Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Quickies: The “Overclass”

     I hadn’t encountered this charming term before this morning. It has a lot more impact than “elite” or “political class,” and should be moved into our customary lexicon with dispatch.

     It appears in an article significant for other reasons, though it’s more than two years old: Rod Dreher’s short piece on “the law of merited impossibility:”

     The Law Of Merited Impossibility is an epistemological construct governing the paradoxical way overclass opinion makers frame the discourse about the clash between religious liberty and gay civil rights. It is best summed up by the phrase, “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”

     Punchy, eh? “No, that can’t happen, but when it does, you’ll deserve it!” Given the speed with which traditional rights’ protections of individual latitude in speech and association are eroding, the “Law” might soon become merely a footnote of historical interest...but note how often it’s employed in the emissions of Leftist dribblers!

     It calls to mind the fiery exchanges over the Equal Rights Amendment that graced the late Seventies. That atrocity, which would have awarded Congress essentially unbounded power to legislate on matters of sex, failed by a narrow margin and the heroic efforts of Phyllis Schlafly:

     Schlafly focused opposition to the ERA on traditional gender roles, such as only men should do the fighting in wartime. She pointed out that the amendment would eliminate the men-only draft requirement and guarantee the possibility that women would be subject to conscription and be required to have military combat roles in future wars. Defense of traditional gender roles proved to be a useful tactic. In Illinois her activists used traditional symbols of the American housewife. They took homemade bread, jams, and apple pies to the state legislators, with the slogans, "Preserve us from a congressional jam; Vote against the ERA sham" and "I am for Mom and apple pie."

     According to historian Lisa Levenstein, the feminist movement in the late 1970s briefly attempted a program to help older divorced and widowed women. Many widows were ineligible for Social Security benefits, few divorcees actually received any alimony, and after a career as a housewife, few had skills to enter the labor force. The program, however, encountered sharp criticism from young activists who gave priority to poor minority women rather than the middle class. By 1980, NOW downplayed the program as it focused almost exclusively on the ERA. Schlafly moved into the vacuum. She denounced the feminists for abandoning older middle-class widows and divorcees in need, and warned that ERA would equalize the laws for the benefit of man, stripping protections that older women urgently needed. She said the ERA was designed for the benefit of young career women and warned that if men and women had to be treated identically it would threaten the security of middle-aged housewives with no current job skills. The ERA would repeal protections such as alimony and eliminate the tendency for mothers to obtain custody over their children in divorce cases. Her argument that protective laws would be lost resonated with working-class women.

     Back then, the gender-war feminists, who had established significant bastions within the overclass, particularly the main stream media, were practically licking their chops over what they were going to do to the “patriarchy” – nearly all of which would be impossible without the ERA. Yet Schlafly, a woman roundly hated by the overclass and excluded as far as possible from media attention, mobilized sufficient opposition to stop them, merely by compelling us to face the probable consequences posed above.

     It seems the overclass can be defeated if we but make the effort, no?

A Muslim's oath of allegiance.

Diana West reports this:
Pew polling from 2013 indicates that 91 percent of Iraqis support making sharia the law of the land (the figure in 99 percent in Afghanistan).[1]
With those kinds of majorities, it is a logical inference then that all Muslims think that shariah law should be the law of the land, including the law of the land to which they have emigrated. Stated differently, where is there any evidence that Muslims in the West, anywhere in the West, believe otherwise, that shariah should not be the law of the Western land in which they reside?

Muslim-majority country

Answer: there is no such evidence. More to the point, shariah does not permit a non-Muslim to rule over a Muslim. Therefore, a Muslim swearing an oath of allegiance to the United States as part of a naturalization proceeding is swearing allegiance to a country that is fundamentally inconsistent with shariah.

The linked article immediately above also reveals that under shariah a Muslim who leaves Islam must be killed immediately. A Muslim may also not receive the death penalty if he kills a non-Muslim. In a host of other ways, that same article shows how fundamentally hostile shariah is to any Western country.

Muslims are not and cannot be loyal citizens of a Western country and they demonstrate at every opportunity their determination to remain separate and apart from infidel culture and laws. Every step that a Muslim takes in a Western country is an implicit three-finger salute to his infidel neighbors.

Muslims cannot swear honestly to be loyal citizens of any Western country. Any oath of allegiance of a non-apostate Muslim is a lie. And if any of this offends the delicate flowers of our society and in the ranks of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, so be it. The ludicrous idea that Muslims in the U.S. intend to integrate into our infidel society and that they are our allies in the war on Islam terror infuriates me even more.

[1] "Something Missing from Iraq War Story (As Usual)." By Diana West, 5/19/15.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What Does the Ultrasound Say?

