Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Era Of The Otherer

You think what’s already happened in Ferguson Missouri is deplorable? We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

But I have a larger point this morning – and don’t bother to tell me I’m “fanning the flames” or some such rot:

    An Ohio school was placed on lockdown Wednesday after a man with a “heavy accent” phoned the school and threatened to murder children with an AK-47 due to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to local police.
    All schools in Pickerington, Ohio, were placed on lockdown after an unknown man made a threatening call to the Pickerington North High School, Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon.
    The man, who claimed to have an AK-47, said he planned to launch an attack on the school and kill students over his apparent anger at the Middle East conflict, Phalen said.
    “The school received a call [at around 11:15 a.m.] from a male with a heavy accent and he indicated that he was going to attack Pickerington North due to attacks on Israel and was going to kill the kids and that he had an AK-47 gun,” Phalen recounted.
    “He identified himself as ‘Mohammed Shehad,’” or something similar to that, and claimed to live in the area, Phalen said, explaining that those who fielded the call were unsure precisely what last name the man provided.

[From this story.]

CHICAGO–As it has year after year, Fox News Channel served as a major sponsor of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association (NLGJA), providing a $10,000 grant for its 2014 annual convention, which recently concluded here (August 21-24). The conservative-leaning network also recruited at the homosexual journalists event.

Fox signed on as a “Feature Sponsor” for the convention–which included several one-sided presentations in favor of homosexual and transgender activist goals, and zero speakers advocating against LGBT goals such as the legalization of same-sex “marriage.” I attended a day and a half of the three-day conference, which was held at the swank Palmer House Hilton hotel in the downtown Loop. As in the past, NLGJA organizers allowed me (a critic, and not a homosexual journalist) to attend, but only after paying a “non-member” registration fee ($330/day).

Other media and corporate sponsors of the event included: CNN; CBS; ESPN; Comcast-NBC; Bloomberg; Gannett; Coca-Cola (the largest sponsor at $25,000); JetBlue airlines; Eli Lilly & Co.; Toyota; Nissan and the homosexual lobby organization Human Rights Campaign.

[From this story.]

    Porthos: You know, it strikes me that we would be better employed wringing Milady's pretty neck than shooting these poor devils of Protestants. I mean, what are we killing them for? Because they sing psalms in French and we sing them in Latin?
    Aramis: Porthos, have you no education? What do you think religious wars are all about?

[George MacDonald Frasier’s script for Richard Lester’s The Four Musketeers]

[I give the feminist otherers one in the eye often enough already. But let’s not forget them, by any means.]

    YANG and YIN: Male and female. Hot and cold. Mass and energy. Smooth and crunchy. Odd and even. Sun and moon. Silence and noise. Space and time. Slave and master. Fast and slow. Large and small. Land and sea. Good and evil. On and off. Black and white. Strong and weak. Regular and filter king. Young and old. Light and shade. Fire and ice. Sickness and health. Hard and soft. Life and death.
    If there is a plot, shouldn't you know about it?

[George Alec Effinger, “All The Last Wars At Once”]

Technologically, this is the Information Era. Politico-economically, it’s the Era of Social Fascism. Sociopolitically, it’s the Era of the Otherer.

That, unlike most of my similar sins, is not a misspelling.

The road to power has always been paved with corpses and mortared with blood. Every power-seeker knows this; Hitler and Stalin were merely more candid about it than most of their ilk. But there’s this problem, you see. It’s not a little one by any means. Every power-seeker faces it. You have to know whom to train your guns on.

The connection between violence and sex comes into play here, too:

    'Haven't you gotten it through your head yet that the whole "pariah" notion is this tyranny's scapegoat mechanism that every tyranny requires?'
    'Yes, but—'
    'Shut up. Take sex away from people. Make it forbidden, evil, limit it to ritualistic breeding. Force it to back up into suppressed sadism. Then hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic, release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word "psychology" was ever invented. It works, too.'

[Robert A. Heinlein, If This Goes On]

[It’s not because of religion, despite Heinlein’s focus in his famous novella, but because sex carries intimations of power – of conquest and conqueror – that can be put to use in sociopolitical combat. As Brian Cates notes here, if sex weren’t such a powerful force, there wouldn’t be so many explicitly political groups straining to capture it for their exclusive purposes!]

So the determined power-seeker must create an Us versus Them situation, so that his loyalists can work out with their own tiny brains at whom to aim. But this can be very difficult in a society that, for quite a long time, has promoted ideals of civility and harmony among persons who nevertheless vary widely. For example, explicitly blaming “the Jews” for your troubles, as Hitler did, can’t be made to work here, because it’s perfectly obvious that America’s Jews are agreeable neighbors and integral, valued components of its society. You’ll evoke far more enemies than you will supporters. Worse, your enemies will be far better motivated than your allegiants.

Recent developments in Public Choice economics have cast a better light upon the power-seeker’s dilemma. What he wants is to produce a situation in which his allegiants are far better motivated than persons outside their ranks. Moreover, it’s vital that he contrive to tie his contentions to some widely agreed-upon civic value, even if the binding is easily shown to be specious.

The solution is “obvious,” isn’t it? The power-seeker must “other” his own group: preferably as “oppressed” or “discriminated against.” He must persuade his followers to see themselves as victims, whatever the truth of the matter. He must animate them with the most powerful of all emotions yoked to political conflict: hatred and fear.

With that, the full power of the special-interest dynamic becomes his to wield.

Just now, it’s hard to name an identifiable group active in politics that hasn’t “othered” itself. Even the pro-abortion and environmental loonies have tried it: the former by focusing obsessively on George Tiller and the tiny number of physical assaults on abortion clinics some years ago; the latter by claiming to have been targeted for eradication by “Big Business” (sometimes charmingly renamed “the forces of greed”). There’s a certain logic to it: a successful tactic will inevitably be emulated by persons with an adequately similar agenda. But this has its own consequences.

“Othering” cannot be kept from fracturing the interest groups into ever smaller bits. Within any group focused on gaining political power or privileges, there will be factions that will jockey against one another for dominance. The smaller and less dominant factions will feel a powerful temptation to “other” themselves independently from the rest, just as the NAMBLA types and the transsexuals have separated themselves from the larger homosexual movement.

