Occasionally, I go through the stats in WordPress to see who is backlinking The Declination. Doing so can be pretty eye opening. I’ve found more than a few detractors this way, and some very amusing social justice warriors. But I’ve also discovered fascinating intellectual material this way.
In the course of perusing my backlinks, I discovered a little-known blog call the House of David. This one is fascinating because the author delves deeply into a topic which has bothered me for most my life: just how was it that Islam conquered Sassanian Persia and most of Byzantium more or less simultaneously? Normally this question is answered in the West, at least, by primarily Greek sources. Those are useful, yes, but only paint part of the picture. The proprietor of House of David seeks to answer the question from Persian and Arabic sources, also.
The strangeness of this event cannot be overstated. As successors to the Romans (or as Romans themselves, depending on how you account them), the Byzantines were masters of siege craft. Certainly the Theodosian walls impress well enough. Being consummate engineers of fortifications, Roman forts and walled cities dotted the empire, and for the most part, the Romans were excellent at defending them. The Byzantines continued the tradition of effective defense throughout most of their history, as they were under near-constant assault from all sides.
Hannibal himself found the Romans impossible to conquer, even when winning most of the important field battles. And when much of the Western Empire fell apart, it was due not to siege warfare, but to what might be called a refugee migration situation gone to pot. Modern Europe, it should be noted, ought to be paying very close attention to that portion of their history.
Now, one might say the Persians were able to do it, at least temporarily during the Sassanian war of the early 7th century. And that is true enough, though the Romans still emerged triumphant even then. But the Persians had long experience fighting Romans. They were no strangers to dealing with Roman fortifications and siege craft. Despite the feudal nature of their army (think of dehgans like predecessors to medieval feudal nobility), it was powerful and well organized.
The Arabs, on the other hand, had little organization along those lines. Neither, it should be noted, did they have experience storming Roman forts and cities.
In some cases, of course, there was treachery from some of the Byzantines themselves, most notably in Egypt. But in other cases, such as the Exarchate of Africa, local Byzantine resistance was absolutely fierce. The wars in North Africa absolutely devastated the place. It never recovered after this. So complete was this devastation and desolation that Carthage, which bounced back even after the Romans razed it, never recovered from it. Even conquest by the Vandals had not been so terrible.
And still, after the Byzantines themselves lost much of North Africa, the native Christian Berbers continued to resist for some time under a supposed witch-queen named Kahina. And Byzantine resistance remained for a time around Cueta even after Carthage was destroyed, where the possibly-apocryphal Count Julian was said to have finally thrown in with the Muslims in order to avenge himself upon the Visigoths.
Yet the Arab steamroller moved on.
The final triumph of Byzantine siege craft could be seen in the twin Arab sieges of Constantinople, both beaten back effectively by the Byzantines. So why did they lose so completely everywhere else?
It’s a mystery that has defied satisfactory explanation. Some would say that the Persian war exhausted both countries, and that is true to some extent. Persia spiraled into internecine warfare, and was ruined by Heraclius. But Persia never had the defensive depth that Rome did. Persia was more reliant upon the land-holding nobility, and they were a better offensive force than a defensive one. The Byzantines, meanwhile, had won the war, and Heraclius was (at least according to Greek sources on the matter) still able to field massive armies who, ostensibly, had great experience in the Persian war.
Byzantium was weakened economically by the war, at least to some extent. But militarily, it may have actually been stronger.
So how did a bunch of relatively disorganized Arabs, with little experience, overrun Byzantium and Persia in a way that even Alexander the Great would have gawked at?
The purveyor of House of David has more then a few theories and ideas about how this could have been done, and what may have been going on. And there’s a ring of truth to a lot of it. It ties in well with what is going on today in the West, namely that the bureaucracy and the nobility may have, in effect, sold out their own country for personal profit. That in Byzantium, at least, the bureaucracy may have deliberately sacrificed Rome’s old empire for the sake of what we might call proto-globalization of trade.
The idea of globalists selling out nations for profit, of course, has a long tradition. To them, nations are collections of people, they are arbitrary social constructs (like gender is an arbitrary social construct to them, also). So for them, selling out a country is more or less the same thing as selling your pizza shop. It’s just a pizza shop. Who cares? If you can make more money closing your business and selling off the assets, no big deal, right?