Perhaps the saddest thing about America today is the palpable divisiveness at virtually every level and in every realm of our national life.  Internationally, I’m not sure President Obama could make it any worse, even if he tried.  It seems it is all reaching a crescendo, a boiling point, a breaking point, an explosive eruption.  Jesus described a coming time of terrible distress “wars and rumors of wars” and that, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.”   It’s time for the world to enroll in a Lamaze class.

Domestically, it hasn’t seemed this bad since the tail-end of the civil-rights movement with its attendant urban riots.  That period included the Harlem Riot of 1964, Philadelphia 1964 riot, Watts Riots of 1965, and the 1966 Hough Riots in Cleveland.   I can vividly remember 1966, as a six-year old boy, visiting my Aunt and Uncle’s place in Ohio.   A throng of rioters were marching down their street.  The adults had my cousins and brothers all huddled in the attic, while my Dad and Uncle armed with a hunting rifle and a shotgun kept watch out of the attic window.   

The following year, 1967, over 100 US cities experienced widespread rioting, including in Newark, Plainfield, NJ , Detroit, MI  and Minneapolis-Saint Paul.   After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, extensive rioting again occurred in cities across the country, most notably in  Chicago,   Washington, D.C.  , Louisville,  and  Baltimore.   

The other movement I distinctly recall from my youth was the anti-war movement.  Hippies protesting the Vietnam War turned against the government, their parents, and virtually all authority. “Never trust anyone over 30” was their code.  The police became “pigs.”  And who can forget their recruiting slogan and raison d’ĂȘtre, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll.”  Virtually every mall had a “head-shop” and record stores that served as a reminder and promoter of their counter-culture practices. 

Although the civil-rights and anti-war movements were both against the status quo that the US government represented, they never really converged as completely as one might have thought.  Even though Martin Luther King, Jr. was against the Vietnam War, he didn’t trust the hippies enough to fully embrace them.  Dr. King expressed this sentiment in a 1967 lecture at Massey College in Canada, “The importance of the hippies is not in their unconventional behavior but in the fact that hundreds of thousands of young people, in turning to a flight from reality, are expressing a profoundly discrediting view on the society they emerge from.”

Tragically, or perhaps ironically, we now see the worst of these two movements merged in one man -- Barack Obama.  He’s not alone. Many modern leftists of similar temperament come to mind, e.g., John Kerry, Eric Holder, Bill de Blassio and Hillary are all comparable.  They’ve sworn to uphold and enforce the law but know that won’t produce the outcomes they desire – so they find themselves conflicted, occasionally defending and enforcing it, other times condoning or demonstrating outright lawlessness.   They are expected to ensure tranquility and the common defense, but loathe the police and military that are charged with trying to achieve it.  They dare not admit there’s a war onnot even on poverty -- let alone admit they are the very reason we are losing it.

I agree with Dr. King, as long as these leftist/moderate whites are in charge, they’ll continue to paternalistically dole out government largesse, as if that’s the solution -- in the hopes of coming to a more convenient season or their next election, whichever’s first. 

The contractions have started.

An Indispensable Service

     My Esteemed Co-Conspirator Patrice Stanton asks a piercing question in the piece below:

     “What am I doing to show that I deserve to live in a country so many have sacrificed so much for?”

     It’s a question that would throw many Americans off-stride. After all, the great majority of us haven’t done much “for our country,” in the sense usually connoted by military or other public service. But perhaps we needn’t feel too bad about that. At any rate, it’s worth a few hundred words of exploration.

     The essential nature of a nation-state is murkier than we like to think. The Westphalian conception was fundamentally geographic and authoritarian, and if there’s anything I’d like to keep at a great remove from Americanism, it’s authoritarianism. As for the geographic part, given the way national borders have changed, it seems auxiliary at best to the intellectual-moral-ethical ideal of patriotism that underlies national affiliation.

     However, there’s a certain insufficiency in a wholly abstract conception of nationality. I knew a fellow who liked to say that anyone, anywhere, who endorses the sentiments in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States (Bill of Rights included) is as American as you or I. I’d say that’s a starting point at best, but where ought we to go from there? Shouldn’t there be some more active component involved – some affirmative demonstration that one deserves to be an American?

     Ought we to incorporate the concept of service to the nation as a requirement for American residence – perhaps even for American citizenship?

     Robert A. Heinlein thought so:

     “Citizenship is an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part...and that the part should be humbly proud to sacrifice itself that the whole may live....Under our system every voter and officeholder is a man who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantage.”