The terminus of the process is as “obvious” as the process itself. Once everyone is an “other,” no one is. More, the relentless “othering” wears cumulatively on the national psyche. As it devolves ever further, we learn to tune it out, to dismiss the contentions of the “otherers,” and to return our focus to our proper affairs. That’s a disaster in the making for persons whose drive is power, who naturally shift a part of their attention to struggling for internal cohesion and against the fractionation dynamic that threatens their positions.

Unfortunately, the intermediate stage of this evolution can be very unpleasant, even bloody. And it’s upon us today.

More anon.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Want Your Manhood Back?

What's that you say? You've been emasculated? Political correctness, gender-war feminism, the rising tide of thuggery, and the Omnipotent State have ripped the spine from your body? You're becoming ever more fearful of the people around you, ever more reluctant to get out and about, ever more hesitant about leaving the door of your home unlocked? The world is just too much for you and you really wish it would just go away? Is that your problem, Bunkie?

Can't help you, Bubba. Your problem is that you're absolutely correct.

This horrific story out of Merrie Olde England has been getting a lot of attention on the Web:

At least 1,400 children were victims of sexual exploitation in and around the northern English town of Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, according to an independent report released Tuesday, which censured public authorities for a collective failure in tackling the abuse.

The report marks the latest evidence of the alleged failure of public services in parts of the U.K. to deal with claims of child sexual abuse in recent decades. The 2010 convictions of five Rotherham-area men on a range of sexual-abuse charges and subsequent allegations of more widespread abuse and sex-trafficking have made the town a flashpoint in a recent wave of high-profile abuse allegations in Britain. Last month, Prime Minister David Cameron's government launched an independent inquiry into how public bodies across the country have dealt with claims of child sexual abuse, pledging to leave "no stone unturned."

The report alleges children and teens in the Rotherham area, which has a population of 258,400, were raped multiple times, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated. It cited incidents of children being doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns and made to witness violent rapes. Most of the victims were adolescent girls, many of them from troubled homes, the report said.

"This abuse is not confined to the past but continues to this day," Alexis Jay, the author of the report commissioned by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council last year, said in the summary of the findings. The council oversees the town of Rotherham and the surrounding, mostly rural area in South Yorkshire, some 8 miles from the northern steelmaking city of Sheffield.

Subsequent articles reveal that the various police departments and agencies with jurisdiction in South Yorkshire knew about the child sex grooming and trafficking...and let it pass. Take your guess as to why -- you'll only need one -- and then read on:

The report said that the majority of perpetrators were described as "Asian" or of Pakistani origin by victims, including the five men convicted in 2010. Still, it said, officials didn't engage directly with the area's Pakistani community to discuss how to address the issue, Ms. Jay said. Several council staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of alleged exploiters for fear of being seen as racist. Others remembered being told by senior staff not to do so, she said.

Just as "Asian" above was a substitution for "Pakistani," "Pakistani" is merely a way of not saying Muslim.

It wasn't just the police that knew this abuse was going on. It's impossible for the police to be aware of something like that without private citizens knowing about it as well:

In two cases, fathers had tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused - only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene.

And one child declined her initial offer to give a statement after allegedly receiving a text from a perpetrator threatening to harm her younger sister.

The failures happened despite three reports between 2002 and 2006 'which could not have been clearer in the description of the situation in Rotherham'.

Teachers reported seeing children as young as 11, 12 and 13 being picked up outside schools by cars and taxis, given presents and mobile phones and taken to meet large numbers of unknown men in Rotherham or other local towns and cities.

So no one did anything, for a shameful reason: Britons fear their Muslim minority. The police fear to be called "racists," and the private, wholly disarmed citizenry, knowing that the police won't act, are afraid of reprisals should they even speak out. The entirely predictable result has been that the Muslims in the Sceptered Isle have concluded that they can get away with anything.

We have lesser problems with Muslims here in the United States, but greater ones with our Negroes, overwhelmingly the racial group that perpetrates crimes of violence and crimes against property. Here as across the water, the enabling mechanism is the swift accusation of racial bigotry leveled against anyone who even speaks plainly about what we all plainly see. The police are seldom on the scene, and when present are all too frequently disinclined to act, for the same reasons as their colleagues in England.

As for action by private citizens: Forget it, Bubba. If you attempt to intervene in a street crime, you're likely to catch the worst of it for your presumption. You might be beaten badly, even killed. When the "authorities" arrive, you're likely to be arrested and charged with the others no matter what you did or tried to do -- and may God help you if you're found in possession of any kind of weapon, regardless of what the firearms laws are in that locale.

It's largely the same with the defense of one's own home. More than half of all burglaries and home invasions occur in jurisdictions where it's against the law, de facto, for you to use deadly force in defense of your property and privacy. Those who succeed in averting legal consequences for such action usually need the collaboration of the police, the occasional heartwarming stories to the contrary notwithstanding.

Against that backdrop, does the "knockout game," the plague of black-on-white rapes and other street crimes, or the opportunistic looting and destruction in Ferguson, Missouri really puzzle anyone?

Possibly no pervasive social trend has undermined the manhood of American men more than the ongoing tendency, in service to gender-war feminist notions about "patriarchal capitalist oppression," to preconvict a man of anything a woman might accuse him of. Such accusations can be as substanceless as a charge of "sexual harassment" for telling a joke in which a woman is the butt, or as grave as an accusation of "assault" for having stood too close to a female colleague or having laid a hand on her shoulder. In either case, the accused is far more often than not required to undergo humiliating abasements of several kinds, including mandatory "sensitivity training," regardless of what actually happened or the known proclivity of the accuser for leveling such charges frequently and baselessly in the past.

I wrote yesterday about the incentives such a tendency engenders and the foreseeability of the consequences. Needless to say, nothing is being done to countervail it, with the exception of a few mouthy types such as your humble blogmeister spouting off about it. We've come to a point where even to hold a door for an unknown woman is socially risky beyond whatever tiny satisfaction one might derive for having behaved like a gentleman.

You say it can't be as bad as all that? Actually, you're right: It's worse. Just ask Debbie and Alvin McCuan, Raymond Buckey, and Gerald Amirault.

There is no defense.

Throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, and most of the rest of the First World, manhood -- masculine virtue and the self-respect that flows from it -- is being anathematized if not outlawed. Worse yet, it's been made risky to the practitioner. No aspect of male conduct is deemed too trivial to condemn. Believe it or not, there's a nation in Europe where urinating while standing up has been made into a penalizable offense. Think I'm kidding? Try it in a public loo in Germany and get back to me on the results.

Just as there is no defense, there is no Last Graf, wherein the wise and perspicacious commentator prescribes a cure for the malady. Manhood is being transformed into a liability at best, a crime at worst. Exhibiting traditional masculine virtue and civic duty in a public setting can get you arrested, brutalized or killed. Exhibiting gallantry toward a woman isn't quite as hazardous, but it's far from safe, especially if the woman is unknown to you. The "authorities," such as they are, are most definitely not on your side.

Stay home. Lock the door. Turn up the music to drown out the shrieks from outside. (No, don't watch the Idiot Box. That would only make it worse.) Lay in a good supply of booze and apply it liberally. Read a few retrograde books. Above all, forget your notions about the manly virtues and "your duties" to "your society." There's no point any more.

Forgive me, Gentle Reader. I'm just having another one of "those days." I'm sure I'll be back in fighting trim tomorrow.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ignorant Or Stupid...Or Evil?

Amy Alkon reports:

Bloomberg reporters John Lauerman and Jennifer Surane interviewed multiple men from colleges like Harvard and Stanford who expressed concern over what was once known as a "hook-up culture" but is now labeled by feminists as "rape culture." The change in terminology ensures that all responsibility is placed on men, just because of their gender.

Take Malik Gill of Harvard University, who said he wouldn't even give a female classmate a beer.

"I don't want to look like a predator," Gill told Bloomberg. "It's a little bit of a blurred line."

This is the environment the lack of due process for men has led to:

William Pollack, a Harvard Medical School psychologist, told the Bloomberg reporters about a patient who was kissing a girl during a party and began thinking about what would happen if things went further.

"'I want to go to law school or medical school after this,'" the student said, according to Pollack. "'I said to her, it's been nice seeing you.'"

Pollack also noted that the media attention to campus sexual assault has led to a "witch-hunt" mentality.

"Most males would never do anything to harm a young woman," Pollack told the Bloomberg reporters. But the current focus is "starting to scare the heck out of the wrong people.

...and Dr. Helen Smith analyzes:

We will keep hearing the question from women, “where have all the good men gone?” as they live in their cocoons, never understanding that the guys went on strike a while back and many have left for good....If college women do not understand the injustices they are witnessing against men in our colleges today and strive to help, then they are part of the problem. They reap what they sow.

The last sentence is the key: "They" -- generally speaking, women who've embraced the fatuous notions of "oppressive capitalist patriarchy" and a "rape culture," or who've used those fictions to create a state of affairs within which their imputed victim status can win them legal and social privileges -- either:

No need to choose only one explanation, Gentle Reader; there are plenty of women to populate all three categories more than adequately. Indeed, some women fall into more than one.

Incentive effects -- sometimes called second-order effects by economists -- require time to manifest. The engendering agency must persist for some interval, thereby conditioning the minds of those subject to it to believe that:

  • It will continue for the foreseeable future; and:
  • They cannot escape its coverage by flight or cleverness.

Tax laws have incentive effects: taxed behavior decreases, sometimes to zero, much to the chagrin of left-leaning types who'd love to establish tax rates of 100% for "the rich"...those who dare to harbor unapproved opinions and allegiances, anyway. Penal laws have incentive effects: when a law is passed that bans some good or service, that thing passes into the control of the underworld, where dwell persons willing to risk the ire of the gendarmerie if the profits are sufficient. Standards of jurisprudence have incentive effects: when it becomes acceptable for Smith to sue Jones for harm Smith did to himself by misusing Jones's product, the product will either become far more expensive -- tort insurance costs a bundle, y'know -- or completely unavailable.

And social attitudes have incentive effects. A pervasive attitude to the effect that all men are potential rapists, that even an unwanted glance should be legally actionable, and that what matters most is women's feelings rather than objective standards of justice, will cause barriers to spring up between the sexes that only the very bravest men will attempt to surmount.

When the Duke Lacrosse players were preconvicted by academia and the press, against all the evidence, of raping Crystal Gail Mangum, a genuine, flying-lead "war between the sexes" became unavoidable. To further their "narrative" about "patriarchal capitalist oppression of women and minorities," the Left, especially the academic Left, elevated the unsupported word of a black stripper -- who would later be convicted of child abuse, arson, and attempted murder -- to the status of gospel truth. They allowed the mountain of adverse evidence, to say nothing of the backgrounds and alibis of the accused young men, no respect at all. Indeed, the young men's ultimate exoneration didn't dent the syndrome at all; the ordeal they endured while Michael Nifong's politically motivated prosecution persisted was more expense and suffering than an innocent man should endure.

That the worst effects should manifest on American college campuses is entirely understandable. The Left has a powerful degree of control over academia, the one and only venue where its lunatic notions are tolerated and its social-engineering schemes can be tried out without risk to itself. In collusion with the Obama Administration, colleges have all but uniformly erected a "guilty by accusation" standard for accusations of sexual misconduct made by a young woman against a young man. The accused is afforded no due-process protections, and often is denied even the right to representation by counsel. In those cases where the accusations are refuted objectively afterward, and there are many such, little to nothing is done in remediation of the injustice inflicted upon the innocent young man.

Is it even plausible that a thinking person could fail to see how this would harden young men's attitudes against the weaker sex? The typical young man to emerge from such an environment will be extremely wary of women at the very least. The braver ones will adopt an even more pernicious attitude: "You want to see yourself as a victim, babe? Well, let me help you along with that!" Worst of all, attitudes acquired early in life tend to be far harder to dispel than those acquired later; the afflicted person hasn't yet had enough experience of change to be open to the suggestion thereof, even when it might be to his advantage.

There are women persons in the feminist movement who actively desire that barriers between the sexes rise high and grow very firm. Not all of them are lesbians. However, the great majority of women who self-identify as feminists are simply unable to grasp what their "movement" has wrought. It hasn't occurred to them that "having it all" requires a man...or that there is no way to conscript a Y-chromosome-bearer for purposes of matrimony, or coitus, or progeny. As of this writing, at least.

