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Category: Book review

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March 1, 2019 | 7 Comments

The Magician and the Cardsharp — by Karl Johnson

This post, which could use some better writing, originally ran on 5 June 2009. But it’s a lot of fun.

The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America’s Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist by Karl Johnson

Dai Vernon, The Professor, was the greatest card magician of the 20th century, maybe of all time. David Verner—his name was botched by a Welsh reporter early on and the approximation stuck—was born in Ottawa in 1894 and used to joke that he wasted the first six years of his life before he came to magic.

Once he did, he was obsessed. Throughout his life he would be lost, sometimes for days on end, to a deck of cards as he worked on a “problem”. He would session with other magicians for endless hours, forgetting to eat or to go home.

Vernon understood the importance of psychology in magic. Johnson relates an incidence where Vernon told a New Orleans casino dealer to take a deck of cards Vernon had shuffled and start dealing them out, stopping wherever he liked. The dealer laid out 50 cards and stopped, only two cards left in his hand, a grin spreading across his face. Vernon asked him the card he was thinking of. “Six of clubs,” he said. Vernon told him to turn over the top card in his hand, which was, of course, the six of clubs. Another magician asked him how he did it. “I just knew the son of a bitch would deal out 50 cards.”

He would often begin card tricks with no goal in mind, no idea of where the trick would go, or even what method he would use. Johnson likened Vernon’s brand of magic to improvisational jazz, that music just getting its start the same time Vernon was practicing. This style allows luck to take part. While at military school, Vernon was heading to the showers when he noticed a card lying on the floor. He took it into the shower and fiddled with it. When he had finished, he came into the locker room where the commandant, who knew of Vernon’s fascination with magic, bellowed, “Let me see you produce a card now!” Vernon “answered by reaching down between his legs and apparently bringing out a soggy card. The commandant nearly fainted.”

Vernon did not perform for the public generally, and made his money selling scissor-cut portrait silhouettes. Apparently, he was pretty good. Even in the Depression, he was able to support his family and live well.

The Professor saved his best stuff for other magicians. Houdini claimed to be able to discover the secret of any trick after seeing it three times. Vernon showed Houdini his “Ambitious Card” over six times and it utterly fooled him. Houdini, who had an enormous ego and was not considered much of a close-up artist by his magical brethren, stomped out and refused to admit he had be stumped.

As good as Vernon was, he knew that the best card magicians were not magicians at all, but gamblers. Card mechanics, cheaters. All mechanics, and all magicians, know the bottom deal, wherein a card is seemingly, and fairly, dealt off the top but actually comes from the bottom of the deck, a place where wanted cards were stacked. There are dozens of variants of the bottom deal, and hundreds of methods to stack cards in certain spots in the deck. Further, all gamblers know this and so insist on a cut before the deal begins.

The cut spoils any stacking the cheat might have hoped for by removing the cards to a random spot in the middle of the deck. If somebody could figure out how to deal those cards from the middle, he’d be unbeatable. But how? Everybody who had tried it had failed. It was always obvious that the cards were coming from the center.

There were whispers that one man had done it. Vernon chased down these rumors—his travels are the book’s main plot—and found Allen Kennedy, a card mechanic in a town just south of the wide open Kansas City, home to the best cheats and every vice known to man. At the same time Vernon was passing through, so were Pretty Boy Floyd and Alvin Karpis (whom we met last week in Public Enemies).

Vernon eventually found his man and learned the center deal, and kept it a closely guarded secret for years. It’s well known now, but takes extraordinary skill and strength to pull off, so it’s not seen often.

The Professor eventually moved to Los Angeles where he became a permanent fixture of The Magic Castle, a hideout, club, and theater for nothing but magic. Everybody came and sat at the feet of the master, learning from him and being entertained by his stories and his magic right up until the end.

Vernon lived to 98. He also smoked (cigarettes until his 70s, then cigars) and drank daily. Which either means those activities are good for you, or he pulled off the best trick of his life.


Incidentally, one of the Professor’s students was mathematician Persi Diaconis (now at Stanford). Diaconis was the man who proved that you have to riffle shuffle a deck of cards at least seven times to thoroughly mix them. Shuffle them less than that, and the card’s order can be predicted to high degree. Persi (who was briefly my advisor when he was at Cornell; we shared an interest in showing how people fool themselves into thinking they have paranormal powers) developed a trick based on this, which is a story we’ll leave to another time.