Except countries are not pizza shops. And the things you wind up selling off are people. Sometimes very literally, in the case of Islam.
I don’t want to go on a long lecture on that topic, though. I’ll save that for another day. As to whether or not I believe this theory, I don’t know. It has a ring of plausibility to it, but I’m not familiar enough with the primary sources to say. However, it is interesting, at the very least.
Suffice it to say I have been reading more of this man’s musings on Islamic and Persian history, and they are fascinating. It’s a very different perspective than reading all this from the translated Greek sources. There are a great many posts worth reading on there. Here are a few more.
Naturally, as one with Armenian family members, Turkey is not exactly high on my list of favorite countries in the world. But Erdogan has managed to lower my opinion of Turkey even further.
Now he has the unmitigated gall to call the Dutch Nazis. There’s a bit of pot, kettle, black irony in this, as Turkey still remains defiant in its assertion that the Armenian genocide never happened. Tell that to my ancestors who fled the place just ahead of Ottoman advance.
What prompted Erdogan to do this?
The Netherlands wasn’t pleased with Turks within their borders holding rallies to call for more power for Erdogan. The Turks responded with this little stunt:
Police clashed with pro-Erdogan demonstrators in the Netherlands overnight while in Istanbul on Sunday a man climbed onto the roof of the Dutch consulate and replaced the Dutch flag with a Turkish flag.
Finally, after a long time kow-towing to any Islamic country that asked, both the Netherlands and Germany took a harder line.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Sunday he was against Turkish ministers holding political rallies in Germany.
“A Turkish campaign has no business being here in Germany,” he told public broadcaster ARD.
Separately, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he hoped Turkey “would return to its senses”.
Before Leftists come to The Declination with accusations about free speech, let’s be very clear. These are Turkish citizens conducting large-scale “rallies” in a foreign country, in support of an authoritarian, who has been playing both sides against the middle where this refugee and migrant situation is concerned.
Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want that kind of activity in my country either. If European countries were smart, they’d expel the ones that didn’t have citizenship immediately. If you’re not a citizen, you are a guest, you are in the country on the sufferance of its citizens. If you want to stir up trouble, they’ve every right to boot you out.
“The West has clearly shown its true face in the last couple of days,” Erdogan said.
“What we have seen is a clear manifestation of Islamophobia,” he added.
Turkey used to have a reputation for being at least somewhatsecular, at least compared to their more radical Islamic counterparts. I would not go so far as to say Turkey was good, but certainly Erdogan has made things worse.
By making the Islamophobia argument, Erdogan is de facto admitting something I’ve long suspected: Turkey is back to being a fundamentally Islamic nation, not a secular one. The Kemalists are done. And insofar as Erdogan is looking at this from an Islamic angle, these rallies, and the massive number of Turks in the EU, must be looked at from that angle also. This is part of a bid for more control and power in Europe.
In other words, Erdogan seems to fancy himself an Ottoman Sultan, or something closely approximating that. He ought to be treated likewise. He’s no friend of the West, nor is he a secularist. He’s an Islamist with pretensions of restoring the Ottoman Empire under his own banner.
And, quite frankly, nobody should put any stock in the mutterings of some tinpot Islamist would-be dictator.
Progressives are quite desperate to stop the Wall, most likely because they suspect it might actually work. Here is a video from the election period, wherein we are lectured by a smarmy Progressive on how stupid the plebs are for believing a wall could work:
Some of the claims here are quick to dismiss or explain. Let’s go through them in short order:
The Wall will cost between $15 and $25 billion.
This may be true. Current estimates are somewhere in that neighborhood for the total project. The video equates this to one year of NASA’s budget, and makes it sound like a big scary number. Now true, this is not chump change. And generally speaking, I loathe government spending on big boondoggle projects. However, border security is a legitimate function of the Federal government and, coincidentally, one of the functions it has refused to execute properly in recent years.
Democrats are screaming about a $25 billion wall, and yet spend more than that on social services for illegal immigrants. Everything from medical care to in-state tuition is provided for them. So the number on the invoice may be correct, but it does not take into account the savings that could be realized if the Wall worked as designed (especially if combined with deportation). If it did, we’d probably have a net savings in terms of government spending.