     Citizenship, of course, is a stronger condition than mere residence. Heinlein was careful to separate the two in the book cited above. But residence itself confers certain advantages that non-residents don’t share...and the advantages a resident of these United States enjoys have historically (though perhaps not currently) been orders of magnitude above those of other lands. Should these be earned rather than merely bequeathed upon accident of birth or awarded upon the completion of a bureaucratic procedure? If so, how?

     Give that a moment’s thought while I fetch more coffee.

     Among the many vantages from which one can view a nation-state, one tends to be overlooked more than others: as a machine that serves particular functions.

     There have been nations that were principally war machines: devices whose function was territorial growth through military expeditions. There have been nations that were principally privilege machines: devices whose function was enriching a legally privileged class. There have been nations that appeared to have no function except the perpetuation of their ruling classes, though that might be merely a failure of these eyes to grasp some subtle aspect of their operation.

     The United States of America, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” was created to be a freedom machine: a device that established the conditions required for human freedom and protected them from hostile forces. Perhaps it isn’t such a machine any longer, but that’s how it was conceived and structured.

     The persons resident in such a nation must be:

  1. Fuel consumed by the machine; or:
  2. Exportable outputs of the machine; or:
  3. Functioning components of the machine; or:
  4. Waste products to be expelled or recycled.

     I can think of no other possibilities. That brings us back to Patrice Stanton’s question, in a slightly altered form. Which of these, John Q. Public, are you?

     If we go by the above partition, the soldier is America’s fuel. Make no mistake about it: a portion of the soldier’s life, and in some cases all of it, is consumed to power the larger machine. It was so at Lexington and Concord, and it has never ceased to be so. Yet the soldier volunteers for that role; he accepts the costs and risks attendant to defending the larger machine upon himself. Granted that it hasn’t always been so; it is so today, and so may it forever remain.

     If America has an exportable output other than its inanimate wares, perhaps it would be our international businessmen. They get a lot of bad press today, mainly from persons of evil intention who either hate all business and commerce or who hate freedom itself. Nevertheless, the international expansion of American enterprise has historically been the most effective “outreach” for our ideals, and the influence most likely to turn heads in other lands away from the local tyranny and toward our sort of arrangement. If the powers in Washington find them and their enterprises inimical to their aims, that should cause us to question the powers in Washington, not men who merely hope to sell American products and services to a planet hungry for them.

     The third category is the largest and most important. No nation survives entirely on its military, nor entirely on its international presence. Those who remain at home, work mundane jobs, pay their bills and keep their yards mowed are the freedom machine’s functional components: the elements that keep the machine running. In a sense, they are the machine. It was designed specifically to make them, their lives, and their activities possible. They, in turn, keep it running: by being free, self-reliant men doing what such men do.

     If the fraction of our populace that fits into categories 1, 2, and 3 has diminished in recent years, while category 4, in which I include not only the various ne’er-do-wells and good-for-nothings of “civil society” but also the whole of the political class, has swelled without correction, well, we did need a reason why the freedom machine has been sputtering these last few decades, didn’t we?

     The machine analogy is only slightly fanciful, for a nation, like any other sort of institution, must have a purpose for existing – and if an institution’s purpose is anything but providing services to others, it will eventually be judged unnecessary and will be scrapped.

     In this year of Our Lord 2015, John Q. Public probably never served at arms. He probably doesn’t travel abroad to sell American goods and services, and by implication to proclaim the virtues of the nation that makes them possible. But if he earns his own living, meets his own obligations, participates constructively in his community, and in other ways acts to preserve and increase the vitality of American society, he is a functioning component of the freedom machine. Indeed, his service to the machine is one it cannot do without, even though the machine was constructed specifically to make him possible. He has all the justifications he needs to proudly call himself an American.

Antarctic glacial melting.

In other words, it's one of the most active tectonic areas on Earth.

Antarctica as a whole is home to 25 known active volcanoes, the majority of which are in West Antarctica. With the continent entirely enshrouded in ice, except for brief peeks of coastline bedrock during summer, these volcanoes melt the glaciers from below, creating canals, lakes, and freshwater streams that eventually empty out into the ocean, warming the currents that slowly chip away at the massive ice shelves abutting the coastal regions.
"IPCC author: Antarctica's abrupt glacial melting greatly overestimated.'" By Thomas Richard,, 5/24/15.

H/t: Principia Scientific International.

Monday, May 25, 2015

What my forefathers said...

I don’t ask this of myself often enough, “What am I doing to show that I deserve to live in a country so many have sacrificed so much for?”
How about you?

For Memorial Day

     I can’t write about politics today. It’s too important an occasion.

     They came from cities, towns, villages, and family farms that spanned the continent. They came because they were called – because they heard the call, felt it in the marrow of their bones, and knew that they could not refuse it.

