Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Ice Cream Is Running Low

     There are many days in anyone’s life when “it’s all getting to be a bit much.” I’m no exception, and I’m having one now. So rather than dribble on about essentially nothing of consequence, I’ll provide a few links to others’ jottings from which I took some edification or amusement.

     First and foremost for today, Nicki at The Liberty Zone has produced a classic rant, admirable in every way. When I finished it, I muttered “so I’m not the only one,” and wondered thereafter whether that’s a good thing.

     Second, if you’ve been struck by the similarities among the various “Black Lives Matter” riots, you’re not alone. Kelly Riddell provides a look at where some of their funding comes from.

     Third, please read this swift, unsparing dissection of the “Islam is a religion of peace” fraud. I’ve known that for quite some time, but the resistance to the idea persists among far too many Americans.

     Fourth, if you haven’t yet pondered the strange form of capital we call political power, read Dystopic’s analysis. Far too many people fail to understand that no one and nothing can “corrupt a politician.” A corrupt politician arrives in office already corrupt, because it’s the love of power that corrupts.

     Fifth and last for today, when the subject is feminism, Stacy McCain often becomes repetitious. However, here he gets both the length and the substance just right. Young women puzzled by feminists’ open, avowed hostility toward men (and young men inclined to think there might be exceptions) especially need the insights here.

     See you tomorrow, I hope.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Political Dynamics Engender Fiscal Dynamics

     When you must purchase the political support required to attain (or stay in) power, you’ll seize on any source of funding:

     Donald Trump wants to completely repeal the federal estate tax. Hillary Clinton wants to raise it in two key ways. On this issue, their views could not be more opposite. Whether you call it an estate tax, a death tax, or a tax on accumulated wealth, it is controversial. It is entirely distinct from income tax. You pay income tax as you earn, but whatever you have left at your death, might be taxed again.

     Presently, estates worth $5.45 million or less are exempt from federal estate tax. Beyond that dollar limit, the estate tax kicks in, generally requiring you to pay a tax of 40%. Clinton wants to raise that 40% tax rate to 45%. She also thinks the $5.45 million exemption threshold is too high. She would cut it materially so that more people have to pay estate tax, dropping the exemption amount from $5.45 million to $3.5 million.

     That would result in a rather significant increase in the tax burden on such an estate – and in an even more significant strain on the sort of small family-owned businesses that are typically the targets of the estate tax. Reporter Robert Wood elaborates on this effect:

     Already, it is hard for many family-owned businesses to stay afloat after the death of a key figure. Not all of the reasons are managerial. Many are financial, and taxes can force a sale. With no step up, we could have the world’s highest estate tax rate. Some have calculated an effective death tax rate of 57%. Then, if you add in state inheritance taxes, the combined tax rate could go as high as 68%.

     [Applause to CM Blake for the link.]

     Yet the predominant characterization of the candidates is that Trump is “for the plutocrats” while Clinton is “for the little guy.”


     Some years ago, a politician – a conservative, of course – made a rather penetrating statement about the estate tax: “Death should not be a taxable event.” Of course a sentence that includes the word should is an expression of opinion. Yet that statement drew a great deal of attention at the time, and despite heavy counterfire from the Democrats about “privileging the rich,” considerable approbation from Americans generally.

     For me it’s a reminder of what the late Cyril Northcote Parkinson said:

     Wasting the labour of the people “under the pretence of caring for them” is exactly what our governments do. Freedom is founded on ownership of property.... It cannot exist where the rulers own everything, nor even when they concede some limited right of tenure. But the modern belief is that spendable income is a concession of the State. The taxation which is intended to promote equality, the taxation which exceeds the real public need, and above all the tax which is so graduated as to prevent the accumulation of capital, is inconsistent with freedom. Against a State which owns everything, the individual has neither the means of defence nor anything to defend....

     There are many human achievements, including some of the finest, which need more than a single lifetime for completion. The individual can compose a symphony or paint a canvas, build up a business or restore order in a city. He cannot build a cathedral or grow an avenue of oak trees. Still less can he gain the stature essential to statesmanship in a highly developed and complex society. There is a need for continuity of effort, spread over several generations, and for just such a continuity as governments lack. Given the party system more especially, under the democratic form of rule, policy is continually modified or reversed. A family can be biologically stable in a way that a modern legislature is not. It is to families, therefore, that we look for such stability as society may need. But how can the family function if subject to crippling taxes during every lifetime and partial confiscation with every death? How can one generation provide the springboard for the next? Without such a springboard, all must start alike, and none can excel; and where none can excel nothing excellent will result.

     [C. Northcote Parkinson, The Law, Complete. Emphases added by FWP.]

     Parkinson, best known for his First Law (“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”), was largely disregarded by the thinkers of his day. Yet he was more insightful than any of his contemporaries. The above thoughts are especially pertinent to us of today.

     But the Left is opposed to excellence, don’t y’know. It cross-cuts their thesis about “equality,” one of the most abused words in political discourse. And of course, their politicians and rabble rousers need the money.


     For an organization that adopts “coalition politics” as its strategy, the prevailing dynamic is to purchase, via privileges, subsidies, and other subventions, voting blocs amounting to “50% + 1 votes.” To make this possible:

  • A sufficiency of voting blocs must exist;
  • The cohesion of those blocs must be highly reliable;
  • And the means required for bribing them must be available.

     There is a counter-dynamic, which kicks in at or near the desired threshold: Each group importuned at that point, if it’s been watching developments, will know that it can make the coalition a majority. That raises its price. In short, the last of the required votes is the most costly.

     In this connection, thundering about “tax privileges” for the “rich” is particularly attractive to the Left. While lowering the upper bound on a wholly nontaxable estate wouldn’t result in a large gain in revenue, it’s a most effective pander to the envy of many Left-inclined voters. In an envy-riddled society, the pitch itself is of greater value than the revenue.

     If I may be allowed a brief tangent, we have here yet another demonstration of how envy obstructs the ability to see second-order and more remote consequences. A confiscatory estate tax not only “brings the rich down;” it also prevents the not-rich from accumulating wealth of their own. But that item of analysis is lost on the typical Democrat voter.


     To sum up: Inasmuch as the “racism” gambit has failed the Clinton for President campaign, I expect to see the Democrats return to their old soft-Marxist class-warfare themes: the political expression of envy. Whether it’s still possible for them to get a middle class that’s suffered badly during the Obama Interregnum to believe that middle-class families’ travails are the fault of “the rich” is uncertain. However, the attempt is not – and the estate tax will be an important component of the approach.

     Perhaps there’s a countermeasure. It might lie in the thinking of Cyril Northcote Parkinson, if supplemented with this insight from C. S. Lewis:

     What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence — moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods? You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level. The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.

     As our beloved InstaPundit might say: Heh. Indeed.

Eurologic.

The president of Daimler-Benz gave an interview about six months ago stating that for years now they have been waiting for such young and motivated potential workers. Bayer reminded everyone that in Europe many small emigrations are happening at the same time. Thousands of young people from Spain are migrating to South-America, Brits are migrating to Australia because they can’t find work here. From Hungary about 250,000 (by the leftists’ estimate, about half a million) left the country to work somewhere else in the EU, but the President of Daimler-Benz does not want these young European workers; he needs the Bedouin goat-herders and poppy-seed producers for a “motivated” workforce, the journalist commented cynically.
Zsolt Bayer in "Our Duty is to defend Europe," translation by CrossWare published at "What Kind of Europe do we Want Our Children to Inherit?" By Baron Bodissey, Gates of Vienna, 9/22/16.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Just Some Thunderous Applause...

