Thursday, June 21, 2018

Outrage, Inc.

     It should come as no surprise that the illegal-alien detention policies that have the Democrats’ glands in a lather (along with those of miscellaneous washed-up Hollywood has-beens) were signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. Equally unsurprising is that those policies were enforced by the Clinton, Bush II, and Obama Administrations. Still more of a yawn is that the photos of “kids in cages” are uniformly either fakes or shots taken during the Obama years.

     Yet reasonable people continue to puzzle over the wherefores. That’s because reasonable people don’t feel a need to feign outrage for political purposes. As we don’t feel that need, we have difficulty imagining why anyone else would.

     But feigning and fomenting outrage is now the principal strategy of the American Left. That such campaigns are centrally orchestrated and conducted can no longer be plausibly denied. The onset is too discrete; the shrieks of outrage are too well tuned. The unanimity displayed by the participants – elected officials, media allies, and various activists – cannot be a spontaneous phenomenon.

     As with all the other strategies and tactics Leftists have deployed and perpetuated since the Sixties, they use it because it gets them what they want, at least in the near term. What it gets them is the key to the phenomenon.

     Leftist mouthpieces, including elected officials, lie, distort, conceal, misattribute, and generally manipulate information to get private citizens’ attention. In their awareness that ordinary men can’t focus on many things at once, leftists strive to keep us occupied with whatever they can feign outrage about. At minimum it serves the purpose of disrupting anyone else’s contributions to the discourse “By drowning their speaking / With shrieking and squeaking / In fifty different sharps and flats.”

     (Apologies to Robert Browning for that last. Is anyone up for a rousing chorus of “Four legs good, two legs bad” -- ?)

     The Left cannot permit the roaring economy, the prospects for a solution on the Korean Peninsula, the overall improvement in international trade policy, and the general return of citizen confidence in the United States to receive public attention. Their media megaphones and celebrity foils will shout until their throats burst to prevent it. The question before us is what we in the Right can do to counter this stratagem.

     It’s pretty BLEEP!ing difficult to conduct a reasonable and orderly discussion of public policy when someone is shouting into your ear through a bullhorn. When mated to personal harassment tactics the Left uses with neither inhibition nor fear of untoward consequences, such disruption can discourage just about anyone from remaining in the game. The recent doxxing of Stephen Miller and public harassment of Kirstjen Nielsen should be viewed as integral parts of the overall strategy.

     What countermeasures are available? There’s no hope of getting Democrats on Capitol Hill to moderate themselves. The media are inherently unfriendly toward the Right and cannot be reasoned out of their stances. The Left’s activists are essentially cultists incapable of reason.

     Kurt Schlichter and others have advocated turning the Left’s tactics against them: forcing them “to play by the new rules.” If we could do so, that would have a chance of working...but how many conservatives and libertarians would be willing to harass individuals, to foment hatred toward political opponents, and to organize and participate in campaigns of disruption against public events that feature Leftist luminaries? My estimate, based in part on my own distaste for such activities, is “not bloody many.” Besides, most of us have other demands on our time.

     Counter-campaigns through media acceptably disposed toward us, with some assistance from sympathetic public figures, have less of a chance of working. The de facto partitioning of information sources that virtually everyone practices today renders such campaigns largely a means of “preaching to the choir.” Leftists listen only to other Leftists; they cannot be swayed by anything in a Right-inclined channel of distribution.

     The “default” response is to keep doing what we do and pay no mind to the shriekings and squeakings. The logic behind that has some appeal; as social and economic conditions improve, private persons will be ever less inclined to invest attention and credence in the Left’s synthesized “crises.” The joker in this deck is the Left’s use of moral outrage. The proclamation that some phenomenon is an inherent offense to the morals and sensibilities of decent persons is inherently attention-getting. Moreover, as Eric Hoffer has told us, “a grievance is most poignant when almost redressed:” the better things become for the many, the more energizing become the sufferings of the few...even if the few are vanishingly few and their sufferings are faked.

     Of one thing we may be sure: the Left will continue to use the outrage stratagem as long as it continues to pay dividends. And with that, I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers.

Selective outrage.

The massive deaths, destruction of towns, cities, infrastructure, the maiming, physical and mental, the dislocation that has sent millions of refugees fleeing Washington’s wars to overrun Europe, where governments consist of a collection of idiot stooges who supported Washington’s massive war crimes in the Middle East and North Africa, produced no outcry comparable to Trump’s immigration policy.

How can it be that Americans can see inhumanity in the separation of families in immigration enforcement but not in the massive war crimes committed against peoples in eight countries? Are we experiencing a mass psychosis form of cognitive dissonance?

"Paul Craig Roberts: 'The Entire Western World Lives In Cognitive Dissonance.'” By Paul Craig Roberts, ZeroHedge, 6/21/18.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This Might Explain a Lot of Things

Don Surber has his take on the slowness of the investigation.

It's Summertime, and the Living is Easy...

...and I'm being unusually lazy. Most days I have my posts out by 8 am (M-W-F). Not now. I'm getting into an Island Mode - not drinking margaritas before breakfast, but...

I started following these links, and decided the most efficient way to handle it was to link to the original. I've OneTabbed the links, and will get to finishing them later. It's available for both Chrome and Firefox. Haven't tested Brave yet to see.

Quickies: At Last Recognition Is Taking Place

     First, watch the following video. I don’t want to hear any demurrers. I'll permanently block anyone who comments that “I don’t watch videos.” A smartphone addict who says such a thing is merely caricaturing himself. Watch it:

     It appears that the world just might be catching on...and catching up with me.

     Second, let me get it out: I told you so. All of you with smartphones glued to your hands, who can’t look away from the screen long enough to greet your spouse when he comes home from work...or your spouse when you get home from work...or your parents when you finally return home from school, or soccer practice, or wherever.

     You are not functioning as a self-aware, volitional being invested with the awesome powers of evaluation and choice. You’ve surrendered that estate and are being led around by a device. You are being programmed. (You may take it as gospel that I know something about programming.)

