Monday, June 26, 2017

A Warning

     The charitable impulse can easily be transformed into a fury that sets heads to rolling.

     My parish – St. Louis de Montfort in Sound Beach, NY – maintains, as so many Catholic parishes do, an Outreach pantry, intended to assist the needy with free food and other consumables while (hopefully) they struggle back to a condition of self-sustenance. My fellow parishioners are generous souls; the pantry shelves are virtually always kept full, even though an average of 150 families partake of the bounty each week.

     Sounds good, right? Christian charity in action, just as the Redeemer prescribed. Well, once in a great while things are not so good.

     Four weeks ago, the parish bulletin listed one of the pantry’s needs as “pork & beans.” Actually, the listing was PORK & BEANS, that we parishioners might grasp the intensity of the need. Accordingly, the next time I was near a supermarket I purchased half a dozen 1 lb. cans of pork & beans, a few other items listed as Outreach needs, brought them to the pantry, and thought no more about it.

     The next Sunday, PORK & BEANS appeared once more as the pantry’s principal need. So the next time I went grocery shopping, I purchased a dozen 1 lb. cans of pork & beans, a couple of other items on the bulletin’s Outreach list, brought them to the pantry, and thought no more about it.

     Sunday June the 18th: the Outreach pantry still listed PORK & BEANS as its principal need. I was beginning to grow a bit concerned. So I made a special trip to the supermarket and bought 24 1 lb. cans of pork & beans. (I’m sure you can see the pattern developing.) I brought them to the pantry and told the supervisor that “if I see pork & beans in next Sunday’s bulletin, I’m going to be very cross. Tell whoever’s eating all the pork & beans to eat a vegetable now and then.” She assured me that it would not appear in the June 25th bulletin.

     That assurance was false.

     This morning at 9:30 AM EDT, I brought 48 1 lb. cans of pork & beans to the Outreach pantry. The expressions that greeted me ranged from poker-faced to stunned. I dropped the case – approximately 70 lb, gross – on the sorting table, fixed the Outreach supervisor with my best gimlet eye, and said, “Where’s all the pork & beans going?”

     The supervisor said, “There was a big barbecue.”

     It took me about a nanosecond to go from relative calm to incipient stroke.

     “The food donated to this pantry is supposed to be for the local needy,” I said. I put more effort into controlling my demeanor than I’ve ever put into anything except concealing my glee at having just been dealt a straight flush. It proved insufficient. “It is not supposed to be used to supply institutional functions!”

     The supervisor smiled sheepishly and shrugged. “Well, you know.”

     I departed swiftly, before I could burst a blood vessel.

     That supervisor doesn’t know what kind of agony she’s in for. I intend to spread the news of this all over the parish – with her name attached.

     Fellow Christians, are you sure your charitable donations are actually doing charity? Really sure? If you were to discover otherwise, how would you react?

     Beware the charitably inclined Christian who discovers that he’s been duped. Few creatures are more dangerous. St. Louis de Montfort is about to experience a demonstration.

Infinities, Eternities, And Free Will: A Belated Rumination

     Dystopic’s recent piece on fate has caused me to revisit several questions that have baffled theologians and philosophers for millennia. The confusion of those earlier thinkers was understandable: they approached questions about the nature of God, His relation to Creation, and the destiny of the human soul from the vantage of a time-bound creature. However, as with all inquiries into matters beyond the reach of human senses and the extent of human intellect, the postulates make all the difference. Those baffled thinkers started from a premise that guaranteed that they’d never escape the maze they’d entered.

     Among the reasons I write fiction is that I can “put words in the mouths” of my protagonist characters: convictions and sentiments that might seem inappropriate coming from me. As my protagonists are usually several hundred percent larger than life, the trick makes them more persuasive than they’d otherwise be. Yet they’re still my words – my conjectures and reasoning – and it’s only proper that I stand behind them.

     Besides, this is some of the most intellectually exciting material ever entertained by a human mind. So let’s get excited! (To the Balmer level, at least.)


