Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why We Love

     [I write so much about politics and current events that I sometimes become stale and myself. That makes it vitally important that I depart from the pattern at intervals, whether by writing something new that’s well off the political track or by rescuing a non-political piece from its slumbers in my archives. As I have a long agenda for today, I’ve chosen the latter course.

     The following piece first appeared at the old Palace of Reason on January 10, 2004. -- FWP]

     Politics, as important as it is, can be awfully repetitive. A life continually steeped in politics becomes as dismal as one lived behind prison walls. The similarities are not coincidental.

     We'll be force-fed quite a lot of politics for the next ten months or so. Quadrennial elections raise the stakes, and the Commentariat likes nothing better than a high-stakes game. So there'll be much thrust and parry, much denigration and counter-denigration, a lot of mudslinging, and here and there a few groats of real analysis. But as important as it is, the winner-take-all combat of the campaign must not be allowed to roughen our sensibilities. There are things more important than electoral politics. There is love.

     Yes, this will be one of those essays.

     Several stories about the Howard Dean for President campaign, including a large one in last Sunday's New York Times, have emphasized the social drives that have attracted most of its younger adherents. To be brief, a lot of Dean's campaign workers are there more to meet somebody than to make Howard Dean the next President. The observation has occasioned a lot of chuckling, a little head-scratching, and too little serious thought.

     Is it not possible that the same motivation attracts single people to many, perhaps even most political campaigns, but that, until recently, it was considered indiscreet to say so?

     At this time, the traditional mechanisms that bring the unmarried together to form couples have grown unprecedentedly weak. Many things have contributed to this weakening: family diasporas and dramatic changes in family structures, the pressures of corporate employment, the disaffiliation from mainstream churches, the increased liabilities involved in matchmaking, and others. In consequence, there's a certain sense of anxiety among young Americans about getting matched up. It sometimes expresses itself behaviorally as frenzy: an accelerating rotation among the few mechanisms that remain, driven by the ticking of body clocks that, despite all the advances of modern medical science, cannot be rewound or reset.

     Alongside the weakening of the older mating techniques and the increasing tension we feel over the difficulties, we have an increasingly muddled sense for why we mate. Humans have pair-bonded for all of recorded history at least, but we've given the why of the matter insufficient thought even so.

     Ironically, the subject has acquired new prominence and several new facets from two political developments: the Dean for President campaign and the drive for homosexual marriage.

     The non-risible answer to "Why are you involved in Smith's campaign?" has always been "Because I agree with his positions and want to see him elected." In other words, a vision of justice, rather than any more personal fulfillment, was the overt motivation espoused. If the questioner suspected other motivations, it was deemed intrusive to inquire about them.

     Yet the love of justice, though not identical to the love of another person, is nonetheless a form of love: the investment of self in the well-being and happiness of others. The investment is seldom total -- the technical term for a man who gives himself entirely to the pursuit of justice is hero, and there aren't many -- but it's made to some degree by anyone not completely unconcerned with the rights of others.

     As regards homosexual marriage, about which your Curmudgeon has a rather dismissive opinion, the question of love is amplified by the absurdity and stridency of its proponents. They've made some ridiculous claims: in particular, that homosexuals can love each other just as much as heterosexuals, and therefore ought to have legally recognized marriages.

     Yet the marriage contract has nothing to do with love. Marriage was devised to establish and enforce the obligations of spouses to one another and to their progeny. Love has been independent of marriage, and often in opposition to it, for all of human history. If the crux of the matter were love, the discussion would be over.

     The Dean workers seeking soulmates through their involvement in politics ought not to be laughed aside. By their participation in the campaign, they've already declared a love for an impersonal ideal, strong enough to evoke some degree of self-sacrifice and dedication. Such common values are often the bridge to mutual discoveries that go much broader and deeper than politics.

     Similarly, homosexuals who pair-bond in the monogamous style of faithfully married heterosexuals and maintain that bond for many years deserve respect. They demonstrate love through their behavior, to which their legal status is irrelevant. A significant number of mated homosexuals are willing to concede that marital status is irrelevant to their emotional lives, which is even more to their credit.

     Love is germinated from common values. Once well sprouted, love regards legal niceties as irrelevant.

     This is not to say that lovers cannot differ on anything of importance. Nor is it to say that no tragedies ever arise because lovers are separated by legal matters; some of the oldest and most compelling romances concern lovers who are bound in marriage to other persons for whom they feel little or nothing. But love itself -- the recognition of superb value, worthy of protecting and cherishing even at great cost to oneself -- is not affected by such things. Why? Why do human beings commit themselves to one another, or to abstract ideals such as freedom or justice, sometimes at an infinite cost? Why do nearly all of us seek out such a commitment, and feel incomplete or irrelevant if we can't form one?

     Brace yourself: your Curmudgeon is about to abridge a New Year's resolution:

     Mr. Bultitude's mind was as furry and as unhuman in shape as his body. He did not remember, as a man in his situation would have remembered, the provincial zoo from which he had escaped during a fire, nor his first snarling and terrified arrival at the Manor, nor the slow stages whereby he had learned to love and trust its inhabitants. He did not know that he loved and trusted them now. He did not know that they were people, nor that he was a bear. Indeed, he did not know that he existed at all: everything that is represented by the words I and Me and Thou was absent from his mind....

