Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Remember When...

     ...the disgracefully gleeful face of Adam Schiff – forever assuring us that he had seen evidence of Trumpian high crimes and misdemeanors – seemed to be everywhere?
     ...virtually every nightly news story that referred to the Trump Administration began with “the beginning of the end” or “the walls are closing in” – on President Trump?
     ...pundit after pundit predicted that President Trump would be impeached, convicted, and removed from office – possibly sparking street violence from Trump’s supporters?

     Of course you do! How could anyone forget such lurid reportage, such apocalyptic predictions of so titanic a downfall? And if you were inattentive to the actual, factual developments you might even have begun to believe all those prognostications. It would be a historic moment were President Trump to be forced from office, to be sure, but a sad one as well.

     But upon occasion, the annelid completes a circuit:

     Heh, heh, heh!

     Throughout 2015 and 2016 media figures scoffed at the Trump for President Campaign as a “joke.” They repeatedly assured their audiences that the real-estate developer and reality-TV star had no chance of prevailing against the “superbly qualified” Hillary Clinton. Trump’s victory sent them into a state of shock that swiftly morphed into denial: Trump must have cheated! And because their faith in their own foresight was impenetrable, they seized upon any suggestion, however dubious, that might support that contention.

     But no evidence of Trumpian misbehavior ever materialized. Indeed, those who were most vocal about having “seen the evidence” said the exact opposite when called to testify under oath. The “Mueller team,” as zealously partisan a group of witch-hunters as has ever been assembled, could produce nothing even of marginal substance. They were caught falsifying FBI interview reports — the famous “302” documents – in the attempt to bring down Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, regarded as the key entering wedge in the campaign against the president.

     The dreams of headhunting glory and of the indulgence of a grateful re-Establishment dissolved like a predawn mist before the rising sun. All their hopes were ashes, ashes everywhere. Nowhere was there a mouthful of compensation to be had.

     The Usurper Trump would have to be unseated electorally. But how? He was proving both effective and popular – and not merely among Americans. And by whom? The Democrat Party had no figure with national recognition who didn’t possess serious negatives. Where to turn?

     They settled upon former Senator and Vice-President Joe Biden as the antidote: the “moderate” Democrat with broad support who could unseat the usurper. They touted him at every opportunity, even before the primaries had delivered a definite nominee. They did not anticipate the gaffe parade, the many well documented deceits, or the endless video clips of their chosen one’s gropings. They did not expect Biden’s various flip-floppings on policy to be so closely analyzed. They certainly did not expect the Ukraine Affair to become national headline news.

     Great is the media’s downfall, and delicious the Schadenfreude among the president’s supporters.

     As the saying goes, “Don’t get cocky.” There’s still a broadly hostile media to contend with. There’s still election fraud to be prevented. There’s still the economic damage from the Wuhan Virus to be recovered from. And there’s still the Republican Establishment, much of which has never cottoned to Trump and would be willing to lose the White House just to see him expunged and control of the party restored to their grip.

     But for a little while at least, we who have been greatly heartened by Trump’s America First stance, by his aggressive attitude toward our problems, by his pugnacious responses to his assailants, and by his demonstrated fidelity to his promises can enjoy our satisfaction. He whom we chose to right the nation, though stormed at with shot and shell, remains unbowed. What remains is to get him four more years to complete the deal. We must also find and prepare his successor, for choosing a successor to the most successful president since Coolidge will be no small task. Reagan botched it; we must not.

     Remember in November.

Always Remember, the Villains Don't Think of Themselves as Villains

I'd not seen this film, about the work of the East German Stasi. That organization, whose mission was to use spying on its own citizens, intimidation, social control, and nearly unlimited power to enforce its edicts, was a large part of what made life in the Communist-controlled part of Germany so grim.

But, I'm convinced that most of the Stasi, if asked, would have said that their work was necessary to assist their government in persuading its citizens to act appropriately and help the nation to become a world leader. That, thanks to the effort of the Stasi agents, East Germany would run efficiently, provide for its citizens, and take its place in the ranks of world leaders.

All GOOD aims. NOT evil.

OK, so they had to act somewhat - forcefully - to make all those wonderful things happen. But, as Arnold Schwarzenegger said in True Lies, when asked if he killed people as part of his spy job, "Only the BAD ones." It was acceptable for him to kill, because his goal was a GOOD one.

So, likewise, are the SJWs and Leftists convinced that their methods are justified by the saintliness of their objectives. This thought occurred to me when I was reading (for the first time) the Tom Clancy book, Rainbow Six. In that book, the environmental Leftists commit horrible crimes. 

Those crimes, however, don't count, because their heart is pure.

The same thinking permeates the ethos of many antisocial political movements. Initially, it's something small that the members are asked to do - scrawl graffiti on a wall, break an 'unjust' law, use their collective actions to intimidate a bureaucrat.

It escalates from there. Larry Grathwohl wrote about his experience as a FBI informer, embedded with the Weather Underground (Weathermen) radicals. His descriptions of how Bill Ayre and Bernadette Dohrn (now married) used psychological techniques to break down their followers' resistance to immoral acts and/or illegal acts provide some understanding of the many ways the Left uses deviations from normal conventions to twist their group into conforming to a New Normal.

In doing so, they create a cohesive identity in their group, who begin thinking of US (the GOOD guys) against THEM (the BAD guys). This process in an essential part of creating a ruthless machinery that will not hesitate at any act, to push their agenda.

Individual thinking is discouraged. The good of the group is what counts. Any act that promotes the good of the many is appropriate.

Pretty soon, unspeakable acts - bombings, kidnapping, torture - can be used against ideological opponents, without mercy.

And, of course, this is all justified. They are the Good Ones, whose aims are so sanctified that their methods cannot be questioned.

Hoo-Boy! This Does NOT Look Like a Good Idea!

In the winter of 2019-2020, China's Wuhan lab apparently got a little lax with its Life-Threatening Microbes. That's assuming that it was an accident, and not a first strike at bioterrorism.

I cannot be the only person who thinks this is a really, really bad idea.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Yet Another Reason to Distrust China

YAR-DC, in fact.