     ...for WeirdDave, who included this in last night’s Overnight Thread at Ace of Spades HQ:

     This Green Beret Saved A Young Boy From Being Kept As A Sex Slave And Beat His “Owner” … Obama Responded By Kicking Him Out Of The Army

     There is a reason we have cars and medicine and grocery stores full of food. There's a reason why women can walk down the street unmolested and children aren't kept as slaves in America. There's a reason we can speak our mind freely and walk our streets (mostly) safely.

     It's because we're better than they are.

     Specifically, our culture is better than their culture. We used to take this with us when we fought. When Germany surrendered at the end of WWII, any German woman with a lick of sense or the opportunity made for the American zone as fast as she could. Why? Because the Soviet zone was an orgy of rape. With rare (and immediately prosecuted) exceptions, the American zone wasn't. Even in third world shitholes, American soldiers stand for doing the right thing. That's what this soldier did, and he got a dishonorable discharge for his trouble.

     Fortunately, that soldier’s expulsion from the Army was reversed. (Now and then, the Good Guys do win one.) That, of course, doesn’t undo the injustice of the prior expulsion – nor can we overlook the motives of those who caused it. Frankly, those who ordered First Sergeant Charles Martland dishonorably discharged should be horsewhipped naked down every street in the District of Columbia, preferably to the beat of some brisk martial music.

     But we mustn’t miss WeirdDave’s peroration:

     Why? Because “all cultures are equal, man”? I never see anyone making that statement moving to live in another one. Because it's not right to “force” our culture on someone else? That's what they are doing. Migrant In Court For Violent Rape: ‘I Came to Austria to F*ck the Women’. Islam means “submission”. In their culture, rape is used as a method of flaunting your superiority over populations you've subjugated. That's what all of those shouts of Aloha Snackbar! MEAN during a terrorist attack; “Our god is great, we can kill you whenever we want”. The West is losing a 1400 year old war because we refuse to recognize that we're in one.

     It cannot be put better nor more succinctly than that.

Illumination From An Unexpected Source: A Quickie Rumination

     Fox’s evening series Lucifer isn’t really based on the Biblical story pertaining to the Great Adversary, though it does incorporate some elements of the Christian mythos. It struck me as an unlikely place to encounter a piercing insight...but anyone who desires to advance in wisdom should be prepared to be surprised.

     I viewed the first episode of the second season just yesterday evening, and was struck by the exchange between detective Chloe and a newly introduced lab technician who wears a conspicuous cross pendant. Chloe asked the tech whether she really believes in God, and the tech responded that she sometimes has doubts about her faith. Chloe, somewhat surprised by the admission, asks, approximately thus: If you had a chance to be sure one way or the other, would you take it?

     The tech’s answer was stunningly penetrating for an emission from a nighttime entertainment. She replied that either answer would destroy her faith, and that her faith is something she needs.

     Pope Benedict XVI, in our time one of Christianity’s foremost intellectual forces, admitted to doubts. Yet he, too, argued that faith that admits of no doubt is virtually unknown – probably impossible.

     This is part of a larger human need. I’ve said as much myself:

     We observed the life, ministry, Passion and Resurrection of Christ just as we observed your own, more recent adventure. It was plain that he was of an order superior both to Mankind and to the Brothers of the Realm. His passing rewrote laws of Creation so fundamental that we had never previously suspected their existence. We believe that it was his power that you invoked to expel Tiran from Creation. It was a match for the forces he commanded in every observable way. We cannot prove it...but we believe it.
     —That’s faith, isn’t it?
     Indeed. Be grateful.
     —Hm? How so?
     Your psyches are built to require it. An emotionally healthy man with no faith is the rarest of creatures.

     Indeed. No ideal ever embraced, whether by one man or a multitude, can be proved. Devotion to an abstract proposition, whatever its import, will always require faith. Faith in the existence of God, in His benevolence, and in the possibility of some day dwelling near to Him in eternal bliss, is but one case thereof.

     May He bless and keep you all!

Black But White?

     The rioting in Charlotte, NC over the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott appears indifferent to some rather significant facts:

     We wrote here about Keith Lamont Scott and his long criminal record which includes assault convictions and gun offenses. But what about Brentley Vinson, the black police officer who fatally shot Scott?

     The Charlotte Observer provides this profile of Officer Vinson. From it, we learn that he grew up in Charlotte, was a football star in high school, and dreamed of becoming a police officer like his father.

     Vinson was all-conference in football as a high school junior, but was unable to play during his senior year due to a serious knee injury. The next year, he played at a prep school, earning a scholarship to Liberty University.

     At Liberty, Vinson studied criminal justice. He became a captain of the football team and led it in tackles as a senior in 2012.

     In 2014, Vinson joined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police force. He has not been subject to any disciplinary action, according to personnel records released by the police department.

     Officer Brentley Vinson appears to be exactly the kind of upright, admirable person a sensible American would want as a police officer. Add that he’s black, which makes him exactly the kind of black American we need more of: the kind who would not hesitate to discipline the unruly and disorderly among us, without regard for their race. This is a doubly valuable man whom we should encourage young men to admire and emulate.

     Yet you can almost hear the mutterings from the rioters:

     “But he a brother! He ain’t supposed to shoot no brother!”

     It would seem that a black man who puts on a policeman’s uniform becomes white by association, which provides the title for this brief piece. Or perhaps the rioters have placed Officer Vinson in an entirely new racial category: not black, but blue. There’s a certain unreality about the suggestion, but for the Charlotte looters and rioters it’s apparently sufficient.

A Squib On The Electoral College

     Anyone reasonably conversant with the history of the American Constitutional order will know that the Founding Fathers designed the electoral college as they did to prevent the more urban, more populous states from politically dominating – and suppressing the interests of – the smaller, more agrarian states. Yet the scheme was not proof against the passage of time, as the following graphic shows:

     In the projection above, taken from MarketWatch, Hillary Clinton would prevail in only 22 states, yet she would edge Donald Trump in the electoral college, thus becoming the 45th president of the United States. Now, I’m not about to call that “unfair.” It would be entirely consistent with the Constitutional design. What it does illustrate is how powerfully the urbanizing tendency of the century behind us has shaped the American political scene.

     I wrote some time ago about how the concentration of a population into cities magnifies the power of the political class. The strategists and kingmakers of that class are fully aware of this tendency. It’s perfectly consistent that those who want power should gravitate to cities...and that those who seek the pinnacle of power in the United States should concentrate their efforts on the most urbanized states, which mainly sit along the national borders.

     Conservatively inclined New Yorkers have complained for decades about the Big Apple’s dominance of New York State politics. Given that Gomorrah on the Hudson contains more than 40% of the state’s population, there’s little to be done about it at the moment. However, it does suggest that conservatives willing to play a “long game” should ponder the possibility of a decades-long strategy to encourage the de-urbanization of New York.

     Clearly, that can’t require having a large fraction of New Yorkers return to farming and hunting for their livelihoods. But if there exists a path toward such a de-urbanization that would serve the economic and social interests of New Yorkers – or any other heavily urban state – it would be worth considering for its political impact, as well.