February 18, 2019 | 9 Comments

Something Strange With New Book About Perversion Prone Priests by Frederic Martel

The giggly James Martin-wing of the Church is swooning over the new book In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy by Frederic Martel.

Weepy articles are everywhere about it, pitying the poor priests who aren’t allowed to licitly bugger each other and parishioners. Denying them this activity denies who they are! So much is expected from our press.

But there’s something odd about that book, first noticed by Fr John Rickert, who notified me by email.

Here’s the same book in Spanish: SODOMA: Poder y Escandalo en el Vaticano, which is, of course, scarcely like the English.

Here’s the French: Sodoma: Enquête Au Coeur Du Vatican.

And here, in plain simplicity, is Italian: Sodoma.

Quite a difference, no?

Wait. Don’t answer yet, because there’s more.

The book description differences are even more fascinating. Here is the first part of the English (prove to yourself that I’m not selectively quoting by doing the comparisons yourself).

A startling account of corruption and hypocrisy at the heart of the Vatican.

In the Closet of the Vatican exposes the rot at the heart of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church today. This brilliant piece of investigative writing is based on four years’ authoritative research, including extensive interviews with those in power.

The celibacy of priests, the condemnation of the use of contraceptives, countless cases of sexual abuse, the resignation of Benedict XVI, misogyny among the clergy, the dramatic fall in Europe of the number of vocations to the priesthood, the plotting against Pope Francis – all these issues are clouded in mystery and secrecy.

In the Closet of the Vatican is a book that reveals these secrets and penetrates this enigma. It derives from a system founded on a clerical culture of secrecy which starts in junior seminaries and continues right up to the Vatican itself. It is based on the double lives of priests and on extreme homophobia. The resulting schizophrenia in the Church is hard to fathom. But the more a prelate is homophobic, the more likely it is that he is himself gay.

The more the prelate is against murder, the more likely he’s a murderer!

That’s one of the most frequent, idiotic, sloppy, and just plain dumb arguments we hear. If you’re against it, you’re secretly for it. And if you’re for it, you’re for it. So everybody’s for it; thus, let’s drop the pretence and hand out free laxatives for all.

Let’s compare the English with the Italian (translated: I’ll leave you to do with the similar French and Spanish as homework).

The misogyny of the clergy, the end of priestly vocations, the culture of silence in cases of sexual abuse, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the war against Pope Francis: the same secret links all these dark areas of the Church. This secret has long been unspeakable, but today it finally has a name: Sodom. The biblical city of Sodom would have been destroyed by God because of the homosexuality of its inhabitants. Yet, the Vatican is home to one of the largest homosexual communities in the world. A huge network of relationships created around the intimate life of priests, capable of exploiting their deepest fragility and influencing the exercise of the power of the Church, not only in the corridors of the Roman curia.

In other words, the problem is the (what is called) Lavender Mafia, whose members would not have been thought out of place by the denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Now there are also similarities in the editions. The Italian also has the line “the more a prelate is shown homophobic [omofobo] in public, the more likely he is homosexual in private.” French: “plus un prélat est homophobe en public, plus il est probable qu’il soit homosexuel en privé.” Just what omofobo is or means is always left in the minds of readers. To American readers it’s any hint of disapproval of sodomy. In Italy and France, I don’t know.

The American edition ends with this:

“Behind rigidity there is always something hidden, in many cases a double life.” These are the words of Pope Francis himself and with them, the Pope has unlocked the Closet.

No one can claim to really understand the Catholic Church today until they have read this book. It reveals a truth that is extraordinary and disturbing.

The Pope has “unlocked the Closet”? Perhaps he has. Since his elevation, plenty of skeletons, ugly, twisted, and in various stages of decomposition, have come tumbling out of the Church.

The Italian finishes with this:

The gay issue of course does not explain everything, but it is a crucial key to understanding the Vatican and its position in our society. If we ignore this dimension related to homosexuality, we deprive ourselves of an essential element to decipher a large part of the events that have marked the history and politics of the last decades. “Behind stiffness there is always something hidden, in many cases a double life.” In saying these words, Pope Francis gave us a secret that this disconcerting investigation reveals for the first time.

Quite a difference, no?

I have not read the book itself, but I wonder if these same shadings appear in the English translation.

