Category Archives: History

The Z Blog: The World State I

One of the things that plagues opposition to the ruling regime is a poverty of language to label what is happening. The bad guys have a million ways to label their enemies, but the good guys are lacking a language to categorize the other side. The paleocons got close when they coined the term managerialism. This is both accurate and simple, but it only describes one aspect of the current system. Managerialism is one result of an ideology that has evolved over the last century.

When people hear the word “Marxism” or “communism” they immediately think of a set of economic arrangements. They may not know much about Marx or Marxism, but they know that it means the end of property and the rule by a party of ideologues. It is a simple and effective label. The same is true of communism or socialism. These words have connotations that make for effective shorthand. Even capitalism, a thing that may not actually exist, carries meaning for people.

We don’t have a label like that for the current political regime. Liberal democracy is probably accurate, but it has positive connotations. Democracy is supposed to be a good thing and liberal government is peaceful and accommodating. There are examples of things that are good separately but horrible together, like fish ice cream, but that is not really the same thing. When people in the public square use the term liberal democracy, they tend to use it in a positive way.

This conundrum is the inspiration for the show. Instead of trying to come up with a clever label for the current political order, maybe the better starting place is to just describe some of the big attributes. After all, the word “Marxism” did not come into use until the thing itself existed in some form. Once we can come up with a description for what we are experiencing, then maybe a label comes into focus. At the minimum, it starts the process of thinking about it beyond platitudes.

Source: The World State I | The Z Blog

The Lawfare Podcast: The Fall of the Soviet Union, with Vladislav Zubok

This past weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. To discuss the collapse and its implications, Bryce Klehm sat down with Vladislav Zubok, professor of international history at the London School of Economics and author of the new book, “Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union.” They covered a range of topics, including Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic and political reforms, Professor Zubok’s experience reading Solzhenitsyn for the first time, and the Russian military’s recent buildup along Ukraine’s borders.

Source: The Lawfare Podcast: The Fall of the Soviet Union, with Vladislav Zubok – Lawfare

The Lawfare Podcast: The JFK Assassination Documents, with Gerald Posner and Mark Zaid

President Biden recently authorized the release of almost 1,500 documents related to the JFK assassination. But ten times that number still have had their release deferred. What might be in them? What’s holding them back from release? And how did we get here? David Priess spoke with journalist and bestselling author Gerald Posner, who wrote the Pulitzer finalist “Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy,” and attorney Mark Zaid, who apart from representing government whistleblowers and representing current and former U.S. government officials trying to publish their stories or remediate illegal employment actions, has also been very active in the JFK assassination documents area for some 30 years. They talked about the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, the work of the review board that the legislation set up, what is in these new documents and what comes next.

Source: The Lawfare Podcast: The JFK Assassination Documents, with Gerald Posner and Mark Zaid – Lawfare

Myth of the 20th Century Podcast: Soviet Cybernetics – Red Plenty – Myth of the 20th Century

“Cybernetics attempts to find the common elements in the functioning of automatic machines and of the human nervous system, and to develop a theory which will cover the entire field of control and communication in machines and living organisms.” -Dr. Norbert Wiener writing in The Scientific American. Taken slightly less literally, in communist Russia, central planners sought to do just that. By describing the sprawling Soviet economy as a unified set of equations, all sharing a set of inputs and outputs, they believed they could efficiently plan and organize production to catch up and overtake their capitalist rivals. For a while, it appeared to be working, with annual increases in GDP surpassing all Western nations in the 1950s and 60s. By the 1970s, however, diminishing returns had clearly set in, with even admitted growth rates plummeting, leading to the USSR swallowing its pride and importing grain from America, saved arguably only by rising oil prices that enabled it to earn the foreign currency it needed to make up for its production shortfalls. With the microcomputer revolution taking hold in 1980s, Soviet economists hoped the increases in raw computational power would aid in overcoming the scaling issues of manual planning calculations, but by the 1990s, computers were the least of the issue, as the fundamental design limitations of a control system for everything broke loose of its moorings.