     They arrived at their training sites unready, young men accustomed to the labors of peace. They would be ready when it was time for them to embark. Hard men who knew the trials they would face made sure of it.

     They journeyed to distant lands to do battle against the armies of foreign tyrants. Each meeting sounded a clang that would ring down the centuries. Their foes came from cultures that had glorified war for generations. Yet invariably, they triumphed.

     Such triumphs are bought with blood. Some would never return home. Others would be irreparably changed. Yet they fought, and won, on fields that circled the globe: some of them places Americans had never been before, places whose names they could barely pronounce.

     The casus belli wasn’t always a wise one. Some would be regretted afterward. It didn’t matter to the young men at arms. They went, they fought, and they bled.

     This is their day.

     Remember them.

"Am I dying?"

Never in my life have I experienced or seen anything like this except on TV, and to be in the midst of it, it's shocking and heartbreaking," Mills said. "As we were coming down Fourth Street, we noticed a bunch of lights. As we came on through, (Roberts) told me to turn around because she saw somebody laying on the ground.

So I backed up. That's when we noticed the officer was down. We just saw that one, but in the course of me being on the phone with 9-1-1, I turned and I saw another officer across the street rolling on the ground. (Roberts) ran across the street to check on him. He wasn't all the way alert but he asked her, "Am I dying? I know I'm dying. Just hand me my walkie-talkie."

~ Tamika Mills on encountering the scene where two Hattiesburg, Miss. police officers were gunned down during the course of a traffic stop.[1]

These are the two officers who lost their lives on May 9, 2015:

Benjamin Deen, 34.

Liquori Tate, 25.

Officer Tate posted on Facebook last year: "I graduated the Police Academy today. I am now a Police Officer. I would like to thank God, the Police Academy, the Police Department, my family, friends, and love ones."

Arrested in connection with this crime were (L-R) Marvin Banks, 26, Joanie Calloway, 22, and Curtis Banks, 29.

Another individual, Cornelius Clark, has been arrested in connection with these murders. Two others have also been arrested, Douglas Diquan McPhail, 21, and Anquanette L. Alexander, 19. Both have been charged with obstruction of justice.

Perhaps we could tone down the police-as-vicious-thugs rhetoric. Our police stand between civilization and the law of the jungle. These admirable and eminently human individuals were gunned down for no reason whatsoever. One's heart breaks at their words and the loss of their lives. Our enemy is not the police but barbarism. The people who are out of control in our country are those among us who are intent to hampering enforcement of the law, and enabling and encouraging anarchy. Obama and Attorney General Lynch, neither of whom gives a damn about the Constitution, are part of the problem.

[1] "2 Hattiesburg officers killed; 4 suspects in custody." The Clarion-Ledger, 5/11/15. Contributing to this article were Sam R. Hall, Therese Apel and Sarah Fowler for The Clarion-Ledger; Tim Doherty and Jason Munz for the Hattiesburg American; and the Associated Press.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Two Possibilities

     There are always two possibilities:

  1. Proposition A, whatever it might be;
  2. The contradiction of Proposition A.

     Note that “the contradiction of Proposition A” means its untruth, rather than a reversal. For example, if Proposition A is “All men are mortal,” its contradiction is not “No men are mortal,” but rather “Not all men are mortal.” Beware the Undistributed Middle!

     But rather than discuss ninth-grade logical fallacies, let’s have a concrete proposition before us. Here’s one that gets a lot of air time and column-inches:

     Proposition A: “American women are oppressed.”

     The contradiction is difficult to form from Proposition A as expressed above, because it’s ambiguously formed. The correct formulation would be “All American women are oppressed,” or alternately, “If you are an American woman, then you are oppressed.” That allows the formulation of the contradiction: “Not all American women are oppressed.”

     For the balance of this tirade, let [A] be shorthand for “Proposition A,” and let [~A] be shorthand for its contradiction. My fingers are aging even faster than the rest of me, for reasons that should not require a lot of development.

     Note that if [A] is false, then [~A] must be true. But even [~A] leaves open the possibility that some American women are oppressed. Much depends upon the precise definition of “oppressed” – yet another of the words the Left has struggled to redefine to its own advantage.

     People who vent unpopular opinions onto the Web get hate mail. Great God Almighty, do we get hate mail! This earlier tirade got me a fair amount, as have other things I’ve written about relations between the sexes. Nevertheless, I stand by it, as I stand by everything that I write on any subject.

     The subject of conscience is often on my mind these days, in particular because of its binding to human individuality. The conscience operates on an individual level: one individual, one conscience, whether or not he chooses to heed it. Groups don’t have consciences; neither do crowds, institutions, or “movements.”