August 9, 2018 | 31 Comments

Despite What You Heard, The Death Penalty Is Legitimate. Feser and Bessette’s “By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment”

Because, very oddly, there has been a changing of the catechism from the constant and ancient teaching (“the pope is distracting the world with fresh meat for the spirit of the age. He tinkers with words for applause…”), it is important to revisit this topic. See also Feser’s older very strong comments on the subject, and then read his newest even stronger words.

Sometime in the mid-1990s in Colombia, Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos lured a 6-year-old boy into an isolated spot and sodomized and murdered him. There were bite marks and other evidence of “prolonged torture” found on the boy’s body. The boy’s head was discovered some distance from his torso; the boy’s penis was severed and stuffed into the corpse’s mouth. This act might have occurred while the boy still lived.

Cubillos, unaffectionately known as La Bestia (The Beast), confessed to the crime.

He also confessed to a second crime where he sodomized and tortured a young boy to death. And then a third. And a fourth. And fifth, sixth, seventh, …

Altogether, La Bestia admitted to sodomizing, maiming, torturing, and murdering 147 boys, but he admitted his memory was hazy, and some say the real total approaches 300.

Cubillos was arrested, tried, and found guilty of murdering (only) 138. Colombia’s constitution says “The right to life is inviolable. There will be no death penalty.” That same merciful attitude is responsible for the country forbidding lifetime imprisonments, too.

In 2006, the Superior Court of Bogotá reduced Cubillos’s sentence from 30 years to 22 because of a technicality. He is due to be released in 2021, though, if I understand correctly, with good behavior he can be out by 2018. La Bestia will be 61 in 2018.

Many Catholics would say that the mercy shown to Cubillos represents a true “pro-life” position, and that those who say Cubillo should be executed say so only because they themselves are “eager to kill” and are “bent on maximizing killing no matter what”.

The official stance of the Catholic Church, however, as reinforced by some 2,000 years of teaching, is that the death penalty can be, has been, and continues to be, a just punishment. In the case of Cubillos, it is surely his due. Scheduling his execution, offering him the sacraments, and then speedily carrying out the sentence is the best chance La Bestia has to save his soul. As it now appears (though only God knows), Cubillos is on a blood-greased slide to Hell.

I do not want to make light of this, but it is better than a good bet that unless Cubillos after his release is restrained by illness or circumstance or he is not killed or otherwise incapacitated by vigilantes, La Bestia will kill again. That blood, if God forbid it should flow, will be on the heads of those authorities who refused their Christian duty.

Why Capital Punishment?

Enter By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment by Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette, a book so thorough and so relentless that it is difficult to imagine anybody reading it and coming away unconvinced by the lawfulness and usefulness of capital punishment.

Whether to hang any man is in each case a matter of prudential judgement, because the circumstances surrounding any crime always varies. Two Catholics can disagree whether Cubillos should be executed, but that execution might be a just punishment is a question long settled. Which makes you wonder why some, including members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), say things like “human life is sacred…[which] compels us as Catholics to oppose…the use of the death penalty.”

Capital punishment is a theorem of the natural law, a philosophy which the Church “strongly affirms” (and which is well examined in the book). “Moreover, since it arises from a natural inclination, the tendency to punish is a virtue, so long as it is motivated by justice, say, rather than hatred,” a position held by inter alia St Thomas Aquinas, who (as quoted by Feser and Bessette) says, “Vengeance is not essentially evil and unlawful”.

Punishment should fit the crime—the legal phrase is lex talionis—which flows from the principle of proportionality.

The restoration of what Aquinas calls “the equality of justice” by inflicting on the offender a harm proportionate to his offense is known as retribution, and it one of the three traditional purposes of punishment, the others being correction or rehabilitation of the offender and the deterrence of those tempted to commit the same crimes the offender has. Other purposes are incapacitation…and restitution.

To “deny proportionality is implicitly to deny desert, and thus implicitly to deny the legitimacy of punishment.” Cursed be he that withholdeth his sword from blood (Jer 40:10).

Aquinas says “the death inflicted by the judge profits the sinner, if he be converted, unto the expiation of his crime; and, if he be not converted, it profits so as to put an end to the sin, because the sinner is thus deprive of the power to sin no more.”