     “I never really got that part,” Christine said.
     Ray nodded. “Understandably so. It seems paradoxical. I don’t really think we’re expected to ‘get’ it. Just accept it on the evidence.”
     The room had grown dim. It had gotten quite late, but neither Ray nor Christine was in any hurry to conclude their chat.
     “What makes it hard for most people,” Ray said, “is that we tend to think of God as just a very powerful temporal entity, like some sort of super-magician. But He’s not. He created time. He looks down on it from above, the way you or I would read a map. He knows the path we follow because He knows all the paths we might follow, and what might flow from every one of them.” He sat back and reflected for a moment. “So our time-dependent language about ‘choosing’ and ‘knowing’ gets us into trouble when we try to apply it to God.”

     [From Shadow Of A Sword]

     Yes, that’s me expressing a personal conviction through a character – a Catholic priest, at that – that I could never, ever “prove:” that our wills are free and our choices are unconstrained by anything but the laws of physics. It arises from postulates about the Supreme Being that I regard as most plausible:

  1. That God exists;
  2. That all we sense or experience (and possibly a whole lot more) is His deliberate creation, including time;
  3. That He stands outside it all, capable of viewing it “from above.”

     A time-bound mentality has a great deal of difficulty coping with the implications of those assumptions. We’re not equipped for it. That can cause us to overlook the possibility of the assumptions themselves. But without them, we strain to cope with the paradox of human free will versus the existence of an omniscient Creator. We start pondering “fate:” more specifically, whether we’re predestined to make the choices we make. And we find ourselves trapped in an inescapable maze.

     In other words, the postulates, whether we accept them or not, predetermine the success or failure of our attempts to find a satisfactory explanation.


     Despite the human mind’s difficulties at coping with infinities and eternities, the concepts are critically important to several fields. We deal with irrational and transcendental numbers, which cannot be expressed in a finite number of digits. We deal with a variety of number systems, each of which has an infinite number of elements. We conceive of “space” itself as being infinite in extent. Moreover, we silently assume that “space” – i.e., nothingness – will “exist” forever.

     An exercise familiar to physics students nicely illustrates the utility of infinity. Imagine yourself floating motionless in space, looking at a perfectly flat, featureless plane infinitely long and wide. How would you determine your distance from that plane?

     You couldn’t. Even if you were to set yourself into motion, you wouldn’t be able to do it. Without features whose perceived size would change as you move, you’d have no way to do so. By postulate, the plate itself is infinite in extent, so you wouldn’t be able to judge by the perceived motion of its edges; it doesn’t have any.

     Important exercises in calculus ask us to evaluate the limit of an algebraic expression as its dominant variable goes to infinity, and the numerical values of integrals that range over infinity. It’s possible even though the mind can’t really cope with anything that’s unbounded in extent.

     Cosmologists struggle to cope with the phenomenon of unidirectional entropy vis-a-vis unidirectional gravity. Their speculations are temporally unbounded: they deal comfortably – well, more or less – with the problems of black hole formation versus quantum evaporation: Those phenomena imply the possibility of an alternation between an ever-expanding, featureless sea of radiation and a Big Bang-style monobloc that gives birth to a “new” universe...an alternation that repeats eternally.

     Unbounded things appear to be as important to human conjectures about “reality” – a word I like almost as much as “should” – as they are to our conceptions of God.


