Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Global Warming" And Rational Analysis

Daniel J. Mitchell makes a surprising, yet illuminating statement in the following headline:

The Radical Environmental Agenda Should Be Rejected, Even If Global Warming Is Real

Mitchell's article is about the use of cost-benefit analysis to determine when "enough is enough." Environmentalists almost unanimously reject that approach. They tend toward the "one molecule is too many" standard for environmental cleanliness, wherein a single disfavored particle in the air, water, or soil constitutes an obligation to remediate, regardless of the costs or benefits.

It's lunacy, of course, but on no subject no more so than on "global warming."

Imagine, for example, that it were objectively verifiable that present trends continuing, the mean surface temperature of the Earth would rise one Centigrade degree (1.8 Fahrenheit degrees) by 2100 A.D. Has anyone asked the following questions?

  1. What would the actual consequences be? Is it possible to determine them beyond a reasonable doubt?
  2. Might the extra ambient energy be a good thing rather than a bad one -- particularly for Mankind?
  3. If we stipulate for argument's sake that the temperature increase would be a bad thing for Mankind, just how bad would it be? Would it be less costly and disruptive to adapt to it than to attempt to prevent it?
  4. Assuming adaptation to be "off the table" for unspecified reasons, just how bad would the impact on Mankind be? Would it be worse than having to turn on the air conditioner two weeks earlier each year? How would we know?
  5. What additional resources might Man in 2100 have with which to cope with the rise in temperature?

Note that my focus in the above is the effect on Mankind. That is the only standard by which to judge the impact of an environmental change, whether it's as subtle as a one-degree turn in the jet streams or as dramatic as an asteroid strike. Any standard that demotes the well-being of humans below some other consideration is inadmissible for moral reasons.

Environmentalists refuse to accept that. Not even the ones who don't secretly worship moss, rocks, and dirt. It pulls their fangs, leaves them with no avenue of advance.

The key question, of course, is why.


Quite a number of "environmentalists" are nothing of the sort. Their true aim is, as Mitchell notes, the elimination of the free market: capitalism. It offends them for reasons that vary from one to the next. In some cases, the reason is that capitalism promotes individualism and political freedom.

One way to separate those unreformables from the rest is to use Michael Cloud's "Isolating The Issue" approach:

"Suppose I could demonstrate to you, by use of objective evidence, that your belief that capitalism is bad for the environment is incorrect -- that in fact it's better for the environment than any other economic system. Would that persuade you to re-evaluate your position?"

If the environmentalist's answer is a sincere yes, he's reachable by evidence and reasoning; there's a reason for the conversation to continue. But if his answer is no, or if he waffles by attempting to change the reason he opposes capitalism, his agenda isn't improving the environment; it's the destruction of capitalism. He regards all other considerations as means to that end.

You cannot reach such a person by rational argument.


The multiply attributed saying that "You cannot reason someone out of a position he did not reason himself into" is one of the most significant insights in political discourse. It's especially pertinent to discussions of environmental concerns. Many an environmentalist is reachable by reason, but many others are not. Indeed, the attempt to do so has purely negative consequences.

Coincidentally, today Doug Ross cites an unusually useful list: 25 ways to avert arguments unfavorable to the Left. You will most frequently see the following ones as responses from unreformables to reasoned argument against environmental radicalism:

2. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the 'How dare you!' gambit.

4. Use a straw man. Find or create a seeming element of your opponent's argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad. Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.

5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary 'attack the messenger' ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as 'kooks', 'right-wing', 'liberal', 'left-wing', 'terrorists', 'conspiracy buffs', 'radicals', 'militia', 'racists', 'religious fanatics', 'sexual deviates', and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.

7. Question motives. Twist or amplify any fact which could be taken to imply that the opponent operates out of a hidden personal agenda or other bias. This avoids discussing issues and forces the accuser on the defensive.

8. Invoke authority. Claim for yourself or associate yourself with authority and present your argument with enough 'jargon' and 'minutia' to illustrate you are 'one who knows', and simply say it isn't so without discussing issues or demonstrating concretely why or citing sources.

18. Emotionalize, Antagonize, and Goad Opponents. If you can't do anything else, chide and taunt your opponents and draw them into emotional responses which will tend to make them look foolish and overly motivated, and generally render their material somewhat less coherent. Not only will you avoid discussing the issues in the first instance, but even if their emotional response addresses the issue, you can further avoid the issues by then focusing on how 'sensitive they are to criticism.'

19. Ignore proof presented, demand impossible proofs. This is perhaps a variant of the 'play dumb' rule. Regardless of what material may be presented by an opponent in public forums, claim the material irrelevant and demand proof that is impossible for the opponent to come by (it may exist, but not be at his disposal, or it may be something which is known to be safely destroyed or withheld, such as a murder weapon.) In order to completely avoid discussing issues, it may be required that you to categorically deny and be critical of media or books as valid sources, deny that witnesses are acceptable, or even deny that statements made by government or other authorities have any meaning or relevance.

24. Silence critics. If the above methods do not prevail, consider removing opponents from circulation by some definitive solution so that the need to address issues is removed entirely. This can be by their death, arrest and detention, blackmail or destruction of their character by release of blackmail information, or merely by destroying them financially, emotionally, or severely damaging their health.

