Author: J. Arthur Bloom

J. Arthur Bloom is the blog's editor, opinion editor of the Daily Caller, and an occasional contributor to the Umlaut. He was formerly associate editor of the American Conservative and a music reviewer at Tiny Mix Tapes, and graduated from William and Mary in 2011. He lives in Washington, DC, and can be found, far too often, on Twitter.

‘The story of our wretched kind / To be — and be no more’

From a collection of poems written by Dabney Carr Terrell, a friend of Thomas Jefferson, a poem called “On An Indian Mound”:

Can’st say what tenant fills yon grave?
Oppressor stern, or crouching slave?
Or gallant chieftain, vainly brave,
Who for the land he could not save
Was well content to die?
Or beauteous maiden in her bloom,
Who rashly sought an early doom,
Because unable to resume
Her lover’s heart? or, in the tomb
Do both united lie?

Or it may be some bard divine,
Whose lofty lay and polished line,
By age unthreaten’d with decline,
A thousand years had seen to shine,
With still increasing ray;
When from the north the savage horde
Of hostile tribes, like torrents poured;
Sweeping the peasant, throne and lord,
The shiver’d shield and broken sword,
Like wither’d leaves away.

Or it may be some victor proud
Came o’er the world like tempest cloud,
With blaze as bright and noise as loud,
Trampling on earth the servile crowd,
Their wonder and their fear.
Or it may be some patriot chief,
Camillus-like, that brought relief,
Whose clos’d career, Alas! too brief,
Awoke a nation’s bursting grief
To millions justly dear;

Or it may be — but whither springs
Bold Fancy on her airy wings?
Unmeasured Time deep darkness flings
O’er what our fond imaginings
Try vainly to explore.
Yet this past race has left behind
A lesson dear to Wisdom’s mind;
In that lone mound, summ’d up, wee find
The story of our wretched kind,
To be — and be no more.

My copy of this poem comes from Armistead C. Gordon‘s Virginian Writers of Fugitive Verse, published in 1923. A reminder of an interesting book excerpt published here about two years ago which is a more modern imagining of the disappearance of native Americans.

Trump and National Review

Culled from a private conversation last week

Hate-reading National Review’s attempt to keep the conservative movement flying from resounding success to resounding success by thwarting Trump. Has anyone else noticed the house style of larding editorials with hammy archaisms that stick out like sore thumbs — “show and strut,” “is not deserving of” (should be “does not deserve”), “tenderfeet” (has anyone ever used that word as a plural?), “excrescences,” a “brash manner” (nobody uses “manner” like that, “personality” or “style” would be better)?

Is there anything less attractive, or arguably less conservative, than appeals to a discrete “conservative philosophy”? Their editorial calls him “philosophically unmoored,” unlike, I guess, the conservative case for gay marriage that their managing editor wrote a few months ago. The piece is full of non-sequiturs — the idea that he’s “dismayingly conventional” when it comes to legal immigration, besides being a silly cheap shot, is just not true. The rest of the paragraph even admits that. It also misstates his bromance with Putin, which I’m pretty sure Trump started.

One of the big reasons why National Review is not nearly as interesting as it was in its glory days is because they portray conservatism as this settled thing — a “broad conservative ideological consensus,” when in fact no such thing exists, and never did. Consequently NR is completely unable to explain Trump aside from the Salon strategy of pointing and shrieking. What makes 1950s-60s NR enjoyable reading even today is that it was full of people who were ideological refugees.

E.J. Dionne serviceably described Frank Meyer’s fusionist conservatism as “libertarian means in a conservative society toward traditionalist ends,” which gets at the difference between American conservatism and European rightism — American conservatism’s job is to conserve the liberal revolution — against king, authority, mercantilism, etc — which means it has built-in contradictions and limited class appeal. What does American rightism, call it conservative or not, look like when the “silent majority” of attitudinally conservative people care more about nationalistic concerns, like globalization and immigration, than the libertarian economics that has cemented the Republican Party’s close relationship with business. This is the conversation I’d love to see us having right now, but of course nobody is interested in having it.
Let’s talk about the kicker for a minute, though:
Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.

Now we’re getting to the real issue (though it should be, “on behalf”). Let’s be charitable and say this isn’t just a complaint that Trump has avoided the usual patronage networks and movement box-checking, thereby marginalizing professional conservatives. What does this statement imply? If American conservatism was really so fragile that Trump is an existential threat to it, maybe that explains why American conservatism can’t even stop the sale of baby meat. Yet, it’s that very movement we’re supposed to care very much about being traduced? Seems like Rich Lowry needs to be working a little bit harder to make the case for the utility of the conservative movement to the sort of people that are attracted to Trump, no?