     Hm. It seems I’ve just suggested that conservative lawmakers and strategists should urge happy (mostly) city dwellers into the countryside. No, I haven’t been possessed by the ghost of Pol Pot. But it does suggest that I should have more than one cup of coffee before setting my fingers to these damnable keys. Well, we all have our little ways.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Movie That Begged To Be Made

     Those of us who dream of eventually spreading Mankind to the stars have long hoped for some technology that would make the trip practical – specifically, for living human beings to board a starship, and for the same living human beings to debark at their destination in another solar system. Unfortunately, no such technology has yet emerged.

     At this time the only conceivable method for interstellar propagation of the human species is the “generation ship.” They who board the ship would not be the eventual colonists of the target system. Rather, the new home would go to their remote descendants, several centuries later. Several generations would live, work, reproduce, and die without ever knowing any environment other than the ship.

     For example, if it were possible to build a sufficiently large ship to provide a complete agricultural / industrial / informational infrastructure for a few thousand persons and get it to a currently achievable velocity – say the escape velocity of Earth, approximately 25,000 miles per hour – traversing the gulf between our solar system and Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to us (which, unfortunately, doesn’t have any habitable planets) would require a journey of over 114,000 years. That’s over 4000 human generations, according to the usual reckoning of a generation as 25 years. Very few persons would be interested in embarking on such a voyage.

     Robert A. Heinlein told of such a ship – and of what fate might befall it – in his early novel Orphans of the Sky. It’s a bleak story wrapped around a plausible development: the degeneration of the ship’s population away from the high intelligence and dedication of those who boarded it in Earth orbit, resulting in the loss of the entire concept. Heinlein’s portrayal of the quasi-medieval society that emerged, whose denizens weren’t even aware that their ship was a ship, was frighteningly plausible. Unfortunately, he concluded it with an implausibly happy ending, at least for its main protagonist.

     Passengers, built on the idea of a crew in suspended animation intended to emerge at its destination as young and hale as when it boarded, centers on another possible calamity: the awakening of some members of the crew much too early, such that in contradiction to what they were told, they’ll never live to see their destination. Given that a suspended-animation technology would probably receive less testing than it should before being put to use, it’s more than plausible:

     The movie stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and is slated for release in late November. I’m hoping against hope that Miss Lawrence, the most compelling actress to come along in decades, will have the good sense to restrain her unfortunate political and religious opinions until then.

Does Rhetoric Matter?

     Among the Left’s favored practices is condemning any statement from a figure on the Right that edges even slightly toward the promotion of American interests above the interests of other nations. America, in the eyes of the Left, needs to be chastened, humbled, and broken to the harness of the “international community.” Therefore, it will countenance no promotion of America’s well-being, especially if that would put it even slightly above the interests of other lands. While that might not account for the pusillanimity of the rhetoric of Barack Hussein Obama, it’s certainly consistent with it – and with the firm conviction among many that Obama’s true allegiance is not to the United States.

     A surprising number of persons who style themselves libertarians speak in the same terms. It’s among the reasons I decided to distance myself from the label.

     For a useful contrast, consider this brief story concerning Vladimir Putin:

     “I swear if they bomb Russia, in half an hour every muslim will die” Vladimir Putin

     The Russian leader is reportedly mounting an enormous military mission to take control of the terror group’s stronghold of Raqqa.

     The city is the self-declared capital of ISIS in Syria and is patrolled by as many as 5,000 jihadi members.

     Putin is set to mobilise 150,000 reservists who he conscripted into the military in September.

     Yesterday, following the Paris attacks, Putin hinted he was ready to join forces with the West to tackle Islamic State.

     He told David Cameron: “The recent tragic events in France show that we should join efforts in preventing terror.”

     Noting equivocal or wishy-washy there, eh? Why, you’d almost suspect Putin of putting Russia’s well-being ahead of that of other nations and peoples.

     Yes, Putin is a dictator. Yes, he’s sent Russian forces to invade the Ukraine and strike at groups loosely aligned with America. Yes, he’s killed his political enemies. Yes, I condemn those things. But how I wish the man in the Oval Office loved America as much as Putin loves Russia.

     Rhetoric doesn’t always matter, but when those who speak are known to back their statements with their deeds, it matters quite a lot. Anyone can talk the talk.

     Donald Trump’s statement of approbation for Putin should be viewed in that light. Trump loves his country. He wants it to have a political class that loves it just as much. Viewed from that perspective, it’s easy to envy the Russians, despite their president’s proclivities for snatching land that belongs to others and bumping off those who’ve annoyed him.

Summary of U.S. Syria policy.

To recap: The US has indeed claimed its primary aim in Syria is to “degrade and destroy” ISIS - but instead of allying with the Syrian army, which has been battling ISIS on the ground, Washington has spent years backing opposition “moderate rebel” forces who are fighting Bashar Assad’s government forces. In other words: Washington is backing the groups that are attacking the army which is best positioned to defeat ISIS. Or even more simply, Washington supports one anti-Assad group but bombs the other.

The US supports the rebel forces in pursuit of their broader goal which is Syrian regime change. As the war has dragged on, it’s become clearer that the US-backed rebel forces are not “moderate” in the sense that you or I might use the term. They have fought alongside and “intermingled” with Al-Qaeda’s official Syria affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (which recently rebranded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham). One of the major sticking points in ceasefire negotiations between the US and Russia has been the question of Washington’s ability to disentangle the so-called “moderate” rebels from the extremists. So far, no such disentanglement has taken place, demonstrating that the US has little to no control over its proxies.

"It's Time to Admit Washington's Syria Policy Has Gone Completely off the Rails." By Danielle Ryan, RT, 9/19/16.

H/t: Russia Insider.

The deliberate U.S. air attack on the Syrian Army at Deir Ezzor.

Gates of Vienna has the video and transcript of the Russian reaction to the U.S.-led coalition air strikes on the Syrian Army defending the Deir Ezzor airfield against ISIS. Allegedly, the strike was carried out by aircraft of Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Australia, though the blog Moon of Alabama thinks the planes involved may not have belonged to these nations. I assumed that the planes were U.S. planes when I made my comment below on the Gates of Vienna article. It's not an important point as it's a certainty that the strike was ordered by or at the behest of the U.S. military, although Adam Hill at Russia Insider implies that U.S. planes were involved as well.

I republish my comment here (with minor bracketed additions). There is simply no way that I can dispose of the issue of American intention by assuming this degree of American incompetence:

** three tanks, three armored vehicles, four mine throwers and one rocket launcher **

This [equipment destroyed is] like a “clue” that the position struck was not an ISIS position. The US leaders didn’t coordinate with the Russians because they knew it was a Syrian position. Otherwise, how hard would it have been to make a call to Russian HQ and say, “Hey, Ivan. We have an armored ISIS unit as a high-priority target at Deir Ezzor? What have you guys got?” They did coordinate [to all appearances] with ISIS, however, who just happened to mount an attack right after the US strike.

Apparently, the real ISIS position next door could not be seen by the US. What do real ISIS positions look like anyway? Do they even use armor in this area and how does it get here and from what parent unit? Does ISIS have depot maintenance facilities somewhere that we haven’t bombed the bejeebers out of?