Source: Soviet Cybernetics – Red Plenty – Myth of the 20th Century

* Know Your Enemy Podcast: The Year the Clock Broke (w/ John Ganz)

Matt and Sam talk to John Ganz about David Duke, Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis, and the year 1992—when paleconservatives made a play for power and prefigured our own Trumpy times, paleoconservatism, the Island of the Misfit Toys of the American right. Along the way we’re introduced to David Duke, Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis, and others, and discuss their enduring influence on the Republican Party and conservative politics—both in 1992, when Buchanan made a failed run for president, and today, when the hopes of their movement seems to have been fulfilled in Donald Trump.

Sources and Recommended Reading:

John Ganz, The Year the Clock Broke (The Baffler)

John Ganz, Finding Neverland (The New Republic)

Rick Perlstein, I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong (New York Times)

Murray Rothbard, Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement

Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Castaway (America’s Future Foundation)

Shuja Haider, How To Be a Democrat, According to Republicans (The Outline)

 

* Know Your Enemy Podcast: After Nationalism (w/ Samuel Goldman)

Matt and Sam are joined by political theorist Samuel Goldman for a lively discussion of his new book, After Nationalism: Being American in an Age of Division. In this episode, Matt and Sam are joined by political theorist and conservative intellectual Samuel Goldman—a very sensible and polite “enemy”—to discuss his brilliant new book, After Nationalism. Topics include: Goldman’s punk-rocker past; the influence of Leo Strauss on his thinking; historical attempts to provide Americans with a coherent, enduring symbol of national identity; why these symbols have failed; what all this means for debates about teaching U.S. history; and what alternatives to nationalism its critics can offer.

Samuel Goldman, After Nationalism: Being American in an Age of Division (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021)

James Ceaser, Nature and History in American Political Development (Harvard University Press, 2008)

* Know Your Enemy Podcast: Midnight in the Garden of American Heroes

Matt and Sam explain West Coast Straussianism, the school of thought behind the Trump Administration’s “1776 Report.” Matt and Sam explain West Coast Straussianism, the school of thought behind one of the last acts of the Trump administration: its publication of the “1776 Report,” the Right’s shabby response to the 1619 Project and blueprint for how the American Founding should be understood and taught. What are the origins of this school of conservative thought? Why are its adherents so enthusiastic about Trump? How do they understand the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and U.S. history? And why are they obsessed with “identity politics”?

Harry Jaffa, “American Conservatism and the Present Crisis,” Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2003

Publius Decius Mus, “The Flight 93 Election,” Claremont Review of Books, September 2016

Steven Smith, “Hidden Truths,” New York Times, August 23, 2013

John J. Miller, “The House of Jaffa,” National Review, January 12, 2015

Kathryn and Michael Zuckert, The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2006)

* Know Your Enemy Podcast: The Year the Clock Broke (w/ John Ganz)

Matt and Sam talk to John Ganz about David Duke, Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis, and the year 1992—when paleconservatives made a play for power and prefigured our own Trumpy times. Matt and Sam talk to John Ganz about paleoconservatism, the Island of the Misfit Toys of the American right. Along the way we’re introduced to David Duke, Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis, and others, and discuss their enduring influence on the Republican Party and conservative politics—both in 1992, when Buchanan made a failed run for president, and today, when the hopes of their movement seems to have been fulfilled in Donald Trump.

Sources and Recommended Reading:

John Ganz, The Year the Clock Broke (The Baffler)

John Ganz, Finding Neverland (The New Republic)

Rick Perlstein, I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong (New York Times)

Murray Rothbard, Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement

Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Castaway (America’s Future Foundation)

Shuja Haider, How To Be a Democrat, According to Republicans (The Outline)

Matt and Sam talk to John Ganz about David Duke, Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis, and the year 1992—when paleconservatives made a play for power and prefigured our own Trumpy times.

Giovanni Pennacchietti: Artifacts from the Future, Part 1

I go over an archive of Wired Magazine’s back page series from the early 2000s entitled “Found: Artifacts from the future”. I also read on article on the Wired mag writers guide for the Digital Age from the mid-90s. I talk about design, recent futurism, Y2K aesthetic, and much more as I go through this often hilarious archive of potential future products and possibilities.