     Contemporary physics has begun, tentatively and with much trepidation, to toy with the theoretical possibility of the “multiverse:” an expanded conception of existence that includes “universes” that are separated from one another by differences in the “fundamental constants” that define their physical laws. Some exceptionally daring thinkers are exploring the possibility that the “fundamental constants” aren’t constant at all. I exploited that concept in Freedom’s Scion:

     “The experimental results from our test crystal are consistent with a fifteen percent increase in the speed of light.” Althea grinned again. “That’s fifteen percent over the speed of light in a vacuum.”
     A gasp circled the group.
     “What can you do with that?” Teodor asked.
     “With that alone? Not much. But that’s just from the power we have from one eighteen-century-old fission reactor that spends most of its juice keeping us alive up here. If my equations are sound, with a terawatt of power I can get raw space to accept passage at approximately Michelson eighty. Give me a terawatt more, and I can drag a fifty-ton mass up to that speed in about two months.” She pulled a mock innocent face. “Hope to Earth in four months or a little better. That fast enough for you?”
     She swept her eyes over the stunned guests.
     “Rothbard, Rand, and Ringer,” Valerie breathed. “You actually did it.”
     Althea nodded. “We think so, Mom.”
     “Wait a moment,” her mother said. “What about reaction mass?”
     “Don’t need it.”
     “How, then?”
     “Basically, the same technique that allows me to increase the speed of light,” Althea said. “Alteration of the permittivity constant, applied differentially—a front-to-back gradient—over an ovoid volume enclosing the mass to be propelled. A properly distributed effusion of gamma rays and W-plus bosons is all it takes to get the process started. Put a negative charge on the outer surface of the vessel, and you're off. That gives you a reactionless drive and the next best thing to perpetual motion. Only works in a hard vacuum, though, so don't expect to use it for anything groundside.”
     The genesmith appeared near to apoplexy. “You altered a fundamental constant of physics?”
     Althea nodded again. “Should I have asked permission first?” She grinned. “I had to, Granduncle. The only way to breach what we call the lightspeed barrier is to alter the conditions that determine lightspeed. The only way to do that is to increase the permittivity of the vacuum. And the only possibility of doing that lay in Althea's Axiom.”
     “Which is?”
     “Constants...aren't.”

     Yes, it’s speculation – but it’s speculation that illustrates the utility of conceptions about infinity and eternity to our inherently limited minds. In our universe, the Planck Constant is terribly small: about 6.63 x 10-34 Joule-seconds. Its tininess allows us to employ a cause-and-effect-based physics at macroscopic scale. But imagine a universe whose Planck Constant is a whole Joule-second! Causality would appear to reign only at scales so incredibly large that the behavior of objects as large as stars and planets would appear indeterminate. Life of our sort could never exist there.

     If it “exists” – whatever that word “really” means – the Lord God made it all.


     Yes, these are the sort of things I think about when I have time for the “longest thoughts:” the ones that trail off into infinity, that can’t reach a firm conclusion on this side of the veil of Time. They’re among my reasons for looking forward to the afterlife...assuming (of course) that there is one, that it won’t be awful, and that God will deign to answer a few questions in His free moments.

     Max Born once said that he had two questions for God:

  1. Why relativity?
  2. Why turbulence?

     As that great mind has gone to his reward, I hope the Almighty has gratified his curiosity...and that when my time comes, He’ll deign to gratify mine, should I have the opportunity to ask Him about the subjects addressed above. But should He be willing to help me with those, I must admit that I’ll have another: “Lord, why the Boston Red Sox?

     Jesus said to the Twelve, “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” [Matthew 10:26-28]

     May God bless and keep you all!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Megaphones Part 3: Future Guilt

     My last two pieces on this subject covered media bias, and the media’s promotion of anger from the Left as it suppresses anger from the Right. Today’s focus is an old favorite whose exploitation by the Left is well known: guilt. But not guilt over something you, or anyone, has already done: guilt over something that hasn’t yet occurred and might never occur.

     Just now, our ears are ringing over denunciations of the GOP Senatorial caucus’s proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) by the luminaries of the Left. Here are a few of the choicest ones:

On CNN, Montel Williams: GOP Plan Would Send 140 Million to ‘Death.’
“Forget death panels. If Republicans pass this bill, they’re the death party.” (Tweet by Hillary Clinton, yesterday.)
“Republicans are trying to pass a bill that could kill up to 27,000 in 2026 so they can give tax cuts to the wealthy.” ( Deleted tweet by Bernie Sanders yesterday.)
“Let us be clear and this is not trying to be overly dramatic: Thousands of people will die if the Republican health care bill becomes law. (Not-deleted tweet by Bernie Sanders, yesterday.)