     You are not alive, by the standards that properly apply to human life. You’re a robot. Less, really: you’re a mechanism walking a treadmill. You have the power to turn it off and dismount...but you won’t use it.

     Is this contentment...or enslavement?

     Third, it’s time for those of us who care to act.

     Yes, I’ve written about this before. The subject is too important to allow it to rest after one screed, or a dozen of them.

     It’s not just about the deterioration in the prevailing level of courtesy. It’s not just about drivers causing accidents by texting while driving...or pedestrians getting hit by cars as they scroll through their Facebook notifications while crossing the street. It’s about the gift of life itself.

     If you’re not fully attentive to what’s immediately around you, you’re not a functioning human being. The state of “absent presence” – physically in locale A, but attention on separate “locale” B – makes you highly vulnerable. Others will make your choices for you, and you won’t even be aware that it’s happening. You’re not capable even in theory of looking after yourself.

     Time was, everyone grasped this. You wouldn’t be allowed out of the house without a minder if you didn’t.

     Fourth and last, here’s the program:

  • No smartphone usage at meals. No excuses shall be made for anyone.
  • No smartphone for anyone who doesn’t pay rent. Time to get tough, Mom and Dad.
  • No smartphone usage in any social setting, whether it’s a massive party or a single dinner guest.
  • No accepting a smartphone as a condition of employment. It’s a collar attached to a digital leash, and you know it.
  • And need I say this? Zero tolerance is to be extended to anyone who dares to break any of the above rules. If he needs his fix more than he needs you, get rid of him.

     You get one life. Don’t let a device designed to enslave you take it away.

Be Here Now.

     (Applause to CM Blake for the video.)

The eternal bottom line of all leftist discourse.

“Today's Left has no Soviet Union as a beacon," Radosh notes, "but its reflexive hatred of the American system is intact.”[1]
Nothing will ever satisfy the left. The finely woven tapestry of our civilization is contemptible in their eyes. The idea that it's been a gradual accretion of minor advances, small reforms, affection, charity, and refinements sometimes in the category of genius is rejected out of hand and all that stretches to the horizon is but the product of avarice, hatred, and appetite.

What shining orb of love and excellence it is that will replace this vast criminal construct is long on rhetoric and short on specifics. "Brotherhood," a "classless society," and no discrimination against freaks and cannibals seem to be central features of the formless leftist paradise.

Not to mention police with arbitrary power. That's always there though never acknowledged except in unguarded moments.

[1] Ron Radosh quoted in " Seeing Red." By Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley, Claremont Review of Books, 5/20/02.

Ultra-Quickies: You’ll Laugh Your Slats Off

     ...and that’s not something I often say about an article from the American Spectator:

     Herewith is an excerpt from the hypothetical report by the Pleasant Valley School District’s Office of Inspector General:
     We asked Teacher 1 why she and Student A had been in her car at Midnight. She replied that he had been doing poorly in her class, and she was tutoring him. We acknowledge that such additional instruction would be a valid and proper pedagogical undertaking. Nevertheless, we asked why they were not wearing clothes. She explained that they had become hot and sweaty, and she believed that it was important that teacher and student should eliminate physical discomforts to maximize the learning experience.

     We asked why they had an open bottle of vodka and a box of condoms. She explained that these items had been left in the car by her husband. Since her spouse is not an employee of the school district, we were unable to question him regarding this matter.

     While we found Teacher 1’s answers to be unpersuasive, she made no direct declaration as to why she had engaged in this drunken, naked and nocturnal meeting with Student A. Consequently, we have no definitive proof that she was motivated by a desire to engage in sexual relations. Therefore, we make no finding regarding her motive or intent.

     You know what the author is talking about, don’t you, Gentle Reader?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ultra-Quickies: A Good Law Being Properly Enforced

     The existing law that mandates the separation of illegal alien children from their presumed parents is a good one that must continue in force – and it must be enforced to the letter. Here’s why.

     First, adult detention facilities are no place for children. The probability that a child put into those conditions will be abused is high. Keeping them in a separate, children-only facility is far better for their safety.

     Second, there are only two possibilities concerning their “parents:” either they are, or they aren’t. In the former case, the deterrent effect upon prospective illegal entrants with children is strengthened by the foreknowledge that parents will be separated from their children for an indefinite period. In the latter case, the adults are attempting to exploit the children as tickets to entry. They must be denied that token. Moreover, the adults having resolved to exploit the children once already, the probability of other kinds of exploitation increases in the event they are denied entry to the United States.

     The Democrats and the NeverTrumpers are engaged in their own campaign of exploitation, of course. The existing law goes back to 2002 and was enforced by the Bush II and Obama Administrations exactly as it’s being enforced today. The notion that illegal alien children (or their parents) are somehow being abused by ICE is a pure phantasm with no truth to it. In fact the kids are kept in comfortable surroundings packed with entertainments and diversions. They’re regularly fed and checked upon medically. They receive a degree of supervision and protection beyond what many American children enjoy. They’ve probably never had it so good in their lives.

     Of course, now that I've said that, we may expect that bleeding-heart types will seize on it and protest the eventual repatriation of the kiddies “back to squalor after they’ve become accustomed to American standards of comfort and safety.” Some things are entirely predictable, even in political combat.

Respect For The Law...Enforcers

     When tales of police peculation, arrant injustice, and unconscionable cruelty accumulate, the public’s attitudes toward the police become chilly. It’s an entirely natural reaction; decent men don’t think well of indecent men, and the worst sort of criminal is one who carries a badge. The unfortunate consequence is a diminution of public respect for the law itself, which comes to be seen as a cover for plunder and the exercise of brutality. That, too, is natural; it’s exceedingly difficult to distinguish the law from its enforcers and their methods, especially given the enormous degree of discretion and the near-total immunity from accountability the police and prosecutors’ offices have been allowed by the courts.

     We may therefore assume that the recent report from Department of Justice Inspector-General Michael Horowitz will occasion a great decline in respect for the FBI and the laws it purports to enforce. Indeed, the signs are all around us that this is already an accomplished fact.