The host of this video would have you believe this is an unprecedented effort on a truly monumental scale, and that nobody could do it. That is lunacy. After all, we’ve built dozens of freeways crossing the entire country. The Interstate Highway system positively dwarfs this effort by orders of magnitude. The Chinese built their wall long before industrialization was a thing. The Romans built forts, walls, limes, and Roman roads crisscrossing Europe in the ancient era. No, this is not an unprecedented or impossible task. It’s quite doable.
The Wall won’t work because… planes.
Actually it has nothing to do with planes, insofar as those with legal visas can come in via other means also (boats, cars, etc…). It is spun as “planes fly over walls, you stupid pleb.” It’s just a rhetorical trick designed to make the viewer feel stupid.
But in any event, this argument discusses the illegals who are overstaying their visas. True, the Wall won’t do anything about these illegals per se. But if the Wall is accompanied by more rigorous deportation and enforcement, then the number of this type of illegal alien should be reduced. Then, of course, the Wall will serve to keep them out if they try to come back. Supposing, of course, we have the good sense to deny future visas to those who have already proven untrustworthy with them.
The Wall won’t work because of impassible terrain.
Mountains are shown on the video, and the wall cannot go over them, it is said. True, to some extent anyway. There are terrain features that would impede the construction of the Wall. But, it should be noted that such impassable terrain is no picnic for the illegals either. In this sense, Mother Nature will do the trick where the bulldozers cannot go. Or, put it in more simplistic terms: which is easier to get over, a mountain or a Wall?
The Wall won’t work because of a revolving door.
A Princeton professor is trotted out, and his theory is presented. He tells us that the open border is a revolving door, insofar as some illegals come in, while others leave to return to Mexico. And if, he says, the Wall is built, it will stop that flow. Then all the illegals currently here will be trapped here.
This contradicts the earlier argument that the Wall won’t work. After all, if the Wall doesn’t work, how could it stop illegals from coming and going? In essence, he’s actually saying the Wall will work.
Never mind the obvious fact that if the Princeton professor were correct, the level of illegal immigrants in the United States should stay relatively consistent over the years. Except that it hasn’t. Ann Coulter demonstrated this aptly in Adios America. The number is definitely increasing, so even if some do go back, clearly more are coming in than are leaving. Close the door by building the Wall and you will stop the increase.
Mitt Romney discussed something like this in the 2012 campaign. He wanted greater penalties levied against companies caught hiring illegals, in order to get them to self-deport back across the border. So even if there is some truth to this, the solution is simple: enforce the laws as Romney suggested while the Wall is still being built. And allow them to go back without interference. You can even advertise this as a service. Are you an illegal who wants to go home? We will provide secure, safe transportation for you and your family back to your home country. This way you can get the benefits of both ideas.
The number of Border Patrol apprehensions is at an all-time low.
Perhaps this is true. It appears to be, anyway. The question is why? Is it because of reduced enforcement? Is it because of a temporary condition, such as fluctuations in the economies of both the United States and Mexico? The makes of the video want you to assume this is because less immigrants are coming through today, and then tell you to project that amount indefinitely into the future. This is fallacious in the extreme. Even if the number of illegals has dropped off considerably, it is still a very large number, and there is no guarantee it won’t increase tomorrow.
Other arguments against the Wall.
The video skips over some other common arguments against the Wall, some of which actually have some merit (certainly more than the claims made in the video).
Illegals will just dig tunnels, or jump over the Wall.
There is some truth to this. However, scaling the Wall, or digging underneath the Wall takes a lot more effort than merely crossing an empty space. Of course, this depends greatly on the design of the Wall. Penn Jillette released a video many years ago (which appears to be gone now – I couldn’t find it) where he built a scale mockup of the then-proposed border wall, then hired some Mexicans to get around it as quickly as they could. It took the Mexicans less than 5 minutes to scale it, or dig under it. It was a shitty design. Some of the existing border fences are even easier to scale. But if you look the border fence in question, it’s an even crappier design than the one proposed by the Bush administration.
So the Wall should incorporate design features to make casual scaling and tunneling harder. It needs to go deeper into the ground, be taller, solid, and incorporate features like razor wire or other deterrents. Most importantly, designs should be mocked up and tested, to see how much time is required to defeat them. Experiment with this, and find an ideal balance of cost and design features.