Xenophobic? Piffle. I like individual Chinese people (and other Asians) just fine.

But, I do distrust those living here, who have left hostages in China, or other countries. They should NOT be in charge of research, nor employed by research facilities without strict controls over their access to proprietary information.

America was the source of many of the technological inventions/discoveries of the late 19th and 20th century. In too many cases, China is now the manufacturer of products that developed out of those advances. In some cases, companies made deals with China under the gun - either share the info with China, or lose it through industrial spying. At least by making that deal, the company got a portion of the profit.

We need to continue with these investigations. It's worth it for the federal government to partner with the companies (although, charging the companies for the government's assistance in rooting out the spies, and prosecuting and deporting them, might be reasonable).

One major conduit for spies - the research universities - may be ending. Require any foreign student used for that purpose have an investigation of their background, and keep them under surveillance for the duration of their stay in the US.

Make it harder for companies to hire foreign nationals of ANY country. That includes the many, many Indian workers that inhabit the tech industry. Require that they be hired at standard industry pay, WITH bennies. Any extension of their visa must be accompanies by proof of recruitment of American workers. Use the "disparate impact" standard - if Americans do not constitute a fair portion of the employees in every job category, the company has engaged in illegal practices in hiring, and will lose their ability to hire those with visas.

The goal is to limit - severely - any use of visas, until the 3% level of unemployment is hit.

Westphailure: A Memorial Day Reflection

     [This is a repost of a column I wrote three years ago. It seems to me to capture the essential tragedy of Memorial Day better than anything I’ve written before or since. I find that I cannot improve on it. In our time of wholly artificial, politically useful fear and widespread, ever intensifying animosity between private citizens and political Establishments, it strikes me as uniquely appropriate. – FWP]

     Over the past two decades there have been a number of articles, whether scholarly or written for a lay audience, to the effect that the end is in sight for the Westphalian nation-state. Some analysts have treated the subject with alarm, others with glee. Some focused upon specific enemies of the nation-state, such as creedal or ethnic particularism or “non-state-actor” terrorism. A few have attempted to predict what forms of political organization (if any) would follow. And occasionally a visionary has speculated upon the possibility that political organization itself might vanish.

     Yet few of those who spent their efforts on the matter could cope with the two questions that loom above all the others:

  1. Why do nation-states exist at all?
  2. Why do some nation-states appear endangered while others do not?

     More grist for a Curmudgeon Emeritus’s mill.

     The emergence of the political entities we recognize today as nation-states was a drawn-out process. The 1648 Treaties of Westphalia, though widely regarded as seminal, was really the start of a gestational process that continued through the 1713 Treaties of Utrecht, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the politically neglected Napoleonic Wars, and the Congress of Vienna. Each of those things had a role to play in the birth of the nation-state as we’ve come to understand it.

     Whereas the Treaties of Westphalia were largely concerned with established religions, the subsequent events addressed a supremely practical issue: the desire for an enduring conception of sovereignty, including a sovereign’s authority to determine and enforce the law in his domain. During those tumultuous decades the question of who should have the power to make law, and by what mechanisms and upon what terms it should be enforced, was paramount in the minds of many Europeans. Revolutions had toppled regimes in England, France, and America. Innovative concepts such as individual rights, freedom of speech and religion, and the consent of the governed appeared to threaten sovereigns worldwide. Above all, the unbridled war-making power the Treaties of Westphalia had reserved to the sovereign appeared to threaten the basis of human society.

     Power itself needed a new basis. Sovereign absolutism would no longer serve the purposes of the West. But to proceed from that point required that those purposes be enunciated and clarified. Moreover, the royalty of Europe could no longer reserve those purposes to themselves.

     The major desideratum that powered the emergence of the nation-state was stability. The economy of Europe had been ravaged by endless wars and struggles over jurisdiction among monarchs and nobles. The further advancement of civilization, a foretaste of which was visible in Eighteenth Century England, required that the quarreling cease. The accelerating assertiveness of the common man suggested that the old basis of absolute monarchs and nobles sworn to fealty would no longer do the job.

     I don’t mean to suggest that the movers of the development of the modern nation-state were animated by a sense of civic responsibility or anything comparable to it. They merely wanted to enjoy their positions and the pleasures and conveniences made available by an advancing economy. They realized that they couldn’t have those things if Europe were to remain an eternal battlefield. The defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo opened the possibility of putting an end to the strife.

     Consensus emerged, albeit tacitly, that the aggressive Continental imperialism of the two centuries past, most recently represented by Napoleon, must end. Borders must be stabilized; ruling powers must agree to respect them. Diplomatic intercourse must replace warfare in all but the most serious disputes between sovereigns. More – and ultimately far more significant – the possibility of provoking a bottom-up revolution must be kept in mind in all political operations.

     None of these things were explicit parts of the treaties made during those years. Yet they loomed behind most of the maneuverings of Metternich, Talleyrand, Wellington, Tsar Alexander I, and the rest. Though it appeared that the rise of republicanism had been dealt a setback, the hundred years of relative peace that followed allowed the common man to rise to a stature that would ultimately make it impossible for a European ruler ever again to assert overt, absolute, and unbounded authority.

     The nation-state as the principal guarantor of peace, stability, and orderly commerce had emerged.

     Shortly before he died, the great Herbert Spencer, aghast at the return of social invidiousness and national animosities that characterized the currents of the close of the Nineteenth Century, predicted that the Twentieth would be “a century of socialism and war.” Twentieth Century Europe would prove him correct. National governments, both hereditary and elective, turned once again to warfare to “get what’s rightfully ours.”

     In a way, the famous remark of German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg:

     "The world will be plunged into the most terrible of wars...all for a word -- 'neutrality'...all for a scrap of paper." -- Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, Chancellor of the German Empire, referring to Britain's decision to go to war over Germany's violation of Belgium's neutrality, which had been guaranteed by Britain, France and Germany in an 1832 treaty.

     ...revealed the cause of the failure of the Hundred Years’ Peace. That peace had been held together by nothing but “scraps of paper:” the treaties and less formal agreements of the Westphalian, Utrechtan, and Viennese periods. The nations hadn’t renounced their arms; indeed, they’d amassed them to a greater height than ever before. What brought about World War I was the dismissal of the peace made possible at Westphalia, Utrecht, and Vienna as supreme above all other considerations.