     There was no prose in his life. The appetencies which a human mind might disdain as cupboard loves were for him quivering and ecstatic aspirations which absorbed his whole being: infinite yearnings, stabbed with the threat of tragedy and shot through with the colours of Paradise. One of our race, if plunged back for a moment in the warm, trembling, iridescent pool of pre-Adamite consciousness, would have emerged believing that he had grasped the absolute, for the states below reason and the states above it have, by their common contrast to the life we know, a certain superficial resemblance. Sometimes there returns to us from infancy the memory of a nameless delight or terror, unattached to any delightful or dreadful thing, a potent adjective floating in a nounless void, a pure quality. At such moments we have experience of the shallows of that pool. But fathoms deeper than any memory can take us, right down in the central warmth and dimness, the bear lived all its life. [C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength]

     Indirectly, Lewis has pointed us toward the human difference, the characteristic that separates Man's mind from all other creatures. We are conscious of ourselves as independent, self-actuated beings. We know ourselves to be parts of the world, capable of acting and being acted on. Our rational faculty could not operate if we were incapable of distinguishing this from that, or of recognizing our individual separation from all other things.

     This is one half of the operation of the rational mind: the analysis of things into parts. The other half is the synthesis of those parts into wholes. A beast, unconscious of its individuality, asks nothing more, but it is impossible for a man to be aware of his separateness but not want the complementary experience -- the experience of joining together with others -- as well.

     Knowing that we are parts, we yearn to be more. We look to join ourselves to other things -- people, associations, causes, nations -- to become greater than we could be as individuals. We extend ourselves into that which is not ourselves. We commit.

     We don't do this rashly or randomly. Not all fabrics ought to be sewn together. But our desire to be more than we are draws us into society looking for connections to make. As regards abstract commitments, our reason is supreme in the saddle, though the desire to be part of a great movement can sometimes influence us against our better judgment. But reason is never wholly absent from the equation. Though the pair-bond, our most fundamental connection, is powered in part by sex, a force that operates at least partially below the conscious level, we can still exercise conscious control over our acceptance of it.

     The protagonist of one of your Curmudgeon's novels came at it this way:

     He had always been puzzled by sexual hunger. His lack of understanding had made him more than a little afraid of it. He was beginning to see. It was not the savage abandon of animals in rut. Nor was it a vanquishment of the mind by baser and more powerful impulses of the body.

     It was a rising, an exaltation.

     We spend our lives locked in prisons of flesh, yearning to believe that there might be something greater than our individual selves, and that someday, with enough preparation and enough effort, it might allow us to become part of it. Corporations, armies, governments and religions are all part of the same pattern. Yet how many would believe that such a thing might be possible to any two people sufficiently unafraid of one another to touch without fear? To offer themselves without reservation?

     [From On Broken Wings]

     And it is of the essence of humanity.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Preferences Uber Alles

     If there’s anything about Leftists’ rhetorical tactics that constitutes a generic foundation for their campaign, it would be their elevation of what they prefer over any conception of rights or law. (Yes, they do use the word rights quite a lot in referring to the things they demand, but not according to any meaning you or I would recognize.) Now and then they wave it in our faces, as in this case:

     Students at the prestigious University of Chicago say that free speech should not apply equally to everyone. The students objected to the school’s Institute of Politics’ invitation to former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. They claim that allowing him to speak “normalizes bigotry” and provides a platform for fascism....

     The coalition of students from U of C Resists, Graduate Students United, Students Working Against Prisons, and UChicago Socialists claim that the school’s “commitment to free expression” doesn’t require the institution to host him due to his alleged ties to white supremacists and similarly alleged calls to violence against minority groups and refugees....

     In addition to the letter, the student coalition set up a “Bigotry is not Normal” event to protest Lewandowski, in which over a hundred students claimed to have participated on Wednesday. Students set up protest fliers with statements like “This is not dialogue it’s a war.” [sic]

     Charming, eh? Of course, were these snotnoses ever to find themselves in the middle of a real war, complete with bombs, artillery, and high-velocity lead, they’d discover how dramatically it contrasts with the safe, placid environment of an American university. Yes, even a university in Chicago.

     But let’s get back to today’s main point. Clearly, the Leftist groups cited in that article don’t hold that freedom of expression is a right. Their position is identical to that of the late Marxist theorist Herbert Marcuse:

     The whole post-fascist period is one of clear and present danger. Consequently, true pacification requires the withdrawal of tolerance before the deed, at the stage of communication in word, print, and picture. Such extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of affairs. Different opinions and 'philosophies' can no longer compete peacefully for adherence and persuasion on rational grounds: the 'marketplace of ideas' is organized and delimited by those who determine the national and the individual interest. In this society, for which the ideologists have proclaimed the 'end of ideology', the false consciousness has become the general consciousness--from the government down to its last objects.

     “This is not a dialogue it’s a war” is merely a compact, rationale-free reformulation of Marcuse’s statement above. War, of course, is the customary refuge of those who seek to abolish individuals’ rights. It certainly constitutes an “emergency situation,” especially if the survival of the nation can plausibly be said to be at stake. It’s been used to justify the seizure of powers to which previous, peacetime governments didn’t dare to aspire...and which subsequent governments, whether in war or in peace, treated as theirs by bequest.

     Yet at the heart of the Marcusian thesis lies nothing more than a preference: the preference that one’s political opponents should be prevented from expressing their views. This cannot be justified on any grounds:

A right is not a preference.
It is not a permission.
It’s a principle of justice.

     Louis Thiers, himself an opponent of the concept of rights as Americans understand them, put it nicely:

     Either rights exist, or they do not exist. If they exist, they involve absolute consequences...Furthermore, if a right exists, it exists at every moment. It is absolute today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in summer as in winter, not when it pleases you to declare it in force.

     Therefore, if there is a right to express oneself, even the lowest and foulest of human creatures possesses it. More to the point, not even an “emergency situation” can abrogate it. But that cross-cuts the Left’s preferences...and to the Left, its preferences are all that really matter.