Let us see the gunsight camera video and listen to pilot-controller audio for the strike and the previous day’s of surveillance. Does the US claim this has been an “ISIS” position all along, or does US intelligence see all military positions in highly contested areas as tabula rasa, without any tactical history? How long had the Syrian unit been there? The ISIS units? If the unit targeted had not been there a long time, how can its presence be explained? Can it be understood to have fit in with an ISIS strategy or a Syrian strategy? Against what threat did the commander of the targeted position dispose his forces? Which way were the tanks’ guns pointing to put it in terms that even the Golfer in Chief can understand?

The Pentagram claims they thought it was an ISIS tank position. What tanks does ISIS have? Last I heard, they got their hands on a zillion of the Abrams tanks we left for the Iraqis. Do Abrams tanks look like the Soviet tanks in the Syrian inventory or does ISIS also have Soviet armor? If only Abrams, can US photo interpreters tell the difference? Are these questions left for pilots of US fighter-bombers to answer for themselves afresh over the target or is there some kind of a sophisticated intelligence analytical capability we have to make these target assessments beforehand? DIA and Air Force imagery with all sorts of labels and arrows is routinely generated in combat areas. What was generated in this case and when, and what did it show? What did the pre-mission pilot brief show? We’re the pilots told it was an ISIS site or were they told it was an SAA site? What can US pilots tell us about the logic of US target selection, its efficacy as part of an anti-ISIS/anti-al-Qaida strategy, and rules of engagement?

Did our JSTARS aircraft pick up any movement from Syrian controlled areas to the Deir Ezzor target area? Was this information ignored by US intel or was this movement observed to learn more? During the first Gulf War, it was clear that JSTARS planes could track bicycles and chickens (free-range). Are we to believe that the origin, route, and destination of the armor destroyed at this Syrian site was not tracked and available to US strike planners? Or does the American military shell out billions for high-tech JSTARS systems because it has an academic interest in tracking Gila monsters, rabbits, and goats as a possible global cooling global warming climate change climate disruption beggar-thy-neighbor strategy?

Where was the target in relation to other ISIS positions? Did the commander of the unit attacked choose his position so that it was more capable of being supplied logistically by ISIS or by the Syrian government? How were the targeted armor vehicles to be resupplied with fuel and ammo?

Did the US not understand the CRITICAL role the besieged air base plays in keeping eastern Syria from complete ISIS control? Was the US strike one of many against ISIS in eastern Syria and only this one happened not to be coordinated with the Russians and YouTube? Or is this strike sui generis and understandable only as supporting ISIS since it fits in with no anti-ISIS strategy? Is the US strike to be understood as a reckless or incompetent action? How likely is it that the US military is this incompetent? That this was an honest, “stuff happens” mistakarooney?

Who ordered the strike?[1] Who else was involved in it in any way?

These are the questions that occur to this observer after a mere [150] minutes of effort. Moreover, my estimation of the likely answers to these questions leads me yet again to wish for a speedy and orderly end to the present reign of liars, fools, metrosexuals, twits, dweebs, twinks, flakes, neocons, warmongers, Russophobes, regime changers, body men and women, opportunists, BLM enthusiasts, fundamental transformers, open borders fabulists, living Constitutionalists, natural born citizen poseurs, “refugee” resettlers, con persons, statists, Republican bed wetters, conservative capitulationists, globalists, MSM bag men, Saudi agents, communists, Muslim Brotherhood infiltrators, dilletantes, and sociable justice warriors.[2]

Notes
[1] Addendum: "The U.S.-led coalition has a rigorous process for approving airstrikes, involving extensive surveillance to confirm what is being targeted and to ensure civilians are not in the area. Targets have to be approved by a one-star general or above." "Top U.S. military official: Syria cease-fire not derailed." By Jim Michaels, USA Today, 9/19/16. H/t: Pundita.
[2] "Russian Military Briefing on the US Air Strike Against Syrian Forces." By Baron Bodissey, Gates of Vienna, 9/18/16.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Loss Of Simplicity

     [I wrote what you’re about to read nine years ago. It first appeared at Eternity Road in 2007. I’ve unearthed it owing to the stimulus provided by this piece at the Return of Kings website, a principal promoter of neomasculinity (good) and shameless sexual exploitation of women (bad). I advise you to read the RoK piece first before proceeding below. -- FWP]


By way of the esteemed Pommygranate, your Curmudgeon happened upon this emission by previously unknown Ruthie Zaftig in the wee hours:

Long, long ago (well really, about a month ago) Tom Paine wrote about the reasons for blogging. Blogging, he says, is a vain activity but a worthy one— the blogosphere enables us to escape our typecast roles that we fall into in everyday life. It lets us speak truth as we see it, unencumbered by "the conventions of everyday life." Blogging lets us see past a person's normal, public facade and into the inner workings of their mind, the heart of their being.
Meet them in their everyday lives and they would be playing their parts. We would not really know them. In a sense, they would not really be them. As bloggers (particularly anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers) their inner voices speak.

Ruthie goes on at length about this thesis, concluding thus:

A blogger's identity—especially those who use pseudonyms and avoid personal references—can theoretically be free from outward social stigma and stereotypes— ideas and words judged by their worth and quality alone.

Your Curmudgeon must disagree. Rather strongly, at that.

Bloggers, like saner persons, can be partitioned into those who are the masters of their own souls and those who are not. The former type may have adopted what's colloquially called a "role" -- husband and breadwinner; mother and homemaker; pillar of the community; what have you -- for practical reasons, but he plays it; it doesn't play him. When he speaks, whether on the record, off it, or pseudonymously, he's candid, sincere, and trustworthy. He might be wrong about any given thing, but he's not trying to deceive you. What he tells you about himself is what he himself believes.

The latter type is the reverse. His "role" is his defense against a world he fears to show his real face. It's stronger than he; that's why he adopted it. It doesn't matter whether you know his name or not, for even if you did, what you'd be getting from him when he opens his mouth is the role, not his heartfelt convictions or sincere desires.

Anyone not blinded by his own prejudices and fears can tell the two breeds apart, whether they adopt nommes-de-plumes or write under their public names. This gives the former, publicly named sorts an edge with your Curmudgeon; it means they're willing to stand behind their statements regardless of what others might say or think.

But that's not exactly what your Curmudgeon is here to talk about.

***

The cult of celebrity has taken an appalling toll upon the persons on whom it focuses. Take the much-reported descent of actress Lindsay Lohan into degeneracy as an example. Despite multiple prior brushes with the law and with serious self-inflicted harm, this young woman is apparently unable to control her desires for alcohol and cocaine -- all the way to the extent of driving California's already life-threatening roads in a state of intoxication that would induce paralysis in half the human race.

One must ask why. If there's ever been anyone one could justly say had the world by the tail, it's this beautiful, talented, wealthy young woman. Why would anyone so gifted and fortunate seek out the oblivion of routine intoxication? What objective fears for herself could she possibly have? What does she lack that her assets could not secure for her?

Well, actually, there are a couple of things.

The first is love. One price of being forever in the public eye is the loss of the ability to determine whether people actually see you when they look at you. A celebrity's public image is seldom controlled by the celebrity; it's almost always the creation of skillful flacksters whose sole interest is in the commercial possibilities of the person they promote. This is true even of the reports of "journalists" -- yes, those are "sneer quotes" -- from supposedly objective news organizations. A celebrity with a quiet, sane private life cannot be used to sell advertising space.

To be wrapped thus in an artificial veneer, however glamorous and pseudo-exciting, deprives one of the ability to take others at their "emotional word." Every offering, advance, or gesture becomes subject to question: What does he really want from me? The undermining of the requirements of mutual trust makes intimacy remarkably difficult to achieve. It can even affect one's relations with one's parents, who are often seduced into becoming part of the "money machine" and stripped of their natural love for their child.