Dr. Helen's book Men On Strike is a valuable survey of the incentive effects of contemporary feminism's attempt to promote women as strong and independent creatures who deserve to "have it all" while securing for the weaker sex the privileges and immunities granted to helpless victims. America's colleges and universities are currently the front lines of the war that has erupted. It's a conflict that will have no victors.

Despite the social carnage, there remain persons who watch happily, in self-righteous satisfaction, as the corpses pile up and the infrastructure of American society is demolished. Were feminists of better overall character aware of those persons and their aims, matters might be time. However, an attitude of hostility, once established, cannot swiftly or easily be dispelled. For the foreseeable future, the "marriage strike," the "paternity strike," and the no-man's-land character of America's college campuses will persist.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

America's Latest Frankenstein


Dating back to at least 2007, the Bush Administration and its Saudi and Israeli allies were hatching the plan to overthrow the government of Syria. It was also well known that the use of radical Islamic organizations or Jihadists was a sanctioned tool in this plan. As reported by Seymour Hersch, Saudi Arabia left no doubt about its intentions in Iraq and Syria:
“The Times reported that the King warned Cheney that Saudi Arabia would back its fellow-Sunnis in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw…’The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.’
“Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”
“Jumblatt then told me that he had met with Vice-President Cheney in Washington last fall to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of undermining Assad. He and his colleagues advised Cheney that, if the United States does try to move against Syria, members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would be ‘the ones to talk to,’ Jumblatt said.”
Upon her appointment as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton willingly picked up the torch on the policy to overthrow the government of Syria. In this cause she enlisted underlings Robert Ford, and Susan Rice. Ford openly fomented opposition while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, while Rice pounded the table as Ambassador to the U.N. relentlessly demanding international military action to unseat Syria’s President a demand she has continued to make in her position as National Security Advisor. Throughout this period somebody else had Clinton’s ear on Syria – someone with ties to Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood. That person was Huma Abedin, Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff.  Adebin was also the wife of disgraced former New York Congressman, Anthony Weiner, and a Clinton aide since 1996. Abedin was considered Clinton’s closest policy advisor on the Middle East. Is it any wonder that Clinton has been the talon-baring hawk for military intervention in Syria? In taking this line, Clinton insures both Saudi and Israeli support for her run at the Oval Office.
Which takes us full circle to America’s latest ‘existential threat’ – ISIS or ISIL or IS, depending upon which moniker the West has decided to use for the day. ISIS never existed until the conflict in Syria. Its members have come from throughout the world, their common denominator being their fervor for Jihad and cutting off peoples’ heads. How were all of these individuals able to travel freely from their native countries, including the U.S. and Britain, to the Middle East? Who paid their way? Who purchased and supplied the weapons they are unleashing from Syria to Iraq? Who provided them with military training? Why are western nations backing them in Syria, but attacking them in Iraq? If we are now worried about the return of the American jihadists from their butcher-fest in Syria, and we know who they are, why does the U.S. government not simply revoke their passports and refuse them re-entry. Why does Obama not simply order them assassinated as he did with U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki???
It is commonly known that ISIS gets its support from those nations (including prominent individuals and organizations within those nations) which are trying to assure the destruction of Shiite influence in the Middle East. They plan to accomplish this through the advancement of a Sunni extremist agenda. How ironic that those nations – Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar – also happen to be America’s closest allies in the region! If ISIS is such an existential threat, why are we not threatening or bombing Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar?  As columnist Patrick Buchanan recently wrote:
“If President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to crush ISIS, he could seal his border to foreign fighters entering Syria and send the Turkish army to assist President Bashar Assad in annihilating ISIS in Syria.” Buchanan notes that instead of supporting them, U.S. politicians like John McCain, want to attack “Syria’s army, the most successful anti-ISIL force in the field.”
The Obama Administration’s see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil policy on the Benghazi fiasco is also rooted in the ISIS issue. It is known that Benghazi was being used by the United States to procure weapons and Libyan jihadists to send to fight in Syria by way of Turkey.
The recent execution of American journalist James Foley (if it occurred) also has its roots in America’s Syrian policy. Foley was originally kidnapped not by ISIS, but by Senator John McCain’s ‘moderate Syrian rebel’ allies, the so-called Free Syrian Army. The same ‘moderate rebels’ who cannibalized dead Syrian soldiers on camera. They then transferred or traded Foley to ISIS.
In the classic television comedy The Three Stooges, the Stooges are working as exterminators. Business is slow so they find a way to increase their business by pretending to conduct home inspections for pests while actually planting pests in the home. They then leave the homeowner with their business card and wait for the call. Soon after, the frantic homeowner urges them to return quickly and they have a paying job of their own creation.
The trail of ISIS terror leads painfully, inexorably and unmistakably back to the United States and its allies. ISIS was a creation of the West and its failed policy decisions. Now ISIS is being used as the excuse for further military adventurism in the Middle East. Stooges indeed!

I'll Take Potpourri For $100, Alex

1. You Can't Make this Stuff Up Dept.

In the aftermath of the stunning admission by the IRS that yes, there are backups of the Lois Lerner emails, but that sifting them out would be "too onerous," comes this charming development:

A lawyer in the IRS ethics office is facing the possibility of being disbarred, according to records that accuse her of lying to a court-appointed board and hiding what she’d done with money from a settlement that was supposed to go to two medical providers who had treated her client.

The disciplinary arm of the D.C. Court of Appeals has recommended that Takisha McGee, a section manager in the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, lose her law license over the charge, which stems from a personal injury case she worked about a year before she joined the tax agency.

"Takisha," eh? Any guesses which box she checks for "Race or Ethnic Origin" on the census forms?

The case could pose a credibility issue for the IRS, whose professional conduct office is the watchdog charged with ensuring all tax professionals “adhere to professional standards and follow the law.”

No, really?

Despite that duty, the office has dispatched Ms. McGee to lecture professionals about the importance of maintaining high ethical standards.

See topic heading.

2. I Told You So Dept.

When it comes to matters with a racial, ethnic, or religious implication, Britain's organs of State are no more trustworthy than our own:

The sexual abuse of about 1,400 children at the hands of Asian men went unreported for 16 years because staff feared they would be seen as racist, a report said today.