     Ultimately, the Sturm und Drang polluting our contemporary political discourse is about power. Many others have said that. I’ve said it often enough myself. All the same, it’s important enough to keep it in mind that it bears repeating. But it’s not about which of two forces shall possess a certain sheaf of powers; it’s about one side’s lust for absolute and unbounded power over all persons and things, and the other’s desire to be free.

     Americans were once noteworthy for their relative lack of interest in politics. That was a long time ago: before the Progressives of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries got their cart in gear. Back then, Americans could afford to take little or no interest in politics, because political power was a sharply restricted thing.

     A man can afford to take no notice of that which takes no notice of him. When that condition changes – when the instruments of power start to reach into ever more of life, society, and enterprise – he must change his ways as well. As the political penetration of his affairs advances, so also must he become more aware of it, more involved in it, and better defended against its depredations.

     If the Left, which has proclaimed that “The personal is political,” has decided upon war, then all methods shall be deemed licit and only the ultimate outcome shall matter. The politicization of the nation is complete. No one can remain apolitical. No subject is inherently outside the zone of conflict...and no one can assume that others will respect his right of free expression. This tirade of a few days back ceases to be merely a cri de coeur and becomes a tactical doctrine.

     And we don’t have to like it.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Transitions And Their Significance

     We speak of the ten weeks between a presidential election and the president’s inauguration – if the man elected isn’t the one currently occupying the Oval Office – as the “transition period.” That phrase conceals a wealth of complexity, including both moral and practical elements.

     Most Gentle Readers will remember the White House mess George W. Bush inherited when he arrived there in January of 2001. The defacing of walls, furniture, and equipment was a spiteful legacy from the Clintonites, who roundly detested the incoming president for having so narrowly defeated their anointed one, Al Gore. President Bush, whether or not it was to his credit, refused to make a big deal out of the vandalism, writing it off as a “boys will be boys” sort of prank...which it was not.

     The Obamunist cadre and its Democrat annex in the Senate found a much more effective way of hamstringing the incoming Trump Administration. Rather than deface the White House, Obama’s political appointees in the Cabinet merely resolved to impede Trump’s policies and attack his high-profile personnel, while Senate Democrats have strained to prolong the procedure for putting new Cabinet secretaries in place.

     The operation of a Cabinet department doesn’t pause between presidents and the confirmation of their Cabinet nominees. For example, for as long as there’s no new Attorney-General, a Deputy Attorney-General must run the department. Until recently, that was Sally Yates, whose name became infamous for instructing Justice Department personnel not to defend the Trump executive order on immigration restrictions. In that case Trump removed her as soon as her rebellion became known. It’s not quite that simple to deal with rebellions in other departments.

     The recent foofaurauw over Lieutenant-General Mike Flynn was propelled by political appointees and careerists in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. These are people Trump had not thought to remove before they could make trouble for him. I have little doubt that others he hasn’t yet removed, whose replacements will be slow-walked in the Senate, are planning further mischief with which to impede the policies on which he campaigned.

     This is both a symptom of the political warfare of our time and a reminder of one of the irrevocable truths of government:

Personnel Is Policy.

     An incomplete purge of the Cabinet departments, such as the one the Obama-to-Trump transition period displays, leaves the previous administration’s lieutenants in place to continue the previous administration’s policies...which they will most assuredly do. The men who guided the Carter-to-Reagan transition, which has been hailed by political analysts as one of the smoothest on record, understood this and acted on it. They convinced Reagan to remove every Carter appointee from the Cabinet, at once and without exception, even if no replacement had yet been chosen for the post. In Revolution, his chronicle of the Reagan years, Martin Anderson noted the explicitness of this policy, stating outright that “we would rather have an empty office than a holdover.” Owing to the compliance of Senate Democrats, who forbore to delay the confirmations of Reagan’s Cabinet appointees, it worked out excellently well.

     Things are different today. The Democrats understand that their sole remaining bastion in the federal government – the alphabet agencies – is one Trump intends to shrink, and they’re disinclined to allow any such thing. So Schumer and his merry men (aided by certain unfortunate nominal Republicans who must be disposed of) have done everything they can to impede the installation of Trump’s appointees. That has enlarged the time interval in which the Obama holdovers can create roadblocks to Trump’s priorities.

     Trump, a businessman, has always prized continuity of administration in his enterprises. It’s part of his hands-on approach to management. Will he fire a division president? He will if he must...but he’ll then elevate a vice-president to “acting” status while he decides on a new chief. It’s an approach well suited to business, but far less so to governance.

     The formal transition period is well behind us, yet owing to systematic obstruction by Senate Democrats several important Cabinet secretary positions remain unfilled. The acting heads of those departments aren’t friendly to Trump’s ideas. Several have already shown what sort of damage they can do. Others are probably formulating schemes. Perhaps our new president will draw the moral before the harm becomes irremediable.

Pearls of expression.

Progressives and liberals do not tolerate beliefs or actions they consider unjust, yet they demand conservatives do so.
"A Justified Intolerance of Islam." By Paul Pauker, American Thinker, 2/16/17.

U.K. Conservative Party leadership.

Nearly 450,000 more migrants are working in the UK while the number of British-born people in work has fallen by 120,000, according to new figures.
"Number of British-born workers falls as non-UK employees increase by almost 450,000 in a year." By Steven Swinford, The Telegraph, 2/15/17.

Pearls of expression.

Would that [Valerie] Jarrett had received as much media scrutiny of her role in eight years under Obama as Bannon has in less than four weeks.[1]

You'll remember Jarrett as the woman with a communist grandfather and communist father-in-law. As Remus likes to say, it was in all the papers.

[1]  "Washington Is Out to Get Steve Bannon." By John Fund, The Unz Review, 2/12/17.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sex In Fiction, Especially Fantasy And Science Fiction

     I must be getting old. At least, I can’t imagine any other reason why it takes less with each passing day to light my boilers, spin my turbines, and send my pile critical. It can’t be the W-plus bosons; I swept for them yesterday.