     Governments, both hereditary and elective, gave notice that peace, stability, and orderly commerce aren’t their major goals after all.

     Once the Great War was over, it became clear that the ascent of the common man to economic potency ultimately made the Viennese system of 1814-15 untenable by the standards of the European political elite. The collapse of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires underscored the danger to ruling elites. A dramatic revision of the political basis of the nation-state became inevitable. Sovereignty must descend to the proletariat at least in appearance, else the commoners would displace the elites once and for all.

     Great Britain and France were already sailing that course. In the wake of the Treaty of Versailles, the other nations of Europe embarked on it in various ways. However, the seeds of popular dissatisfaction with government generally had been planted deep. Watered by the acceleration of the socialist movement and the three great exploiters thereof – Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin – the shoots would overturn European stability again only twenty years later.

     Over the century since the Great War, it has become appallingly clear to ordinary private citizens that no matter their representations or the formal structures of their governments, the ruling elites of nation-states are in business for themselves. Their interest in the peace, legal stability, and orderly commerce common men so enjoy is secondary to their interest in maintaining their power, stature, and perquisites. They will provide true service to those things only insofar as it serves to support and maintain their positions. At other times, lip service will suffice.

     Scant wonder that the nation-state as an institution is under attack from all sides. The common man, now empowered beyond all the emperors of old taken together, has become dissatisfied with it. Whether his principal allegiance goes to a neighborhood, a race, an ethnicity, a religion, or his own wallet, he’s no longer willing to support the political status quo without reservation. Indeed, he’s actively interested in possible alternatives. Could the best of us, the young men who enlist in their nations’ armed forces knowing that it puts their lives at risk – knowing that their fathers and grandfathers were sent forth to bleed on foreign soil for causes many of which have proved futile at best, evil at worst – be far behind?

     The dynamics of the thing deserve further study. Remember the fallen.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Some Changes Needed to Bankruptcy Laws/Courts

Something occurred to me when reading about the Hertz car company failure.

We need to allow/require judges to negate any asset sales to foreign companies (perhaps multinational, as well). Has to be an American company. Otherwise, China and other countries will own us.

Could that change be a DOJ rule change? Or, other administrative, rather than legal, change? I don't know.

Any lawyers reading this? Please comment.

“Just Because You’re A...”

     No known force has had as much influence on human affairs as religion. Moreover, no imaginable force could compete with it. After all, if you sincerely believe that the Supreme Authority of Existence has commanded that you do this and not do that, and will sentence you to an eternity of unspeakable torment should you disobey, you’ll toe the line.

     Ideologies that posture as above question – we might call them secular faiths – have similar effects on their allegiants, though they’re not quite as compelling and certainly aren’t inescapable. A secular faith is discernible by its resistance to evidence and reasoning that contradict its tenets. Eric Hoffer would say that it attempts to impose a “fact-proof screen” upon the believer. Some such faiths are rampant among us today, Marxism of all varieties (including “progressivism”) being the foremost examples.

     Note that a secular faith is inherently hostile to other kinds of faith. Such opposition is natural between two belief systems, each of which proclaims itself to be the ultimate authority. You’ll occasionally find a Marxist who gives lip service to some religious creed, but when the religion contradicts the dictates of his Marxism, the latter will win the day.

     Ironically, the Marxist is prone to dismiss the contentions of the non-Marxist with a kind of ad hominem: “You just say that because you’re a Christian / conservative / libertarian / [insert your own competing creed here].” It’s a bemusing sort of thrust. Isn’t the Marxist open to the same accusation? At any rate, it constitutes evidence that there’s no point in continuing the conversation.

     I’ve faced that thrust on several occasions. It can be massively irritating. A provocation to behavior that would be considered “untoward.” I haven’t always exhibited restraint at such times. My admiration for one who can maintain his composure in such circumstances is unbounded.

     Which brings me to the actual subject of today’s tirade: the highly impressive new White House press secretary, Miss Kayleigh McEnany.

     McEnany has rocked the White House press corps onto its back foot. She seems always to be prepared for anything and everything. She delivers ripostes to their “gotcha” sallies that leave them reeling, embarrassed, and angry. In this she displays a degree of political and public-relations acumen that few of her predecessors could claim. Robert A. Heinlein’s prescription to answer a hostile question with a sharper and even more hostile question is obviously a conscious part of her approach.

     The gentlemen of the press deem this as an affront to journalistic prerogatives. They get to ask the leading, embarrassing, tendentious questions; the press secretary is supposed to stand there and “take it.” Were there any credibility to their pretense of non-partisan “objectivity,” they might have a case. However, in such circumstances, counterpunching such as McEnany has practiced would be absent from the scene. Honest, courteous journalists do not operate as the White House press corps has done.

     So of course the Left’s pet commentators, and the NeverTrumpers allied with them de facto, would like to see McEnany boiled in oil. They share the belief that it’s the press corps’ prerogative to ask the hostile questions and the press secretary’s job to “take it;” it was embedded in their psyches long ago. This video provides a recent sample of typical NeverTrumper reactions.

     President Trump has chosen well...which has his opponents in the media riled to the max. The “She’s doing it because she’s a fanatic Trump loyalist” thrusts at McEnany are already accumulating. They allow no possibility that she sincerely believes in her presidential employer’s policies, positions, and administration and is determined to defend them to the best of her ability. No, it must be because of her competing faith – and that, in the sadly degenerated Jonah Goldberg’s opinion, renders her “grotesque.”

     Judging by her performance to date, I predict that McEnany will have a long tenure – as long as she wants to be there – as President Trump’s front-line representative to the press. She’s shown more resilience in the position than Sean Spicer or Sarah Sanders, both of whom I liked but neither of whom possessed McEnany’s impenetrability by the press’s barbs. Indeed, McEnany seems to be enjoying herself. That would be appropriate. A truly gifted duelist enjoys displaying his strokes. He glories in the cut and thrust between him and his adversary. A press secretary who can face down an overtly hostile press corps as McEnany has done should take pleasure in her performance.