Note how often #24 appears in contemporary political interplay. Environmentalist unreformables have used it more often than most others.

Inasmuch as the above responses to your rational analysis indicate clearly that your approach has achieved nothing, at the very best you've just wasted your time and energy. You might also have evoked a destructive response aimed at you personally as "an enemy of the cause." That suggests that your first duty when entering the fray is to determine whether your opponent is persuadable at all, by the "Isolating The Issue" technique or otherwise.

When the specific subject is "global warming / climate change / climate disruption," the stakes are at their highest, for this chimera is being used as a reason to impose totalitarian control, by a world government, over every last one of Man's activities. He who actively desires such an outcome, rather than deploring it as an unfortunate survival necessity, imagines himself as one of its commissars. You could no more persuade him out of his thesis than you could stop the rotation of the Earth.

Here are the strongest rational arguments against the "global warming" chimera. Use them if and only if you have first established that your opponent is potentially persuadable. If he isn't, walk away, swiftly and without regret. His convictions constitute a faith -- a religion -- and there's no point arguing religion with a "true believer."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Threats? Or Action?

Reflect well on this battle cry from Robert P. George:

Last May, one of the most influential conservative and religious intellectual leaders in America gave a somber speech in Washington, declaring it to be “Good Friday in America for Christians.” In this exclusive two part video interview, Princeton’s Robert P. George admitted, “that was a hard speech to give.”

“Christians, and those rejecting the me-generation liberal dogma of ‘if it feels good do it,’ are no longer tolerable by the intellectual and cultural elite,” says George, 59, director of the James Madison program at Princeton University. Citing the political witch hunt that forced Brendan Eich’s departure as CEO of Mozilla for a small contribution to a conservative political cause, George said politically correct mobs “threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good evil, and what is evil, good. They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all.”

Yet instead of accepting this liberal cultural dominance, George offers a call to arms with practical advice for the embattled faithful. Encouraging conservatives to model themselves off the early civil rights leaders who clung to noble bedrock free speech principles liberals claim to embrace today, George says “our first and most effective move is to hold these elites to their principles.”

I have only one quibble with Professor George's assessment: the PC crowd waving torches and pitchforks at us and the political elite that benefit from their madness are no longer threatening; they're acting -- ruthlessly and without remorse -- to chain us down to their dogmas, silenced and unable to escape.

They're acting because we made the fatal mistake of "compromising" with them through self-censorship to avoid "offending" anyone. But note who isn't afraid of "offending" whom, and never has been. Our pusillanimity emboldened them sufficiently to take up legal and political cudgels and have at us.

Ahhh, one-way "tolerance." Ain't it wonderful?


It really doesn't matter what your personal convictions are about sin. Christians and non-Christians differ on such things. Indeed, Christians tend to differ with one another, even intra-denominationally. Inasmuch as religious convictions are and will forever remain a wholly personal matter, it would be as wrong for us to impose our views on those who disagree as is the contemporary reverse. Yet we refrain from standing up for ourselves and one another out of...what? Fear of disapproval by persons whose behavior we deplore?

No. Just as in the post below, the magic word was and remains "compromise." Except in this particular case, the "compromise" went as follows: "You folks agree to accept our deviances in every way, and we'll agree not to prosecute you for 'discrimination.'" Until the Left had command of the nation's legal and regulatory mechanisms and could act against us penally, we could at least speak our minds and follow our consciences in our private actions. "Anti-discrimination" laws and the vicious regulatory bureaucracies that enforce them have made it hazardous even to voice a complaint to one another.

All rights fall dead when the banner of "discrimination" is waved at them, including the right of freedom of expression.


I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes, generally no friend to freedom, who wrote that real freedom of expression must include "freedom for the thought we hate." If that isn't obvious to you, the problem lies with you, not with the concept of freedom. A "freedom" that ceases as soon as someone declares himself "offended" or "discriminated against" is just a cosmetic applied to totalitarianism: "You want to remain free? Just agree with us in all things and do exactly as we say." The Soviets and Red Chinese honor that sort of "freedom."

Freedom -- political freedom, the guarantee against a State-imposed penalty for saying or doing as you please -- must include all the following, without exception:

  • Freedom of thought and conscience;
  • Absolute rights to control one's own body;
  • Freedom of expression, regardless of medium;
  • Freedom to acquire and retain any item of any description;
  • Freedom in economic matters: i.e., in production and commerce;
  • Freedom to choose one's own associates, including for economic purposes;
  • Freedom of travel through both unowned and "public" lands and thoroughfares;

...with the sole limitation that one must not inflict objective damage upon others in the enjoyment of one's freedom. "Offense" is not objective damage; neither is "discrimination." Yet these are the shillelaghs that have been used to browbeat us out of virtually all the freedom our great grandparents enjoyed.

There cannot be a "right" to demand that to which you have no right. That includes any demand that others forgo the exercise of their rights. But this is the regime under which we suffer today.


Professor George has given us our marching orders. Unfortunately, given the current legal and political milieu, those of us who rally to his banner are likely to take casualties: We will be reviled -- and "discriminated" against -- at the very least. But if you genuinely believe in freedom -- the right to do as you damned well please as long as you refrain from harming others -- that's not a sufficient reason not to march.