     No, I think it must be my decreasing patience with persons obsessed with sex.

     Obsessions come in many varieties. A sexual obsession need not be about “not getting any.” This morning it’s a critic’s displeasure about fictional characters who are getting some. (With one another, of course.) It’s not the first time. But it’s got me wondering why such persons dare to read fiction in the speculative genres.

     I need more coffee if I’m to do this properly. Back in a minute.

     Regard, if you please, the panoply of Mankind across the millennia. Consider how widely our customs, especially our customs about mating and procreation, have varied. Consider in particular that many societies, including Jewish and Christian ones, have varied from what Jews and Christians of today mostly view as proper sexual conduct.

     Let me be maximally explicit about this. There have been Jewish and Christian societies that sanctified plural marriage. There have been Jewish and Christian societies that accepted sex between the entirely unmarried as no more than a peccadillo, provided that if any offspring were to result, the couple would then marry. There have even been Christian societies (I don’t know of any Jewish ones) that, while they regarded homosexuality as deeply unfortunate and life-limiting, did not execrate it as a terrible sin.

     And that’s just Terrestrial Judeo-Christian societies. They haven’t all embraced Saint Paul’s dictum that the only licit sex is between spouses in a monogamous heterosexual marriage.

     But I intend to speak here of fiction and fictional settings. Fictional societies will have fictional norms and customs. A fictional Christian society cut off from its Terrestrial forebears, such as the one I depicted on Hope, is unlikely to share those forebears’ norms and customs in every detail. And needless to say, a fictional non-Christian society will have its own unique norms and customs, which will be influenced by whatever degree of religiosity applies to it.

     Yet persons unhappy about Louis and Christine’s passion, or about Althea, Martin, and Claire’s triad-marriage, continue to berate me, as if such a thing must never, ever be countenanced even in a far-future speculation. What sort of fiction do they read with total approbation? Do the characters in it ever stray from their prejudices? Do they ever use contraception? Do they ever just let their hair down and fuck?

     It seems unlikely.

     Allow me to provide two sidelights of significance. Just now I’m reading Tears of Paradox, a dystopian novel by Daniella Bova. The novel’s two Marquee Characters are afflicted by sexual tension they don’t even begin to resolve until they’ve married. Why? Because they’re Catholic: one much more serious about it than the other, at least through the first quarter of the book. That’s the premise. They behave in accordance with it, as is entirely consistent and proper for persons of those convictions.

     I have no problem with that. Why should I? Miss Bova has created characters with particular convictions. Each one’s behavior accords with the degree of allegiance he feels toward his faith and its teachings. That’s her prerogative as the story’s creator. I would no more dream of criticizing her for it than I would dream of demanding a slice of the Moon.

     Another series I’ve recently enjoyed – and very much, at that – is E. William Brown’s “Daniel Black” fantasy series, which I mentioned illustratively here. The sexual mores depicted in that series are far distant from what contemporary Jews or Christians (if at all doctrinally observant) would countenance. So what? It’s fantasy fiction about a world in which the Norse and Greek Pantheons are fighting a war of extermination against one another. How reasonable would it be to demand that Puritan sexual mores apply there?

     It would appear that for some readers, sex is an untouchable. A story that fails to accord with their prejudices in all details is simply unacceptable. I can’t imagine what they would read for pleasure...if pleasure of any sort is something their convictions would allow them.

     I could go on about this for pages. It’s part and parcel of one of my greatest disagreements with Christian doctrine. But this isn’t the proper time or place for that particular tirade.

     Sexual pleasure and sexual acceptance are among the great motivators of human existence. The great motivators are the things that provide events of substance to fiction. To exclude them reduces the writer’s toolset for drawing his characters into situations worth writing about.

     There was once a time when books would be banned from publication, here and elsewhere, for daring to include sex scenes. The most famous and important case of that sort was U.S. v Ulysses. There haven’t been many cases since then of comparable stature.

     Times have changed. Among other things, we’ve become somewhat more relaxed – dare I say, more realistic? – about sex, at least sex in fiction. At least, some of us have. However, readers who can’t bear to see their prejudices set aside for the sake of an involved story founded on unique premises still exist.

     I pity them.

     (Cross-posted at my fiction-promotion site.)

On the matter of "provocation."

Here's something to keep in mind as you digest the current cable news hysteria about the "provocation" of the supposed Russian surveillance vessel in international waters off of our east coast:
This may be of comfort to those who worry at the prospect of war. Yet the threat inflation that keeps the wheels turning can carry us toward catastrophe. Among the token vessels deployed to reassure Eastern European NATO countries have been one or two Aegis Destroyers, sent to patrol the Baltic and Black Seas. The missiles they carry are for air defense. Yet the launchers can just as easily carry nuclear or conventional cruise missiles, without any observer being able to tell the difference.

Bruce Blair, who spent years deep underground waiting to launch nuclear missiles and now works to abolish them, foresees frightening consequences. As he told me, “Those destroyers could launch quite a few Tomahawk cruise missiles that can reach all the way to Moscow. You could lay down a pretty severe attack on Russian command-and-control from just a couple of destroyers.” This, he explained, is why the Russians have been aggressively shadowing the ships and buzzing them with fighter planes at very close quarters.[1]

[1] "The New Red Scare. Reviving the art of threat inflation." By Andrew Cockburn, Harper's Magazine, December 2016.

Official fairy tales – episode 11,462.