It will not prevent all illegal immigration, but it doesn’t have to, just like locking your car door doesn’t prevent all theft, but certainly discourages casual thieves, and can increase the time and effort needed by more experienced thieves. If it takes longer to scale or tunnel under the Wall, that gives Border Patrol more time to discover them, and will reduce the number who make the attempt in the first place.
But this is a legitimate gripe. This must be designed and built properly, or else it will be a waste of money. And it must also be accompanied by more active border security measures.
The Wall will hurt the American economy.
This is the usual “who will pick our fruit for cheap” argument. It neglects the overall cost of an illegal immigrant, which includes not only their wages, but all the welfare state services they use, and the net drain on the American economy. To the farmer, it may seem like a good deal, because they are cheaper and often work better than bored teenagers, who used to bolster the ranks of cheap seasonal farmhands and random handymen. But when the taxpayer’s subsidy is taken into account, the deal is much less attractive. I’ll have to go over the figures in more detail for a future post, but at the very least, the wage difference will be partially accounted for, and perhaps entirely accounted for.
Besides, who really gets benefit from this? A few farmers and corporations using off-the-books employees, or looking the other way to save a few bucks, are getting all of the benefit, while the taxpayer subsidizes the cost. This is why it’s sometimes hard to mobilize Republicans to do anything about it. Democrats want more votes, and some Republicans want the subsidized labor. As mentioned earlier in this post, if the Wall works, we’re going to realize some savings in welfare spending. Still, we can expect some kind of additional economic impact from border security. Whether it will be a net positive or a net negative for the economy, I cannot say for certain. There are too many variables to account for. And I don’t really trust anybody who is too sure about this.
But either way, it will be a net gain from a national security angle, from an immigration and cultural assimilation angle, and is, in any event, part of what defines one nation as separate from another in the first place. If your border is really porous, you have de facto open borders. If you have open borders, you don’t really have a country. It’s just a geographical expression on a map, a polite fiction and no more.
Here’s another blatant case of Weaponized Empathy:
Keith brings up the case of Fatemeh, an infant who needed open heart surgery. Like most cases of Weaponized Empathy, the story is a sad one, and it plays on the heartstrings. To be fair, the circumstance surrounding the case, if Keith’s presentation of the facts is true, does sound like something that might be accounted an exception to the rule, at least as long as the parents and the child had no intention of staying in the country after the surgery was performed. Supposedly, their sole reason for coming was to obtain the surgery, which was being paid for entirely by the family, and then they would return home.
But notice where Keith goes with it at the end. He ties this in to the “60,000 others” denied entry into the United States as a result of the ban. Here’s where it diverts from being a sad story, and a victim of happenstance, to its ultimate weaponized form.
Lift the ban, he is telling you, or else you want more little babies to die. Where, of course, this sympathy for babies is when they discuss late-term abortions, I cannot say. But instead of arguing for occasional exceptions to the ban for very specific business, in this case open heart surgery, he argues for admitting everybody.
Do you see the fallacy here?
And then he makes sure we know that it’s a travesty, and that it’s our fault, and being done in our name, because we voted for Donald Trump.
This is a classic bait-and-switch. We are sold on poor babies who need heart surgery. What we get, upon doing what they ask, is something entirely different. Observe:
The fascinating statistic from this little infographic can be found on the lower right hand corner. Note the overabundance of men. And note, also, that many children are actually military age menclaiming to be children. So depending on whether or not the statistics account for that, the percentage of children may be even lower.
We are sold on poor children and families escaping a war-torn country. We get the bait-and-switch: here’s your invasion force of military-age men, some of whom may have even been participants in the conflict. You’re importing a war, not saving children.
Weaponized Empathy in the form that Keith Olbermann is employing is nothing more than an amateur sales tactic seen frequently at used car dealerships. Don’t fall for it.
With the fight surrounding Trump’s 90-day travel ban from certain Muslim countries in full swing, public attention is, for the moment, rather distracted. But from the #NoBanNoWall hashtag, we can infer that the Left hasn’t forgotten about the illegal immigration invasion, and can be expected to mobilize its full resources in defense of the practice.
One of my detractors once explained to me that we don’t really need a wall, and that Democrats have been very much in favor of securing the border through other means. That, of course, is a blatant lie. At any time, Democrats could have reached across the aisle and found, if not robust support for securing the border (some Republicans like the cheap labor), at least enough support to make it happen, if they truly desired it.