Children as young as 11 were trafficked, beaten, and raped by large numbers of men between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, the council commissioned review into child protection revealed. And shockingly, more than a third of the cases were already know to agencies.

But according to the report's author: 'several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist'.

And why might that be? Could it be that "Asian" is what the British use as a circumlocution for Muslim? The article never uses that word, but the names and ethnic heritages of the perpetrators make it clear as crystal.

A thousand truths do not mark a man as a truth-teller, but a single lie marks him as a damned liar....Lying to other people is your business, but I tell you this: once a man gets a reputation as a liar, he might as well be struck dumb, for people do not listen to the wind. [Robert A. Heinlein, Citizen of the Galaxy]

That quote has been a favorite of mine for many years...but despite its penetration, it doesn't quite complete the journey:

Word gets around. Something as atrocious as the rape-torture-murders of [Channon] Christian and [Christopher] Newsom cannot forever be kept from the light of day. People talk: policemen, forensic investigators, neighbors, reporters, reporters' clerical assistants, cleanup specialists, garbagemen, the families of the victims, their neighbors, and their neighbors' kids. There's simply no hope that the story won't sooner or later be told. When it is told, after a long interval of silence, people will naturally ask one another, "Why haven't we heard anything about this before now?" They will suspect conspiracy.

And now and then they will be right.

3. Rainbows But No Unicorns.

Freedom of association in these United States has taken its death blow:

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has ruled that the Roman Catholic owners of an Albany-area farm violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when they declined to host the couple’s same-sex “marriage” ceremony in 2012.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, were ordered by DHR Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin for “mental pain and suffering.”

Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws.

Course of true love never did run smooth, did it? But wait: there's more!

“After communicating the fact that they chose not to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies at the farm because to do so would violate the Giffords’ sincerely held beliefs (that God intended marriage to be between a man a woman only), Mrs. Gifford invited the couple to visit the farm to discuss handling their wedding reception, which the couple refused.”

Concerning which Emperor Misha comments thus:

Of course they did. The two obscenely obese dykes weren’t in the slightest interested in an actual wedding ceremony at the Giffords’ farm. All they were interested in was punishing the “other” for daring to not endorse, embrace and celebrate their lifestyle. That and a meal ticket, because meal tickets is something that the couple uses a lot of. A lot.

And so the Giffords joins a line of photographers, bakers and various and sundry other people who have been found guilty of insufficient adulation of Teh Ghey and punished by the strong arm of the state in the former land of the free. But nothing, absolutely nothing is being forced upon anyone, that’s just Crazy Talk.

Just think of the $13,000 as a tax on politically incorrect attitudes. I'm sure that's Barack Hussein Obama's position.

4. Blood Pressure High Enough Yet?

From the very beginning of the IRS and Benghazi investigations, the Dishonorable Elijah Cummings (D, Hell) has been the spike in the wheel of both Congressional committees and an overflowing fount of ideas for "improving things:"

If somebody isn't tasked with ensuring the implementation of equitable policing in cities across the country, then no one will do the job. the Administration must appoint a federal czar, housed in the Department of Justice, who is specifically tasked with promoting the professionalization of local law enforcement, monitoring egregious law enforcement activities, and adjudicating suspicious actions of local law enforcement agencies that receive federal funding.

Inasmuch as "surplus" and "superannuated" military equipment is being pressed upon every law enforcement agency in the country, the Administration would no doubt assert that all police departments would be subject to such "oversight." Refusing such "gifts" would not be allowed as an escape. What do you suppose would happen to the states' privilege of legislating their own codes of penal law after that, hmm?

Say, there are rather a lot of those federal "oversight" personnel. And they look rather heavily armed, don't they?

"First they nudge, then they shove, then they shoot." -- Glenn Beck.

5. Don't Worry, Be Happy Dept.

What could possibly go wrong with this?

The federal government is spending nearly $1 million to create an online database that will track “misinformation” and hate speech on Twitter.

The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online.

The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”

The university has received $919,917 so far for the project....

“This service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate,” the grant said.

“Truthy,” which gets its name from Stephen Colbert, will catalog how information is spread on Twitter, including political campaigns.

“While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns,” according to the website.

“Truthy” claims to be non-partisan. However, the project’s lead investigator Filippo Menczer proclaims his support for numerous progressive advocacy groups, including President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action,, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, and True Majority.

Concerning which the esteemed Sara Noble comments thus:

The leftists in the government will decide what is a political smear and so on....

In reality, it will shut down free speech if they start demonizing opposing opinions. These are the same people who target innocent Americans who disagree with them.

They also plan to look into shady campaign practices. We know what party they will be investigating....

Remember AttackWatch and how they viciously attacked Romney donors so donations would stop? This is another way to AttackWatch. Remember how they told government workers to spy on each other and report anyone for violating any rules? Then there is the spy on newsrooms program they tried to implement and which they threatened would return after tweaking. This is how they roll.

What was that Glenn Beck quote again?

That's all for today, Gentle Reader.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Heartening Encounter

Enough of the political crap for a while. It's all pretty static anyway.

One of my vices -- one of the ones you probably don't already know about, that is -- is video gaming. Over the past twenty years I've owned one each of Sony's PlayStations 1, 2, and 3. I've thoroughly enjoyed the games I've played on each of them, despite an important, seemingly insurmountable handicap.

I'm an incompetent gamer.

It seems that a Certified Galactic Intellect isn't guaranteed to be paired with dexterous fingers or the ability to keep one's cool when the simulated lead begins to fly. In my case, it definitely isn't. So I never buy a game that doesn't have an "easy mode" and an elaborate "strategy guide." But despite those limitations, I've derived a great deal of enjoyment from my gaming, and hope to do so for years to come.

I'm a particular sort of gamer, you see: I play them for the stories embedded in them. So I stick to adventures of the "Tomb Raider" or "Final Fantasy" varieties -- but again, always with the provisos that there must be a strategy guide and that the game must be playable by my thumb-fingered self without precipitating me into the Slough of Despond.

Just a few days ago, with an hour to kill before my blood pressure medications were ready for me to pick up, I strolled into my local GameStop to see what was available and to solicit recommendations from the clerk on duty. That young gentleman, whose name was (and hopefully still is) Dan, proved to be a fount of knowledge of the sort I value.