The marshaling area is freedom of expression. From there, all else won't necessarily follow, but we cannot have any of our other freedoms back until we insist on this one.

Offend.
Joyously and unabashedly.
Be braced for nasty consequences.
This wont be a bloodless campaign.
Do it anyway.

And pray.

"Reasonable Compromises"

Courtesy of Random Nuclear Strikes:

"Reasonable," "compromise," and "rights" do not belong in the same sentence...the same conversation...or the same lexicon.

Our monetary mavens.

Accordingly, the Fed is pre-occupied with utterly transient and frequently revised-away monthly release data on retail sales, housing starts, auto production, business investment, employment, inflation and the like. But its always about the latest ticks in the data—never about the larger patterns and the deeper longer-term trends.

And of course that’s the essence of the Keynesian affliction. The denizens of the Eccles Building—-overwhelmingly academics and policy apparatchiks—-rarely venture into the blooming, buzzing messiness of the real economic world. They simplistically believe, therefore, that the US economy is just a giant bathtub that must the filled to the brim with “aggregate demand” and all will be well.[1]

It never ceases to amaze me that people accept that someone like Janet Yellen, or Obama, or Nancy Pelosi can and should make decisions about how to spend their money. Trucking companies know that a new truck might increase their earnings by X amount but the decision that gets made for them is that a solar panel manufacturer should instead get their money or that a bridge over a hiking trail in Yosemite should be repaired.

I only play an economist in the movies but you can’t beat this definition of Keynesian economics: The belief that you can raise the level of water in a swimming pool by taking water out of one end of the pool and dumping it in the other.

The word "maven" in the title of this post is carefully chosen. One definition of maven is your pal who goes to the stereo store to advise you on what stereo to buy. Your friend knows he doesn’t know anything about stereos and the salesman also knows that your "expert" knows nothing. The only person who doesn’t know that your maven is clueless is you.

Keep this in mind next time you contemplate that "12 members of the FOMC can tweak the performance of a $17 trillion economy on virtually a month to month basis—using the crude tools of interest rate pegging and word cloud emissions (i.e. ‘verbal guidance’)."[2]

Notes
[1]  "The Fed’s Credit Channel Is Broken And Its Bathtub Economics Has Failed." By David Stockman, Contra Corner, 9/28/14.
[2]  Id.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scattered Thoughts

I have a huge list of chores to address and only today to get through them, so please allow me the following scattershot post in lieu of a “traditional” essay.


We talk about “natural law” quite a lot in tones of excessive confidence that we really know what it is. In point of fact, we mostly believe we know what it is: a level of confidence based on experiments that have yet to produce a perverse result. The touchstone of scientific knowledge is successful, repeatable prediction, so our confidence in some bit of scientific knowledge grows as predictions based on it are made and confirmed. Yet that doesn’t mean we can ever close our minds to the possibility that objective reality might be more complex than our current understanding. Science disallows the very possibility of final, unchallengeable answers.


While we’re on the subject of scientific knowledge, the warmistas have been going a little crazy lately, as it’s now been eighteen years since the last measurable increase in the mean surface temperature of the Earth. That contradicts every last one of their theses and utterly invalidates the applicability of their simulations. But they’re fanatics – persons whose belief doesn flag in the face of adverse evidence – and fanatics don’t quit. They win or they die. So expect the fusillades to continue for some time to come.


The resignation of Eric Holder from his post as Attorney General of the U.S. has been variably interpreted. Perhaps it really is the “sop to Cerberus” required to mitigate the expected adverse consequences from the midterm elections, or perhaps it was a way to dampen the pressure to investigate the Justice Department's numerous scandals, or perhaps Holder was just tired of functioning as Obama’s loyal lightning rod and Hessian hired gun. Whatever the case, the next phase of the drama must be carefully watched. Remember how many Republican Senators voted to confirm Holder, despite his checkered past. Will they view the nominee for his replacement equally uncritically?


The Israeli-HAMAS quarrel seems to have quieted down a mite in recent weeks, and I’d like to know why. Is it an artifact of preferential reportage on ISIS, the result of pressure by other Palestinians on HAMAS to “stop this shit” (George W. Bush), or the result of Israeli success at destroying HAMAS’s warmaking resources? Is anyone covering the matter well that doesn’t have a Main Stream Media censor hovering over him as he writes?


Lately I’ve been hearing quite a lot of sad commentary about the mediocrity of many of the Congressional and Senatorial candidates the GOP has presented us this year. Though it might fall short of being the consensus, a great many persons are saying things along the line of “Why vote for Tweedledumb over Tweedledumber?” It’s a sentiment that resonates with me. One alternative is to agitate for a strong “None Of The Above Is Acceptable” provision in your state’s constitution: i.e., one which decrees that, should NOTA gain a plurality in an election for some office, that office shall remain vacant and its powers unexercised until the next general election. No more of this “special election” or “implicit powers” BS, please!


Commander M at Ace of Spades this morning cites an article about our “part-time” Congress. To me, that’s a good thing rather than a bad one. Imagine the horrors that institution could inflict on us if it worked a conventional 2000-hour year! So why not intensify the effect: have Congress sit for no more than six weeks per year, perhaps with strengthened quorum rules, to further reduce its inflictions? They don’t meet to repeal legislation, do they?