From an excellent article on the long history of exaggerating the Soviet/Russian threat (and the less than stellar record of accomplishment by our military-industrial complex):
Russian military “more or less” back in working order doesn’t sound much like an existential threat, nor like one in any shape to “erode the principled international order.”[1] That has not deterred our military leadership from scaremongering rhetoric, as typified by Philip Breedlove, who stepped down as NATO’s commander in May. Breedlove spent much of his three-year tenure issuing volleys of alarmist pronouncements. On various occasions throughout the Ukrainian conflict, he reported that 40,000 Russian troops were on that nation’s border, poised to invade; that regular Russian army units were operating inside Ukraine; that international observers were reporting columns of Russian troops and heavy weapons entering Ukraine. These claims proved to be exaggerated or completely false. Yet Breedlove continued to hit the panic button. “What is clear,” he told Washington reporters in February 2015, “is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”[2]
I am not one ever to minimize the loathsome nature of the Soviet Union but reading this article I find it difficult not to separate the ridiculous demonization of Russia of today from even that practiced against the Soviets in Cold War times. Still, I thought then that the price of any insurance policy to protect against the expansion of the Soviet Union was worth paying and a vigorous military-industrial complex was fine by me.

Now Russia has zero expansionist plans (or dreams) and any "examples" thereof that the hystericals like to cite can reasonably be understood to be responses to NATO or U.S. provocations or actions undertaken at the invitation of the nation supposedly falling victim to Russia machinations. (Hint: Syria.)

There are genuine threats to our security but they are not coming from the direction of Moscow. Rather, they stem from a Treason Class that worships foreigners to the exclusion of Americans, gets all giddy over open borders, and cannot see that we are facing an existential threat in the form of Islam -- not "radical jihadist Islamism" -- and that the presence of even one Muslim believer inside our borders is a threat to our security. A harsh assessment it's true, but one a lot less stupid than the idea that there are moderate Muslims and that Islam is a religion.

[1] This "principled international order" includes the unconstitutional and aggressive war waged by the U.S. against the soveign state of Syria apparently, though clearly Mr. Cockburn doesn't quote that phrase for anything other than purposes of making an ironic point.
[2] "The New Red Scare. Reviving the art of threat inflation." By Andrew Cockburn, Harper's Magazine, December 2016.

Unmasking populism.

I've defined "populism" as "the insane, dangerous belief that the know-it-all overclass is actually pretty stupid and incompetent, and also very self-interested."

I mean, that's just crazy-talk, isn't it?

"'Constitutional Conservatives' Now Openly Calling for Coup Against Democratically-Elected Government by Unelected, Anonymous Members of the Deep State." By Ace, Ace of Spades, 2/15/17.


When the day comes that the Russians start sticking their nose in on the relationship between the US and Mexico, that will be the day I give two [*****] about what the Russians do with the Ukraine.[1]
Somehow, though, distant events with little direct effect on American interests fall into the Let No Sparrow Fall category for U.S. foreign policy geniuses.

It's getting expensive and people are beginning to ask why this has to be.

[1] Comment by froze25 on "Top US, Russian Military Generals To Meet Thursday." By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, 2/15/17.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Revenant Conservatism

     The Kristols, Irving and Bill, have been associated with conservative thought and policies for decades. Irving Kristol was among the first “neo-conservatives,” and an important contributor to Commentary and similar publications. His son Bill edits The Weekly Standard and frequently appears as a representative of institutional conservatism on various radio and television shows.

     Neither Kristol displays much affection for the constitutional and classical-liberal ideas that largely define conservatism today. (We can, of course, forgive Irving for that, as he passed on in 2008.) Bill Kristol recently made his preferences explicit:

     Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.

     How a man can advocate constitutional politics yet prefer the “deep state” to the closest constitutional politics has come in decades, I cannot imagine...unless it’s because Kristol’s meaning for the word conservative is reverting to its origins.

     Conservative shares its root with conserve:

Conserve \Con*serve"\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Conserved; p. pr. & vb. n. Conserving.] [F. conserver, L. conservare; con- + servare to keep, guard. See Serve.]
     1. To keep in a safe or sound state; to save; to preserve; to protect. [1913 Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary]

     The original conservative politics was, quite simply, resistance to change. A high school American History teacher of mine was vehement about it: “The conservative wishes to conserve,” he proclaimed upon many occasions. He stubbornly opposed political or social changes of any sort. If change is to be entertained at all, he would say, let it be in small increments...and the smaller, the better.

     It should give my Gentle Readers a full sense of that teacher’s conservatism to note that he held Thomas Jefferson to be a wild-eyed anarchist whose libertarian ideals were inherently unworkable. He did what he could to inculcate that belief in his students.

     This appears to be the direction in which institutional conservatism is headed. Institutions, of course, are inherently opposed to large changes. The prospect of significant alterations in the Way Things Are threatens to destabilize the assumptions, customs, and practices on which an institution is based. Thus it is no great leap of the imagination to suspect that the institutional conservative would prefer The Way Things Are to go unperturbed even if they’re obstructive, costly, or unjust. He’s “done a corner in them.”

     Bill Kristol is a good representative of that mindset.

     The institutional conservatism of the Kristols is inimical to insurgent conservatism: those of constitutionalist or classical-liberal bent who call for limited government, the demise of the Deep State, and a strict conformity to Constitutional prescriptions and proscriptions in our laws and political processes. Insurgent conservatism had a pretty good run during the 80s and 90s. Reagan was its standard-bearer. It largely succeeded in checking the Clinton Administration’s more grandiose schemes. The Bushes largely disappointed it, and of course Barack Hussein Obama horrified it.

     What insurgent conservatives did not expect was that the institutionals would league with the Big Government Left to oppose us. But then, we hardly stopped to ponder the nature of the institutional mindset, and institutionals have always “talked a good game.”