I confessed my ineptitude straight off, which made Dan chuckle. From there we veered into a wide range of topics, including several I hadn't had in mind when I entered and had hardly expected to come up.

Dan told me, nominally to the detriment of his commissions, that it wasn't yet time to buy a PlayStation 4. The available games, he opined, are nothing to write home about, and anyway, wouldn't meet my criteria for old-fart-Fran-playability. He said that the great wealth of games is still tied to the third-generation consoles, in particular PlayStation 3, which it gratified me to hear.

From there we discussed various games Dan had played that he thought might fit my criteria. Happily, used copies of two of them were in stock, and priced very low. But that wasn't the end of the conversation, which quickly transitioned to trends in modern fantasy and science fiction.

Dan is as distressed as I over those trends: the political correctness, the excessive deference to feminism, the overall sameness of the offerings, and so forth. We exchanged laments over the way theme and plot seemed to have been demoted to trivialities, far inferior to making the protagonists and their attitudes acceptable to left-leaning feminist Pub World editors. Being especially fond of cyberpunk, Dan expressed great sadness over the deterioration of that subgenre: "It's all pretend-cyberpunk now." Having read William Gibson in his early, most brilliant days, I was moved to agree.

To cut the story a mite shorter, I eventually suggested that Dan have a look at Which Art In Hope, which I allowed straight off was a goodly distance from the books he'd spoken of most warmly. He agreed readily enough -- "I'm always scouting for reading material; you can't imagine how boring this place can get" -- and declined my offer of a free copy --"$4.99? You can't even buy a decent sandwich for that!"

I left that GameStop feeling good. Dan is, like most attendants in video game shops, far younger than I: somewhere in his mid to late twenties. Yet we saw many things that matter greatly in much the same ways. (It also helped that he laughed at my jokes.) Whether he's at all representative of his generation, I cannot say. He's out there, though, and it was inexpressibly refreshing to encounter him.

Yes, America is in serious trouble of many kinds: political, economic, social, racial, and so on. Yes, individual citizens are in more danger, and more kinds of danger, than they've borne in seventy years. Yes, Left and Right can no longer communicate, but then, neither can rich and poor, men and women, young and old, and so on. Yes, the world is going to Hell, and the handbasket is fraying beneath its ass. Yes, yes, yes.

But there are still pleasures of many kinds, especially the sort that arise from unexpectedly encountering someone you can exchange thoughts with, without feeling that you need a translator. When that someone is not "of your kind" -- that is, not your age, or your race, or your sex, or your economic standing -- the pleasure of the encounter is magnified. It gives you hope that men of good will might still be able to turn things around.

And with that, allow me to get back to my interrupted session with "Metal Gear Solid 4," which I'm anxious to resume. Go, Snake! (Jeez, aiming this thing is tough.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hawks, Doves, And The Unnamed Region Between Them

Political labels are misused and abused so frequently that I often despair of them. The complete bundle of convictions and policy positions nominally attached to a given label is seldom found in the person of an actual, living man. Worse, when a man chooses to use some "controversial" label, it's six-five and pick 'em that he'll be accused, derided, or dismissed because of the positions he doesn't hold.

Yet we continue to employ them. They're too useful. They save a lot of breath...well, for some of us, at least. And in many cases they can win sympathy or support from persons who might otherwise be inclined to turn away.

So when someone as generally intelligent and well-meaning as Roger Simon writes a poorly aimed piece such as this one, it grieves me to no end: in part because I've long borne the label libertarian, in part because other labels have similarly grievous malformations, and in part because the freedom philosophy offers the great mass of "politically homeless Americans" (Marshall Fritz) the best hope of attaining the conditions they most want from politics: peace and quiet.

The first, and in the opinion of many the greatest, of the presidents of the United States included the following in his Farewell Address:

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies....

There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

George Washington wrote from the perspective of the late Eighteenth Century, when the most fearsome weapons were wheeled cannons, the fastest vessels of war were wind-driven sailing ships, and land battles were typically prearranged by agreement between the combatants as to time and place. Let us grant that things are a bit different today. Yet he enunciated an important truth and laid down a wise guideline for American foreign policy:

Alliances should be temporary and ad hoc.

If an alliance is necessary to meet some exigency, let it be formed for the duration. Equally important, let it cease to bind once the exigency has been firmly dealt with. That has not been the practice of the United States since the conclusion of World War II.

This nation undertook the role of "world policeman" at a time when we were the world's preeminent power; when Europe and a good deal of Asia lay in ruins; when ours was the sole significant nation with a smoothly functioning economy; and when we were flush with pride over our victories both in Europe and in the Pacific. Yet ordinary foresight could have told us that those conditions would not persist. The economies of war-torn Europe and Russia would eventually recover. Both aggressive and pacific nations would rise from the rubble in the years ahead. Thus it has always been, and thus it will be until we resolve to wipe ourselves out to the last man.

For one nation to accept responsibility for the peace and security of the world, unbounded by place or time, was a foolish act. Yet we committed to exactly that, if not explicitly then with our behavior. For a time it seemed an arrangement beneficial to all parties.

NATO, the military consequence of the North Atlantic Treaty, became a growing burden on American power and finances. At its peak, in combination with our security commitments to Japan, Taiwan, and several other states, it employed roughly a third of American combat power and consumed approximately half of all American military expenditures. We told ourselves those deployments were the indispensable bulwark against Communist expansion, the sole force capable of deterring aggression from the Soviet Union and Red China. And we were quite correct to think so.

Yet it was inevitable that those deployments would have a cumulative consequence for the priorities and behavior of the governments whose nations they shielded. Trusting that America would provide, they systematically underfunded and undermanned their own military establishments. The funds Europe would otherwise have put to military preparations went to expanding its welfare states: creating a culture of idlers and persons who disdained any responsibility for their own defense. Perhaps worst of all, the dynamic nourished political forces that blamed all international tensions on American militarism. In their view, the one and only enemy was the one whose sons stood ready to defend them.

The dynamic has produced a continent lousy with state-supported layabouts, and cultures to which things military are anathema. It no longer matters that they would refuse to defend their own nations, for they lack all power to do so. As for conflicts in other lands, they're inherently someone else's problem -- and probably America's fault.