     As for the carpers in the Punditocracy, appalled that a presidential press secretary should display serious cojones, their gasps and exclamations of disapproval say more about their own insufficiencies than they do about the articulate, well prepared, impeccably poised, and (by the way) quite beautiful Miss Kayleigh McEnany. Though I do wish she’d lose the false eyelashes; they don’t go with the rest of her look.

Just Two Marines on an Ordinary Night

The perfect post for Memorial Day.

We're not Marines in my family. We tend to be the temps - those guys who enlist for the duration of a war, then return home. Almost all of them Army. My dad was Artillery (his hearing, in those pre-protection days of WWII, was gone before middle age), his brother Signal Corps in Korea, my brother was Electronics Repair in Vietnam (a vital part of the mission - the Army needed their mobile phones). In this generation, my son served in the Navy repairing the communications hardware, my daughter performed Quartermaster's duty in the Guard.

All returned to civilian life safely.

Not the Gold Star Families' experience. We saw a documentary yesterday - I cannot praise it enough - Bringing the Fallen Home. They follow, not just the soldiers who died, and their families, but also the people who provide the services - escort, getting the uniform ready for the funeral, preparing the body, notifying the family, supporting the family through the process - all are shown to be incredible examples of sensitivity and compassion, and aware of the gravity of their jobs.

I highly suggest watching the film this weekend.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Quickies: A Great Voice Speaks From The Grave To Us Of The Present

     Great men have foreseen the extreme danger that Islam and its militancy pose to the civilized world. One such great man is Hilaire Belloc:

     The story must not be neglected by any modern, who may think in error that the East has finally fallen before the West, that Islam is now enslaved — to our political and economic power at any rate if not to our philosophy. It is not so. Islam essentially survives, and Islam would not have survived had the Crusade made good its hold upon the essential point of Damascus. Islam survives. Its religion is intact; therefore its material strength may return. Our religion is in peril, and who can be confident in the continued skill, let alone the continued obedience, of those who make and work our machines? ... There is with us a complete chaos in religious doctrine.... We worship ourselves, we worship the nation; or we worship (some few of us) a particular economic arrangement believed to be the satisfaction of social justice.... Islam has not suffered this spiritual decline; and in the contrast between [our religious chaos and Islam's] religious certitudes still strong throughout the Mohammedan world lies our peril.

     -- Hilaire Belloc, The Crusades

     Ignore Belloc at your peril. Europe already has.

How Do You Do “It?”

     Well? How do you? Are you thorough or slapdash? Do you consult the requirements first, or do you “wing it?” Do you plan your work? If so, do you adhere rigidly to the plan, or do you sometimes make adjustments to it in light of previously unaddressed considerations and unforeseen developments? Do you do “it” all at one go, or a little at a time? Do you do “it” according to your upbringing, your community standards, the current state of national opinion, or your personal preferences? Do you have any concern for the preferences of others? If so, whose preferences matter to you? If not, are you prepared for the consequences of doing “it” without first conciliating “them?”

     In the hoary old Curmudgeon Emeritus tradition, I’ve titled this piece to provoke the question “What the BLEEP! is he thinking?” Alternately, “What does he mean by quote-marking ‘it?’”

     Of course “it” as used above is a wildcard. Insert in its place any particular thing you do. Then the inquiry might start to make sense. Might.

     The subject is a tough one to summarize neatly, which is why the preceding is a bit vague. But that’s also part and parcel of the way I do “it.”

     My launching point for today is this mildly satirical article, in particular the following assertion:

     I am aware that the phrase “like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” has become shorthand for “a task rendered useless in the face of overwhelming circumstances.” Well, here’s another phrase for you: “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

     Quite a striking prescription, eh? I’ve seen it in other forms and settings, though the choice of the Titanic, perhaps the most famous of all commercial maritime disasters, makes it particularly poignant.

     There’s a grain of truth to the assertion. “How you do anything / everything” is your style. People’s individual styles tend to be highly consistent. We’re known to others, in large measure, by our styles. They cause some to gravitate toward us and others to be repelled by us. While style isn’t quite the whole man, the notions of the Comte de Buffon notwithstanding, it does express one’s individuality in the fashion most accessible to others.

     However, the desire to maintain consistency in one’s style does not confer an exemption from the priorities of place, time, and circumstance.

     Let’s take that fellow on the Titanic. Imagine for a moment that he had no assigned duties other than tidying up the deck, keeping everything neat and orderly. But the ship is sinking. It’s become evident that the lives of all aboard are in danger. Quick action might save others who would otherwise die in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Was there nothing better he could do with his remaining time on Earth than fiddle with the deck chairs? Did he feel no obligation to his fellow men? Did he not even think to go to the aid of others who might not be able to help themselves?

     Of course, the counterargument could be made that the fellow in question was unable to provide constructive assistance...if that were indeed the case. But if it wasn’t, what then?

     Style is important only when nothing else is. You cannot use style – “how I do ‘it’” – as a justification for ignoring matters of clearly higher priority. If you know your neighbor to be in distress, you are obliged to act. His distress – at least if it’s a non-trivial matter to which you could contribute usefully – trumps your need to adhere to your style in all cases. Only a conscienceless bastard would imagine otherwise.

     But as usual, the most important word in the paragraph above is if.