[Thanks and applause to Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.]

     Note that the AHCA has only been on the Senate’s table for a few days. That’s hardly time enough to digest all the legalese. It’s certainly not time enough to perform a sober analysis of its impacts. And of course, all those “deaths” the Left is predicting are notional: that is, they haven’t yet happened and may never happen.

     However, the predictions are more than mildly disturbing. No doubt many Americans are accordingly disturbed. Most people can’t retain clarity of mind when the subject is death. That’s why there are so many jokes about it. So the contemplation of mass death as the result of a legislative action is enough to make us want to close our mental eyes and wish it away.

     He who is personally invested in some political issue and has taken a stance festooned with predictions like the above is the target. The predictors, their backers, and their media assistants are doing their best to hobble his mind with future guilt, which can be just as difficult to abide as the sort for one’s regretted personal deeds.

     That calls to mind the Generic Future Guilt Headline, which is surely familiar to my Gentle Readers:

GENERIC DISASTER AHEAD:
Women, Minorities, and the Poor to Suffer Worst

     And of course we mustn’t neglect “backlash” prognostications:

ETHNIC COMMITS HORRIBLE CRIME:
Other Ethnics Fear Backlash

     A wag in the UK composed the “ultimate backlash headline:”

British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow’s Train Bombing

     (See also this Michael Walsh column.) That had me laughing so hard that perfectly good Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry shot out of my nose. Yet the import of it is anything but funny.

     The imputation of “backlash” – against persons innocent of the deed, of course – is supposed to derail your anger-propelled reaction to the atrocity itself by shifting your focus to a notional future filled with even more horrible horrors, committed by people like you.

     And whatever your reaction to such media manhandling, Gentle Reader, I assure you that it works surprisingly well.


     “Reportage” decorated with predictions of hypothetical disasters that haven’t occurred and might not occur is merely disguised opinion-editorial. It has no place in the news section of a newspaper or a news broadcast. Yet we get quite a lot of it, often delivered in the thundering tones of an old-time fire-and-brimstone preacher who seeks to save his congregants from eternity in Hell by inflicting a little Hell on them right then and there. It’s the worst sort of emotional manipulation. It’s ample justification for never again consulting that paper or broadcast.

     Yet we get it in quantities that compel me to infer that it works on some of us. Maybe the suppression of our ability to feel righteous anger is the prerequisite. Whatever the case, it’s still coming.

     Now and then there are exceptions to the rule. An architect who had foreseen an event like the al-Qaeda airline attacks on the World Trade Center, for example, could also have predicted that the discontinuation of the use of asbestos in the walls of Twin Towers guarantees a massive death toll from such an event. Whether anyone did make such a prediction, I don’t know – before it occurred, such an assault was next to unthinkable – but after the event, as little as we like I-told-you-sos, we would have been compelled to grant him much retrospective respect.

     However, the doom-shouting from our media is usually not of that sort.


     Several others in the DextroSphere have argued that the Main Stream Media ought to be regarded as propagandists for the enemies of the West. Their arguments have much point. Yet there was a time when it wasn’t so, and many here in America are old enough to remember it.

     In the first of these pieces, I submitted that the MSM “must be delegitimized and rendered impotent.” This series is my contribution to the effort. If any of my Gentle Readers can think of other distinct elements to the media’s campaign against freedom, capitalism, and the bourgeois values, please submit it in the comments, that I might contribute my thoughts as well. Thanks in advance.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Megaphones Part 2: The Unbalanced Treatment Of Anger

     I’ve written at least once before that to become genuinely powerful, the Right must harness its anger rather than suppressing it. Anger, especially when morally or ethically informed, is one of the most potent motivating tools. Moreover, an angry advocate tends to intimidate the typical “reasonable man;” sensing that violence is not far off, he will usually seek to defuse the other person’s anger, often by offering a compromise position. Indeed, there’s no other explanation for how the Left, which is now in a badly shrunken minority position, continues to exert substantial influence in American politics.