     The institutionals view Donald Trump as an interloper who threatens to bring down the legal and political edifices in which they shelter. There are several facets to this. The most important of them is institutionals’ comfort with the Deep State: the bureaucracies and mechanisms that dominate contemporary American life. The Deep State provides the stability institutionals cherish while simultaneously giving them a rhetorical punching bag...not that they ever hit it too powerfully. That the Deep State is inherently unfriendly to individual freedom, limited government, and economic growth is of far less importance than that stability to the institutions that have accommodated themselves to it.

     Immediately after that comes the nature of the institutionals’ enterprise. They live to provide rhetorical opposition to the Big Government Left. It’s their livelihood. Their magazines, policy studies, and the rest might rail against the Deep State, but were it to vanish, the institutionals would be out of work. It would compel them to change trades. The Trump Insurgency, with its exuberant populist-oriented conservatism, is a direct threat to their rice bowls.

     Third and last for today, there are personal networks linking the institutionals to their supposed adversaries in the American political elite. They tend not to speak of them, and strain to change the subject when those linkages are hauled into view. “Our sort” includes both institutional conservatives and the farthest-left of the Left. An elite is an institution in its own right: divergences among its members’ rhetoric seldom impede the desire to “get along” and remain in good odor with “the boys,” whether it’s for profit or ongoing inclusion.

     People are generally resistant to change. As Arthur Herzog has written, “Change is hard, and difficulty makes people impatient.” Yet America has given birth to a large-scale movement that demands changes of a particular sort. Its standard-bearer is a man of untamed tongue who’s accustomed to getting things done, on time and within budget at that, and he’s begun in admirable style. The institutions – Left and Right – feel the tremors in their floorboards. It’s more important to them to quiet those tremors than to achieve any legal or political ideal either has ever proposed in pixels or print.

     The revenant conservatism of the institutionals, that regards The Way Things Are as The Way Things Ought To Be In Perpetuity, is no friend of change. Neither can we expect it to embrace the changes the Trump Administration has ignited, unless in an attempt to co-opt and nullify the forces that propel them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Political Correctness: A Tirade

     “Words are weapons. Words are tools. Define or be defined!” – Michael Emerling
     “What is necessary is to rectify names.” — Confucius
     “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public.” — Charles Talleyrand
     “If I am offensive, you may take it that I am offended!” – Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes, in Murder by Decree

     The title of this piece is misleading, but I couldn’t come up with a better one that would concisely convey my major sentiment this morning. Well, actually I could, but it seemed inappropriate for a conservative website. (I was about to write “family-friendly,” but that’s more of an aspiration than an actuality. At any rate, my family doesn’t read Liberty’s Torch. Why should it?)

     I hope you have an adequate supply of antacids on hand, Gentle Reader, because every now and then I simply need to vent, and today is an instance thereof.

     I’m a writer. That is to say: I write stuff. Fiction, exposition, opinion-editorial, technicata, and so forth. Words are my most fundamental tools. I refuse to let anyone tell me which words I must, may, and must not use. That’s absolute.

     The greater part of the Leftist attack on Americans’ freedom and convictions is its attack on our language. Pace Orwell, Leftist strategists and tacticians believe that if they can deprive us of the words required to express our convictions and preferences, they can extinguish those things, or at least weaken the defenses around them sufficiently that they can then be overrun. This follows from their Social construction of reality thesis, from the Sapir-Whorf thesis, and overall from their embrace of the assumptions underlying the Party’s methods in 1984, which they do regard as an instruction manual.

     Draining the useful words out of a language is a protracted and difficult enterprise. The Left has approached that undertaking in stages. Each stage has anathematized the words required to express some conviction or sentiment, usually on the grounds that those words are “hurtful,” or perhaps “intolerant.” The irony here could stop an army on the march: accusations of bigotry and intolerance lurk under the surface of virtually every linguistic limitation Leftists, inarguably the most bigoted and intolerant persons the world has ever known, seek to impose on the rest of us. Yet by dint of repetition and volume, Leftists have largely succeeded in banishing the targeted words – useful words! Words with important and unambiguous meanings! – from the American lexicon.

     Then they come to websites such as this one, submit hate-and-bile-filled “comments” intended only to wound and intimidate, and accuse the proprietors of “censorship” for rejecting them.

     The entire undertaking delineated above, usually summarized as political correctness, is an exercise in conquest by intimidation. Intimidation, according to Sun Tzu, is a weapon more to be feared than any other, for it can induce a fighting force to surrender without fighting. It’s also the root of Saul Alinsky’s #1 rule: that power isn’t only what you have, but what your enemy thinks you have.

     But intimidation is a collaborative process. The target must accept the proposition that he must not fight, either because he can’t win or because the consequences will be too awful to bear. Needless to say, to reject that proposition one must be willing to fight – and to be hurt as much as is necessary to gain one’s objective or to hold one’s ground.

     With this we come to the evil miracle, the most wondrously destructive of all the achievements of the Left in the political interplay of our time. My Gentle Readers being a bright and observant sort, having read what follows they’ll in all likelihood say to themselves “Of course. I knew it all along.” Yet having said as much, many will berate themselves for not having taken it to heart.

     Your enemy is, by definition, someone who wishes you ill. He intends your subjugation or destruction. If you’re sane and possess appropriate self-regard, your objective is to prevent him from attaining his objective. By implication, his opinion of you should be utterly unimportant to you.

     Politicians and commentators in the Right have utterly missed that implication.

     Contrast the behavior and statements of figures on the Left and the Right these past few decades. I posit that the Left has made its intentions plain at every step. Leftist politicians and spokesmen have never feared to wound persons on the Right, whether by word or by deed. Yet the Right has behaved, spoken, and written as if the most important of all its desiderata is not to offend the Left or its allegiants.

     Few exceptions have poked their heads above the trench lip.