(Yes, parents do love their children. Overwhelmingly, and despite their many flaws. Why do you think infanticide is so rare? If you don't think the point is relevant, you've never changed a diaper.)

The second thing is privacy. This is hardly an arguable point. The entertainment industry, like any other, is focused on profit. That's not a condemnation; your Curmudgeon could hardly be accused of decrying capitalism, and despite the entertainment world's many shortcomings, we would be worse off for its loss. But the cult of celebrity and the use of entertainers' off-screen and off-CD personae as marketing vehicles for their movies, discs, and television shows has made it impossible for anyone significant in that industry to have a truly private life. They're followed, whether they wish it or not, through every move they make. Even the ones who preserve some solitary space behind high walls and locked iron gates have to be aware at all times that the barriers that keep the "journalists," paparazzi, and obsessives locked out also keep them locked in. Their marketability has imprisoned them in a cage of klieg lights and telephoto lenses.

In our era, when the mass media are everywhere and thousands scramble madly for every iota of potentially profitable attention, this may be unavoidable. It also suggests that anyone who heads into an entertainment career in full knowledge of the price of stardom might start out a trifle "tetched." But those considerations stand apart from your Curmudgeon's major thesis: the cult of celebrity is a mechanism that destroys the stars upon whom it focuses.

Yes, there are exceptions. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward come to mind, as do Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. These are to be commended for their fortitude. But such exceptions are rare, and are growing rarer as we speak.

But that's not exactly what your Curmudgeon is here to talk about.

***

Like most Americans who own freestanding homes, your Curmudgeon is assisted in his toils by a host of machines:

  • Two cars
  • A lawn tractor
  • A walk-behind mower
  • A snowblower
  • A chain saw
  • A hedge clipper
  • An air compressor
  • A wide variety of other power tools
  • A washing machine and a dryer
  • A dishwasher
  • A furnace and a hot-water heater
  • A water softener and a carbon-filtration system
  • Two vacuum cleaners
  • A carpet-steaming appliance
  • Two fans and three window-mounted air conditioners
  • A host of computers and related devices

As you would expect from a brute of gorilla-like strength with a Certified Galactic Intellect, your Curmudgeon could tear any of these devices down to their lowest components and reassemble them flawlessly. He could easily service any of them that might experience a breakdown, without so much as a tip of the fedora to paid service personnel. He can do all of these things, and he has...but not recently.

Life is too BLEEP!ing complicated and tiring already. Why add to one's burdens when one could easily, at modest cost, shunt them onto the backs of others?

No doubt many Eternity Road readers are in sympathy, whether they possess your Curmudgeon's array of skills or not. Our lives are fantastically complicated. Even given that he can hire out many irritations to the attention of paid specialists, the challenge of a typical day demands that the typical American exhibit competences of unprecedented variety and delicacy from the moment he rises to the moment he drops his briefcase or toolbelt in the foyer. It leaves him prostrate with exhaustion by six PM. He'd rather spend a hefty fraction of his income on those specialists than assume a greater burden than he already carries.

If you've been wondering why you have less time, energy, and inclination to play with your kids than your parents had for you, this is a large part of the answer.

Complexity is fatiguing all by itself. A complex situation that demands a response also demands a significant investment in analysis and the assessment of risks. Mental fatigue is just as important to our overall enervation as physical fatigue. Indeed, it might be more so.

One of your Curmudgeon's favorite colleagues, Og the NeanderPundit, has said on many occasions that his most cherished dream is to retire to a cabin in the woods bereft of any technology more recent than the centerfire rifle. This is an undisguised cry for a return to simplicity -- a return to a milieu in which one could expect to exercise complete personal control over every element that affects his life in any way, and still have time and energy left to ogle the girls and enjoy the sunset.

Your Curmudgeon knows exactly what Og means. He's occasionally wished for it himself, as much as he might miss his broadband Internet connection.

But -- you guessed it -- that's not exactly what your Curmudgeon is here to talk about. Then what, you may justly ask, is he here to talk about?

Why, the Girl Next Door, of course. What else?

***

One of Fritz Leiber's delightful early short stories, "The Last Letter," concerns Richard Roe, a young man in a bizarre future society where all communication-over-distance is monitored by agents of the State and everyone is expected to marry the Girl (or Boy) Next Door. Our hero spots a young beauty in his travels who is most definitely not the Girl Next Door and writes her a letter -- don't ask how it was conveyed to her; exercise a little willing suspension of disbelief, willya please? -- to propose marriage. The mere act of writing that letter causes major convulsions among the Powers That Be, who intervene swiftly to determine what could possibly have moved young Richard to such a deviant act. He's told that he's supposed to marry the Girl Next Door. Everyone is.

That's not too far from the way things used to be here in America. Minus the official inquisition for having written a letter, that is.

One of the measures of our lives' greatly increased complexity is the geographical measure of our relationship-bonds. How far away was your spouse born and raised from where you were born and raised? How about your closest friends? Your associates at work? If your children are grown and out on their own, how far away from you do they live? In your routine personal communications, what's the physical distance between you and the other party? (Include your chats on the Internet.)

It can be a bit frightening to tot it all up that way. Your Curmudgeon knows that very well. He's blathered about it before. But its major significance is the increment of difficulty this complexity adds to the search for something all of us need: love and acceptance.

Allow your Curmudgeon a small but critical tangent. One of the prevalent emotional motifs of our time is the notion that all of us are entitled to "unconditional love." You can hear this asserted in any forum you prefer, not merely on daytime talk shows. But your Curmudgeon would like to demur, in the fashion you all know so well:

BALDERDASH!

No one is inherently entitled to anything, whether physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. Each man must earn what he needs and desires, or receive it as a gift from someone favorably inclined toward him, or learn to do without it. Love is no exception.

Love always comes on a condition: the condition that one must be lovable.

Being lovable is a bit different from "being yourself," one of the other maximally irritating mantras of our time. He who is focused on "being himself" is unlikely to be lovable; he's too self-obsessed for that. He may be admirable in many ways, but without the openness to self-extension and generous accommodation of others that genuine intimacy demands, he will not be lovable -- and he will not be loved. The Girl Next Door would find him weird and repellent...if she were still there.

Who is -- or was -- the Girl Next Door? Why, she was someone you knew from sustained proximity. Someone whose "little ways" are no surprise to you. Someone whose conduct was no more than mildly at variance from the norms dictated by polite society. Someone whose family was well known to you, so that you need have no fear of them, or of their interactions with your own kin. In other words, she was someone you could love, if you chose, without fearing anything too untoward in consequence.

But the Girl Next Door isn't there today. At about age seventeen, she moves a great distance in physical, psychological, and/or emotional space. Usually, that distance is great enough to forestall any intentions you might have had toward her. You seldom wind up marrying her, whatever relations you might have had with her before she joined the Great American Diaspora.

The physical displacement is bad enough. The psychological displacement is worse: she almost always comes under the sway of "authority figures," sometimes teachers or employers and sometimes just charismatic contemporaries, who are determined to wipe out her original, authentic self and replace it with something molded to suit a crabbed and monomaniacal ideology. The emotional displacement is worst of all: while those "authority figures" -- why, yes, I do have a key labeled "Sneer Quote;" why do you ask? -- are at work on her, her hunger for any sort of connection to others is steadily being transformed from an asset to a liability. She accepts random hookups as substitutes for genuine affection, and fastens on bright lights among the glitterati of the entertainment world to admire, in place of the uncelebrated but substantial heroes of her youth whose shoulders steadied the sky above her.