     As well as his astronomical and cosmological researches, the late Sir Fred Hoyle wrote science fiction. In some regards it wasn’t really good science fiction. Nevertheless, he occasionally made piercing, important observations about Mankind and the behavior of men. Here’s one such snippet from his novel The Inferno:

     A light tapping on the door caused Cameron to awake. Glancing at his watch he saw the time was only 6.30 p.m.
     ‘Yes, what is it?’ he shouted.
     The housekeeper’s voice replied saying there was a gentleman to see him. Cursing that he hadn’t gone to an hotel where they couldn’t find him, Cameron twisted a dressing-gown over his shoulders, and yanked the door open with a vicious pull. He found Mallinson standing outside.
     ‘May I come in?’
     ‘I hope it is both urgent and meaningful, Henry.’
     ‘The Prime Minister would like to see you.’
     ‘Another committee?’
     ‘He has asked you to dinner. I understand there will also be the First Physicist, Sir Arthur Mansfield and Guy Renfrew who is the Professor of Radioastronomy at Bristol University.’
     ‘That the full crew?’ asked Cameron as he started to shave.
     ‘I’m sorry, but your display this afternoon was quite inexcusable.’
     ‘Ah, the poor simple man,’ said Cameron to himself in the mirror.
     ‘And what might that mean?’ [Mallinson said.]
     ‘It means you’d better stop playing the fool, Henry. You’re likely to be dead in a couple of weeks, man.’
     ‘Which makes it all the more necessary to go on behaving in the way I’ve always behaved.’
     Cameron finished shaving and began to dress. ‘There’s something to be said for your point of view,’ he admitted. ‘But it implies you’ve always been doing the things you want to do.’
     ‘Haven’t you?’
     ‘Partly yes, partly no. I’ve done the things which have been open to me.’
     ‘Haven’t we all?’

     Context matters. On the previous day Cameron, a physicist of irascible disposition, announced to a government environmental committee that in light of the recently detected explosion of the core of the Milky Way Galaxy into a super-quasar, which seems to entail the destruction of all life on Earth, all its deliberations are irrelevant nonsense. In other words, Cameron allowed himself some “plain speaking,” to the extreme discomfiture of some “highly placed persons.” His visitor, Sir Henry Mallinson, is himself a “highly placed” person – a Cabinet secretary.

     Mallinson is determined to remain with his personal standards of deportment and the treatment of others. Cameron, who foresees the deaths of billions, probably to include his own, has departed from such standards. Yet while he doesn’t regret his earlier actions, as he grooms himself to go out in public he says to Mallinson that “There’s something to be said for your point of view.”

     Which of them, given the circumstances, has the better case?

     “How you do ‘it’” is of significance under some circumstances. However, it is not a license to ignore higher priorities, at least if one can make a useful contribution to their resolution. Thus, Emily Flake’s epigrammatic pronouncement that “how you do anything is how you do everything” cannot and must not be made into an all-embracing credo.

     Style, while it expresses one’s individuality, is of significance only in those adequately peaceful and orderly contexts Americans call normality. (NB: once more, with feeling: not “normalcy.”) “How I do ‘it’” must always be subordinated to “What the BLEEP should I be doing?” The application to our current Reign of Error is left as an exercise for my Gentle Readers.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Emily Litella Lives – And She Has A Byline!

     If you’re old, cranky, and possess a near-perfect memory, among the things you’re likely to bitch about on occasion is the descent of comedy into the depths of banality and vulgarity. One who remembers Monty Python in its heyday, or the great comedians of the Fifties and Sixties, is unlikely to be impressed by most of today’s “comedians.” A generation that remembers Milton Berle, Joey Bishop, Sid Caesar, Jimmy Durante, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Jan Murray, Red Skelton, Danny Thomas, and Dick Van Dyke will not cotton to contemporary “humor.”

     And then we have the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Great God in heaven, what a treasure trove it was! Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and the immortal (though sadly departed from this plane) Gilda Radner. Those folks could teach comedy: the centrality of incongruity, composing a skit, timing it properly, accuracy in caricature, and all the rest.

     Radner did several skits at the end of SNL’s “news” put-ons in which she played Emily Litella, an old woman who habitually got the news wrong and complained about it in a side-splittingly funny fashion:

  • “What’s all this fuss about the presidential erection?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about busting schoolchildren?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about eagle rights?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about violins on television?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about endangered feces?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about saving Soviet jewelry?”

     And so on. “Newscasters” Chevy Chase or Jane Curtin would correct Litella’s misapprehension, and Litella would then say “Never mind.” As predictable as the skit came to be, it was one of the funniest bits the SNL crew had in its repertoire, largely due to Radner’s gift for caricature.

     Know what else has become entirely predictable, Gentle Reader? The response of our “serious” news media to having their blatant, politically charged errors revealed to the public. They don’t “fess up.” They seldom present justifications for their misreporting. Like Radner’s Emily Litella, they say (though unlike Litella, under their breath) “never mind” and pass on to some new, equally erroneous and politically biased “story.”

     John Wohlstetter makes note of this in a compendious article on “Our COVID Future:”

     A major issue that will drive turnout of Trump’s base is countering efforts by mainstream media — nearly all leftist — to monopolize the coverage and interpretation of administration actions. On Feb. 22, 2017, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski committed a major Freudian slip (full video clip, 2:14), complaining about Trump’s influence on his supporters:
     Well, I think that the dangerous edges here are that he is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that … is our job.

     Daniel Henninger’s Wall Street Journal Trump/Lysol video (4:05) shows blatant media bias aimed at helping defeat Donald Trump; Trump mused aloud during a coronavirus briefing that perhaps injecting disinfectant was “not a bad idea” but added that “it is up to the doctors.” That caveat was tossed aside by media enemies, and the falsehood that Trump advocates people doing this was spread. Not even Dr. Deborah Birx’s telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that the media should stop using Trump’s musings has dimmed their ardor. Henninger is right that Trump should not extemporaneously speak on medical matters, as adversary media can be counted upon to distort and exploit such talk. And it may, Henninger notes, cost Trump the election.

     Further evidence of media bias came when a reporter tried to quote-shame (1:27) the new White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, by confronting her with virus-related statements she made while serving as adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. She answered by reading quotes from various reporters and publications downplaying coronavirus. When she gets answers from them, she said, she would address the question.

     Even worse, mainstream media denigrates red-state governors who reopen their state economies as “anti-science,” whilst lavishing praise on blue-state governors whose states have the highest infection and death rates, as Robert Stacy McCain describes for The American Spectator. The one governor given regular open access to America on national TV is New York’s Andrew Cuomo, whose state is the worst basket case in America — and one of the worst on the planet.

     Sailors have a saying: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times? Sound general quarters.” The Old Media are far beyond that third occurrence.