Steven Goldberg makes the latter point in his When Wish Replaces Thought and Fads and Fallacies in the Social Sciences, pointing out the non-negligible frequency of murderers (including of guards) that take place in prison, and of those committed by criminals released who otherwise might have been executed. This argument is usually ignored by those who offer lifetime imprisonment as an alternative for executions.

Feser and Bessette acknowledge this argument. In one harrowing section, they list the gruesome crimes committed by the forty-three murderers executed in 2012 in the USA. Many are recidivists.

Take Robert Brian Waterhouse. In 1980, he beat a woman severely with a “hard instrument”, raped her, “assaulted her rectum with a large object, and stuffed her bloody tampon down her throat” and then drowned her. This was after he was released from prison for the murder of a seventy-seven-year-old woman; he served only eight years before being paroled. While in prison for the “twenty-one years and tens months” awaiting his execution, he “committed sexual battery on a cellmate”.

Or how about William Gerald Mitchell? He was “on parole…for the stabbing murder of a woman” when he brutally raped and murdered another woman, by “[running] over his victim several times with his car”. You could go on and on. Our authors do.

And this brings up a pretty point. We have all heard the media report upcoming executions, giving full voice to anti-death-penalty activists who usually attend these events. These reports go something like this (my summary, but the quotes are genuine):

Critics of the death penalty gathered outside State Prison to protest the upcoming execution of Luis Cubillos. Longtime prof-life advocate Father Mercyme, a priest in the Catholic Church, pleaded with the governor that the death penalty is “a violation of the sanctity of human life”, and that the state “is usurping the sovereign dominion of God over human life”. Cubillos was accused of a 1995 murder.

The media never gives the details of the crimes committed, because this, they rightly suspect, would lead listeners to conclude the criminal is getting what he deserved. (This is the same argument against showing the results of abortion victims.) Righteous anger is fled from, and effeminacy embraced. John Crysostom: “He who is not angry, where he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices, it fosters negligence, and incites not only the wicked but even the good to do wrong.”

Common pro and con arguments

The death penalty is racist and discriminatory. It is. Whites are disproportionately executed over blacks (this knowledge may cause some to support capital punishment). (Blacks commit violent crimes at rates about eight times higher than whites.) But, I hasten to add, those on death row earned their punishment.

The death penalty does not deter. Please, no statistical arguments. I have yet to see any statistical evidence, for or against, that was not wrong-headed. Of course the death penalty deters. Everybody knows increasing the severity of a punishment leads to greater abatement of a crime. Why would not moving to the ultimate penalty prove the strongest deterrence (Goldberg makes the same argument)? Our authors supply anecdotes—which are perfectly acceptable evidence—of men who would have killed except that they were worried about getting the chair. Even just one instance of this is sufficient empirical proof of deterrence; fancy models are not needed. The penalty would do a greater job of deterrence were it not common knowledge that even for the worst crimes, the legal systems lets men stretch their day of judgment out for decades or forever (as it were).

Why not life imprisonment? For one, if “mercy” demands the cessation of executions, why does not mercy also demand, as in Colombia, the cessation of life imprisonment, or the cessation of any punishment at all? For another, violent (even demonic) men in prison who would otherwise be executed commit crimes. And see the next point about rehabilitation. The subject of how often the innocent are wrongly executed is a tangle, made so on purpose by those who want to exaggerate this rate. The authors delve into this thicket and clarity does emerge.

What we do not know is whether any innocent person was executed during this period. From 1977 through 2014, thirty-four American states executed 1,386 convicted murderers and the federal government another 3. Were any o these 1,389 actually innocent of the crimes for which they were sentenced to death? Although there is no way to know this with certainty, it seems likely that at most 1 or 2 innocent persons—and very possibly none at all—have been executed since the Furman decision of 1972…

In Wish Goldberg (p. 29) says “even the opponent of the death penalty who emphasizes wrongful executions is willing to sacrifice thousands of lives each year for the social advantages of motor vehicles.” And he reminds us that if the death penalty deters it saves lives.

The death penalty does not rehabilitate. Does it not? As everybody quotes, a hanging wonderfully concentrates the mind. In a wonderful section, the authors tell the story of repentance of several of the murderers on death row. Repentance, I say, the most important thing in any man’s life. All of us stand in need of it (at times), but those guilty of the worst crimes stand in greatest need. Concentration of the mind encourages salvation.