     However, I’m not the only loudmouth out here who knows this. The Left knows it too, which is why they seek to delegitimize conservatives’ anger while sanctifying their own. Their media allies are fully enlisted in that cause:

     Less than a week after [James Hodgkinson’s shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and others], there was a high-profile House election in Georgia—the most expensive House race in history. The Republican candidate Karen Handel had been specifically named by Hodgkinson in one of his anti-Republican Facebook rants. When I say named, I mean he called her a “shit” then exhorted his followers to “Vote Blue!” This tidbit got only the briefest of mentions outside local news, as did the threatening letters containing white powder Handel and her neighbors received days before the election. The powder turned out to be non-toxic.

     Hodgkinson’s attempted massacre was not part of media coverage of GA-6 despite his act of intimidation having clear implications there. Targeting a specific population for its beliefs usually has a secondary consequence—to cow the members of the community the murderer didn’t succeed in killing. Would Republican voters be intimidated into staying home or emboldened by this attack on elected Republicans? It seems like an interesting question in a special election where turnout is important and unpredictable, yet it was rarely if ever discussed.

     Instead, the only time the shooting came up in national media coverage of GA-6 was when an outside group ran a small, ham-handed ad tying Democratic rhetoric to the shooting. The ad was promptly, rightly denounced by Handel, but the scolding coverage of the ad went on for a day. My, how quickly we move in the news cycle from Republicans literally shot to Republican overreach about Republicans being literally shot.

     Pay special attention to the last paragraph. Not only did the media lavish a great deal of “scolding coverage” on an ad that – in my opinion, at least – was substantively correct, targeted Republican Congressional candidate Karen Handel and conservative writer Mary Katherine Ham approved of the media’s decision to do so. That’s how deeply embedded in the Right’s consciousness the media have driven the “anger isn’t acceptable” postulate...a nonsensical notion that gets no respect whatsoever from the Left.

     This is a political auto da fe in progress.


     Asking an angry man “Why are you so angry?” is an indirect way of challenging his rationality and his priorities. The subtext is always “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” Dial it back, dude! You’re harshing our mellow. There are better ways to expend your energy, Bubba, so take a chill pill. Gotta go with the flow, y’know, Joe?

     How anyone could imagine that he has the necessary stature or perspective to rule on the validity or the appropriateness of someone else’s emotions is beyond me. Yet it happens too frequently to bear enumeration – and the media are involved more often than not.

     (Full disclosure: I, a lowly software engineer, once chased a vice president of marketing out of my office while screaming at the top of my lungs that he was wasting my time. Not only did I get away with it, the head of my department complimented me on being so forthright and my group took me out to lunch to celebrate. There weren’t any media around at the time, though.)

     Consider the wildly asymmetric media treatment of Islamic terror events. Immediately afterward the media are all over us, counseling us against “disproportion” while donating endless air time and column-inches to Muslim mouthpieces to wring their hands about “backlash against Muslims.” But who’s doing the dying? Whose children are being cut down by jihadists? And when has anything a hundredth as bad as mass murder ever been visited upon Muslims in America, England, Europe, or Australia?

     Disarming a populace ready to rise in righteous fury has often seems the highest priority of our media. We ought to tell them to stuff it where the moon don’t shine...but so far we’ve done nothing of the sort.


     The greater part of the problem can be credited to two factors:

  1. The general delegitimization of anger as such;
  2. The Left’s superior skill at treating its causes as moral issues.

     Two recent movies will serve to dramatize the matter.