     A great part of the Left’s efforts in recent years has gone to the attempt to replace conscience with consensus. This is more visible in some subjects than in others, but it’s particularly blatant in its promotion of fantasies of “oppression,” the “American women are oppressed” canard notable among them. Worse, women are inherently sensitive to group inclusion and group acceptance – much more so than men – which makes them especially vulnerable to the tactic.

     For a woman to be resolutely individual in her thinking and judgment requires more determination than it does from a man. That alone accounts for the distribution of political opinion among women and the contrast with that of men. (It also accounts for the currents of panic that run through the Democrat Party whenever polls indicate a shift toward the GOP, however modest, in women’s allegiances.) Thus, once [A] attains a consensus among women, even among a small but vocal and active subset thereof, the pressure on other women to “get with the program” rises to an intensity that few will possess the strength of conscience to resist.

     The consensus-minded “sisters” are the ones writing my hate mail. I can’t help but wonder if their consciences ever trouble them.

     When Eric Hoffer wrote:

     There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations doubts, and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgement.’s likely he was thinking of the more “traditional” mass movements, rather than those of our era. Ours, so completely dominated by politically promoted collectivisms, might shock him to silence. If not, he would ask the promoters of [A] exactly what they mean by “oppressed.” Lesser rights at law? Exclusion from the corridors of power? Perhaps markedly unequal treatment in the workplace?

     Those promoters, of course, would castigate Hoffer as a “sexist oppressor” for daring to demand specificity of meaning from them. Specificity would lay them open to refutation, yet another attempt to insert that oppressive patriarchal construct, Socratic logic, into their emotion-fueled campaign. Worst of all, some women might be persuaded to leave the collective security of the “sisterhood!” You can never tell when something like that might snowball...especially as those who dare to do so would obviously be the most independent, strongest-minded representatives of their sex, and therefore most likely of all to start a successful counter-movement.

     You never can tell what will come of those “vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgement.”

     Two possibilities. Always two possibilities! [A] or [~A.] It’s when [A] is most overblown that the mention of [~A] is most important...and most stridently, viciously railed against by [A’s] promoters. They might be sincere in their convictions; some usually are. But some will be reacting to the threat to their power, prestige, and perquisites that comes from being revealed as deceivers and exploiters. Showing this latter sort for what they are and what they really aim to do is a source of great potential gains for the Right – and one of the best ways to do it is by contrasting them with those who have disdained their gospel and left their flock.

     Keep that in mind as the presidential campaign moves along, Gentle Reader. It can provide a handsome return on investment for wading through the hate mail.

Words Fail Me Dept.

     The Right is almost entirely in accord that Man’s propensity to violence is independent of his possession of any particular weapon. The Left takes the opposite position: that the possession of weapons increases the probability that Man will act violently. So it’s consistent that the Right should view “arms control” and “disarmament” initiatives with a jaundiced eye, while the Left regards them as the sole path to a Utopia of international harmony and unblemished peace.

     Which brings us to this new specimen of Leftist irrationality:

     Assistant US Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Thomas Countryman, recently visited Israel and held talks with senior Foreign Ministry officials, about the possibility of making the Middle East nuclear-free.

     Washington seeks to advance the idea after reaching agreement with Russia about the matter.

     The State Department confirmed Countryman's visit and sources in the US Administration said that Israeli agreement to the idea would be a catalyst for bringing additional countries into discussions on the matter.

     You don’t have to be terribly old to remember the attempts by Israel’s neighbors to wipe her out with “conventional” forces: 1956, 1967, 1973. Israel survived those onslaughts largely due to superior martial prowess and her “back to the wall” mentality. But the prospect of having to remain eternally a garrison state is unappealing, for which reason, with the assistance of the Nixon Administration, Israel “went nuclear” in the mid-Seventies and hasn’t looked back since then.

     Needless to say, Israel’s neighbors view that development unfavorably. It greatly increases the potential price for another invasion of the Jewish state. Most especially, it puts the satraps and potentates of the Muslim Middle East on the battlefield with their soldiers. Being the “let’s you and him fight” sorts so commonplace among today’s political elites, that’s a possibility they’d rather avert.

     As I wrote in On Broken Wings:

     "Kings used to lead their own armies. They used to lead the cavalry's charge. For a king to send an army to war and remain behind to warm his throne was simply not done. Those that tried it lost their thrones, and some lost their heads -- to their own people. It was a useful check on political and military rashness.
     "It hasn't been that way for a long time. Today armies go into the field exclusively at the orders of politicians who remain at home. And politicians are bred to believe that reality is entirely plastic to their wills."