The New York Yankees’ season has finally come to an end, taking Derek Jeter’s storied career with it. On the one hand, it’s always a sad thing to see a star player retire, especially one who’s brought as much credit to the game as Jeter. On the other, the Yanks are a badly decimated team replete with players who are at or near the end of their useful playing years. They need the winter to rebuild. Let’s hope the front office has its eyes on some burgeoning talent – and the good sense not to try to “buy” a World Championship by trading rising young players for aging veterans with monstrous salaries, as it’s often done in the past.


Speaking of sports, what are the odds that the New York Rangers can improve on last season’s spectacular playoff run? Yes, they lost the Stanley Cup finals, but three of their losses in the finals were in overtime. That suggests that the team is still sound, and might very well contend strongly this coming season...once again, assuming the front office doesn’t, in Robert C. Townsend’s pithy phrase, “pull up the flowers to see how the roots are growing.”


Would anyone care to make a few recommendations for fresh, high quality popular music? I don’t listen to the radio, and just yesterday one of my favorite CDs literally crumbled in the player. I used to dismiss such little hints from time, but no longer.


If you program computers, what are your favorite:

  • Languages?
  • Development suites?
  • Debugging and analysis tools?
  • Source code and version control systems?
  • Ways to “decompress” from an arduous session at the keyboard?

And is there anyone out there who’d like to recommend a suite for developing applications for Android platforms?


That’s it for today, Gentle Reader. Duty calls. Fresh meat tomorrow, I hope!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Assorted Fiction Natterings

1. The Death Of The Masculine Hero.

Quite a lot of the science fiction and fantasy currently emerging from conventional publishers strikes me as androphobic. That is, the writers – nearly all women – are either unwilling or unable to write a believably masculine protagonist. Neither will their protagonists be at all feminine: she’ll be a “tough chick” of the sort currently in vogue, who will display contempt for both conventional masculine and conventional feminine tastes, pastimes, and attitudes. If there’s a male co-protagonist, he’ll either be markedly subordinate to her or will factor into the plot principally as a love interest.

I have no problems with female-centered stories. I’ve written a few myself. But when a writer establishes a pattern of avoiding masculine – not merely “male” – protagonists, I start to wonder if there might be a disability involved...if not something worse.

“Worse” would be a dislike of masculinity that demands its subordination under all circumstances. It seems to me that there’s a lot of that in contemporary genre fiction coming from Pub World these days. That says some unfortunate things about that industry and its prospects for the years to come. When your market is confined to women, you’d better remain appealing to double-X tastes...and there are no guarantees about that sort of thing.

Ironically, successful male writers in the speculative genres display equal facility at crafting both masculine and feminine protagonists, and no reluctance to craft stories around either sort. That, too, says something unfortunate...but I’ll leave the inference thereof to you.


2. Series Writing.

The series protagonist has become a dominant feature of contemporary fiction. When done well, a series protagonist can give a series of novels a sense of growth and thematic continuity; when done poorly, it can make the product banal or worse. There’s also a side effect on the writer of locking himself into a series character: he can deaden his ability to innovate characterologically, and sometimes with regard to plot as well.

If you really like writing series of novels that feature a common protagonist, one way to avert the negative effects while positioning yourself to reap the benefits is to write two or more series concurrently...each with a distinct protagonist, of course. Several writers I’ve recently encountered have adopted that tactic, and to my eyes it’s served them well.

There is a downside, of course: the writer must learn to “keep it all straight.” Events in one of his fictional realms must not bleed over into the others. Characters and settings must be forbidden to cross over. This implies that the temptation to go for a “grand unified” scheme of the sort that successfully seduced Isaac Asimov in his final novels must be resisted. Nothing else is as likely to draw “Oh, come ons” or jeers of disapproval.

So far, the writers I’ve seen attempt this have done reasonably well by it...but that “grand unified” temptation is lurking in the shadows along each of their paths. We shall see.


3. Undying Characters.

While we’re on the subject of series characters, I must include that I’m afflicted by one that I tried (Lord knows I tried) to kill off. Conclusively. Never to rise again. I even wrote about his soul detaching from his body and flying toward God’s arms. It was, of course, Louis Redmond of Chosen One and On Broken Wings.

Louis is by far my most popular character. Yet I created him with a very specific end in mind, and when I say “end” I mean end. His death in On Broken Wings was foreordained by the role for which I created him. But he refuses to stay decently buried, mainly because readers who’ve loved him keep telling me how angry they are at me about my murdering him and demanding that I bring him back for a few dozen encores.

So the novel in progress, working title Polymath, will include a role for Louis. However, Louis won’t be the protagonist; he’ll be a critical Supporting Cast character who (I hope) will help to tie Polymath properly into the developing “Onteora Canon” while simultaneously placating the screaming hordes of readers protesting his death.

I’m between two weeks and a month from finishing this thing. I’ve already contacted my favorite cover artist, and she’s locked, loaded, and peering over the trench lip. Watch this space.


4. Another Popular Character Whose Return Has Been Demanded...

...isn’t coming back just yet...but soon!