     Once again I must cite Alinsky:

  • “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  • “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  • “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”

     If Smith is determined to harm Jones, he will enjoy every tactical success. Indeed, those successes will encourage the repetition of the associated tactics. Therefore, rhetorical successes founded on getting persons in the Right to retreat on the grounds of “hurt feelings” or accusations of “intolerance” will engender more such claims and accusations. It all follows, so clearly that it’s an embarrassment that it should need to be pointed out this way. Yet the great majority of Rightists act as if it were as impenetrable as quantum physics.

     This must cease.

     Concerning the Left’s war over words, especially pronouns, five years ago I wrote as follows:

     I’ve been upbraided in fora beyond counting for retaining the “he”-as-generic-singular-pronoun convention. Conversely, when I’ve suggested to other writers that the convention remains as it was, and that using it is greatly to be preferred to mangling one’s syntax or writing as if one were terminally confused about one’s subject, I’ve evoked the very screams of outrage of which [Sarah Hoyt] speaks here. To borrow the timeless idiom of a good friend, the harridans in the audience have called me “everything but white.”

     That’s what harridans do. Once I became accustomed to it, it ceased to affect me.

     Also, there’s the little matter of racial sensitivities. Not too many people are aware that a century or so ago, the accepted term for persons of the Negro race was “black.” But over time, the race-hustlers deemed that term offensive. So the accepted term became “colored.” Over time the race-hustlers anathematized that term as well. So the accepted term became “Negro,” the technical racial classification. But over time that term was deemed beyond the pale. So now we’re down to “African-American”—but that won’t last; give ‘em time.

     If you follow politics, you may be aware that Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who recently declared himself in the running for the Republican presidential nomination, brought the wrath of the Left down on his head for daring to use the phrase “black cloud” in referring to the economy. No surprises there; it’s part of the Left’s linguistic offensive to rule every possible idiom and figure of speech offensive.

     The idea isn’t that anyone is genuinely offended by these idioms, or by the old “he”-for-generic-singular convention. It’s to make us censor ourselves: to compel us to prejudge every word that emerges from our mouths, pens, or keyboards according to whether it might offend someone. This, when American Negroes casually call one another nigger and a feminist playwright concludes her most popular play with a chant of “Cunt...cunt...cunt...”

     As a technique for silencing, and ultimately subjugating, one’s opposition, this one has no superiors and few peers.

     This mick-wop honky has had quite enough:
     Idioms that use “black” or “dark” to indicate ominousness are just fine by me.
     Persons who prefer lovers of their own sex are homosexuals, not “gay.”
     Please, enough with the “undocumented worker” BS. They’re illegal aliens.
     My fiction will depict villains who are Negroes, homosexuals, Hispanics, and Muslims as it suits me—and given the crime and terrorism statistics, it will frequently suit me.
     And most emphatically, “he” is my standard generic-singular pronoun.
     Don’t like it? Read someone else.
     I won’t give in.

     I meant every word of it, and I stand by it today. Yet for a good long while I was assailed for it...from the Right. My attackers kept telling me I was “hurting their feelings,” where the word their referred to various groups on the Left that actively sought to do much worse than hurt my feelings.

     Arrant nonsense, even lunacy...from persons who had to know better and had no reason to behave otherwise.

     One last spate of bile and I’ll close for today. Have a snippet from Black Coven, E. William Brown’s second “Daniel Black” novel. It’s set in a medieval society suffering a war between the Norse and the Greek pantheons. Black is an American of our time, imported to that world by the goddess Hecate to become a powerful sorcerer and the protector of her High Priestess.

     I was starting to get a handle on my strange situation, at least enough to see that passively clinging to familiar habits was a terrible idea. I half-suspected Avilla was trying to provoke me into some display of possessiveness, and I knew Cerise wanted to play kinky dominance games with me. Neither of them had any interest in being with some wishy-washy guy who didn’t have the backbone to pursue his own desires. Not to mention that they both wanted to surround themselves with pretty girls that they could seduce for their own entertainment, and they thought sharing the bounty with their guy was only polite.
     Yeah, my witches were complicated. They’d keep me on my toes, and however rewarding this crazy relationship might be it was never going to be simple. If I ever got complacent they’d walk all over me, and then they’d get bored and start wanting to move on.
     In contrast, with Tina everything was easy.
     She’d been raised to believe that the best way for a woman to get by in the world was to marry a good man and keep him happy so he’d want to take care of her. She was perfectly happy with this, contrary to what a modern feminist would expect, and her innocent eagerness to please was terribly attractive. Granted, she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but so what? She was still better company than ninety percent of the people I’d ever met.

     Note how utterly realistic Daniel Black is in the above. He doesn’t reject the realities around him simply because they clash with his Twenty-First Century Information Age American origins. He certainly doesn’t demand that his witches – all female and comely – conform to his notions of “how things ought to be.” Instead he resolves to deal with his surroundings and the people in them as he finds them. And a wee bit later in the tale:

     “Your beauty” [he said to Tina] “ is going to be a work of art I create for myself.”
     She gasped, and I swear she nearly had an orgasm right there in the chair. “You’re going to change my looks, milord?”
     “You’ll make me whatever you want?”
     “Will you...bind me?” she half-whispered, half-moaned.
     I moved around the table to put my hands on her shoulders. “With the darkest of magic. I’ll bind your heart to belong to me, utterly and forever. I’ll make you over into a creature of magic, crafted for my pleasure. I’ll fill you up with dark desires, unbearable needs for the most depraved of pleasures. Then, when you can stand no more, I will take you and make you mine forever.”
     Her wide eyes glittered with desire, and the panting of her breath set her mountainous breasts heaving. “Yes! Thank you, milord. Please, make me your woman.”