The death penalty encourages vengeance. Does all punishment encourage vengeance? If not, why not? The authors give a nice history and derivation of vengeance, incidentally, contrasting its old and new uses, and its distinction between retribution. In another terrific section, the authors write of the family members of victims, of their satisfaction of the punishment of the criminals, and of their forgiveness, too. The feeling that a debt has been paid, not only by the family members, but of the criminals and members of society, is great. When that feeling is missing, there is often despair. And vigilantism. When people lose hope of the government doing its job, they often take vengeance into their own hands.

The Church

There is no decent argument that the Church does not authorize use of the death penalty. It is true authorities lately have emphasized “mercy”, but mercy does not obviate capital punishment. And don’t forget “forgiveness and mercy presuppose that the offender really does deserve the punishment we refrain from inflicting.” What follows here is only the barest, briefest sketch of the vast wealth of material in the book. Experts on this subject may be assured that Feser and Bessette have covered every facet with the same assiduity of a lawyer preparing a Supreme Court brief.

First is scripture. God, you will remember, has warned that the potential punishments awaiting unrepentant sinners is far worse than the early shuffling off of this mortal coil. The threat of punishment (as we saw above) deters. And God said, “He who kills a man shall be put to death…” (Deut 19:11). And far from repudiating this law, Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets…I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mt 5:17). “Then there is Romans 13:1–4, traditionally understood as a straightforward affirmation on the right of the state to execute criminals”.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church supported the death penalty. Among the others, “Saint Jerome…says that ‘to punish murderers, the sacrilegious, and poisoners is not the shedding of blood, but the duty of the laws.'” The First Vatican Council decreed that “it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture…against the unanimous consent of the fathers.” And

…even those among the Fathers who were largely or wholly opposed in practice to capital punishment—and who thus had every incentive to try to find in Scripture or Tradition a warrant for an absolute condemnation of the practice—affirmed that capital punishment in principle morally legitimate…It is inconceivable that they could have been mistaken about this matter of moral principle, given the authority of the Church has always attributed to them…

The Catechism agrees on the licit nature of capital punishment, “not only in order to ‘protect the innocent’ but also to ‘punish the guilty’ and ‘avenge…crime'” (ellipsis original). And so do the popes agree—including even Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Francis. Yes, even Pope Francis, about whom our duo says, “Given the obscurity and lack of precision in some of Pope Francis’ remarks…” which is all the quotation I believe this audience requires, except to add that Francis’s words are “plausibly read as having rhetorical rather than doctrinal import.” Whether plausible or not, that’s the way they have to be read to keep his thoughts in line with the constant teaching of the Church.

Now it’s true that the USCCB has waded into the debate implying that the “‘values of the Gospel’ are contrary to the use of the death penalty” (where have we heard that language before?), but these good men forgot to mention the possibility of Hell. Feser and Bessette show that “every element of the bishop’s case against the death penalty fails, including their scriptural interpretations, their moral and philosophical arguments, and their understanding of the practical effects of capital punishment.”

The End

The authors are correct when they say “we now find ourselves in the rather odd situation in which the majority of churchmen appear to be against the death penalty but Catholic teaching is not. This is a recipe for massive confusion among the faithful.” Worse, if we do not execute our worst criminals,

Society will lose sight, first of the idea of proportionality, then of the idea of desert, and finally of the idea of punishment itself. And when the idea of punishment goes, the very idea of justice will go with it, replaced by a therapeutic or technocratic model that treats human beings as cases to be managed and socially engineered than as morally responsible persons. Nothing less is at stake in the death-penalty debate.

And so let us remind ourselves, as do the authors in their last word, of Genesis 9:16, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

July 25, 2018 | 2 Comments

Trading Places: Aleksandr Dugin’s Putin vs Putin — Guest Post by Ianto Watt

I used to subscribed to The Jerusalem Post. Then I realized that I could get the real news a lot quicker by buying subscriptions to the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal. Those two publications represent the real heart of the Labor/Likud dichotomy that governs Israel, and much of the rest of the world. After all, there is a war going on within the heart of Israel. A war that has been going on since Masada in 73 AD, and then Simon Bar Kokhba in 132 AD. And all of it started with the golden calf of Aaron in the Sinai desert.

This war has been going on ever since. The war between Rabbi’s Hillel and Shammai. Between the liberal version of the Talmud versus the conservative (for want of a better word) edition of the Talmud. This is a war of words. A war of meanings. A war of technique. But at heart, they both agree, because the stated goal of both sides is Tikkun Olam, i.e. ‘the repairing of the world’.