If the Girl Next Door returns home, it's for a brief visit. Those who knew her before are stunned by the transformation, and not in a good way. The weird clothes and makeup, the tattoos and piercings, and the changes in diction and sentiments are signals that not all has gone as well for the Girl as her parents and their friends had hoped. When she concludes her visit and returns to the remote wherever, they're secretly relieved. Their cherished image of her is forever compromised by the alien who came to call bearing her name and the vestiges of her face.

These are the fruits of the physical diaspora, the displacement of solidity in favor of celebrity, and the severance of our traditional connections to home, family, and neighborhood. In sacrificing these things, we don't shed burdens as we might once have imagined; we discard the most important supports for life in a world more complex than anyone has ever managed to bear alone. We sacrifice all hope for the most critical simplicity of all: emotional simplicity, the sort that comes with knowing that one is accepted and loved, and can accept and love in return, without compromise or pretense.

And we sacrifice the Girl Next Door.

Good luck with that babe from the back of beyond you took into your bed. How long do you think it will be before you know her? Really know her, enough to be confident that the chemical infatuation that fueled your lusts will be enough to get you past her "little ways" -- or her past yours?

Keep your Curmudgeon posted.

***

The opening segments of this tirade were not an accident. Their connections to one another and to the rest are not tenuous. Do you see them now?

A man will only seek to conceal his identity if his identity is an impediment or a burden to him -- that is, if who he is stands athwart his path to his goals. In other words, he'll conceal his true self if it complicates his acquisition of whatever he happens to want. This has been demonstrated to compelling effect in every imaginable venue; think "singles bars" and shudder along with your Curmudgeon.

A young woman of beauty, wealth, and talent will only embark on self-destruction by drink and drugs if she cannot cope with who she is, or who she's been hyped to be. If "who she is" is be defective, but "who she's been hyped to be" forbids her to reveal a flaw, she could implode as catastrophically as Marilyn Monroe. If "who she is" is sound, but "who she's been hyped to be" demands that she be a degenerate party animal for the publicity it will garner her, she'll be revulsed by her self-betrayal, and attempt to hide it from her consciousness. To both of these escapes, drink and drugs are a venerable avenue.

The purpose of all human striving is to get and keep what we want, and to avert or shed what we don't want. The state of mind in which one is confident that there will arise no body- or mind-defying barriers to those meta-purposes is what your Curmudgeon means by simplicity.

Do you have enough of it for your needs?

What If It Were Against The Law? A Quickie Rumination

     Other participants at a forum of which I’m a member are agog over the insults currently being dealt to freedom of religion. The concerns most frequently cited are same-sex marriage (i.e., having to cater one) and abortion (i.e., the possibility that doctors who oppose it might be forced to perform them). I reflected on the matter for a while and offered the following perspective:

     Freedom of religion in the U.S. died a long time ago.

     The possibility of freedom of religion exists only in a state that’s confined to certain limits. The Constitution, our founding document, attempted to define and impose those limits. But as any good TimeBomber will be aware, the 88,000 governments of these United States ceased to pay any attention to the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Constitution a long time ago – like with the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

     When the State is “free” to make law on any and every subject whatsoever, and to whatever effect it pleases, there cannot be freedom of religion for a simple reason: There cannot be freedom of any sort. Every human activity becomes a matter of whether the State will give us permission, explicitly or implicitly. Conduct required by one’s religion might be forbidden, while conduct forbidden might be mandated.

     Just now I’m embroiled in a rather expensive wrangle with the township in which I live, which points up the most important aspects of this thing. When I bought my home, there was a shed on the property that had been built by the previous owner. Apparently, when he built that shed there was no need to get a permit from the town. When a storm a few years ago blew down the shed, reducing it to a pile of hazards, I disposed of the detritus without a second thought.

     Well, here we are five years later, and the town wants to fine me for not having applied for a demolition permit (and of course, for not having paid them the customary bribe). They claim I needed a permit merely to get rid of the refuse from an act of Nature – and they’ve threatened to prosecute me for not having done so.

     Welcome to the Land of the Fee and the Home of the Slave, where everything not compulsory is forbidden. I wonder how things are going in Russia these days?

     But as I completed that thought, the celebrant’s homily from this morning’s Mass returned to mind. He led off with a simple question:

“If Christianity were to be made illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

     It's a question a lot of us who call ourselves Christians would do well to ponder – and not with an eye toward concealment.

     Just a quick pre-lunch morsel of food for thought.

An Ineradicable Need

     Among my other oddities, I’m an aficionado of the traditional music of England, Ireland, and Wales. Much of it is as good, lyrically and melodically, as anything written by a well known composer (and scads better than most contemporary pop). In my days as a semipro entertainer – no, there’s no reason you would have heard of me – I incorporated a lot of it into my repertoire. My audiences usually enjoyed it.

     It stands to reason that the known compendium of British Iles Traditional music, compiled from a period at least eleven centuries deep, should contain much that’s excellent and little that’s disposable. Time is the best of all filters. It winnows out that which has no staying power, preserving only what has merit. But there’s another reason as well: traditional music reliably expresses the highest convictions and aspirations of those who produced it.

     A friend once told me that it’s considered a settled dictum that every item of British Iles Traditional music will concern itself with one or more of the following subjects:

  • Sex
  • Violence
  • Drinking
  • The supernatural

     And yes, occasionally you’ll stumble over a B.I.T. folksong that involves all of them. However, what’s on my mind at this unreasonably early hour are the many that involve the supernatural, from hauntings to Almighty God Himself.

     As I pondered this emphasis, it began to seem a confirmation of something I’ve long believed: that men desire (and, when humanly possible, will insist upon) justice. That is: we believe in justice, both as an attainable state among us and as a process to be exercised when the rules of right and wrong are violated. Moreover, we desire justice so ardently that when temporal justice fails, we continue to believe in eternal justice: a justice that will be done in the hereafter, inexorably.

     Even the darkest of all the songs in the Childe Catalog of British Iles Traditional music incorporates this theme:

In Bruton town there lived a farmer,
Who had two sons and one daughter dear.
By day and night they were contriving
To fill their parents' heart with fear.

He told his secrets to no other,
But unto her brother this he said:
'I think our servant courts our sister.
I think they has a great mind to wed.
I'll put an end to all their courtship.
I'll send him silent to his grave.'

They asked him to go a-hunting,
Without any fear or strife,
And these two bold and wicked villains,
They took away this young man's life.

And in the ditch there was no water,
Where only bush and briars grew.
They could not hide the blood of slaughter,
So in the ditch his body they threw.

When they returned home from hunting,
She asked for her servant-man.
"I ask because I see you whisper,
So brothers tell me if you can."

"O sister, you do offend me,
Because you so examine me.
We've lost him where we've been a-hunting.
No more of him we could not see."

As she lay dreaming on her pillow,
She thought she saw her heart's delight;
By her bed side as she lay weeping,
He was dressed all in his bloody coat.

"Don't weep for me, my dearest jewel,
Don't weep for me nor care nor pine,
For your two brothers killed me so cruel-
In such a place you may me find."