     But what consequences will that decline in respect have for ordinary, non-badge-carrying Americans?

     The most serious crimes the FBI has historically investigated have been kidnappings, espionage, and sabotage. (Yes, they’ve stuck their snouts into a lot of other crimes that had an interstate aspect, usually to the detriment of the investigations involved.) Sabotage is generally rare in peacetime. Espionage today principally targets corporations, which are loath to invoke the attention of the FBI for several reasons, some of which are good. Kidnappings, however, are perennial. They touch individual American lives and families. The FBI’s investigations of such crimes are a great part of the reason for its historical admiration and prestige.

     But now we can see that the FBI has been corrupted. The upper reaches appear to be beyond salvage. No one can say how deeply into the rank and file the rot has penetrated. Moreover, the IG’s report, which lays out a minutely circumstantial case for that corruption, concludes by dismissing its own findings. Though thick with evidence of political corruption, its conclusion maintains that the corruption had no effect of importance.

     The incredulity among Americans who respect facts and can perform straightforward inferences has pinned every meter in the country. The self-protective character of the Horowitz report is too blatant to deny. Horowitz himself is now suspected of involvement...or perhaps of having been threatened should he dare to point an openly accusing finger at certain parties. For practical purposes, it wouldn’t matter either way.

     If we leave aside matters of reputation, what consequences are likely? Will President Trump act against the appointed officials plainly revealed to be politically-driven scum? Will state and local law enforcement departments fight any more determinedly to keep the FBI out of their investigations and operations? Will ordinary Americans be less willing to assist in FBI investigations?

     Perhaps someone should ask the advice of Steven Hatfill or Richard Jewell.

     Federal law is already a minefield. Its tangles can be used to trap just about anyone, as Harvey Silverglate has told us. Add the incredible U.S. Code provisions that criminalize “lying” to a federal investigator, and it becomes plain that no one in his right mind would want to come under the FBI’s scrutiny. On that subject we can consult Martha Stewart and Lewis Libby.

     When corrupt persons attain the presidency, the baleful power of the FBI becomes threatening to anyone the regime might view as hostile. So far, that power has targeted only persons of public prestige and persons who possess information damaging to the regime...but there’s no guarantee that it will remain that limited.

     The political weaponization of the FBI is a link in a chain. We were allowed to discover another link in the IRS’s differential treatment of conservative groups. During the Obama Interregnum election-integrity groups were targeted as well.

     But we mustn’t expect law enforcement itself to conform to the law! Hearken to Kurt Schlichter:

     The IG report sidestepped the most critical point, the one that is resulting in the American people losing their last remaining fragments of faith in our system, the fact that there are demonstrably two sets of rules, that there are two brands of justice in America.

     There is one for you, me, and everyone else not in the elite – the infuriated, angry Normals. And there is another one for the elite.

     With the issuance of the Horowitz Report, the Department of Justice has placed itself above the law. With that, American society – the first and only truly free society the world has known – has become a Society of Status, in which who you are and what friends you have looms infinitely higher than any other consideration.

     How can respect for the law be divorced from the blatant partisanry and corruption of the law’s enforcers – a corruption our elected officials appear willing to tolerate? Have we fallen into the abyss – the middle-class anarchy of which we’ve been warned – wherein private Americans will habitually refuse to engage law enforcers, and disdain to assist in the enforcement even of laws of which they approve?

     I fear for my country.

Monday, June 18, 2018

It Strains Credulity...

     ...after all this time and so many "unfortunate" deaths, to think that this – an element in a long series – could possibly be a coincidence, “just one of those things:”

     Please endure the synthesized voice and watch it.

     What’s the body count now? How many threats to the Clintons’ power and wealth have died mysteriously, and just in time to prevent a revelation?

     The Clinton family is more dangerous to America than today’s Cosa Nostra. At least those gangsters only kill one another.

The Posts Just Write Themselves

I visited Bookwormroom today. Here's a small sample:

But, wait - there's more!

Oh, right! That's incredibly believable!

Go, check the site out. These graphics are a semi-regular feature.

Intelligence Is Neither Wisdom Nor Prudence Nor Judgment

     Take note, all you cockeyed optimists out there.

     From behind the Uber-Curmudgeon persona types a 66-year-old man in shaky health. (The traditional phrase is “one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.”) I thank God for all my blessings, emphatically including the shaky health. Here’s why.

     Yesterday afternoon, a dear friend named Joe, perhaps the brightest and most capable person I’ve ever known, did a stupid thing: He mounted a ladder. Now, for many persons that would not be deemed an unduly hazardous thing to do...but Joe is 71 years old. He fell from that ladder, breaking his pelvis and nearly all his ribs and compromising his lungs badly enough to require intubation. He spent the day in the ICU, has already undergone one bout of surgery and will undergo another quite soon. Whether Joe will survive his mishap is unclear.

     Joe and I have several things in common...but not the “shaky health” part. Joe is (was) robustly healthy and looks (looked) twenty years younger than his calendar age. He retired from law enforcement just last year. I’m certain he mounted that ladder thinking nothing would happen to him...certainly nothing of the sort that did.

     I would never have mounted that ladder; I know I’m aged and frail. My shaky health would have defended me against such an error of judgment. Joe didn’t have my advantage. Nothing had ever hurt him before this.

     You, the Temporarily Able-Bodied, should start cultivating some respect for the perils that come with advancing age BEFORE you get to your fifties and sixties. Gravity is not your friend. Neither are machines with fast-moving parts. Neither are doe-eyed young women wearing pleading looks. (Admittedly, that last temptation can be hard to resist. Resist anyway. You’ll thank me.)

     An IQ that resembles a California zip code is no good unless you remember to use it. Ask Joe when he comes out of surgery later today.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ultra-Quickies: Insight In A Compact Package

     Daniel Greenfield has written an impressive yet concise analysis of President Trump’s negotiation approach. It’s plain that the Trump System has evolved over his decades in real estate and other commercial involvement, but in American politics at the federal and international level, it’s a cleansing force, a hurricane that’s thrown all the “professionals” back on their heels.