Both sides have always agreed that the way to ‘repair’ the (Gentile) world is revolution (war). Therefore, the real issue between Hillel and Shammai has always been, what’s the proper dosage? War, or more war?

Now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything today. And especially as it relates to Emperor Donald. And especially to my claim, in my first post on 21 July 2016 that Donald would win. And that he would then deliver the keys of the Empire to Vladimir Putin, the Emperor-in-waiting.

We know Donald won, of course. But is he actually trying to deliver the Empire to our ‘enemy’? And what does this have to do with Hillel and Shammai? Everything, Komrade.

Once Mosaic Judaism died with the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, it was replaced in the hearts of the remaining (that is, un-repentant) Jews with the disputations of the remaining Rabbi’s. These disputes (friendly or otherwise) between the Rabbis (exemplified by Rabbis Hillel and Shammai) were later codified into what we know as the Talmud. The Old Testament was replaced by the Oral Tradition. OT, replaced by OT. Here’s the beginning of the semantic twists that have befuddled the world unto today. The world where the Talmud corrects the Torah. Funny thing, that’s exactly what the Koran purports to do as well. But that’s another story.

These Talmudic disputations are played out before our very eyes still today, on the opposing op-ed pages of the NY Times (Hillel) and the Wall Street Journal (Shammai). Each side claims it will ‘repair the world’. Each side says “If only I ruled the world things would be better”. And this logic always leads to war. This dialectic clash is at the heart of the Talmud. The heart of every Empire.

Both sides, Neo-Con and Still-Left, agree on the root of the problem: Russia. And both sides are pushing for a war to eradicate ‘the problem’. The problem of Russia.

Let’s make a few basic assumptions and see if they can lead us to somewhere besides where we are today. And where we have been for a few thousand years. I’m not just speaking to the West. I’m speaking to the East as well. Both sides have been locked into their respective Imperial paradigms for at least a thousand years, and far more so in the West. The question now is this: must there be a war?

Can we agree that there is an actual Evil Empire? Let’s make assumption (as I have done in my book) that at this time in history there are actually two evil empires. This would not be unusual. Any quick review of history will show that there have been plenty of instances where there have been two (or more) empires at a given time. Rome and Parthia, for example.

If empires are made up of formerly independent kingdoms, then ’empire’ is another word for subjugation. Thus, according to my thinking, any empire is in this sense evil, as it is a negation of the freedom of subjected nations. Subjection to the rule of the Emperor, who has no particular care for the rights of his subject nations. Nations are legitimate entities. Empires are not. But that’s not to say God can’t use them for His purposes. Which, by the way, generally involves chastising errant nations. Like Israel. Like us?

Next, in spite of the MSM, let us assume another seemingly startling possibility, that the people of one empire are not necessarily hostile to the people of another empire. I’m referring to the little people, not their rulers and their apparatchiks. Do little-guy American really want to kill little-guy Russians? Do little-guy Russians really want to kill all Americans? No, but can they be led to do this? Yes, unfortunately, they can.

How does this unfortunate situation occur? Well, let’s make a further assumption, that there can be good men on each side who have been blinded to the difference between Man and God. In the West, let’s take Pat Buchanan as an example of a good man who faithfully served Emperor Nixon (although in all fairness, Pat has awakened to the duality of evil). Everything Pat said in the past about the Western Empire’s nemesis (Russia) was veritably true. His problem was that (until recently) he never looked into the proverbial mirror.

Let’s assume Buchanan has an Eastern counterpart. Let’s call him Aleksandr Dugin. And let’s attribute the same accomplishments (and failings) to him. He is, after all, the apparently close advisor to Vladimir Putin, the Eastern Emperor. Dugin is a man who has unfailingly pointed out, in his many books and articles, the hypocrisy of Western Emperors. Again, like Buchannan, almost all that Dugin says about the Western Empire is also very true. But he too is averse to mirrors.

Here is a funny thing about these two advisors to the opposed Emperors: they both embrace the true faith. Neither of them will shrink from the words ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic’. At least, as long as we don’t capitalize all four of these words. Alexander won’t go for that yet. But three out of four ain’t bad, eh? So far, at least.