As she rose early the very next morning,
With heavy sigh and bitter groan,
The only love that she admired,
She found in the ditch where he was thrown.

Three days and nights she did sit by him,
And her poor heart was filled with woe,
Till cruel hunger crept upon her,
And home she was obliged to go.

[“Bruton Town,” as performed by Pentangle]

     Of course the materialist and the atheist will sniff at such a belief. Yet it appears in countless other songs from the Childe Catalog. It reminds us that even if temporal justice should fail us, the ultimate justice rendered in and by eternity will not.

     But we must not forget what I had my most beloved character tell his confessor as the end of his life loomed:

     The Friday afternoon confessions were seldom well attended. Schliemann hadn't had a penitent in more than ten minutes. His mind was beginning to wander when a new shadow appeared on the confessional screen.
     "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
     The old priest sat straight up.
     "Louis?"
     "I'm sorry it's been so long since I've been by, Father."
     "I've been worried, Louis. Are you all right?"
     There was a long silence.
     "No. This will probably be my last confession."
     A cold hand slipped around Schliemann's heart and squeezed.
     Oh, my God.
     The priest listened in silent agony as Louis recited a litany of minor faults and self-indulgences.
     He always confesses to the same things. Never anything serious. He's about to face the Particular Judgement, and I have yet to hear anything about two killings committed in his front yard.
     Louis fell silent, waiting to hear what his penance would be.
     "Anything else, Louis?"
     "No, Father, I'm done."
     I can't let it pass!
     "What about the two men you killed?"
     A hiss came through the screen. The shadow head pulled itself a little higher.
     "What about them, Father?"
     Schliemann's throat was dry. "I seem to recall a commandment on the subject."
     "As do I. But did it forbid killing, or murder?"
     "The text says, 'Thou shalt not kill.' "
     "That's the English text. What was the Aramaic? Or the Hebrew?"
     Schliemann started to expostulate and stopped himself. A twitching was developing in his right elbow. It made him want to jerk his arm.
     "Actually, Father, it isn't two men, it's four. And all for the same reason: because I caught them practicing the abuse of the helpless. I don't tolerate that sort of thing."
     "You don't tolerate...when and where were the other two?"
     "About eight years ago, on a back street on the fringe of the city. They were raping a teenage girl, holding a knife to her throat." Louis's tone was conversational. "I killed them both and walked the girl home."
     "How is it that a man of your size and gentility knows so much about violence as to be able to kill two men at will? You weren't carrying your shotgun that day, were you?"
     "No, Father, I wasn't armed."
     "Well?"
     There was a pause.
     "Call it a gift. I'm not exactly what I appear to be. I never have been."
     "And you feel no remorse for any of this? My God, Louis, what kind of man are you? Have I ever known you at all?"
     "I may not be exactly what I appear to be, Father, but I am a man." The words were droplets of molten iron. "Twice, when there was no one else to do it, I've acted in defense of my kind. To do so, it was necessary that I kill. Was it horrible? Yes, just as it should be. Did it leave me with nightmares? Yes, just as it should have. If the necessity were to recur, would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. And that, too, is as it should be."
     Schliemann had had all the words shocked out of him. The twitch had traveled down from his elbow to his hand, whose fingers were dancing beyond his control. Something seemed to be happening in his ribcage, too.
     "The Church doesn't have much to say about earthly justice, Father. I've always wondered why. Maybe the notion of divine justice is as much as it has to give us. But justice in this world is a human artifact. Either it's made by individuals or it doesn't exist. I have made my share of it, and I don't regret it in the slightest. Now you've heard about all of it, though I never intended that you should. Does the Church cast me out for this?"

     If there is to be justice in this world, men must make it. We must make it. But there’s more and worse: Whenever we decline to make justice, injustice will reign – and should injustice pile sufficiently deep, all justice will be extinguished.


     There’s been a lot of injustice recently, so much that our individual practitioners of injustice for power and profit have become extremely brazen. The following video from Bill Whittle gives us an example thereof:

     Hillary Clinton has gotten away with the violation of the laws concerning the security of classified information. Whether you like them or not, they are federal law, and they bind everyone equally. However, to be a Clinton is to be above the law, at least in the Clintons’ eyes. However they contrived it, Hillary got away with it – and the Clintons got the attorney-general and the director of the FBI to collaborate with them.

     This was made possible by our tolerance of previous injustices, in particular our tolerance of the politicization of the Justice Department and the many injustices Bill Clinton committed while he held the Oval Office. It appears irreversible. All we can do now is refuse Hillary Clinton the presidency.

     I have no doubt that should she fail to gain the prize, Mrs. Clinton will rant and rave about having been cheated of it. The unjust can always rationalize away their failures. The amazing part of that is how swiftly they leap to proclaim that they’ve been treated unjustly...and how readily their allegiants will swallow and parrot the claim.

     There’s nothing to be done about that. If Donald Trump prevails on November 8, we’ll be forced to endure it. Perhaps we should regard it as part of our penance for having tacitly acquiesced to so many injustices up to now.


     Tolerance has become the favorite shibboleth of the Left. It’s the word they use to cow us out of our sense of injustice, particularly an injustice committed by one of their mascot-groups. Consider the stabbing rampage in St. Cloud, Minnesota as an example. Here’s what Mark Dayton, the Democrat governor of that state, said to Minnesotans immediately afterward:

     “I ask everyone in the St. Cloud area and throughout Minnesota to rise above this atrocity and act to make religious and racial tolerance one of the ways in which Minnesotans again lead our country.”

     More than sixty Americans have died at the hands of Islamic terrorists in calendar 2016 – and Mark Dayton dares to tell his constituents to be tolerant! The political ineptitude of the statement aside, could there be any clearer demonstration of the Left’s penchant for deflecting the odium from a mascot-group member and blaming the innocent victim? Has Dayton ever read Adam Smith to the effect that “Mercy toward the guilty is cruelty to the innocent” – ?

     Well, that’s the Left for you. Injustice is their stock in trade, and no exceptions shall be made – especially when one of the groups they’ve chosen to shield is on the wrong end. And unfortunately, that stock is selling rather well.


     If we need justice, as I believe we do, the current trend cannot continue without rendering us less than human – beasts of predation and prey in a world in which human life is “nasty, brutish, and short.” I can’t put it any more plainly than that. No one can.

     I’ve written before about the “vigilance committees” of the territorial West. They were a response to the public perception that the “authorities” were either uninterested in justice or were actively creating injustice. Those who participated in the committees were migrants and the sons of migrants. They’d moved westward for freedom, for opportunity, and to escape the political corruption rampant in the rapidly urbanizing East.

     There’s no frontier to which we can flee, today. Nor are we well supplied with the sort of men who voluntarily took up arms to enforce justice despite the effort required and the danger involved.

     Forgive me for producing such a pessimistic piece, Gentle Reader, but at the moment it’s not looking good for these United States.

Monday, September 19, 2016

I Thought There Was No News

     ...until I watched the video embedded below:

     Does anyone have an explanation?

Day Off

     The news remains static and uninspiring, and I have several fictional matters banging around in my head, so I’ll see you tomorrow. Stay cool, stay dry, and don’t take any wooden dialogue.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Neighbors: A Sunday Rumination

     A short story for today.