Among readers of my dreck, just after Louis Redmond in popularity stands presidential candidate Stephen Graham Sumner, lineal descendant of the great William Graham Sumner, ardent Constitutionalist, and generally good guy. The demands for more about Sumner, his quest for the presidency, and his tenure in office – of course he’s going to win – have been almost as strident as those clamoring for the return of Louis.

Yes, there have been a few scattered stories about President Sumner. I could write a few more, release them as a modest collection, and hope that his admirers would let me off the hook, but that feels like a cop-out. He deserves to be the protagonist of a novel of his own, or at least co-protagonist to a figure of comparable stature. The latter approach is what I have in mind: currently contemplated title Statesman. I expect that will be the next effort after Polymath is off my desk.

No, don’t hold your breath while you wait. It takes me a year, on average, to turn out a novel. But there will be one, so hang in there. Momentous events will soon come from – and upon – the world-shakers from the Shire-like realm of Onteora County, New York. Will the nation survive? Will the forces of Transnationalist Progressivism and Moral Relativism finally meet their match? Will wrongs be righted, villains reap their just deserts, and Christine D’Alessandro finally find a sweetie who isn’t doomed to an early death? And what about Naomi?

Stay tuned.

Front-Runners And Front-Running

Have a gander at this Matthew Continetti piece about Hillary Clinton’s Designated Restroom Escorts:

Amy Chozick covers Hillary Clinton for the New York Times. She is an enterprising and dedicated reporter, and many of her stories have annoyed the 2016 presidential frontrunner. This week Chozick covered a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. It was her turn to be annoyed.

Chozick’s most revealing article about the event had nothing to do with the scheduled agenda, or with the opaque, labyrinthine, and seedy finances of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, or with the tsunami of clichés from the stage about global warming, gender equality, wellness, empowerment, polarization, Mohammed Yunus, sustainable development, globalization, Palm Oil alternatives, uplift, board diversity, education access, green energy, Malala, information technology, organic farming, public-private partnerships, and #YesAllWomen. The article had to do with Chozick’s bathroom habits.

Every time she felt the urge, a representative of the Clintons would accompany her to the ladies’ room. Every time. And not only would the “friendly 20-something press aide” stroll with Chozick to the entrance of the john. She also “waited outside the stall.” As though Chozick were a little girl.

If it was not embarrassing enough to be chaperoned to the water closet by a recent college graduate no doubt beaming with righteousness and an entirely undeserved and illusory sense of self-importance, some earnest and vacant and desperate-to-be-hip Millennial whose affiliation with the Clintons, whose involvement in their various schemes, consists of nothing more than her uniform of white shirt and silk scarf—if this was not on its own an indignity and an insult for a correspondent of the New York Times, when Chozick asked for comment on the bathroom police, she received the following response:

Craig Minassian, a spokesman for the initiative, directed me to a press release about American Standard’s Flush for Good campaign to improve sanitation for three million people in the developing world. ‘Since you are so interested in bathrooms and CGI,’ Mr. Minassian said.

Please read it all. It’s worth your time.

Hillary Rodham Clinton surely considers herself the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Front-runners tend to adopt a primarily defensive posture; it stems from their conviction that the prize is “theirs to lose.” That results in predictable behavior of the sort Continetti comments on above, at least from the sort of politician to whom winning is everything, and justifies any tactic whatsoever – and the Clintons are politicians of exactly that sort.


I’ve written about the devolution of the political class several times in the past. The most salient aspect of that process has been the displacement – sometimes forcible – of honorable persons sincerely interested in serving the nation by persons who are merely interested in gaining the power, prestige, and perquisites of office and enlarging them to the greatest possible extent. This follows a law of human nature: other things being equal, selfish motivations will triumph over selfless ones. He who wants power for its own sake will naturally pursue it more ardently, and with greater determination, than will he who seeks it for “the greater good.” (For today, let’s pass in silence over the infinitesimal percentage of power-seekers who grasp what would really conduce to “the greater good.”)

But decent persons, at least here in America, understand how pernicious is the love of power. If we omit for the moment Milton Friedman’s aphorism about the imperative of creating incentives that will move bad men to do the right thing, this must be considered a prime civic virtue, for character will always tell. But the decent persons, whose understanding of what would conduce to “the greater good” is quite as flawed as any politician’s, are fatally fragmented along ideological lines, which gives election-deciding voting power to others – and those others are quite as self-serving as the most amoral power-seeker.

An example: At this time, the Congressional seat for New York State’s 1st Congressional District is being contested by incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop and moderate Republican Lee Zeldin. (We don’t often see conservative Republicans here in New York; the state might have placed an import restriction on them.) Zeldin, heretofore not an office holder, attacks Bishop as corrupt, while Bishop touts his efforts in “preserving Long Island jobs.” Zeldin’s allegations are well substantiated; the FBI is investigating them at this time. Bishop’s claims are essentially about having put pressure on the state legislature and other Congressmen through vote trading offers. But the edge goes to Bishop:

  • Bishop has succeeded in mobilizing Long Island’s organized labor in his favor;
  • Long Island voters are ideologically not heavily weighted to either Republicans or Democrats;
  • The local Board of Elections has already stolen one election for Bishop (i.e., from Randy Altschuler) and would surely be willing to repeat the favor.