Having said that, I think it behooves us to look more closely at Aleksandr Dugin. Because he has not had his epiphany yet. I’m not sure he will. Nevertheless, he is right in many ways as he tells the story as seen through Eastern eyes.

What is this story that Mr. Dugin recounts to Vlad? Never mind that the basic core of the story is true. And never mind that Vlad listens only because it satisfies his desire. His desire for Russia to rule all the world. Regardless of whether you believe Vlad sees himself as Tsar or Commissar, the result would be the same. Hegemony, writ large. Yes, this is the same desire any Western Emperor has. But I’m not yet convinced Donald really wants to be an Emperor. Plenty of his henchmen do. Likewise his political opponents.

The primary tale Dugin recounts is one that was first sung by a Westerner, Sir Halford Mackinder, the father of Geopolitics. The man who saw that all of Imperial history has been the struggle of the Sea People versus the Land People. Coastland versus Continent. Mackinder saw that the struggle between the two would be waged in the intermediate ‘Rimlands’ that separate the two. Think of Germany as it tried to fight both Empires in WWII.

Dugin, to his credit, understands this theory, and applies it to the historical perspective that he serves up to Vlad, in his attempts to get Vlad to act decisively in response to Western pressure. My only question here is this: is Vlad the freshman, or is Dugin? It will become clearer in time. In my mind, Vlad is no puppet of Dugin. Maybe somebody else’s puppet, but not Dugin’s. Vlad’s no saint either. Not yet, at least.

If you accept these thoughts of equally-evil Empires, served by equally devout good men who don’t realize they have been blinded by the evil of their opponents, you will have no friends left. But you will have an ecumenical gathering of enemies. And isn’t that what today is all about, Komrade—ecumenism? For a good example, look at how the mainstream Republican and Democratic operatives have all, in unison, denounced Donald for his refusal to call Russia ‘our enemy’.

Let’s look a little closer at Dugin, and his portrait of Vlad in his book Putin vs Putin. Focus on Dugin’s portrayal of Vlad as a man who is (or has been) indecisive. Yes, you read that correctly: indecisive. I know it’s a ridiculous assertion from a Western perspective. But bear with Dugin as he makes his uniquely Russian case.

Look back at Mackinder’s epiphany about the Land and the Sea, and the peoples thereon. Where else does this comparison occur in history quite a bit farther back in time? Well, pilgrim, who are the original Land people? And who are the original Sea people? Look no further than your Bible. For all of the ancient Fathers have taught that the Jews were the people of dry land, while the inchoate (Red) sea was representative of the Gentiles. The continent, versus the incontinent. The restrained versus the libertines. In the mind of all little Russians, who would Israel be today?

In this we see something interesting. Something that coincides with Dugin’s claim that Orthodox Russia has “been chosen by Divine Providence for a special mission. I do not draw a clear distinction between Orthodox messianism and the spirit of the Russian people; they are two sides of the same coin” (p. 61). Simply put, Russians like Dugin see Russia as the New Israel. Just as Buchannan used to see America as the new Israel.

Is Dugin unique to Russia? After all, he claims on the same page that “I am personally a strictly observant Orthodox Christian and wish you to be the same”. Earlier in the book he claims that Vlad was rumored to be (like himself) an Old Believer. That is, one whose beliefs are congruent with the times before Peter the Great. Who was, by their reckoning, the Anti-Christ. At least, as far as Russia was concerned. I contend that Dugin is correct: most (little) Russians see Putin as a man sent from God, to fulfill the Russian messianic role of saving all mankind.

What does Dugin say that ‘indecisive’ Putin must do in order to save Russia from the West? He says that Putin must quit dallying with social liberalism (from a marketplace perspective). And that he must fully embrace ‘traditionalism’ in both the values he espouses as well as the markets he rules.

Now we know all about the values Vlad touts. Pro-family, anti-gay. Pro-nationality, anti-cosmopolitan. Pro-local, anti-global. Pro-communitarianism, anti-individualistic. (No, I didn’t mean to write ‘pro-communism’. Vlad and Dugin both see communism as an aberrant Western form of individualism imported by Western revolutionaries. Starting with Peter the Great and ending with the Bolsheviks.)

Dugin sees Vlad as someone who has, indecisively, tried to straddle the fence, allowing the Church to flourish again (by promoting the values stated above), while still allowing a modicum of decadence and corruption in the marketplace. Clearly, to Dugin, these are antithetical positions. Dugin wants to see Vlad stop that silliness. And to stop it now.