     If you haven’t seen the Adam Sandler / Jack Nicholson tour de force Anger Management, I strongly urge you to do so. Sandler is underappreciated as an actor, and Nicholson, of course, is one of the immortals. Though the movie is billed as a comedy, it’s practically a sermonette on the unwisdom of our society’s contemporary attitude toward anger. It depicts how ordinary pique, fully justified by circumstances and in no way threatening to anyone, as something that deserves to be sentenced to mandatory therapeutic remediation. Today we’re practically no allowed to be angry. The natural censoriousness of Man has seized upon this new excuse for criticizing others and turned it into a social crusade.

     Did I say that “we’re not allowed to be angry?” Why yes, I did...with one categorical exception: moral issues. But they must be the Left’s moral issues; the media will not permit the Right to have any such.

     Time was, Americans got angry:

  • At obscene public demonstrations by homosexuals;
  • At sexual indoctrination in the public schools;
  • At having their taxes go to foreign satraps;
  • At having to fund abortion on demand;
  • At being lied to by the media.

     Virtually all such anger has “gone underground.” No one wants to be castigated for “letting his emotions run away with him.” Unless, that is, those emotions have been harnessed to a media-approved cause.

     A recent example of great importance is Cassie Jaye’s remarkable documentary The Red Pill, about the Men’s Rights movement and the Left’s attempt to silence it. Not one of the men’s rights activists Cassie interviewed allowed himself even a trace of visible or audible anger. Yet the Left has strained to demonize the movie as merely agitprop for “angry white nationalists” who have no right to have any grievances...nor to receive any attention. A recent interview of Miss Jaye on Australian television highlights the media’s alignment:

     As difficult as it is to endure that clip, I hope you’ll steel yourself to it. Miss Jaye is an honest documentarian: her film presents both sides of a painful social division as plainly and as factually as I’ve ever seen done in a video format. But the “interviewers” in the clip above are openly determined to slander the film, despite their admission that they hadn’t seen it. How Miss Jaye maintained her composure is difficult to imagine...but had she allowed any anger to surface, it surely would have been highlighted and used as “evidence against her.”

     That makes me furious...but how would the media treat my anger over their deceitfulness?


     There’s a great deal more to say on this subject, but I’ll close with one final exhortation: If you believe you have a just cause for anger but feel you’re not allowed to be, ask yourself who did that to you, and how...and why. The answers point the way forward not just politically, but for many who suffer countless depredations and humiliations in silence, personally as well.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Megaphones

     The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. – H. L. Mencken

     In A Time For Action and A Time For Reflection, former Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon’s followups to his extraordinary bestseller A Time For Truth, he devotes considerable attention to “the media megaphone:” the media’s special position in our national discourse, which it has used for decades to nudge the Overton Window ever further to the left. When President Gerald Ford mentioned Simon’s name as a possible vice-presidential running mate in 1976, Simon’s well known conservatism sent the press into a frenzy:

     It was fascinating and revealing to note how the mention of my name as a possible vice presidential candidate raised the volume of the media megaphone and lowered journalistic standards. Truth was less relevant than ever. With my conservative beliefs widely known, there was a deliberate effort to smear me as some kind of far right weirdo. The media seemed to go out of its way to print the most uncomplimentary photo they could find. In my case, it was a shot of me with slicked back hair and thick glasses, looking like some kind of space alien.
     Once Carol and I were accompanied by a reporter on the way to Andrews Air Force Base. A week later, Carol, who had heard every word of the interview, read his article in the paper.
     “This is terrible,” she said. “Number one, you never said any of those things. Number two, he never asked you about these things. It’s all a lie.”
     “Toots,” I said, “welcome to Washington. If you don’t speak to reporters, they will kill you. If you do, they will lie about you. It’s just the way it goes.”...
     One occasion in particular caused me to blow my stack. I got wind of a story that was being spread around Washington claiming that I had been engaged in laundering drug money while a senior partner at Salomon Brothers. I was told that this absurd story was being peddled by Mel Elfin, Newsweek’s bureau chief, and a reporter named Jim Bishop.
     I invited the pair to my office and asked Elfin for an explanation. He offered not a shred of fact(because there was none) to support this vicious rumor. Instead, he said that since I was a leading candidate for vice president, it was his job to smoke out whatever damaging information he could find about me. Floating stories like this, he said, was a way of getting people to come forth with information that journalists might not find through a normal , straightforward inquiry.
     “Even if it ruins a person’s reputation?” I asked incredulously. Elfin merely repeated his mantra, explaining that he had some sort of cosmic responsibility to investigate everybody and everything. I dared him to print his story. In the end, Elfin declined and the rumor disappeared, but not before he had spread it over a fairly wide field with his inquiries.