Zeldin, in contrast, has no powerfully motivated constituency to counterweight Bishop’s edges in organized labor and local government. It would therefore require an unlikely energizing of Republican-leaning voters to oust Bishop from his seat. Mind you, it could happen; it’s just not likely.


State and local races tend to draw less journalistic attention than federal ones, for obvious reasons. Journalists are the easiest people in the world to bribe; all it takes is a promise of “access.” That stirs the emotions of the typical reporter even more energetically than would a large cash payment, again for reasons of motivation:

  • A journalist’s greatest desire, overwhelming all others, is to be read;
  • His altitude at a prestigious media organ is the key to increasing his readership;
  • His facility for getting close to the subjects of his reportage is essential to increasing that altitude.

Alongside those selfish motives, there’s the nominally “unselfish” one of possibly being consulted by the power-wielder for his opinions on various aspects of public policy, and thereby having the opportunity to shape it in his preferred direction. As most journalists are emotion-oriented, the trade is predisposed to government activism in “good causes,” with predictable consequences.

Yet once in a while, a career journalist will maintain his integrity against the importunings of politicians. Amy Chozick, with whose work I’m unfamiliar, might be such a case. If she’s willing to write articles that occasionally mention an unfavorable detail or two about the Clintons and their wholly unscrupulous political machine, it would surely prejudice them against her. The business about tailing her even to the ladies’ room would be entirely credible.

This is front-running without disguise. Hillary Clinton’s entire life has been dedicated to the pursuit, maintenance, and enlargement of political power. It’s the only reason she remained with her tomcatting husband after the infamous “bimbo eruptions” of the 1992 Presidential campaign and stuck with him through the subsequent Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals. What we know of her, from her famous, sporadically violent rages to her involvement in the suspicious demise of Vince Foster, suggests a sociopathy that would place her at the pinnacle of the power uber alles sub-race of political climbers.

For such a person, no tactic that might deflect or blunt an enemy’s thrusts is too foul to employ...and a journalist who places objective service to his trade above self-serving or ideological considerations is automatically an enemy.


The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-- William Butler Yeats, 1919

I forgive Yeats his misuse of anarchy in the above for the starkly terrifying imagery and relentless cadence of his immortal poem. Note that he wrote it just after the conclusion of World War I, during the catastrophic influenza epidemic that threatened to lay a second Black Death upon war-ravaged, utterly exhausted Europe. There were many in those days who believed that the end of the world was at hand. The spiritual malaise that followed fell barely short of becoming a worldwide collapse, and for one reason only: the United States of America.

Yeats had tapped the Spiritus Mundi, which Germans term the Zeitgeist. His observation that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity” was in full and garish view in those years, with the rise of totalitarian socialism in the East and the unconcealed efforts of the victorious Allies at stripping every asset of any economic value from their defeated opponents. There was no longer any denying that those at the top of the political food chain would have their fill despite any objections and all obstacles.

So it is today in America. Nor can we deny that the malady has infected nominally conservative ranks, as witness the relentless campaigning of the credible presidential contenders in the GOP’s ranks. Governors, senators, and former holders of those offices are all behaving as if the 2016 nomination is the most important thing in the world. Few of the positions they espouse can be taken as carved into stone. All are subject to revision for electoral advantage, as we shall see when the midterm elections are behind us and the campaigning for the Republican presidential nod gets really serious.

Front-runners will front-run, with consequences similar to Hillary Clinton’s restroom policing of Amy Chozick. Those who aspire to be front-runners will emulate such behavior as they think will serve them, and that they can get away with. Absent a great and barely precedented rebirth of the American conscience, the rest of us will merely look on in bewilderment.

Keep your powder dry.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Day Off From Blogging

Forgive me, Gentle Reader. I haven’t got anything particularly interesting to rant or rave about this morning, and I’ve been neglecting my novel-in-progress...a particularly sore point when it occurs to me, as I’m within about 15% of completing it. So I plan to spend today on fiction.

I hope to have fresh blood-pressure-elevating material for you on the morrow.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sucker Puncher Sucker Punched

Courtesy of Maetenloch at Ace of Spades HQ comes this link to a 2009 piece by Quin Hillyer that lays bare the true aims of the Main Stream Media:

The year was 1993. I was working as a press secretary for U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, of Louisiana, a strongly pro-military but carefully budget-cutting veteran of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Our top legislative aide, Paul Cambon, told me that 60 Minutes had been snooping around a small medical-research project back in Louisiana funded through a military grant....

Meanwhile, this particular research was drawing protests because—get this—the doctor’s method involved repeatedly shooting cats in the head with BB pellets. The cats would be placed in a head vise so the doctor could precisely aim the pellets, and then…Boom! Then he’d study the results....

Again, this was shooting cats, on the taxpayer dime. Oddly enough, though, 60 Minutes wasn’t interested in blasting Livingston for allowing the cat shooting. The TV show wasn’t outraged that the goal of this cat shooting reportedly was to prove something already understood for 95 years. Instead, 60 Minutes wanted to know why Livingston was not supporting the cat-shooting experiments. The news magazine’s staff seemed to assume that soldiers’ lives would be dependent on this one scientist’s experiments.