     A contemporary feminist would condemn every word of the above. Yet it’s what Tina, and ninety-nine percent of the women of that world, would most ardently wish for.

     It’s also what most contemporary women, had they not been browbeaten unmercifully out of their natural desires by feminist harridans, would want for themselves. Yet Leftist idiots who’ve disparaged the “Daniel Black” books have called them “male empowerment fantasies” and other terms of condemnation.

     By the way, Tina doesn’t just want to be Daniel Black’s woman, his to mold and enjoy as he pleases; she also wants his babies. Lots and lots of his babies. So do his other witches.

     Be what you are, and be it in style! – Robert A. Heinlein

     Zoroaster reserved his highest praise for him who “speaks truth and shoots the arrow straight.” The scholars of Judaism have labored for centuries over their scriptures, straining to determine the exact meaning of each and every word. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Redeemer of Mankind, said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father except through me,” and of course, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

     Within every man who’s ever lived or ever will is a soul: a core of knowledge about reality that can neither be removed, nor altered, nor erased. Yes, women too. Whether we acknowledge those realities determines our overall success as children of God. You cannot be happy in a state of denial, and you cannot alter reality by compelling yourself and others to speak as if it were other than it is. Your soul will not permit it.

     Speak truth, using the words you need, in good English grammar, and never mind who pretends to be offended by it.

     Need I say more? I mean, really?

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Weariness Gambit

     Have you ever had the feeling that the wrong people are following Christ’s advice?

     And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. [Luke 11:5-10]

     Hearken to Stephanie at The Right Geek:

     But more than anything else, you need to stop forcing yourselves on your neighbors. The absolute worst way to get people to listen to your concerns is to scream at them and/or attempt to browbeat them into submission. And yet, you keep doubling down, hijacking every pursuit, no matter how apolitical, for the sake of your own ideological ends. Car forums? Local gardening clubs? Cooking groups on Facebook? These are not the places to air your fears about Trump. I'm sorry, but you need to have some sense of propriety.

     Stephanie might be right about that “absolute worst way,” and she might be wrong. Nevertheless, they – The Left – will not stop, for an obvious reason: It's their final tactic before going to guns.

     Consider: Electoral politics has failed them. The media have failed them. The entertainment industry has failed them. Street demonstrations have failed them. Slander and unfounded accusations have failed them. The Deep State is failing them. The forces that defeated them in November have resisted all those thrusts. What's left is invasive hectoring...and violence.

     The evidence is clear, and clearly indicative.

     "The Federal Constitution must be obeyed, state rights preserved, our national debt must be paid, direct taxes and loans avoided, and the Federal Union preserved. These are the objects I have in view, and regardless of all consequences, will carry into effect." – Andrew Jackson

     This is not a subject that requires a great deal of explication. Read about Chadwick Moore’s experiences after interviewing Milo Yiannopoulos. Read about the ongoing assault on Ivanka Trump’s fashion business. Read about the spiraling anti-Trump hysteria in the Deep State. Ponder the pattern these things, and many comparable developments, make for the future of these United States.

     The Left is determined to claw back the power it has lost. Despite its deep entrenchment in the Civil Service and the federal and state bureaucracies, it knows its influence to be limited as long as it has no majorities in Congress and no ally in the White House. Moreover, President Trump has openly declared his intention to pare back the Left’s bureaucratic bastions. In a few cases, he might be amenable to eliminating them entirely.

     Like Andrew Jackson, and unlike several of our more recent presidents, Trump appears to mean what he says and to be resolved upon carrying his promises into effect. We haven’t seen much of that since FDR...and best not to dwell upon that particular enemy of the Constitution. As the entire federal bureaucracy, the main redoubt of the Left, serves at the pleasure of the president, he could wipe it out of existence with a stroke of his pen. No prospect could possibly terrify Leftist strategists more than that.

     What remains to protect their bastion are fatigue and fear. However, Trump and the stalwarts of his Administration show no signs of either. So they’ll do what they can to elicit them from the rest of us.

     Can grassroots Leftists engender fatigue enough among ordinary, decent Americans to persuade us to surrender to them?

     It’s possible. I can’t say of my own knowledge whether it’s making gains at this time, as I keep to myself and refuse to join groups regardless of their agendas. (There’s a Senior Center around the block from me that the C.S.O. has urged me to explore, but I’ve resisted so far. It’s all too likely there’ll be people there.) From what I’ve heard from others, the tactics Stephanie The Right Geek has decried are being employed rather widely. Left-liberals respect no barriers to their politics. An occupational conference or convention? An awards ceremony? A family dinner, a birthday party, or a wake for a loved one? They’re all just opportunities to rant. And rant they most certainly do.

     It can be wearying. The question of greatest import is whether the fatigue it induces will impel us to concede, or will stiffen our resistance.

     In this regard, anecdotal evidence can be misleading. There’s no way to remove the innate skew from such reports, as nearly all of us associate by choice with persons of like mind and temperament. Moreover, we tend to remember, and to some extent to privilege, those reports that confirm our own preferences. Negative wishful thinking is as important as the positive sort.

     Given the excellent start the new Administration has achieved, I want to believe that the nation will largely rally behind President Trump and his lieutenants. I desperately want to believe that the hectoring from our “family leftists” will be shrugged aside at worst, met with scorn and heightened resistance at best. But I could be wrong.

     Wrong would be bad. Should the fatigue tactic fail it, the Left’s sole remaining resource would be fear: intimidation and outright violence, as we saw in the streets of Chicago, Berkeley, and the District of Columbia.

     Do my Gentle Readers have any thoughts on the matter?

     ADDENDUM: As it’s just about two years old today, this article about the political infestation within the Science Fiction Writers of America has renewed significance. Please review it.