     The article has a single fault: the title. Trump isn’t interested in ruling the world. He merely wants the best deals he can get for America. He’s single-minded about it, without illusions that he can achieve his objectives without disrupting established arrangements or ruffling feathers. His clarity about his priorities is the key to his effectiveness.

     The moguls of the world of business and commerce have always valued personal friendships and amicable relations, but the truly great ones have always been willing to make an enemy if it was necessary to gain their objectives. In the words of my sainted father, they’ve always been willing to call a spade “a fucking shovel.”

     Eventually some punch-drunk reporter, at long last willing to admit to the president’s ability and effectiveness, will humbly ask Trump for an explanation. I predict that Trump will smile and say something like “It’s the way we do it in Queens.” And the reporter will begin a journey into home truths about Mankind that New Yorkers learned long before the rest of the world.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ultra-Quickies: I Loves Me A Good Solid Irony

     Don’t expect much from me this weekend, as I’ll be away from Cyclops most of the time and guzzling huge volumes of delightful New York wines and busy with other matters of interest. However, I’ll ring in now and then to cite something of particular interest, such as this conjecture:

     Page and Strzok have become notorious for the anti-Trump texts they sent to one another. The IG report cited these texts as evidence that Strzok's decisions may not have been free of bias.

     One decision in particular stood out. Strzok seems to have been instrumental in delaying a key lead in the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails. In September 2016, the FBI discovered Clinton emails on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). Rather than pursuing this lead in the Clinton investigation, the FBI — and Strzok specifically — sat on it....

     On October 28 — a mere eleven days before the presidential election — Comey sent his infamous letter to Congress announcing the discovery of Clinton emails on the Weiner laptop. The FBI obtained a search warrant to review the emails two days later, on October 30. Finally, on November 6, two days before the election, Comey sent a final letter to Congress stating that the review of the emails on the laptop had not changed the FBI's conclusions on Clinton.

     The author of the article thinks that alone might have tipped the election to Donald Trump. Please read it all. Then proceed to this heaping helping of sarcasm from Sharyl Attkisson. You’ll be both appalled and amused.

Passionate indifference.

The press is mad, crazy to report on the evil Bashar al-Assad but when it comes to reporting on a ghastly war in Yemen – and U.S. support for the Saudi and U.A.E. dirtbags waging it – the lap dog press all can’t find a pencil sharpener.
Maybe the media barons have decided to take sides and are no longer interested in balanced reports or just articles reporting development on the ground. If we take Yemen, the same journalists expressing strong justified conscious indignation about civilian deaths in the war imposed on Syria are totally numb, unavailable to cover the Saudi Arabian war on Yemen supported by the US and the UK establishments.

The same journalists who are so excited about any bomb dropped by the Syrians or the Russian air force in their war to liberate cities have been relatively quiet about the thousands of civilians killed in the northern city of Raqqah by the US Air Force which destroyed over 80% of the city and left ISIS mines to kill more inhabitants returning to the ruins of that Syrian city.[1]

Everyone knows why helping to kill Houthis is vital to the security of the United States, right? Right?!

[1] " Syrian Dirty War Backfires on International Media." By Elijah J Magnier, 4/25/18.

Friday, June 15, 2018

“Diversity,” “Science,” And Facts

     The Left has been straining to redefine “truth” for some years now:

     Truth is an evaluation: a judgment that some proposition corresponds to objective reality sufficiently for men to rely upon it. The weakening of the concept of truth cuts an opening through which baldly counterfactual propositions can be thrust into serious discourse. Smith might say that proposition X is disprovable, or that it contradicts common observations of the world; Jones counters that X suits him fine, for he has dismissed the disprovers as "partisan" and prefers his own observations to those of Smith. Unless the two agree on standards for relevant evidence, pertinent reasoning, and common verification -- in other words, standards for what can be accepted as sufficiently true -- their argument over X will never end.

     An interest group that has "put its back against the wall" as regards its central interest, and is unwilling to concede the battle regardless of the evidence and logic raised against its claims, will obfuscate, attack the motives of its opponents, and attempt to misdirect their attention with irrelevancies. When all of these have failed, its last-ditch defense is to attack the concept of truth. Once that has been undermined, the group can't be defeated. It can stay on the ideological battlefield indefinitely, preserving the possibility of victory through attrition or fatigue among its opponents.

     The concept of truth is intimately bound up with an even more fundamental concept: fact. As such, the Left’s promulgation of nonsense-notions about “truth” must be coupled to a strident, insistent denial of facts the Left deems unpleasant.

     When you encounter the statement “A fact cannot be biased,” Gentle Reader, you’re looking at the assertion the Left hates above all other things. It’s the reason for their tendency to resort to ad hominem denunciations and imputations of low motives. Facts that cross-cut their aims cannot be allowed to stand.

     Today, in reference to recent Leftist pronouncements that “science” needs more “diversity,” Francis Turner at L'Ombre de l'Olivier notes some unpleasant facts:

     There is considerable and growing evidence that some ethnicities have a genetic predisposition to higher IQs than others. The highest appears to be Central/Eastern European Jews and there’s a lot of evidence that this is actually an evolutionary trait that has occurred over the last millennium. On the other hand there is considerable evidence that Africans (and some others e.g. Australian Aborigines) have a significantly lower average IQ than humans as a whole by at least one Standard Deviation (~15 points). This remains true even when you account for known IQ negatives like childhood nutrition. It’s true you don’t need an Einstein level IQ to be a good scientist (or even an adequate one), but IQ and mathematical/logical reasoning do correlate and successful scientists are definitely a solid one or two standard deviations above the 100 population average. If ethnicity one (E1) has an average IQ of 100-1SD and ethnicity two (E2) has an average IQ of 100+1SD then given the normal distribution the proportion of E1 that is 2SDs above the full population average (100) is around 2% (3 SDs above their population average) while the proportion of E2 is about 20% (1 SD above their population average) – Note I have rounded the numbers for easier sums, go look them up yourself. Given an equal number of E1 and E2 one would therefore expect about ten times as many people in E2 to be capable of a scientific career than those in E1.