What Livingston had done, as a careful appropriator, was pretty standard stuff. In the most recent military funding bill, he had inserted language suspending that project’s grant until the research could be scientifically peer-reviewed. He didn’t kill the project entirely. He just caused a pause so he could learn if the experiments actually had real military / medical usefulness. If not, then it was both a waste of taxpayer money and outrageous cruelty.

For whatever reason, 60 Minutes was lining up with the cat shooter. (We never nailed down rumors that a CBS News producer was related to somebody close to the scientist.) All we knew was that the show’s snoopers seemed intent on a morality play in which a purportedly pro-military congressman was blocking research that could save soldiers’ lives. Bizarre.

Please, please read the whole thing. I'll wait here until you've finished.


Back so soon? Now where was I? Oh, yes...

Mike Wallace carefully cultivated a reputation for being a fearlessly honest investigative reporter but nevertheless a courtly, gentlemanly individual, whereas in fact he was nothing of either sort. This duplicitous baron of pseudo-journalism cared about only two things in this world: his reputation, and damaging Republicans, especially conservative Republicans. That becomes pellucidly clear in this segment of Hillyer's piece:

I produced a 27-page, footnoted, single-spaced refutation of the entire 60 Minutes report. Fact after fact, citation after citation (including the misleading protester footage), I laid out the blatant dishonesty. I sent it to 60 Minutes demanding a retraction. I sent it out to a bunch of reporters. And I noted (without mentioning our audiotapes) that Wallace had lied when he said we had refused to cooperate. But no public apology came to match the apology in the private phone call.

Amazingly enough, 60 Minutes re-ran the segment in July. With no corrections. Not one.

THIS TIME, we called the president of CBS News. Bob played our audiotape for him. And then played it again. There was Wallace apologizing and admitting to having been “dishonest” and “stupid.” And yet the show had run again, without correction. It was clear we had a slam-dunk legal case if we wanted to press it.

The CBS president was irate at his own team. He made that clear. The tape did the trick. Apparently the news president then came down hard on Wallace. Really hard. Wallace soon called back. His voice was shaky. “Well, um, you know something? You’re a better man than I am, Congressman.” He promised to go on the air and apologize to the entire country. Then, after more of what can only be described as groveling, Wallace said this:

“You can get this on your tape recorder—I wish you told me you had a tape recorder going; that would have been the gentlemanly thing to do, the first time….”

Livingston interrupted, lowering the boom: “It would have been, but then I didn’t think that I was necessarily dealing with a gentleman.”

Wallace: “Well, in any case…”

Livingston: “And frankly, you’ve proven me right.”

Bingo. You could almost hear the phone line sizzle. Wallace had no answer. There was no good answer. Livingston was correct.

It's clear from the above that Wallace wasn't concerned about anything but salvaging his reputation. He was desperate to counter the revelation of his deceit. His complaint about Livingston recording the earlier call without saying so was all too clearly aimed at mitigating the damage he'd taken...though why it would in any way reduce Wallace's odium from his deceit is entirely lost on me.

Conscience, as H. L. Mencken has told us, is "the still, small voice that warns us that someone might be watching." In our era, perhaps we should add "or recording."


But wait: there's more! You'd expect that Wallace's colleagues in the hyper-competitive journalism business would pounce on this bit of scandal like the pack of ravenous jackals they are. You'd want to believe it, at least. Here's what happened instead:

[Colman McCarthy's piece in the Washington Post] was the only one that really covered all the other dishonesties in the 60 Minutes report. It was the only one that made real use of my 27-page manifesto. A number of journalists defended Livingston, but only McCarthy really explained the underlying dispute. The one thing that drew the attention of the rest of them was the simple, straight apology, based on the original simple, straightforward demand that a TV show not splice an interview out of context.

I, the press aide, had forgotten the nature of the press. But Livingston remembered: Keep it simple. Keep it straight. Keep it absolutely clear. And play it smart by collecting evidence that cannot possibly be denied.

The journalistic fraternity behaved the way fraternity brothers always do: Keep it in-house as far as possible. They couldn't deny that Wallace had apologized on-air for his earlier on-air deceit. But they could efface the meat of the story, plus all the historical evidence of 60 Minutes' fraudulent reportage over the decades. That helped Wallace to preserve what remained of his carefully cultivated reputation -- a reputation that remains one of the worst of all the deceits he used his position at the "Tiffany network," whose news division was for many years the brightest jewel in its crown, to perpetrate against his partisan enemies. It helped him to remain the doyen of 60 Minutes for another thirteen years...years during which the program would add heaps more duplicitous "journalism" to an already shameful record.

Glenn Reynolds constantly calls such "journalists" "Democrat operatives with bylines." Sadly, he's dead on target.


If there's anything that a conservative or libertarian must keep constantly in mind, it's that whatever their enticements and cajolery, the Main Stream Media are not his friend. They're not interested in his positions or his arguments for them. They're not interested in presenting his ideas, or him, objectively to their audiences. They're interested solely in making him look bad, if possible like a hypocritical monster. There are evolutionary reasons for this which I'll delve into at another time. For practical purposes, the imperative of remaining constantly on guard against MSM reporters and allies is the critical item of wisdom.

For some, it's about feathering the nest: making oneself ever more valuable a mouthpiece to one's "sources" and the political community one has cultivated. For others, it's about loyalty to The Cause: keeping faith with the convictions to which one has surreptitiously pledged absolute fidelity. For still others, it's just their preferred way of expressing low character, their penchants for spite in the guise of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable."