The only answer that makes sense is that they want illegal immigration to continue. Their defense of the practice went to absurdity during the election. We all remember this little gem:
Most videos of this are focused on Trump. But I like this one, even if it’s of relatively poor quality. Here we can see the reporter’s smug, self-satisfied air of superiority, as if he is the great arbiter of moral authority. The press has grown too big for its britches. Rather than simply reporting on the news, or even engaging in editorial spin, the press now demands compliance with its dictates.
You better say it this way, or else.
Trump, naturally, declined. And you can almost see the wheels spinning in the reporter’s mind. Time to call him a racist, we warned him it was offensive, so now he’s a racist, and we’ll destroy him. Of course, if Trump had submitted, and spewed the line “American born child of an undocumented immigrant,” a heap of worthless, kludgy Newspeak straight out of Orwell’s book, then the press would have laughed at him, and put out a piece saying “Trump didn’t even know anchor baby was offensive, lololol.”
The only way to win is not to play. Of late, I’ve been convinced that arguing with these people is futile, because their attacks are Kafkan in nature. They are traps, from which there is no escape except abject submission to the Narrative. And, invariably, the attacks will focus on the person, rather than the issue. You are a racist, sexist, homophobe, islamophobe, or whatever. You are stupid, ignorant, and uneducated. You need to educate yourself, but in our manner, and with our books, and with our concepts. Yours, of course, are anathema. Wrongthink. If you study them, you are stupid.
I remember Phil Sandifer, the self-described Marxist Occultist (whatever that’s supposed to be), lecturing me on the need to educate myself. If you’re brave, you can see the utter dreck he writes, trying to interpret old console video games with Marxian dialectic, or trying to defend self-admitted incestual pedophiles because the Right-wing had no regard for Sarah Nyberg’s relative status and fame. Yes, to a Marxist, status within the party trumps any actual crime, and spinning a 16 bit video game as fundamentally Marxian is accounted an intellectual matter of some importance.
It reminds me of a relatively rare book my father-in-law gave me to read once. I was Castro’s Prisoner, by John Martino. In it, we get a first hand account of an American trapped behind the revolution, betrayed by his own government, and left to rot in prison. But the fascinating thing to note from it is that the author described Castro releasing many criminals, people convicted of theft, murder, and other such things. Instead. Castro filled the prisons with political prisoners, like the author. Wrongthink was a great crime, in the minds of Marxists, worse than actual, physical crime.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that they apply this same standard to illegal immigration. To them, the breaking of our laws is a mere trifle. It doesn’t matter at all. I remember when Michael Brown’s theft at a convenience store, not long before his encounter with police, was hand waved away with the statement that “a few cigars isn’t worth a young black man’s life.” Well, clearly Michael Brown thought otherwise. If the Left is okay with the theft and assault, then crossing the border illegally wouldn’t faze them in the slightest.
They want illegals because they are politically useful. Don’t let them fool you about morality or compassion. Perhaps some of the rank-and-file liberals believe this, but the ones calling the shots certainly don’t. For them it is about obtaining political control over America. Mexicans are useful idiots, in their view. There is speculation that as many as 800,000 illegals voted in the last election, though it is unconfirmed at best. But it is known for certain that some illegals did vote. Yet that’s not the primary boon illegals grant to the Left.
Amnesty is the great prize. Ann Coulter put together some rather convincing figures in her book Adios America, in which the 11 million illegals we think are in the country may actually be closer to 20 or 30 million. But whatever the number, once the Left gets amnesty and eventual citizenship past the goal line, there will never be a Right-of-center President in America ever again. They’ve made sure minorities who step off the ideological reservation are branded Uncle Toms, Uncle Changs, and traitors to their race. So the vast majority will be good Socialists, even if they were otherwise inclined.
And on top of that, the political usefulness of decrying anyone who fights illegal immigration as racist has been immense. Opposition can be spun as hatred of Mexicans, racism against brown people (even though many Mexicans are essentially fully Spanish in descent – just look at the Mexican first family). It’s another bludgeon that can be deployed against the Right.
All three things have great utility to the Left. The illegal votes they get today, the greater number of votes they’ll receive if they can push amnesty, and the ability to deploy Weaponized Empathy for the poor, oppressed brown peoples of the world, terribly maligned by white Right-wing racism.