     That’s the sort of multiply-confirmed fact that pins the Left‘s outrage meter. It makes ridiculous all their demands for “diversity” in the sciences and elsewhere. It also puts an absolute boundary around their political aspirations. And they can do absolutely nothing about it.

     Mind you, non-whites do participate in the sciences. There have been a number of Asian scientists of note, especially in physics. There have also been a few Negro scientists – and their achievements are ballyhooed way, way out of proportion to their actual significance. But the overwhelming majority of black participation in the sciences is (and has always been) in the provision of support functions rather than as “chief investigators.” Such workers are necessary, but they seldom achieve national or international recognition.

     The quest for cosmetic diversity – i.e., diversity of skin color – is rudely impeded by the requirement for high intelligence and the ability to reason with symbols. You’ll seldom encounter a PhD in the hard sciences with an IQ below 130. A significant percentage of them would test higher than that. (In this we have the reason the Left has condemned IQ testing and striven to prevent it from being discussed: It correlates all too strongly with future success in fields that demand high intelligence.)

     In the usual case, Leftist agitators frustrated by such facts will do what they did to weaken the armed forces: they’ll demand that the standards be softened to increase “minority” participation. They’ll provide a tailwind to their preferred “minorities,” as has been the case in college admissions standards. And they’ll raise hell over any indication that some “minority” is “under-represented” in some institution they’ve chosen to attack.

     In our era, such tactics tend to get the Left what it wants. It has significant support from various government agencies with extra-Constitutional powers. The media and educational establishments are enlisted in its cause, as well. The combination can be too much for the typical institution to resist.

     All that stands in the way of this deliberate attempt to dumb down the sciences are facts: nasty, ugly little facts that have been multiply verified, and which no amount of propaganda can gainsay. It falls to us to keep those facts from being occluded or effaced.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Trade, Tariffs, And Fiat Currencies

     The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups. [Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson]

     The fusillades over President Trump’s uses and threatened uses of tariffs are largely conducted in an intellectual vacuum. There’s quite a lot of moral posturing, but little reasoning. In particular, no one appears ready or willing to ask the relevant questions:

  1. What is the point of a tariff?
  2. Under what circumstances are tariffs desirable (or undesirable)?
  3. What other aspects of a nation’s fiscal and economic state are relevant to tariff decisions?

     Worse yet, when someone such as your humble Curmudgeon poses those questions, it seems no one is able to cope with them. Well, that’s what I’m here for.

1. What is the point of a tariff?

     A tariff can achieve three consequences:

  1. It can raise revenue for the government.
  2. It can discourage or prevent the importation of specific goods.
  3. It can establish an advantage in domestic trade for particular makers and sellers.

     However, whether any of those consequences are attained depends on the details of the tariff: how high it is, what goods it affects, and how it will be implemented and enforced. For example, an extremely high tariff on some non-unique item – e.g., a 10,000% tariff on imported milk – is unlikely to generate any government revenue. No one in his right mind will pay a hundred times the domestic price of milk for an imported brand. Such a tariff would effectively close the market to imported milk.

     Frederic Bastiat favored extremely low and uniform tariffs –5% on all imported goods — as a revenue-generating measure. He felt they should be paired with equally low and uniform excises on all exports, again to generate government revenue. That was also the vision of the majority of the Founding Fathers, though Alexander Hamilton did successfully campaign for tariffs to protect the U.S.’s “infant industries.”

     A government that plays favorites among domestic producers will be prone to imposing high tariffs that will shield its favorites from imported competition. Whether such a tariff is spoken of as a “protective tariff” or any other sort, the results will be the same: a reduction of choice for purchasers. Seldom is there any significant revenue from such tariffs.

2. Under what circumstances are tariffs desirable (or undesirable)?

     The answer is relatively straightforward: a tariff is desirable when it fulfills its intentions without incurring adverse consequences that are worse than the conditions that would obtain in the absence of the tariff. For example, a protective tariff that shields an industry deemed to be of strategic importance can be desirable:

  • If the nation’s military preparedness is improved thereby;
  • Without severe impacts to other industries that depend on the specified product;
  • And without creating such great ill will among the nations that severe retaliatory measures are likely.

     In a complex modern economy, the considerations that bear on such a decision can seem too complex for a definitive verdict. For example, a modest tariff on steel and aluminum as strategic metals might not have a severe effect on other industries because those metals are relatively small portions of the cost of consumer goods. However, steel is important in commercial construction; aluminum matters a great deal to the aircraft industry. The impact of a tariff on industrial expansion and aircraft sales is difficult to weigh.

     Certain tariffs are highly undesirable. For example, a high tariff on some commodity the U.S. needs in quantity but does not produce might generate significant revenue for the government, but it would have severe effects on those industries that demand it. The rare earth metals have been mentioned in this connection. America’s domestic supplies of those elements are small; we import a great amount of them. But the effect on the electronics industry in particular would be savage. Similarly, a high tariff on some ally’s most important export item could sunder the alliance, de facto if not de jure, regardless of what other effects it might have. This is no small consideration during a time of geopolitical instability.

     There’s a lot of guesswork involved...and no small amount of prayer.

3. What other aspects of a nation’s fiscal and economic state are relevant to tariff decisions?

     The most important “extra” consideration attending tariff decisions is the nature and state of the nation’s currency. When national currencies are statutorily redeemable in some commodity – e.g., gold or silver – trade balances tend to self-adjust toward equality. Flows of the redemption commodities will offset any imbalance in the flows of goods in the opposite direction. However, on today’s currency bourse things are not so simple.

     In the first decades after World War II, when the U.S. was essentially the whole of Western Europe’s defense against potential aggression from the East, billions upon billions of U.S. dollars flowed into Europe as a result of our enormous military presence there. Those dollars could be spent on U.S. exports, or redeemed for gold from the U.S. gold reserves. (Remember that at that time, though Americans were forbidden to hold gold, foreign holders of dollars could demand it in redemption of our currency at the statutory rate.) The situation was favorable to American exporters. However, it impeded Europe’s industrial redevelopment and posed a hazard to the purchasing power of the dollar.