     So Israel’s nuclear deterrent is their number-one target – and Barack Hussein Obama, whom no one believes when he protests his dedication to the well-being of our sole true Middle Eastern ally, would be happy to help them dispose of it.

     The Israelis, of course, are otherwise inclined:

     The Disarmament Conference in New York has come and gone (ended May 22), while Western diplomats claim proposals could torpedo the process and push Israel to walk away!

     For the first time, Israel took part in the NPT meeting as an observer, ending a 20-year absence. The regime has the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal and is not a signatory to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

     That's why failure to reach an agreement on the issue could kill the Mideast nuclear ban initiative. The developing nations say the UN should convene another conference on a regional ban of nuclear weapons. They also demand Israel immediately join the NPT.

     The problem is that Israel has no intention to give up its nukes and any talk of NPT membership is but dirty politics. The regime has conditioned its participation on an agenda being agreed in advance and says it wants to discuss regional security, conventional weapons and the Mideast peace process instead.

     And so it shall remain, for as long as Israel has reason to believe that it’s neighbor states still desire its annihilation – given the rhetoric that routinely issues from imams, mullahs, and Tehran, a belief that will be very hard to extinguish. But you may be sure that the American Left will be solidly behind this new Utopian vision of a Middle Eastern fairyland.

     Every Obama Administration foreign-policy measure or pronouncement aimed at the Middle East has been to Israel’s detriment. Expecting the Israelis to surrender the sole weapon that has even a chance of deterring their neighbors from further genocidal invasions is pure insanity. But that won’t stop Obama or his lieutenants from trying to curry favor with the anti-Semites of the Muslim states. They’re far more his constituency than the Jews of Israel...or of America.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

To Fight For Freedom: Part 2, “What”

     The hardest thing in the world is...well, frankly, I couldn’t say. But I can tell you about something I find massively difficult: assessing someone I like personally as holding pernicious assumptions.

     If you’re a freedom-loving American, you’re going to meet such persons now and then. You’re going to get to know them, find them personally appealing, perhaps even make them regular parts of your discretionary time and activities. You might even be related to one or two. From the moment of recognition, you’ll struggle with the “fight or flight” response that characterizes politics in our day: the counterpoised impulses to distance yourself from that person or to “re-educate” him.

     Neither of those approaches is fruitful. Take it from a graduate of experience.

     The problem is embedded in the mechanisms that support learning. In the main, education as formally understood can only teach us bloodless things. Grammar. The dry facts of history. Algebra. Perhaps a little non-organic chemistry and simple physics. Note that none of those subjects have a moral or ethical component. You cannot teach another person moral or ethical principles.

     Radical, eh? I realize that I’m going against thousands of years of pedagogical received wisdom. So what? They’re wrong. If human experience has taught us anything, it’s the sadder-but-wiser conclusion John Pugsley presented in The Alpha Strategy:

     Man will steal if he perceives it to be the best way to get what he wants. He is primarily interested in satisfying his immediate needs, not in providing for some distant future. He cannot be educated to altruism. In a political democracy that gives a voter the power to confiscate the wealth of his neighbors, human nature guarantees that he will do so. In my estimation, neither politics nor moral preaching offers a rational, workable solution, and it would seem that the historical evidence corroborates this.

     But you have moral and ethical principles. So do I – and I’d bet the mortgage money that they’re identical to yours, or nearly so. Moreover, we adhere to them pretty scrupulously, you and I. It’s what allows me to face myself in the mirror, and part of what makes you one of my Gentle Readers. Where did we get them?

  1. Emulation.
  2. Experience.

     Most people think of themselves as “good guys,” regardless of the truth of the matter. That’s mainly because each of us uses himself as a standard by which to judge others. The standard, of course, is above judgment, so Smith gets an automatic A+ from himself.

     But without the benefit of an attractive model or considerable personal experience, no one can internalize the moral and ethical precepts that make a free and prosperous society possible. Sentience on this ball of rock is a minimum of 25,000 years old, and probably much older. Yet only in the most recent two thousand years have there been societies that were not dominated by systematic predation and the consequent pandemic misery. Why?

     Well, first of all, we needed to accumulate some history. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’ve been, you can’t know where you’re going. Written historical records only reach back about six thousand years. More, until quite recently those records were nowhere near widely available nor accessible. Ordinary persons – folks such as you and I, Gentle Reader, who make up society and determine how it will function – had little beside their own personal experiences to steer by.

     Second and at least as important, the moral exemplar was rare and likely to be killed out of hand. Force reigned supreme; he who abstained from the use of force to advance his personal interests was more likely than not to find his skull on the business end of a well-wielded antelope femur. Thus, there weren’t many persons deserving of emulation for the rest of us to observe.