Dugin understands that Vlad has been forced to straddle this fence because it is impossible to eradicate corruption and venality overnight. He says Vlad has decided to attack outside (Western) sources of corruption first, and then clamp down on internal sources later. Yet Dugin keeps harping that Vlad must do this sooner rather than later, or risk losing the people’s support. For the little people, after all, support all that Vlad has done. From Chechnya to Crimea to Ukraine. Why do they support him? Because he’s Making Russia Great Again! Sound familiar?

How does Dugin propose that Vlad should accomplish this task of unifying his message and his policies? Dugin, of course, is the apostle of ‘Eurasianism’. He says Vlad has embarked on the task of eradicating the uni-polar world he inherited from Yeltsin by creating a multi-polar world that frees Russia (and everyone else) from the globalist grip of Liberalism. In other words, from the grip of the Western Empire. And the way to do this is by turning Russia (again) towards the East. To China. To India. To Iran. To Turkey. To anything east of Jerusalem. That is what his Eurasian Union proposal is all about. He intends to establish marketplace power in markets that the West cannot dominate. In return, Russia will offer its partners preferred access to Russian energy and mineral wealth, and just as importantly, to her arms. Her loving arms.

Just as importantly, Vlad sees the advantage of making these same offers to the ‘Rimlands’ of Central Europe. A good example is the NordStream-2 gas pipeline that will increase Germany’s addiction to Russian gas. The price of the gas goes down as European resentment of Donald’s demands go up. The eventual goal is to establish one Eurasian power, from Lisbon to Vladivostok. While Russia is singing the song of ‘multi-polarity’ today, it is easy to see how this song might have a new refrain added as things progress. But forget that for the moment. Ask yourself this: if Vlad wants the headache of running the Eastern Hemisphere, why not let him?

Here’s how Dugin puts it: “Putin’s nuclear Russia is a great island…it is perfectly suitable for waging external revolutionary struggle. It is a wonderful base for training people who need to promote eschatological revolutionary activities on a global scale” (p280). Do you see the problem, Komrade? See those two words? Revolutionary and eschatological? We’re talking something much bigger than Communist grandiosity here, my friend. We are talking about the End Times, in the eyes of the Russians. Equally frightening is the apocalyptic vision of the Neo-Cons, (Hillel and Shammai both) in the now-atheistic West.

We’re approaching the showdown of the Empires. There’s only one way out of this looming confrontation. It takes two to tango, no? So if the existence of two antithetical Empires leads inexorably to an armed clash, the logical (and merciful) answer is simple. Subtract one Empire. Before they clash, that is.

Is this what Donald is seeing? Is this why he is willing to tell Europe Adios, amigos? Why he’s willing to refuse to risk nuclear war for new NATO members like Montenegro? Why he’s willing to tell Angland to choose between European sterility and American fecundity? Why he’s willing, even eager, to tell all of those who have ridden the American gravy-train for free for 75 years to start paying up or to get off at the next stop? And why he wants to defuse the artificially generated animosity between the peoples of Russia and America? Is this what he senses?

Let’s agree that indeed this is what Donald sees and desires. What then is the cost of subtracting one Empire from this equation of confrontation? What price must be paid? We know, based on the messianic writings of almost every Russian of note, from Monk Nestor over a thousand years ago, to Aleksandr Dugin today, that Russia truly sees herself in a messianic role as the savior of mankind. They will not yield in this vision. It is we who must withdraw if we are to avoid the clash that will most certainly involve the possibility (if not probability) of a nuclear confrontation.

Let us confront the true cost of Empire: pride. We must shed ourselves of this grandiose vision of American Exceptionality that has led us to the subjugation of all that is not Eurasian. The current Western attempt to subdue Eurasia, that is Russia, represents the last step in our downward march towards destruction. Are we really willing to make that move?

What then is the alternative? How do we lay down this Imperial burden without laying down our lives? It’s simple, my friend. Let us simply be a nation. Let us be strong, but not be an Empire. A nation fortified, a nation satisfied, a nation gratified. Fortified with the strength we currently possess. Gratified with the knowledge of the blessings God has bestowed upon us, in spite of our past hubristic pride. And satisfied with the astounding resources He has already given us. What more do we really need?