     Unfortunately, the Nixon Administration’s “solution” was to end dollar redeemability in gold regardless of the holder. From that moment forward the dollar was a pure “fiat” currency: an instrument with no value other than what it might purchase at any moment. Thereafter the Federal Reserve Bank could create dollars without incurring any redemption obligation, whether immediate or deferred. That enabled the steady inflation of the dollar by federal borrowing.

     Now that all the world’s currencies are fiat currencies, trade balances are a matter of intense interest to all nations. If nation X has an export surplus with nation Y – measured in monetary terms, of course – that means that while Y has acquired X’s products, X has acquired a supply of Y’s currency that’s not being used to purchase Y’s export goods. As a fiat currency can only be “redeemed” by using it to purchase goods exported by the nation that issues that currency, this amounts to shipping X’s export goods abroad in exchange for promissory notes of no definite value. That tends to trigger a downward revaluation of Y’s currency, in the hope of moderating the obligation implied by its import surplus.

     Revaluations are threatening to the stability of international exchange. Tariffs are sometimes used to delay or impede them. In the example above, Y might place a tariff on X’s exports to make a revaluation unnecessary. Unfortunately, that tends to trigger retaliatory tariffs by X that significantly impede trade, with unpleasant consequences for both nations. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 provides an excellent case for study. Modern economists attribute the worldwide depression of the Thirties to that tariff and the retaliations it provoked, in combination with the Federal Reserve Bank’s careless management of the dollar during the 1920s.

     The tariffs proposed by President Trump are mainly of two kinds. Some, such as the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, are protections for strategic industries. Those are justified on the grounds of American military preparedness and our ability to sustain our armed forces in the case of a major war. Other tariffs are retaliations for other nations’ governmental subsidies to their native industries and / or their high tariffs on American export goods that would compete with those industries.

     The European Common Market is of particular interest in this regard. The EU’s internal market policies are heavily regulated to favor certain industries in certain nations. For example, EU policy protects French dairy and agricultural products against the exports of other EU nations. But of greater importance to the U.S. are the EU nations’ subsidies to their export-oriented industries and the high tariff walls the EU nations have erected against American exports. American tariffs on EU exports are much lower, and of course the U.S. doesn’t subsidize many of its domestic industries. These have given rise to a trade imbalance. Similar imbalances for similar reasons exist between the U.S. and Red China, and the U.S. and the Dominion of Canada.

     With more dollars flowing out of the U.S. than into it (as measured in “dollar equivalents” from other nations), the purchasing power of the dollar is endangered. That imperils every American’s savings. The president is right to be concerned, as Social Security and Medicare, the government’s supports for the well being of retired Americans and those soon to retire, are also under threat. Whether his tariffs can and will correct the matter remains to be seen, but his motivations are wholesome.

     Note that there is no prospect of significant revenue from those tariffs. They are intended to reduce the flow of imported goods into the U.S. and the flow of dollars out of it. While there will undoubtedly be impacts to consumer choice, a policy decision must be made as to whether that is as important as the strength of the dollar over the foreseeable future.

     There’s a lot more to be said about this subject. In particular, I should address both the effect of governmental deficit finance and whether the old “mercantilist” view of national economics is at all relevant. However, the above essay will do for a start. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Quickies: Racial Identity Versus The Promotion Of Racial Blending

     I’ve been open about being a “racist” according to the common usage of the term. That having been said, I’m not convinced that there’s a conscious, organized campaign afoot to eliminate the white race. And that having been said, I’d like my Gentle Readers to view the following video:

     Yes, it’s about twelve minutes long. Please view it.

     Red Ice, a group dedicated to the preservation of the white European racial identity, argues that such a campaign does exist, that its objective is the elimination of the Caucasian race, and that it’s accelerating with the cooperation of the news and entertainment media. Over the past two years I believe I’ve witnessed developments, especially in broadcast entertainment, that support that contention.

     I’ve also noticed a considerable increase in the representation of homosexual couples in television dramas. While that needn’t be related to any campaign against Caucasians per se, it could be significant for another reason: homosexual couples don’t reproduce the way heterosexual couples do.

     So I’ve resolved to ask my Gentle Readers: Do you believe there is a campaign in progress to discourage intra-Caucasian marriages and reproduction in favor of interracial matches? Does Lana Loktieff have the right of it, or is there counter-evidence to her representations? Moreover, do you know of evidence that the other recognized races are being encouraged to dilute themselves through intermarriage? If so, are you willing to tell us about it here?

     Please leave your thoughts in the comments. And no slurs, please. Any such will be deleted.

Complaints (UPDATED)

     There’s no substantive subject urging me to rant about it this morning, so I thought I might just...get it all out.

     If you like it, want it, or need it, before you can blink it will cease to be available. Moreover, you won’t be informed in time to do anything about it. My most recent encounter with this corollary to Murphy’s Law was with a window I needed to replace. Before that it was a pair of running shoes I particularly liked.

     Do you tend to save keys? I do. It’s a bad habit: the one you need will somehow find absolute and impenetrable concealment among the many you ought to have thrown away a decade ago. There’s a padlock on one of my fence gates that I can’t open for that very reason.

     When the C.S.O. and I are up and about, our dogs are almost guaranteed to be soundly asleep. However, they’ll reliably awaken during the wee hours and demand to be let out back. The consequences for not obliging them can be...disgusting. I’m told babies can be like that, too.

     One of our cats, Zoe, has some disturbing habits. She chews on wires: specifically, the wires required to charge a handheld device such as a cell phone or a Kindle. She’s ruined quite a few of them, and two pairs of Bose computer speakers as well. More, she relocates towels. Many are the nights I arise in response to the promptings of my bladder and nearly break my neck by stepping on a hand towel or washcloth Zoe has decided was not where it should be. She also steals small, loose garments and makes them disintegrate, as the C.S.O. has discovered to her sorrow.