The sole functional military in the First World, now as in 1946, is that of the United States.

Americans have good reason to be proud of our military. Our men in uniform are in many ways the best of us. They deserve our wholehearted support. But that can't efface the most important fact about them: they're horribly overstretched and overburdened, with no end in sight.

Had we firmly time-bounded our participation in NATO and our other, less formal commitments...had we encouraged the other nations of the First World to develop their own militaries and strategic deterrents, perhaps as co-developers...had we limited the role of our blue-water Navy to assuring the freedom of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...had we refused to let the rest of the world believe that we would play "world policeman" until the Sun goes much different might things be today?

What we have before us is, of course, what we must cope with. But that doesn't mean we should perpetuate the strategic mistakes of the past into the indefinite future. The other nations of the world must become self-defending if Americans are ever to enjoy the luxury of looking upon some new conflict in a distant land and saying to one another that "this one's not our problem."

Sensible libertarians look upon the messes of our foreign policy and our military posture as a single problem. The two cannot be disentwined; they must be addressed together. In those cases where there is no current alternative to the use of American power in some distant place, let it be so -- but let us put the other nations of the world on immediate notice that we are disinclined to bear such burdens any longer than we must. Let us inform the nations of Europe, the Western Pacific, and our quasi-clients in the Middle East that our patience with their inanition is running out. Let's give them ten years to develop adequate militaries of their own, during which time we'll pull back ten percent of our overseas commitments each year. Let's save our strength -- military, financial, and emotional -- for the conflicts in which we must intervene: the ones that touch palpably on American interests, or that are both unambiguously morally compelling and admit of no other solution.

It's not just our yearning for some peace and quiet speaking. We've got problems of our own to solve, after all. We'll never get around to some of them if we remain indissolubly entangled with the security of every other nation on Earth.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Some Thoughts On Prayer: A Sunday Rumination

Prayer is a good thing, right? At least, that's what Jesus thought and said, though He qualified the judgment in a rather striking fashion:

"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues, and on street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." [Matthew 6:5-6]


"When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." [Matthew 6:7-8]

That once made me rather uncomfortable about my love of the Rosary, which is not only often said in company but is also a highly repetitive prayer. Yet even so, no sincere prayer will displease God, for He "hears" in a fashion quite alien to that of men -- and He knows you better than you know yourself.

Some time ago, while looking through some online catalogs of Catholic instructional and devotional materials, I purchased a small book: How To Pray Always, by Father Raoul Pius of the Society of Jesus. I didn't get much out of it in the way of actual practice, for reasons beyond the scope of this essay. But I did -- and do -- honor the core thesis: that a life lived as prayerfully as possible is a worthy thing to which to aspire. I've thought about the matter, and how one might best approach it, ever since.

Prayer will usually fall into one of four categories:

  • Petition;
  • Contrition;
  • Thanksgiving;
  • Praise and Worship.

The moods that animate each of those purposes are not bound to the act of praying. They can strike at any moment of the day, under any circumstances, no matter what might be happening. To the extent that one is conscious of them, they can become the engines of spontaneous prayer, though it will often be a less formal sort than the ritual prayers Christians tend to memorize and employ for "scheduled" occasions.

In this connection, a story Mila Kunis told about the late Robin Williams is apposite:

The duo crossed paths on the CBS studio lot several years ago while working on separate projects. Williams, who was dressed as an elephant at the time, reportedly picked up on Kunis' nerves while she was filming an episode of That 70s Show.

He said, 'Remember this moment. Remember this because things like this don't happen very often. Remember this time.' Having somebody of Robin Williams' stature tell me to just acknowledge something meant so much," she said. "He didn't mentor me. He just said, 'Step back and appreciate this. You're having an amazing time.'

"You're having an amazing time." That's you personally, Gentle Reader, right this very moment, regardless of what you're doing, or where, or why, because time itself is amazing. What you're doing, regardless of how mundane, even trivial, it may seem to you, is nevertheless unique, specifically because it's you doing it at that moment in time. It's an element in your history that deserves your full attention...and your appreciation of the opportunities it affords you, whether to profit by it, to learn from it, or to triumph over it. A word or two of thanksgiving to the Creator would not be amiss.

Quite a lot of the critics of Christianity attack prayer as a false bargain. Two avenues of attack are more popular than all others:

  • God supposedly answers all prayers, yet what we ask for in prayer isn't always forthcoming.
  • What you receive in this world is always explicable by the action of agencies other than God.

Both sorts of attack are defeasible, but one must know how to go about it.

First, to say all prayers are answered, as Christians believe, is not to say that the answer will give the petitioner the specific thing he's requested. God is not Amazon or UPS. He gives us what we need -- often even if we haven't asked for it. Second, of course you'll be able to see human agencies at work in the delivery of what you need! How do you think God, the wholly transtemporal being who actually created time, works on our domain without changing any of the laws He decreed for this universe?

Our human tensions over the matter are nicely captured by this classic piece from Laurie Kendrick:


LK: Hello?

God: Hey LK. What’s shakin’? You had a birthday recently.

LK: I did God, thanks for remembering. Hey, this is a real surprise. You never call me.

God: I felt like talking.

LK: What are you up to?

God: Oh, you know. I’m like the McDonald’s of redemption. I answer six billion prayers a day. I wake up the next morning and there are six billion more.

LK: We mortals are a pesky, relentless bunch.

God: Yes, you are, but I love ya. Anything on your mind?

LK: Yeah, there is. God, there’s a lot of crap in the world now. Heavy stuff happening. I just don’t understand why things are the way they are.

God: I know. Most of it’s hard to wrap your head around. Like why Eddie Murphy didn’t win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Dreamgirls”. And of course, there’s the whole Sanjaya thing.

LK: What was that all about?

God: Sanjaya? Oh for that, you can thank all the girls in the fifth grade class of the The Palmer School in Winnetka, Illinois.

LK: Huh?

God: Prayer circle.

LK: Interesting. Why then was Sanjaya voted off “American Idol”?

God: For that, you can thank all the the boys in the fifth grade class of The Palmer School in Winnetka, Illinois.

LK: That’s pretty funny. Still, it seems odd that we’re praying for Sanjaya when there are so many other things that need your attention.