     Only after the emergence of compact, coherent societies that maintained historical records and cultivated knowledge of them could moral exemplars be observed and their excellence comprehended. Even then, their illuminative effect was limited to those who were fortunate enough to be near them, and to pay attention to them. And of course, free will being what it is, “dissidents” ready and willing to prey upon others will forever remain among us...even within the gatherings that proclaim and celebrate the principles the exemplars illustrate.

     In the conclusion to the “who” segment in this series, I deliberately misstated the “enemy” to be “defeated:”

     Pugsley has fingered the correct “who” for our purposes: those “unaware, ineducable masses” who support the State’s plunders with their voices and their votes. They probably include many of your neighbors. They might include some of your relatives. Despite their mundane appearances and seemingly agreeable conduct, they are the enemy we must defeat.

     I sacrificed precision for emphasis, an uncomfortable thing for a scientifically minded person to do. For it is not the “unaware, ineducable masses” themselves who are the enemy, but rather their assumptions about right and wrong and the relations between ends and means.

     There’s no way to argue a man out of his assumptions. They can only be defeated by experience. He who can do that has a shot at being listened to with respect. But it’s a hard road to travel for several reasons. Preeminent among those reasons is this one: no one will listen to you unless you can demonstrate your good intentions – by his standards.

     Psychologist Peter Breggin made an excellent point about this when, during a lecture, he condemned the Schadenfreude – the celebration of catastrophe and, by implication, the smug “they deserved it” attitude toward its victims – that sometimes emerges among liberty-movement types when a massive government failure becomes visible. Dr. Breggin said plainly that to persuade the typical American liberal, you must first convince him that your intentions are good ones – that you want most, if not all, of the outcomes he favors. (This is equally true of the persuasion of the authoritarian-paternalistic conservative, of which there are still a considerable number even at this late date in our decline.)

     However, even the profession of good intentions is insufficient to defeat your neighbor’s faulty assumptions. You must demonstrate that your moral principles produce a superior result – and you must do so by his standards. If you cannot or will not do so, he’ll retreat to the comfort of the familiar.

     Success breeds emulation, and nothing else does.

     There are pitfalls, of course. In particular, there are some, perhaps millions, for whom no demonstration of “a better way” could ever be sufficient. Sometimes it’s merely a form of mental rigidity – an unwillingness to let go of one’s faulty assumptions and logical errors the late Don LaVoie called “sunk intellectual capital.” Sometimes, it’s a demand for Utopia – and Utopia is never among the options. Worse, there are some for whom the end is not and will never be anything but power over others. These are not persuadable, for obvious reasons; time and effort spent on them will be wasted.

     A great deal of the material published about promoting the freedom philosophy focuses on “out-competing” the statist mindset. This is good as far as it goes, but it’s worth a moment’s thought about why it works (when it does). They who desire to equal the ends of the more successful are drawn to emulating their means. This is more obvious when the ends are personal gains than charitable aims, but it’s true in both cases.

     To sum up: it’s the faulty assumptions of those who support the status quo and its pervasive statism that we must defeat. We must show them a better way to the ends they cherish – and we must be humble about it. No one likes a smartass.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Got #Gamergate? Excitement on another 1st Amendment frontier.

I'm not a gamer. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. I got involved in GamerGate last fall, I guess it was, from the integrity-in-journalism angle. I continue because now it's a full-fledged 1st Amendment issue. 
Links below this video will tell the story of GG's Eron Gjoni's legal battle against the Forces of UnTruth who wish he'd just shut up and go away.

Also: on Memorial Day I have my say on the dis-service today's politicians are doing to the once-victorious U.S. Armed Services.

Quickies: Line Drawings And Those Who Draw Them

     John Sexton reveals some disturbing numbers:

     A new poll shows that a majority of Democrats want to limit free speech with laws that would prohibit so-called “hate speech.”

     The YouGov poll published Wednesday found that 51 percent of Democrats favor imposing legal limits on free speech while just 26 percent of Democrats oppose the idea.

     What disturbs me is the complete omission of the Constitutional barrier against such “legal limits.” It would appear that the overwhelming majority of the respondents either didn’t take the First Amendment into consideration, or regard it as having been “obsoleted by developments.”

     It’s almost as upsetting to see that so many Republicans, nominally the defenders of limited government and the strict interpretation of the Constitution, should have supported such measures. How can it be that one who attaches himself to the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land would be so willing to overlook so important a constraint on the State?

     As Eugene Volokh and others have observed, the First Amendment makes no exceptions for “hate speech.” The well-publicized travails of respected Canadian writers and journalists, where there are official bodies that police “hate speech,” should provide more than adequate explanation for why “hate speech” is an invalid legal conception, but then, we already have a legal category for “hate crimes,” don’t we?