     Zoe’s sister Chloe cannot abide a closed door. She’ll sit before one and yowl until it’s been opened, regardless of the door or hour. In consequence, all the closet doors here at the Fortress of Crankitude are open all the time. She’s also taken up a strange avocation: stealing office supplies. The C.S.O. theorizes that she’s attempting to write the Great Feline Novel (Domestic Shorthair division). I hope she has more luck than I had at securing a publisher.

     Does anyone’s lawn grow at a uniform rate?

     Some complaints about matters fictional:

     The covers of too many fantasy and science fiction novels feature a shapely babe, often wielding a weapon. It suggests deeds of daring in a realm of high adventure. Then you open the book and discover that it’s basically one long sex scene. Most such books are written by women. I can’t imagine why.

     The dearth of originality remains a serious problem. Space wars, galactic empires, time travel, and so forth are old hat. So are vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, and quests that involve some magical artifact. Surely there are other adventures, other wonders and terrors with which a writer can thrill his readers. Yet you would hardly know it from the books being hawked to me at Amazon.

     Now for a few shafts at common misuses of the English language.

     Concerning vocabulary:

  • Reign is what monarchs do; rein is what a rider uses to control a horse.
  • Proven is an adjective. It is not, not, NOT the past tense of prove. (That’s proved.)
  • Discreet means quiet or covert, so that others might fail to notice; discrete means separate or unitary.
  • A principle is a rule of right action. Principal is an adjective that denotes high status or priority...unless it refers to the chief administrator of a grammar or high school, in which case it’s a noun.
  • Lightning is what shocks you and starts forest fires; lightening is what your hair colorist does to your tresses.
  • We pray to our supernatural protectors, in the hope that we will not become the prey of some predator.
  • The town’s marshal carries a gun. Marshall is a man’s name.
  • Please learn the proper uses of their, there, and they’re. Also learn the proper applications of to, too, and two. The mistakes made with these words are especially annoying.

     Concerning possessives:

  • The possessive of a singular noun is normally formed by adding an apostrophe and an “s.” For example, the possessive of Charles is Charles’s.
  • The possessive of a plural noun that ends with an “s” is formed by adding only the apostrophe. For example, the possessive of priests is priests’.
  • The possessive of a plural noun that doesn’t end with an “s” is usually formed by adding first the “s” and then the apostrophe! For example, the possessive of children is childrens’. There are exceptions to these rules, but they’re rare.
  • In contrast to the above conventions about possessives, the possessive of it is its. The contraction it’s means it is.

     A few frequently encountered errors with verbs:

  • The past tense of lead is led.
  • The past tense of spit is spat.
  • The past tense of sink is sank. Sunk is only used in pluperfect constructions.
  • The past tense of stink is stank. Stunk is not a word.
  • However, the past tense of think is thought, not thank as the above might have led you to believe!

     The nominative and objective forms of pronouns seem to bedevil everyone:

  • Nominative singular: I, he, and she.
  • Objective singular: me, him, and her.
  • Nominative plural:they
  • Objective plural: them
  • Case-independent possessives: my, his, her, and their.

     (And don’t let me catch you using they, their or them to refer to a singular noun! The generic singular pronouns are he, his, and him, and be damned to the feminist harridans!)

     Writers may consider the following to be grace notes. Virtually everyone gets them wrong, such that the conventions described here have largely been superseded by colloquial constructions.

     First, here are the predictive uses of shall and will:

  • “I shall” and “we shall.” (Negations: “I shan’t” and “we shan’t.”)
  • “He will,” “she will,” and “they will.” (Negations: “He won’t” and “she won’t.”)

     Those forms merely indicate some predicted or intended action. However, to indicate determination or a command, the uses of “shall” and “will” are inverted:

  • “I will” and “We will.”
  • “He shall,” “she shall,” and “they shall.”

     Thus, the accident victim would say “I shall die; no one will save me.” By contrast, the deliberate suicide would say “I will die; no one shall save me.”

     Now for an old favorite: the subjunctive mood. Essentially no one remembers this rule any more.

     English has three moods:

  1. Indicative, sometimes called declarative. This refers to ordinary statements that describe real-world events and conditions, whether past or present, and simple predictions. For example: “Last year’s corn was good, and this year’s corn will be even better.”
  2. Imperative: This refers to commands given to a presumed listener. For example: “Make sure the corn is good.” (It suggests that if the corn proves to be garbage, there will be unpleasant consequences.)
  3. Subjunctive: This is sometimes described as “stepping into fantasy.” The subjunctive is used to discuss possibilities: both past possibilities that didn’t occur, possible developments to come, and conjectures about conditions that don’t currently exist. For example:
    • “Had last year’s corn been good, we would have planted more of it.”
    • “Should next year’s corn be good, we would have a good market for it.”
    • “If I were a good cyclist, I’d enter the race next week.”
    • “If Cynthia were tall, she would make a good model.”

     The subjunctive mood makes use of could, should, and would. It also uses were as illustrated above to indicate that one is speaking about an unreal condition: Cynthia isn’t tall, but if she were...

     Virtually no one handles the subjunctive mood properly today, so if the above strikes you as pointless scholastic fiddling, you’re not alone. But if you learn to use it properly, it will make your writing stand out.

UPDATE: WHOOPS! I remembered one of the possessive rules backward. Specifically, this one:

The possessive of a plural noun that doesn’t end with an “s” is usually formed by adding first the “s” and then the apostrophe! For example, the possessive of children is childrens’. There are exceptions to these rules, but they’re rare.

     That SHOULD have read:

The possessive of a plural noun that doesn’t end with an “s” is usually formed by adding first the apostrophe and then the “s”! For example, the possessive of children is children's. There are exceptions to these rules, but they’re rare.

     Apologies for the error, and applause to longtime reader Daniel Day, who caught it and brought it to my attention.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

An Embarrassment

     Please forgive me, Gentle Readers. I’ve overlooked a condition I really should have noticed long before this.