Whatever their justifications, they do it willingly. They have already decided as an unchallenged and unchallengeable moral precept that "conservatives deserve it." It's part of their "assumption of differential rectitude" (Thomas Sowell), by which they have rationalized that there is no tactic morally disallowed against enemies so foul.

Never, ever trust them.

Stuff Dubya Didn’t Do

So! You’re entranced by Obama’s “firsts,” are you, you prog tranzi relativist, you?

Add your contributions below.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Problems In The Liberty Movement Part 2: The Absolutists

"Freedom is a tenable objective for responsible adults only. We do not believe in freedom for children or madmen." -- Milton Friedman, in Capitalism and Freedom.

Among the worst aspects of any sort of ideology is its penchant for "mission creep." An ideology -- that is, a coherent system of ideas aimed at explaining some aspect of reality -- is inherently a partial thing. No idea born in the mind of Man can explain everything. All ideas have a proper domain of application, outside which they produce perverse results.

Libertarian ideology is no exception.


I wrote some time ago:

Where would the libertarian postulates of individual rights and individual responsibilities fail to apply? Three generic places:

  1. Where the atoms that interact are not individuals, but collectivities;
  2. Where the "individual" under discussion is incapable, either from innate incapacity or from injury, of understanding rights and responsibilities;
  3. Where rights clash in an absolute and irreconcilable way.

Important specific topics that fall within these categories are:

  1. National defense and foreign dealings;
  2. The protection and restraint of the immature and the mentally diseased;
  3. Abortion.

It is noteworthy that clashes between libertarians and ordinary conservatives have tended to concentrate on those three specific topics. The argument is never over what produces the best possible outcome, but over premises. It's equally noteworthy that the phrase "Check your premises" is the emission of one of the most absolute absolutists associated with the liberty movement, the late Ayn Rand.

When the application of a particular premise produces consequences clearly less desirable than the starting conditions, it's time to examine the premise for consistency with the metaphysically given facts of reality. Many a hardcore libertarian cheered for Barack Hussein Obama's weakening of the American military. After all, he might have reasoned, war is horrible, it's an activity of governments, and it's conducted by military institutions; therefore, winnowing down the military will reduce the frequency and horror of wars. That, to be gentle about it, has not been the case.

Similarly, quite a number of libertarians wholeheartedly cheered for the evisceration of the laws that permitted states and localities to confine those who are visibly, self-destructively irrational. While the laws had problems -- they made involuntary commitment far too easy to effect -- some of the individuals thus confined were genuinely dangerous to themselves, and in some cases to others as well. No one gains from allowing them to roam freely.

A premise released from its proper domain can kill. What else is a partial-birth abortion -- defended not just by liberals but by many libertarians as merely the exercise of "a woman's right to choose" -- but murder committed with legal sanction?

Persons sensitive to the consequences of ideological overextension would shy back from doing so. But ideological absolutists will not. Their embrace of their ideas is akin to religious commitment. Considering what proportion of such persons are avowed atheists, that has a particularly ironic cast.


Certainty is attractive. Persons certain of their beliefs can marshal great passion to their proselytizing. As many persons less certain of their convictions will happily delegate the responsibility for "getting it right" to one whose faith is absolute, they often become leaders.

But quasi-religious certainty makes it very difficult to admit to error. Absolute certainty can render one incapable of even seeing the evidence of error. There's too close a coupling between the ideas and the holder's identity. If you need a practical example, consider how assiduously Barack Hussein Obama refuses to accept responsibility for any of his errors. He even blamed the 2010 electoral setbacks his party suffered on inadequate messaging -- in other words, failure to make us benighted ones understand how good his policies were for us.

No, Obama is not a libertarian; very far from it. But his absolute certainty that he knows what's best -- "the right thing to do," in his phrasing -- illustrates the hazards of absolute certainty better than any other sitting politician.

Contrast Obama with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul is willing to change his mind and say he's done so. For example, he recently admitted that he had incorrectly evaluated the threat from ISIS, and would now endorse American military action against it. This, too, is an attractive characteristic, especially in a man who is forthright about his principles. One of Paul's stances is that American military power must be reserved to those theaters in which its use is in the American national interest. He didn't see that interest in the rise of ISIS, until the beheadings showed him otherwise.

That is the happy medium between having no principles whatsoever and having principles supposedly applicable to problems of any sort. Constitutionalism as expressed in the United States Constitution embeds that stance: the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Constitution are quite explicit, but it also contains provisions for amendment. Those provisions were the Founders' admission that as proud as they were of their creation, they made no pretense to infallibility, and that conditions they could not foresee might arise long after they were gone.

Absolutist libertarians often denigrate politicians for "flip-flopping." While announcing a change of mind can indicate a lack of principles and a willingness to say whatever the speaker thinks will win him votes, it can also be a simple admission of having erred, especially if accompanied by a clear, cogent explanation for the change.

Liberty-loving politicians are few today. Should they proliferate, they will only make headway if they possess the degree of humility required to admit to error, and to "not having all the answers," if we're ever to mount a serious drive at restoring Constitutionally limited government to these United States. This applies with equal force to other libertarian activists.