     For us in the bleacher seats, there isn’t much to be done. Ignore the “mainstream” media to the greatest possible extent, for they have demonstrated an institutional agenda that has little to do with “reporting the news.” When a story with important implications floats your way, don’t merely accept its representations as stated; cross-check it as deeply as you can. Distrust opinion-mongers, for they exist to sway opinions, and many of them are allied with one of the major political parties or interest groups. Yes, distrust me too, for I have an agenda as well, even if I am open about it.

     Above all, remember what Buddha said:

     Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it – no matter if I have said it! – except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense.

     Your reason and common sense are more trustworthy than any “authority.”

La Revolution - She Begins

I'm gonna add to this list of revolutionaries-in-training as I find them.

In NV - a bar owner opens - GASP! - without the Overlord's permission.

In SC - a state which, largely, has few restrictions at this time (individual businesses may impose their own conditions for interaction) - I was out yesterday with my husband. We were doing some shopping for groceries.

I noticed that even the usually germ-phobic people (elderly, many Black people, Drama Queens) were less likely to be wearing masks. In some places, we were in the minority (Both my husband and I are over 60, and, due to allergy season, we're coughing occasionally. We wear the masks so as not to freak others out).

Later, at our church, we were with other volunteers who have been asked to monitor mask use and social distancing for the services to open this Saturday/Sunday (as well as some disinfecting after the mass). They went over the details, and we left, knowing that, no matter what, there will be glitches. Some were quite nervous about the details - there was one who seemed to be more than a little concerned - she is elderly, and disabled. Clearly, she feels vulnerable.

What I found touching about her volunteering is that she was willing to take a seemingly large risk, all for the benefit of having mass again. The government, and the Catholic church, has underestimated just how important that social gathering is to those in the pew.

Distancing - not just in interpersonal conversations, but in physical proximity, geographically, may determine the course of America's future. Read what City Journal has to say about it.

City Journal's Samo Burja may have something with this article. She makes her argument from a more social science-type point of view (which, as her points are based on normal, typical human experiences, is a perfectly valid viewpoint).
The trivial task of walking down a hall and carrying out an informal conversation can save hundreds of manhours of paperwork. The more physically integrated an organization is, the faster it can communicate with itself, and thus the faster it can respond to circumstances and succeed at whatever task it has set out to accomplish. Voice is a better carrier of information than a memo or email, and in-person communication is superior to a phone call. It’s easy to see why living in the right city, alongside the right people and organizations, is so valuable. The power of a city like Washington or New York is magnified many times beyond the sum of its parts. It is much more useful for Jeff Bezos to locate Amazon HQ2 near Washington than near Fort Lauderdale.
For all that new ways of communication have been used over the last few years, there is something about face-to-face interactions that cannot be replaced. I'm rather introverted, and often text rather than talk. However, even someone so atypical as I has found that there were time when I craved physical proximity to other people. It's even harder for my husband, who actually enjoys the social whirl.

Burja points out that Zoom calls provide irrefutable evidence of those conversations (can't wait to see what James O'Keefe will be able to make of those!).

What Burja doesn't touch on, and may be a bigger factor in the future is the effect that distance learning will have on an entire cohort of students. Not just in K-12 education (which will be likely to return, in some fashion, by the end of summer/early fall), but even more influentially for college/post-grad students.

In college, a significant portion of the experience is the interactions. Conformity pressures shape the typical college students' rapid metamorphosis from hometown and family values, to a tatted, binge-drinking, screeching echo of their professors and peers. If the college is Leftist (as most prestigious ones are), parents find they have little in common with the resulting grad.

At no other time in their children's lives are they so vulnerable to undue influence. They are surrounded, 24/7, with others who work hard to re-direct their thinking/actions to an outcome that matches the Goals of the Left. As the most influential time is in the first weeks, when the sleep deprivation, guided experiences that push unified actions, and absence of alternative viewpoint can mold students, just as a cult does. I would suggest watching the Canadian film "Ticket to Heaven", which shows how a 'religious' community takes an average young teacher, and, within a very short time, creates a zombie cult member.

The true scourge.

Tech giant censorship and arrogance are through the roof as any hour on the web will amply demonstrate. YouTube, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, among others, no longer make any pretense about principled control of content, not that there is such a thing, other than elimination of criminal activity. As the insightful Caitlin Johnstone correctly observed, free speech is not the freedom to say that butterflies are pretty and puppies are cute.

But, no. The tech giants are 100% about naked censorship to serve the goals of the globalists, the 1%, the plutocrats, and whoever has an interest in controlling information about the corona virus. Do not doubt me on this last point as it's clear that YouTube is clearly on a tear about what is or what is not the correct thing to say about it.

YouTube has been messing with Mr. Praveen Mohan, an intelligent and personable gentleman if ever there were one (much like myself let it be said) since 2017 interfering with his most interesting – and certifiably unobjectionable – content relating to Indian archeology. In a recent video he uncharacteristically chose to express an opinion about the corona virus and it was characteristically taken down by YouTube. He discusses it here.

Something called "misinformation," "fake news," or "hate speech" is now a grave threat to mankind from which our eyes and ears must be protected by wise and benevolent ________.

Particularly on this virus deal, rational people can be forgiven for thinking that the lockdown strategy with its enormous economic and hence personal damage has a purpose that has nothing to do with efficient epidemiological control.


  • the prescience of Bill Gates on a virus epidemic a while back;
  • his sudden bizarre prominence as an epidemiologist cum vaccine fanatic;
  • Dr. Fauci's coincidental relationship with the Gates Foundation;
  • the peculiar "established fact" that there will be a vaccine, it will arrive with lightning speed,it will be effective in a way that all other flu inoculations have not, and that forced administration is just as constitutionally shipshape as anyone fanatically devoted to the cause of liberty can possibly explain;
  • that hydroxychloroquine, a drug safely administered to hundreds of thousands of patients over several decades, is now a sort of pharmaceutical strychnine; and
  • that media discussion of the merits of the official version of the "epidemic" is clearly being restricted and controlled by at least one of the tech giants.

I'm not selling anything here but it does seem to me that this has the earmarks of an agenda backed by a focused propaganda campaign.