     Smith hobbled rather than walked from his car to the church doors. To walk as able-bodied others did had been taken from him years before by diabetes, gout, and sedentary habits he lacked the willpower to break. It was all he could do to shuffle forward, one minuscule step after another, as he maneuvered his ungainly bulk forward on his two canes and his two disobedient feet. Each Sunday the journey seemed longer than the last.

     He refused to surrender. It was beneath what little dignity he retained. He would not add to the parish’s burdens by subscribing to Eucharist for the Homebound. Already the parish’s eucharistic ministers strained to provide for the sacramental needs of its aged and infirm. While he could still walk, however slowly and painfully, he would attend Sunday Mass in the flesh as well as in the spirit.

     He was reaching for the door when a hand snaked around him to open it and hold it open. Because the early Mass was seldom well attended and he was usually the first to arrive, it was a charity he seldom received. He turned, started to thank his benefactor for the small mercy, and halted.

     It was the newcomer.

     Those who sat near him had remarked on the new arrival, and on how far he stood from the norm for the early Mass. He was middle-aged, no more than fifty. He drove a large black Mercedes that suggested greater wealth than anyone else in the parish. He dressed severely, in dark, forbidding colors. He walked swiftly, in quick, staccato steps, as if he disdained to waste a second. He’d yet to speak to anyone. He carried himself with an air of reserve, even authority, that rendered others reluctant to approach and welcome him. But for the past two Sundays he’d come to the early Mass, had genuflected and made the Sign of the Cross at the entrance to the nave, had seated himself in a pew apart from the rest of the congregation, and at the Mass’s end had departed as silently as a wraith.

     “Thank you,” Smith said.

     The newcomer smiled and nodded.

     Smith eased himself into the rearmost pew, laid his canes alongside him, and strove to compose his mind to gratitude to God. His disabilities and near-total isolation made it a greater challenge than the trip from the parking lot to the church entrance.

     The isolation was not accidental. Suffering had turned him inward. His interactions with others were distracted at best, bitterly envious at worst. Those he’d once deemed friends had gradually stepped away to become remote, inaccessible. He bore the weight upon his soul with no better grace than his physical infirmities. Even his most fervent prayers were tinged with frustration and resentment.

     A hand landed upon his shoulder. Startled, he looked up to find the newcomer gazing down at him. The man’s expression was unreadable.

     “You’re alone again,” the newcomer said.

     Smith snorted. “You don’t miss much, do you.”

     The newcomer’s expression was unchanged. “Three weeks in a row.” He glanced at the two canes. “Do you live alone?”

     Smith grunted assent.

     “How do you get your necessities?”

     “When possible and with difficulty.”

     “Hm.” The newcomer straightened, reached into his inside jacket pocket, and brought out his wallet. For a moment Smith thought he was about to be offered money, as if he were a mendicant. He bridled. “I don’t need—”

     The newcomer held up a hand, and Smith fell silent. He took a pen from the same pocket, pulled a small white card from his wallet, wrote on it briefly, and handed it to Smith.

     Smith eyed it dubiously. It was blank except for what the man had just written on it. “What’s this for?”

     “For when you need it,” the newcomer said. “If you need to get around and aren’t up to it, or need anything else you can’t do for yourself, call me. I’ll take care of it.”

     Smith peered at him. “Why?”

     “Neighbors.”

     “Hm?”

     “We’re neighbors,” the newcomer said.

     Smith snorted. “Get off it. I know the names and faces of everyone within ten miles.” He shook his head. “My real neighbors don’t want anything to do with me. If you were one of them, you’d feel the same.”

     “Maybe,” the newcomer murmured. “But neighbor means one who has been brought near. Here I am and here you are.” A trickle of other parishioners walked past him, each one glancing at him, lifting an eyebrow or two, and passing on to their accustomed seats. He took no notice, merely nodded at the card, and said “Hold on to it.” As Smith slipped the card into his back pocket, the newcomer turned toward the tabernacle, genuflected and made the Sign of the Cross, and seated himself in the pew at the right edge of the nave, the one he’d occupied in his previous attendances.

     Smith stared at him for a long while afterward. His ponderings ended only with the arrival of the celebrant. When the priest turned to the congregation and said “The Lord be with you,” he forced himself erect and strove to concentrate on the ritual.


     Smith was unlocking his car when a pair of other parishioners passed him, conversing in animated voices.

     “That’s Evan Conklin,” one said, nodding toward the newcomer as the man headed toward his Mercedes. “Major venture capitalist.”

     Smith straightened and stood utterly still.

     “Hah!” said another. “We haven’t had one of those around here before. I can’t imagine what need we’d have for one.”

     “He won’t be here long,” replied the first. “He came to settle his son’s affairs. The boy died in a car crash about three weeks ago. Conklin’s daughter-in-law is unable to cope.”

     “Excuse me!” Smith called out. The two turned toward him, frowning. “Where does he hail from?”

     “Onteora County,” the first one said. “About a hundred fifty miles east.”

     “Oh.”

     Smith watched as Conklin’s Mercedes threaded its way out of the lot. When the black car was out of sight, he eased himself into his car, waited until the press of departures had slackened, and drove home.


     Smith's impediments to motion increased as the week passed. When he woke on Sunday morning, he found that he could not lever himself out of bed. An hour’s careful stretching and wiggling of extremities enabled him to rise, but the improvement was insufficient to make it safe for him to drive. It was plain that he would not be attending the early Mass.

     He remembered the card.

     The card was still in the pocket of his jeans. He picked up his cell phone and dialed the number. Two rings. Three.

     “Evan Conklin.”

     “Good morning, Mr. Conklin. This is Darren Smith.”

     “Hm?”

     “The cripple you gave your card last week, in Chemung.”

     “Oh. Good morning. What do you need?”

     “Eucharist. I can’t leave the house.”

     “Ah. What’s your address?”

     Smith gave it, heard the sound of a pencil scratching paper.

     “Are you okay otherwise?” Conklin said.

     “I’ll manage.”

     “Very good. Hang on.”

     The connection broke. Smith hobbled to his front door, unlocked it, and seated himself in his recliner to wait.


     Two and a half hours had elapsed with no sign of a Eucharist-bearing Samaritan when there came a knock at the door. He called out “It’s open, come on in.”

     Evan Conklin entered and closed the door quietly behind him. “Excuse me for not getting up,” Smith said.

     “It’s okay,” Conklin said. He proffered his right hand. It held a mini-ciborium of the sort Smith knew well.

     “Are you prepared to receive the Body of Christ?” Conklin murmured.

     “I am,” Smith replied. He held out his hand, and Conklin put the consecrated wafer in it. Smith put it in his mouth, bowed his head, and prayed briefly. Afterward he looked up at Conklin and said “Thank you.”

     “Would you like some coffee?” Conklin said.

     “Very much, thanks.” Smith started to lever himself out of his chair.

     Conklin smiled and waved him back into his seat. “I’ll take care of it.” He went to Smith’s little kitchen and saw to it. Fifteen minutes later each of them had a mug before him.

     “Difficult morning?” Conklin said.

     “I have them now and then,” Smith said. “Thanks for helping me out. I hate to miss Sunday Mass, but as you can see...”

     Conklin nodded.

     “I’m not on the parish’s list of homebounds,” Smith said. “I’m fortunate you’re still in town.”

     “Hm?”

     “One of the others said you’re only in Chemung to settle some stuff for your late son and his widow.”

     “I was,” Conklin said. “But I’ve been back in Onteora since Tuesday evening.”

==<O>==

     May God bless and keep you all.