     Until about three weeks ago, Blogger would send me email to notify me that someone had submitted a comment to a post here at Liberty’s Torch. For the past three weeks, I’ve received no such emails, which I naively took to mean that no one had submitted any comments. Silly me.

     Just yesterday, longtime reader Pascal wrote to ask me why I hadn’t approved any comments in so long. I replied that it might just be that no one had submitted any. Pascal wrote to inform me that he most certainly had. Silly me.

     Anyway, to cut a long story short, I just went to the Comments in Moderation section of my Blogger control panel and approved comments that go all the way back to May 24. I have no idea why Blogger didn’t email me about them. Research must continue.

     Comment away, Gentle Readers. I’m “back on the job.”

Purposes And Meanings

     It’s easy to get lost in the thickets of aimless rhetoric founded in circular “logic” when discussing “the meaning of life” or “Man’s purpose.” The reasons are not far to seek:

  1. Very few people can cope logically with what “meaning” and “purpose” mean.
  2. Virtually everyone who orates about these things has an axe to grind.
  3. There’s a lot of self-justification and self-exaltation involved.

     So when I encountered this John Hawkins piece, I braced myself for another ton and a half of those three undesiderata. And I got it.

     But we Certified Galactic Intellects have our duties, don’t y’know. One of them is to “sift the fly shit from the pepper” in such matters. Hence the following essay.

     “Martha, what is the meaning of life?”
     “What? Why, what a stupid question!”
     “He did not ask it stupidly.”
     “It’s a psychopathic question, unlimited, unanswerable, and in all probability, sense-free.”
     “I’m not so sure, Martha.”
     “But—Well, I won’t attempt to argue with you outside my own field. But it seems to me that ‘meaning’ is a purely anthropomorphic conception. Life simply is. It exists.”
     “He used the idea anthropomorphically. What does life mean to men, and why should he, Hamilton, assist in its continuance?”

     [Robert A. Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon]

     “Meaning.” Meaning what and to whom? Doesn’t meaning require an interpreter? Some entity capable of ratiocination to ask the question, and to whom the answer matters?

     But why should “the meaning of life” matter? Why, as Martha Mordan asserts in the passage above, can’t we just it accept it “as given?”

     Claude Mordan provides the answer, even though he doesn’t quite trust it himself. The interpreter is the individual asking the question – and the question, properly formed, isn’t “What is the meaning of life?” but rather “What does my life mean to me?

     Until we reach that level of personalization, the question is too poorly formed to be answered. However, even once it’s been delimited as I’ve proposed above, there’s work to be done in answering it.

     What does your life mean to you? Do you ever think about it, or are you too busy actually living to trouble yourself with that question?

     Consciousness imposes certain burdens upon us. We appear to be the only members of the animal kingdom capable of examining our own thought processes, which involves us in what Douglas Hofstadter called a “strange loop.” We ask ourselves “why did I do that?” in the aftermath of many of our decisions: a clear indication that our minds embed processes that resist penetration. Yet they participate in our decision making, sometimes crucially.

     One of those processes is the one that seeks meaning. We seem to need it. However, we resist admitting to ourselves that meaning is something each of us must create for himself.

     A great part of the reason faith in God is so important is that God is the ultimate Interpreter: He Who assigns both meaning and a “final grade” to each human life. Individuals “borrow” that meaning by their adherence to (or divergence from) His Commandments. For many of us, that’s all the meaning we need; more is not required.

     But atheists and agnostics need meaning too. They have a harder row to hoe, for the only interpreter the non-believer has available is himself. Still, the job is doable.

     Meaning arises from one’s chosen purposes, how one chooses to pursue them, and what costs and sacrifices one is ready, willing, and able to make in the process. Felix Hamilton, referred to in the quote above from Beyond This Horizon, feels that “life” is meaningless. In part that stems from his choice of occupation: game designer. He does it to satisfy an unarticulated urge, but he doesn’t respect it:

     “You don’t understand me. I’m not interested in games. Have you ever seen me waste a slug or a credit on one of my own gadgets—or any other? I haven’t played a game since I was a boy. For me it is already well established that one horse can run faster than another, that the ball falls either on red or on black, and that three of a kind beats two pair. It’s that I can’t see the silly toys that people play with without thinking of one a little more complicated and mysterious. If I am bored with nothing better to do, I may sketch one and dispatch it to my agent. Presently in comes some more money.” [Ibid.]

     At that juncture in Heinlein’s story, Hamilton has no love to cherish, no family to protect, and “work” he chose for himself but doesn’t respect. Of course his life lacks meaning!

     Under those conditions, wouldn’t yours?

     A few years ago, I wrote:

     The realities of human nature, our needs and desires, and the choices that flow from them are as absolute as any other metaphysical fact. Two above all confine us beyond all hope of escape:
  • We must work to live and flourish;
  • We need to love and be loved.

     He who rejects either or both of those facts is insane in the most fundamental sense: he denies the reality in which he must live. He who exhorts you to doubt or deny them is emphatically not your friend.

     “He who exhorts you to doubt or deny them” will be the one to pose questions to you about “the meaning of life.” They reveal his intent: he wants you to question the meaning of yours. But you’ve probably been creating meaning for yourself through your conscious choices for many years: your choice of occupation and avocations, and the persons you’ve chosen to love and protect. Those choices may entail necessities and difficulties. Perhaps the work you do is your only way to earn enough to meet your obligations, or is utterly unappreciated even by those who benefit from it. Perhaps the people you love are difficult, or don’t love you back. Both those conditions are common enough for all of us to be aware that sufferers exist.

     But the meaning of your life lies in those choices and nowhere else. Through them you defined your purposes. By pursuing those purposes in your chosen manner you made them – and yourself – meaningful, both to yourself, to those your work has benefited, and to those who’ve had your love.

     And no one else’s opinions about “the meaning of life” matter at all.

     For further reflections upon this subject, I can do no better than to commend to you my short novel The Sledgehammer Concerto. The Heinlein novel is pretty good, too. With that, it’s time for Mass. Be well.