I was thinking about Bill Kauffman’s comparison of Trump to William Randolph Hearst, and it’s actually much more apropos than he even goes into here. Hearst really got into it with people who would later become conservative stalwarts, like James Burnham and Garet Garrett. One of Garrett’s embarrassing early-career missteps involved trying to bring Hearst up on charges for violating the Espionage Act for his anti-war stance in 1917 (Garrett would later have reservations about intervention in the Second World War). This is the proto-conservative example of a phenomenon that continues today. Recent converts to the right demarcate the bounds of conservatism they find acceptable. Hofstadter wrote Paranoid Style as he was shifting to the right. Buckley denouncing the Birchers is another example.

Also read Scott McConnell, James Poulos, MBD, and Chris Morgan

America’s first UFO

Apologies for my light posting these last few months, and thanks to all who have kept things going. I aim to pick up the pace a bit in the new year (though if anyone out there would like to take over social media duties drop me a line; I just don’t have the time to promote this blog like it deserves to be). The podcast is coming slowly but well, with the first three or four episodes beginning to take shape, some sources picked, and I’ve even put pen to paper on one of the scripts. Stay tuned.

Also, Ron Fournier’s book Love That Boy is out in April. You dads out there, pick it up, it’s bound to be great. I helped with a little research when it was still in the early stages, and am excited to see what the final product looks like.

But back to Virginia. The lady and I joined my family for a Shakespeare doubleheader at Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton last week, and in between we visited two members of the Virginia Antiquarian Booksellers Association. At Barrister’s Books, so named because it’s tucked into the alley behind the downtown courthouse, I picked up a collection of columns by George Holbert Tucker, the longtime Virginiana columnist for the Virginian-Pilot who got his start as an archivist for the WPA. They’re full of strange little details, like the third Earl of Southampton Henry Wriothesley being visited in the Tower of London by his loyal cat, who kept its notorious rats at bay, John Pory’s drinking habits, a congressman’s attempt to repatriate Pocohontas’s remains, and more.

There’s one that probably won’t fit into the podcast’s story, but it’s so good I’ll transcribe it for you here, about the first UFO sighting in British America, on July 25, 1813. Unfortunately the book does not date when the columns were published, but they appeared in the Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star. Tucker begins by noting the more recent UFO sightings in 1965-67 before telling the story:

… the 1813 UFO recorded by the Norfolk County man easily matched all of the recent Virginia-oriented ones described in Vallee’s book and elsewhere, plus humorous touches lacking in the others. SO, first a word concerning the man who saw the aerial object and reported it to Thomas Jefferson.

Edward Hansford, the man who reported the UFO in 1813 over what is now Chesapeake, was a member of an old York County family that acquired notoriety in 1676 when one of its members, Major Thomas Hansford, was hanged by Sir William Berkeley for the traitorous role he played in Bacon’s Rebellion.

The later Hansford, a carpenter, was living in Norfolk County during the Revolution, working on forts erected by the Commonwealth. In 1784, he married Ann Kidd in Norfolk County. In 1802, he was appointed harbormaster for the District of Norfolk and Portsmouth.

At the time of the sighting, Hansford operated the Washington Tavern on London Street in Portsmouth, the sign of which depicted the Father of Our Country commanding his troops on one side and planting a field on the other. When Hansford died is not known, but his widow survived until 1832, running a fashionable boarding house on East Main Street in Norfolk where in 1824 she was Lafayette’s hostess.

So much for prologue. The following is the significant excerpt from Hansford’s letter to Jefferson, dated Portsmouth, July 13, 1813, in which he described the strange object that he and a Baltimore citizen named Jon L. Clark witnessed.

“We the subscribers most earnestly solicit, that your honor will give us your opinion on the following extraordinary phenomenon viz.: At (the exact time is omitted in the letter) hour on the night of the 25th instant, we saw int he South a Ball of fire as full as large as the sun at Maridian (sic) which was frequently obscured within the space of ten minutes by a smoke emitted from its own body, but apparently retained its brilliancy, and form during that period, but with apparent agitation. It then assumed the form of a turtle which also appeared to be much agitated and as frequently obscured by a similar smoke. It descended obliquely to the West, and raised again perpendicular to its original hite (sic) which was on or about 75 degrees. It then assumed the shape of a human skeleton which was frequently obscured by a like smoke and as frequently descended and ascended – it then assumed the form of a Scotch Highlander arrayed for battle and extremely agitated, and ultimately passed to the West and disappeared in its own smoke.”