     The power to define a sentiment as “hate speech,” punishable by law, is unthinkably dangerous. If you disagree, imagine it in the hands of someone who despises you and all you stand for – and make no assumptions about “reasonable person” standards or similar non-objective bilge.

     To those who would reply "Freedom of expression is very well in theory, but you have to draw the line somewhere," remember Patrice Stanton's visualization of such lines.

     These are dark times – and getting darker by the second.

Quickies: Asymmetrical Abuse

     Time was, we were taught to look at our conflicts with others not merely as matters really stand, but also as if “the shoe were on the other foot.” Exchange the positions, exchange the actions, and reassess. How would you feel about it then? How would he?

     Time was.

     Courtesy of Glenn Reynolds, this morning my eye lit upon this belated recognition of an asymmetry. Please bear down and read it all. When you reach the end, return to the headline:

Woman Realizes That She’s Been Accidentally Abusing Her Husband This Whole Time

     “Accidentally.” ACCIDENTALLY! As innumerable pictorial puzzles for children say at the top, What’s wrong with this picture?

     An “accidental” action is one the actor hadn’t intended to perform. Was any of the behavior the young woman described unintentional? Or was it merely regrettable, deplorable, condemnable?

     This woman’s fundamental problem was either an absence of conscience or the unwillingness to listen to it. Consider: She admits, in hindsight, that she’s abused her husband – that she’s been doing so for some time. Why? Because, she says, it hadn’t occurred to her that her behavior toward him was abusive. How could she not have known? Especially given that, had their roles been reversed, she would have been screaming for relief from his brutality from Day One?

     Sociopolitical feminism – gender-war feminism – has subliminally persuaded millions of American women that in their dealings with men, they have no more need for their consciences than for their vermiform appendices.

     Women’s maltreatment of men – their relatives, husbands, boyfriends, coworkers, and random acquaintances – has reached such dimensions as to qualify for pandemic status. Yet which sex is it that screeches incessantly for protection from the other? Which sex is it that constantly claims to be “oppressed” by “the patriarchy?” And which sex is it that complains about not being able to find spouses, that can’t fathom why the other one has become steadily more averse to it?

     Women, particularly in the United States, enjoy unprecedented latitude, opportunities, and ease – all of which were made possible by the labors and sacrifices of generation after generation of men. Yet great masses of them appear incapable of feeling the least shred of gratitude over it. Indeed, they bludgeon us as if we were engaged in a systematic campaign to enslave them. They even demand to have their accusations of abuse by us treated as conclusive without evidence...and they often get their way.

     Is it any wonder that men have reacted by treating the fairer sex as dangerous? Is it any wonder that so many men should have opted for lifelong bachelorhood, occasionally punctuated by casual, meaningless sex? Is it any wonder that so many men who do marry practice protective subterfuge about their assets, keep large portions of their lives private, and refrain from producing children they could lose through divorce?

     “Accidentally.” Remember that word, brethren of the Y chromosome. Recall it to mind when she abuses you in some fashion that would wring the most piteous wailing and tears from her if your positions and actions were exchanged.

     (Yes, yes, there will be further “To Fight For Freedom” segments. I’m trying to think them through carefully rather than rush them out. Bear with me.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quickies: Time Out For Some Brilliance

     We interrupt this sententious progression of politically-focused tirades by a retired engineer and hack novelist for an example of genuine brilliance from a previously unknown writer. Here’s the pith of it:

     We have become so focused on results that our actions have become a secondary concern. We judge men based on what they have instead of what they do. We signal our ideals instead of embracing them.

     In his short book Do the Work, [Steven] Pressfield relates a New Yorker cartoon that cleverly skewers our preference for thinking about things, rather than doing them:

    “A perplexed person stands before two doors. One door says HEAVEN. The other says BOOKS ABOUT HEAVEN.”

     He’s perplexed. He’s considering the book. It’s funny because it’s absurd… and because we know we’d have the same consideration.

     That’s where we are as a culture. We run desperately to abstraction and avoid action at all costs. Thoreau’s man of “quiet desperation” has never been so prevalent.

     The world is full of men who are “stuck” in life. There has been some mass paralysis. Modern man has forgotten how to take action.

     Author Kyle Eschenroeder goes on to note that action does not guarantee success. Indeed, most action eventuates in failure – but failure is itself a step forward, if embraced and understood. As Louis Nizer wrote in My Life In Court, “Defeat is education. It is a step to something better.”

     Words to live by...especially for a retired engineer and hack novelist. I commend them to you all.