But back to the main point. "Thoughts" that don't fit the Correct Narrative are instantly encircled and vaporized by a form of private tyranny. Our diplomats and military love to talk about Iranian proxy forces but our own domestic (and foreign) proxies are not in short supply. Operative hypothesis: the plutocracy uses tech giant censorship as an end run around the First Amendment. Hence the bovine indifference of the government to enforcement of the anti-trust laws and the use of "public utility" concepts to crucify the tech giant censors.

This while tidal waves of the most absurd, sappy, dishonest, deviant, creepy thinking can effortlessly sluice through the culture like [a barnyard image illustrating something that transits rapidly].

Why is that? The vile plutocracy in which we live now seeks to suffocate us with lies and destroy anyone who objects. When Solzhenitsyn warned us "Live not by lies" he probably thought that he had witnessed the ultimate example of a nation that did just that. When he later came to the United States, I think he realized that the Soviets were pikers when it came to lies and vicious control.

Our true scourge.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Personal Marginalia

     Yesterday was a difficult day. I was grateful for the two meaty contributions from Linda and Margaret, as they freed me from feeling an obligation to write anything for this site. However, in looking back on the day, it has occurred to me that bits of it might be at least slightly amusing to the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch. Besides, I’m in no mood to blather about current events, so here goes.

     We keep a rather unusual schedule here at the Fortress. Most Americans would find it uncongenial. We’re normally in bed at around 8:00 PM and out of bed at or before 4:00 AM. That’s the product of many years commuting in Long Island’s legendary traffic. The habits formed during those years have proved impossible to break, so far.

     One consequence of that schedule is that when one of us has a hard time sleeping, it’s normal for both of us to sack out even earlier the following evening. Nothing unusual there, eh? Everyone needs to get enough sleep. But the problem is stiff, as it’s very difficult to sleep when the sun is shining, no matter how dark and dense your bedroom drapes might be. For that reason and others, completely sleepless nights are not uncommon here.

     Yesterday, because I’d suffered a series of such bad nights, I didn’t awaken until the unGodly hour of 5:20 AM. When my eyelids finally rolled back and I noted the time, I felt like some kind of degenerate. I stumbled out of bed, robed, and scurried to the kitchen for some cardiac starter fluid coffee, and found the C.S.O. perched before her computer. She was already at her day’s work.

     She gave me the proverbial gimlet eye and drawled “Well! Good morning, sleepyhead.” At 5:25 AM Eastern Daylight-Savings Time.

     Perhaps this happens in the households of dairy farmers. I wouldn’t know.

     We have a cleaning lady who comes in on alternate Thursdays. She spares us having to do the “heavy” cleaning that’s tough on old backs and joints. I’m grateful that we can afford such a service, and would not think to complain about any inconveniences involved...usually. But with New York not yet “open for business,” there are extra difficulties involved.

     You see, every cleaning lady – in my experience at least – comes with one or more eccentricities. I had one, back when I was “between wives,” who saw me as in need of her matchmaking services. (“I have this really nice friend, Fran...”) Shortly after her, I had one who wanted to rearrange my furniture and could not be dissuaded from doing so. Her successor had very definite ideas about what constitutes trash, and acted on them despite my repeated pleas not to throw stuff out just because she thought I no longer needed it. I’ve striven to adjust to such foibles for the sake of a clean home.

     Our current cleaning lady – I’ll call her Jane, which is not her name – is a talker. She’s from my parish and always has something to chat about that she’s certain I’ll find interesting. That’s not a serious problem under normal circumstances. However, currently the C.S.O. must work from home, her little office is near to the geometric center of the house, and she can’t stand to hear Jane gabble. So keeping Jane and the C.S.O. from clashing is part of my job – and just now, it’s four hours of hell every other Thursday.

     Yesterday was particularly trying. Jane really wanted to talk, and whenever I was within earshot she’d start to regale me with all manner of tidbits about the parish, her health, her other customers, the cleaning products she uses (she strongly prefers unscented Mr. Clean®) and how she uses them, and whatever else came to mind.

     After an hour of this, the C.S.O. grabbed me and said “Stay away from her! She won’t talk if you’re not nearby.” And so began a three-hour game of Yar’s Cleaning Lady’s Revenge, in which my goal was to stay as far from Jane as possible at all times – in a longline ranch in which Jane was moving erratically from one end to the other.

     I have seldom been as frazzled as I was when Jane finally departed.

     Writers’ problems aren’t usually of interest to non-writers, but this one might prove an exception.

     Shortly after Jane (see previous segment) departed, I sat to my computer fully intending to get back to my own work. At present I’m writing a romance, somewhat along the lines of my little novel Love in the Time of Cinema, whose working title is Love in the Time of Capitalism. Now, romances don’t often involve science-fiction least they didn’t until fairly recently. This one isn’t intended to involve any such...uh, make that wasn’t intended to do so, until yesterday.

     A writer friend – I’ll call him John, which is not his name – rang me up before I could get started on my book. John wanted to talk: about my recent near-future science-fiction novels, the characters and scientific / technological motifs in them, whether I had more uses in mind for them, and whether I would mind if he were to borrow a couple of them. When John gets charged up about a subject, he can keep you going for hours. And of course, as we were talking about my books and how they might help him with his latest project, I was willing to listen as he spun out idea after idea.

     When John and I finally rang off and I returned to my romance novel, I found myself conceiving of the two entirely mundane protagonists of what was supposed to be a fairly ordinary romance – one an aging singer, the other a venture capitalist – enmeshed in all manner of bizarre adventures. I imagined them involved with dangerous new technologies, an orbital habitat, a high-tech presidential assassination, and a brief, bloody war in space. No matter how hard I tried to pull my thoughts back to my original plot line, it eluded me maddeningly.

     There are days I’m strongly tempted to pull the phone out of the wall. Lately they’ve been in the majority.

     The day ended fairly normally: the two of us perched on the sofa with our dogs and cats clustered around us. I tried to read a competitor’s most recent novel – it’s not up to his usual standard, so I won’t besmirch his reputation by telling you more about it – while the TV droned some inane British mystery to which the C.S.O. likes to sleep.

     I’d had the dogs out for their last yard visit of the evening and was about to drag the C.S.O. off to bed when a phone rang: a smartphone I acquired recently out of sheer necessity, and which I keep forgetting to turn off. I hurried to where I’d left it, snatched it up, answered it and said “Hello?”