God: People pray for a lot of different things. What’s pressing to some, won’t be to others. I don’t rate prayers or prioritize them. If you need something, you ask me, I hear you.

LK: But do you always answer every prayer?

God: Always.

LK: Doesn’t seem like it.

God: I do. Take you for example. There was that little issue of penis envy in fourth grade? Remember that? You prayed to me, asking me to turn you into a boy. I answered your prayer by keeping you a girl.

LK: But you didn’t give me what I wanted. I really wanted to become a boy. And by the way, what was I thinking?

God: Please! You were eight years old at the time and no, I didn’t give you what you wanted, but I gave you what you needed. Don’t get me wrong, sure, I could’ve done it. I could’ve snapped my fingers and you’d have gone from Laurie to Larry in a flash. But that’s not what you needed. That’s not what Madolyn Welsh needed, either.

LK: Madolyn Welsh? My college roommate?

God: If you wouldn’t have been you, you wouldn’t have gone to college, moved into the dorm and you wouldn’t have roomed with Madolyn. When her mother was killed in that car crash that fall, you wouldn’t have been there to help her. That was a very difficult and trying time for Madolyn. She needed you and you needed to be there. And the fact that you were there made a difference. It saved her life. Saved yours too. Remember? You were having a very tough freshman year.

Please read the whole thing.

The other monstrous attack on Christianity -- that is, the one that doesn't merely scoff at what we believe because of its "implausibility" -- is via human evil and suffering. A just God, the argument runs, would never have permitted all the evil and horror that afflicts our world. Therefore either God does not exist or He is not just; take your pick, silly little Christian. At which point the militant atheist usually sits back with folded arms and a smug expression.

It's a non-trivial argument. It cannot be rebuffed without recourse to an aspect of the nature of Man that is itself a matter of controversy: our God-given gift of free will, and what it implies about the applicability of prayer.

Human free will is the whole point of the dimension of time: the medium in which we exercise our powers of choice and learn from the consequences. Under the most confining circumstances imaginable, there will always be choices before us. At the very minimum, even with death imminent and unavoidable, we will always choose our own attitudes, beliefs, and convictions.

Yes, even when one's neck is on the block and the headsman raises the axe high. Consider this passage from...who else?

Frost had left the dining-room a few minutes after Wither. He did not know where he was going or what he was about to do. For many years he had theoretically believed that all which appears in the mind as motive or intention is merely a by-product of what the body is doing. But for the last year or so-since he had been initiated- he had begun to taste as fact what he had long held as theory. Increasingly, his actions had been without motive. He did this and that, he said thus and thus, and did not know why. His mind was a mere spectator. He could not understand why that spectator should exist at all. He resented its existence, even while assuring himself that resentment also was merely a chemical phenomenon. The nearest thing to a human passion which still existed in him was a sort of cold fury against all who believed in the mind. There were not, and must not be, such things as men. But never, until this evening, had he been quite so vividly aware that the body and its movements were the only reality, that the self which seemed to watch the body leaving the dining room, and setting out for the chamber of the Head, was a nonentity. How infuriating that the body should have power thus to project a phantom self!

Thus the Frost whose existence Frost denied watched his body go into the anteroom, watched it pull up sharply at the sight of a naked and bloodied corpse. The chemical reaction called shock occurred. Frost stooped, turned the body over, and recognised Straik. A moment later his flashing pince-nez and pointed beard looked into the room of the Head itself. He hardly noticed that Wither and Filostrato lay there dead. His attention was fixed by something more serious. The bracket where the Head ought to have been was empty: the metal ring twisted, the rubber tubes tangled and broken. Then he noticed a head on the floor: stooped and examined it. It was Filostrato's. Of Alcasan's head he found no trace, unless some mess of broken bones beside Filostrato's were it.

Still not asking what he would do, or why, Frost went to the garage. The whole place was silent and empty; the snow was thick on the ground by this. He came up with as many petrol tins as he could carry. He piled all the inflammables he could think of together in the Objective Room. Then he locked himself in by locking the outer door of the ante-room. Whatever it was that dictated his actions then compelled him to push the key into the speaking-tube which communicated with the passage. When he had pushed it as far in as his fingers could reach, he took a pencil from his pocket and pushed with that. Presently he heard the clink of the key falling on the passage floor outside. That tiresome illusion, his consciousness, was screaming to protest: his body, even had he wished, had no power to attend to those screams. Like the clockwork figure he had chosen to be, his stiff body, now terribly cold, walked back into the Objective Room, poured out the petrol and threw a lighted match into the pile. Not till then did his controllers allow him to suspect that death itself might not cure the illusion of being a soul-nay, might prove the entry into a world where that illusion raged infinite and unchecked. Escape for the soul, if not for the body, was offered him. He became able to know (and simultaneously refused the knowledge) that he had been wrong from the beginning, that souls and personal responsibility existed. He half saw: he wholly hated. The physical torture of the burning was not fiercer than his hatred of that. With one supreme effort he flung himself back into his illusion. In that attitude eternity overtook him as sunrise in old tales overtakes and turns them into unchangeable stone.

[C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength]

Lewis allowed that even that terribly evil man, one of the architects of a Satanically powered conspiracy against the whole human race, in his final moments had the freedom of will to choose to repent: to pray for deliverance from the eternal reward to which his unrepentant death would deliver him. That he refuses that final opportunity is an unforgettably vivid demonstration of the ultimate consequence of the sin of unbounded Pride.

Our freedom of the will is what distinguishes us from all else that lives. It might be the thing the militant atheist hates worst, whether he admits it or not, for it's the best practical evidence that Man is more than the cells of his body and the electrical impulses that run along his nerves. It empowers us to choose belief and its implications over unbelief and its consequences. That many billions have made "the wrong choice" -- that some of those billions have chosen to accept grisly martyrdoms rather than renounce their faiths -- confounds the atheist beyond all else.

What could sustain such resolute courage in the face of everything from scorn and humiliation to suffering and death, except fervent, unceasing prayer?

There is so much more to be said about prayer and its virtues that the subject is, for practical purposes, inexhaustible. However, no mortal man is equally inexhaustible, including myself, so I'll close here with a twofold valedictory:

  • Enjoy your Sunday, however you choose to spend it;
  • And may God bless and keep you all!