Whether Jefferson answered Hansford’s letter is now unknown, but one thing is certain: The liquor provided by the Washington Tavern must have been pretty potent. Otherwise, how can we account for Hansford’s transformation of what was a legitimate UFO into a human skeleton or a Scotch Highlander?

If Georgio Tsoukalos feels like visiting Southside to explore Virginia’s extraterrestrial connections, I am at his service.

Getting serious about getting serious about terrorism

One of the frustrating lines of punditry we’ve seen in the wake of the Paris attacks has been the idea that we have to “get serious,” which means paying less attention to the number of non-combatants we kill in airstrikes. I’m not mischaracterizing their position. Ted Cruz, for example, said ISIS, “will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties.”

Consider this: “During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.”

Or this: “Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.”

Or this:

Every independent investigation of the strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit. Gradually, it has become clear that when operators in Nevada fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the other side of the world, they often do not know who they are killing, but are making an imperfect best guess.

The president’s announcement on Thursday that a January strike on Al Qaeda in Pakistan had killed two Western hostages, and that it took many weeks to confirm their deaths, bolstered the assessments of the program’s harshest outside critics. The dark picture was compounded by the additional disclosure that two American members of Al Qaeda were killed in strikes that same month, but neither had been identified in advance and deliberately targeted.

Or this:

Based upon the averages within the ranges provided by the New America Foundation, the Long War Journal, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been an estimated 522 U.S. targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia since 9/11, which have killed 3,852 people, 476 (or 12 percent) of whom were civilians.

What percentage of civilian casualties would Ted Cruz find more acceptable? 15? 20? More? How high could he get away with before his boosters withdrew their support?

Mike Church is off XM, go sign up for his new online radio channel

Just listened to the King Dude’s final broadcast on Sirius XM, the company has parted ways with the longest-running host on satellite radio, and given the morning show on the Patriot network to Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, who wants to be a mouthpiece for a “nationalist” movement. Breitbart’s Falange has outmaneuvered the Carlist King Dude (Mike being, as a good Louisianan, affectionate toward the Bourbons).

Over the last two years, his show has become more Catholic and less what you might call a typical conservative talk show. And this morning he made no apologies for that, saying,

“What began two years ago and culminates today is the future of Western civilization, and the future of Western civilization as it expresses itself in broadcast media and in civil government. What’s being denied now, and I will continue to carry this on, and will not change one solitary iota, is the order of our discussion in political and civil affairs is backwards. The order that we have placed it in in the last two years is correct.”

“It has been my great pleasure and eternal joy to reverse that order … The order you’ve heard it here on this show is correct. It’s not my order. … The order everyone else has put them in is incorrect. Putting them in order is the proper thing to do, it’s the humble thing to do. For those who say [we] should have stuck with the Constitution talk, we never stopped.”

You can listen to the whole final show here.

Mike posted a note to his fan page from a listener that reads:

Before Mike Church:
Was a Republican
Listened to Rush
Listened to Levin
Read Fiction Primarily
Voted for and Loved W
Chanted USA, USA, USA
Did not listen to Mike Church

After Listening to Mike Church:
Read and follow Dr. Kevin Gutzman
Read and follow Tom Woods
Read and follow Brad Birzer
Follow The Paul’s
Am now a Libertarian
Little [r]epublican
Don’t listen to Rush
Don’t listen to Levin
Don’t watch, listen to or read the news
Read History and about our Founders
Anti War
Don’t chant USA
Am more of a gentleman
More Informed

This is why Mike and his show are important, and why you should support his new venture. Read the comments here too. I don’t think it’s putting it too strongly to say he’s the only talk radio host who cares about the souls of his listeners. If you don’t know his whole story, read Michael Brendan Dougherty’s 2011 profile, and his recent interview with David Simpson at the Saint Benedict Center.

Also, I should mention my gratitude to Paul DeMilio, Mike’s producer, for being tireless, encouraging, and flexible during the times I’ve been in studio as a guest or filling in. Sirius is lucky to have him.

Mike’s new Internet-based channel launches November 11, stay tuned and see details here. In order for this to work, he needs more subscribers, so I encourage you to sign up for a Founders Pass.

I’ll continue to do Our Man in Mordor biweekly on Wednesdays at 11 on the new network, and look for some of Mike’s columns, both at OnePeterFive and the Daily Caller. Onward!