No papers, no fear. And by the way, everybody coming into your country is guaranteed to be a beautiful butterfly. Of course there are no terrorists, no criminals, no extremists, no drug dealers, no welfare moochers… all beautiful butterflies.
Remember, to these people borders are nothing, and jumping them is fine. Laws don’t matter. Only wrongthink matters. No amount of welfare statism, terrorism, drug smuggling, or otherwise is enough to even allow the questioning of this practice.
Migration is a human right? You do mean invasion, don’t you?
You’re going to see a lot more of this propaganda soon. Be ready for it.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. [Constitution of the United States, Article III, Section 3]
Isabel Paterson noted the treason clause, in combination with the Constitution’s prohibition of bills of attainder and “corruption of blood,” as supremely important protections for the lives and property rights of Americans. Understanding this requires knowledge of how charges of treason were used by monarchies to destroy those who opposed the king. For all practical purposes, if the king charged you with treason, you were automatically guilty – and no one dared object, for reasons that should be obvious. “Corruption of blood,” another monarchical practice banned by the Constitution, extended the penalty from the accused to his family: it “justified” the attainting of the accused’s relatives, seizure of all family property, and in some cases the enslavement of all family members.
But these provisions, though critical to attaining a grasp of the mindset of the Founding Fathers, are of less interesttoday than the three words “War,” “Aid,” and “Comfort.”
Yes, Gentle Reader, those specific words are of vital importance to us today: the twentieth of June in the year of Our Lord 2016. There are several reasons, but the one I have in mind at the moment is Islam.
Now the interesting thing here is that Francis immediately brings up Islam. And he is not wrong to do so. Those who give Aid and Comfort to our Islamic terror enemies are among us. They are in our government. They are among the civilian population, also. Members of Omar’s family had reason to believe he was planning an attack, and did nothing. Are they traitors, then? A Court of Law should decide this, but certainly they should be charged. It appears his wife will be charged with accessory to murder, but this is too small a thing.
Our political leaders lie about terror attacks, most notably Hillary lying about Benghazi. Is this treasonous, via Aid and Comfort to the enemy? Again, quite possibly. She should have been charged.
But it goes beyond Islam. While Francis does an excellent job of laying out the case for those who support Islamic terror, what of those La Raza supporting Mexican immigrants (legal and illegal) who have been spotted at Trump rallies assaulting American citizens, burning the American flag, and then holding up signs saying “Make America Mexico Again”? They are, in effect, demanding that America cede the Southwestern states to Mexico.
We are not at war with Mexico, yet Mexico sends us millions of people through illegal channels. In normal times, this would be called an invasion. It would be grounds for war. If millions of Americans illegally crossed into Mexico, certainly the international community would condemn it as a warlike act. Are those within the government that support this via aid and succor treasonous? I don’t know the jurisprudence to make such a decision, naturally, but I do suggest that this should be investigated. If they are illegal immigrants, the decision is simple: deport them. They are active agents of chaos and destruction and have no right to be here. If they are legal immigrant citizens, then the charge of treason should be investigated. They have violated their oaths.
Are these traitors? If they are illegal, then no, they have taken no oaths — but they must be deported. If they have taken an oath, then consider the possibility that they have violated their oath.
Now, naturally, I have no issue with those legal immigrant citizens who are good American citizens, and do not demand that America be given over to Mexico, or make claims of racial superiority over Americans (La Raza does this). They are most welcome. And for their part, I have seen several Americans of Mexican ethnicity fighting back against these people. But those among them who make demands like these have violated the oaths taken to the United States. Is it treasonous, or do we account it merely as a voluntary renunciation of citizenship via the violation of their stated oath? I don’t know. But again, the matter must seriously be considered. Otherwise the oaths taken to become a citizen of the United States of America are effectively worthless.
These are serious matters. Like Francis, I do not invoke the charge of treason lightly. But what else can the definition have, if not to deliver America and her citizens unto her enemies?
I'm a DJ, developer, amateur historian, would-be pundit, and general pain in the ass. I still cannot decide on the wisdom of the Oxford Comma. These are my observations on a civilization in decline, a political system on the verge of collapse, and a people asleep at the wheel as the car turns toward the jersey barrier.