-packaged sociobiological investigation, The Murderer Next Door, promises to do for homicide what E.O. Wilson did for entymology. I've only just dipped in, but I'm looking forward to some good excuses.
What else? Well, I would be remiss not to mention "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of 'Race Does Not Exist,'" a rare essay by the great positivist sociologist, Steven Goldberg.
We don't hear much from Goldberg these days, but as the author of The Inevitability of Patriarchy, When Wish Replaces Thought, and Why Men Rule, he's been kicking at the pricks of political correctness since the first (dubiously supported) wave of post-war Boasian relativism was firming up the academic strictures that still make life difficult for crimethinkers like Michael Bailey, Larry Summers, and Phil Rushton.
Anyway, it's good to see Goldberg's trademark logical-empirical rigor is still in form as he takes the race deniers to task:
With reference to any specific characteristic, the characteristics of a race are, of course, statistical, not absolute. They permit many "exceptions" (though far fewer exceptions than would be required to cast doubt on the statistical regularity). Thus the existence of tall women and short men does not cast doubt on the accuracy of the statistical observation that "men are taller than women."
Those who deny the reality of race will often invoke the fact that, whatever the characteristic in question, the range is greater within race than between races. This is true of nearly any variable for which two groups are compared. But to deny a statistical group difference on this basis would force one to claim that it is meaningless to speak of "men" and "women," or statistical differences between them, because the height difference between the shortest man and the tallest man, or between the shortest woman and tallest woman, is far greater than the few-percent difference between the mean heights of men and women.
This example makes clear the key fact that a small difference in means often complements a huge difference at the extremes; how many seven-foot tall women does one see? The difference in running speed between the average white and average black male is only a few percent, but virtually all of the two hundred fastest men in the world are black. And it is on the upper tail of the curve—the extreme—that public perceptions—stereotypes—are based. That this "within-group" argument is so often made is a measure of the desperation of those who wish to deny that which is undeniable.
Maybe it all seems obvious at this point, but Goldberg's insights were a refreshing jolt when I first encountered them as an intellectually frustrated undergrad steeped in the glossily packaged illiberal orthodoxies of race and gender curricula. And as long as those PBS martyrs keep chiming on the same wishful fallacies, I suppose the coldly reasoned statistical correctives still demand an audience. Alas.
Scratch and sniff, punk rockers. It's a pirate's life for me.