     There was a moment of ominous silence. Then a deep voice said, “Who is this?” in a tone of menace.

     “Hey, you called me,” I replied. “Who the hell are you?”

     “Never mind that,” my distant interlocutor snapped. “How did you get this number?”

     I was thoroughly befuddled by then. “What are you talking about?”

     “Damn it all!” he shouted. “You’ve ruined everything!” And he hung up.

     I looked at the screen. “Private Caller,” was all it said.

     Maybe I’ll find a use for it in a novel.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Heroes - and Zeroes - of the C-19 Crisis

Tops on the Heroes List has to be Ron DeSantis of FL - the Republican Governor whose data-driven actions may have saved the citizens of the most vulnerable state.

His actions were sensible (heck, I even suggested most of them here, in the early days):
  • Forbid return of positive patients to nursing homes, unless they could be completely isolated.
  • Get PPE to the nursing homes that needed it, BEFORE the hospitals. As the nursing homes were protected, they would be less likely to have their residents clog up the hospitals (as happened in NY).
  • Follow the actual data, not the models.
  • Sunshine is a great disinfectant. Don't limit access.
  • Don't just shut down all counties. Let the people closest to the infections decide. Had SC and NC followed this, economic damage would have been limited to the hot spots - the major cities. That would have left more money to manage the crisis, without plunging into unpayable debt.
“We kind of lost confidence very early on in models,” a Florida health official says. “We look at them closely, but how can you rely on something when it says you’re peaking in a week and then the next day you’ve already peaked?” Instead, “we started really focusing on just what we saw.”
Florida was better able to do that than many states because of its routine experience dealing with natural disasters. “Many states simply did not have the data infrastructure that Florida has,” says Mary Mayhew, secretary of Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration. “We have an emergency status system that gets stood up, as I mentioned, in the case of a hurricane. Hospitals and nursing homes and other long-term-care providers are required to submit data on a daily basis, twice-daily basis, regarding their bed availability.”

The Florida Department of Health produces a report that DeSantis sees every morning: new cases, number of tests, positivity rates, etc. He also gets a rundown of the people who have gone into hospitals and of ICU usage. He can follow the key indicators down to the county level. This allows granular visibility into what’s happening. He cites the example of rural Hamilton County. It had 67 cases the other day. DeSantis was able to call the surgeon general of the state to find out what was going on, and learn it was an outbreak in a prison rather than a wider community spread.
His focus has been on “clinically significant cases,” or serious cases that might require hospitalizations, and that pointed to the nursing homes.
That's why it was so critical to fire that woman who claimed to be the architect of the COVID-19 dashboard. She was not trustworthy to stay in a position where confidence in the data was critical to decision-making.

Among the Top Choices for Zero:
  • Gov. Gretchen Witmer - "You Vill Obey My Orders!" Man, if ever Hollywood wants to gender-bend a remake of WWII, she is the model for Der Fuhrer. Can't believe that she has people lobbying Biden for the VP slot.
  • DeBiasio/Cuomo - it's a tossup on who is more dictatorial and clueless. Together, they have managed to screw up one of the largest economies in the USA. And, in a city known for too many people on welfare/barely hanging on, the numbers have exploded. While the summer may end the C-bug, it will also bring hungry people to the streets. Can we say Peasant Revolt?
  • MN Governor Walz - apparently is taking this opportunity to crush the institution of Christian churches.
    • "The churches are asking for equal treatment not special treatment, and the decision to reopen came only after efforts to work out an arrangement with the Governor were ignored. As a result, starting June 1, while a restaurant or bar can serve up to 50 people outdoors, churches remain restricted to gatherings of 10 or fewer—indoors or out. As the Becket Fund notes, these Minnesota churches plan to reopen with only 33% capacity, rigorous social distancing and hygiene protocols."
Gov. Cuomo is NOT helped by his FREDO brother, Chris, who manages to make Billy Carter, former holder of the Most Dumbass Politician's Dumbass Brother Lifetime Lack of Achievement Award, look like a Rhodes scholar.

I'm not gonna beat the Dead Horse With a Name - Cuomo - except to say that, once the hysteria has diminished, it's going to be hard for his backers to justify the financial meltdown he caused NY state. The Big Apple is Leftover Applesauce, and it's likely to change the automatic donations to Dem politicians. The Money Tree has lost its Leaves, and this is likely to make this November very interesting.

The Dems will fight back with the only things they have left. Once you take away the money for media buys, and paying the broke-ass ground troops, you have:

  • Calling in the markers of the media. Anyone who'd ever been so stupid as to give them ammunition for blackmail (most of the Left) is gonna be squeezed like your boys in an exam for testicular cancer. HARD.
  • Further efforts to deny social media participants from clarifying the Lies of the Left. Expect a Virtual Killing Fields - de-platforming, denial of service targeted at disfavored sites, de-monetizing, doxxing, and all the other methods they've honed over the last few years. All who plan to hang in there should have offline sources of income, preferably something cash-based.
  • Nothing to lose. ALL restraints (whatever remain) are off. 
    • So, get to know your local sheriff's department, volunteer and donate to the police. You want to be someone who is known, so when the SWAT calls come in, at least a few of them will hesitate to blow your head off.
    • Have that 'bug-out bag' packed and ready, keep your car gassed up, buy those burner phones now, and - generally - follow the Boy/Girl Scout motto.
    • Have money stashed in an accessible place. Some cash, some debit cards not tied to you, some foreign currency (maybe Canadian). Make sure you have access to any virtual money. If all else fails, have a couple of bottles of booze - generally a good trading source.
    • Start getting to know your neighbors, assuming you're not the outgoing type. They might give you the critical warning before the Left brings the hammer down. A steadfast friend is probably more valuable that any other resource. When choosing those friends, though, you might put more emphasis on loyalty than other virtues. A guy with somewhat loose morals might be preferred to a former Boy Scout type. Solid citizens are more likely to comply with State directives.
Everything may end smoothly, and with no violence. The prudent person wouldn't put all their eggs in that basket, however.