     [From A Time For Reflection]

     No better man than William E. Simon, dedicated public servant, devout Catholic, father of seven, and wizard of finance, has ever occupied a high Washington office. Even his political adversaries admired him – and not with the “admiration” of a bitter enemy for his conqueror’s prowess. Yet Newsweek was willing to smear him in the hope of impeding President Ford’s re-election campaign, or at least to keep a nationally recognized and admired conservative off the Republican ticket.

     That was 1976: forty-one years ago. The press has only grown more biased and less ethical since then.


     Today there are alternatives to what we in the Right derisorily call the “Main Stream Media” – talk radio, the Internet, and a few less potent organs – but the power of the MSM has yet to be broken. In part, that’s because its operators have a gift for discovering – or inventing – the sort of stories readers find irresistible. They certainly don’t let any notion of fairness or balance thwart them.

     Just now, with the Republican Senatorial caucus having brought its ObamaCare replacement to the floor, the MSM are trumpeting the most lurid, entirely fictional accounts of the bill. The tottering old crone of the bunch, the New York Times, is leading the charge. Here are its most publicized articles for today:

     Actual facts are thin on the ground in all four of those articles. Scan them for actual numbers; good luck finding ones that actually inform the reader about the bill. For example, no comparisons between levels of current Medicaid funding and those proposed by the AHCA are presented; only a brief mention – in an editorial! — of a limit to be imposed on the rate of increase. Yet only the last of those pieces is billed as an opinion piece. They’re pure scare talk, intended to frighten the constituents of GOP Senators into berating them out of supporting the bill.

     But people read scare talk; that’s why the MSM features so much of it. They tend to take it far more seriously than it deserves, which is how we got the (happily short-lived) wave of public alarm over “global warming.”


     It is no longer accurate to call the Main Stream Media institutions of “journalism.” Their aim is no longer to inform, but to direct and propel...and always in one particular direction. Whether the subject is the military, taxation, education, the environment, medicine, firearms, or school lunches, they direct their fire exclusively at conservatives and small-government advocates. The impact of this inclination cannot be denied.

     I am reminded of the Left’s public “rallies” of my younger days. There was always a “bullhorner:” an activist with a megaphone. He would rant through his device at such a volume that no one else could be heard for many yards around. The aim wasn’t to persuade; indeed, it wasn’t even to publicize. It was to prevent others from going their own way without the activist’s left-wing propaganda resounding in their skulls.

     Today, the megaphone is the Main Stream Media. They’re wholly at the service of the Left, which made colonizing and conquering them a principal priority decades ago. If there’s any prospect of reclaiming them for actual journalism, I can’t see it.

     They must be delegitimized and rendered impotent. But how?

The Democrat zoo.

While it’s a bit unfair to personalize the Democratic Party’s problems, Hillary and Bill Clinton have come to represent how the party is viewed by many Americans. Instead of the FDR Democrats, we have the Davos Democrats, the Wall Street Democrats, the Hollywood Democrats, the Silicon Valley Democrats, and now increasingly the Military-Industrial Complex Democrats.

To many Americans struggling to make ends meet, the national Democrats seem committed to the interests of the worldwide elites: global trade, financialization of the economy, robotization of the workplace, and endless war against endless enemies.

And the Snowflake Democrats.

Who can turn this around? Tulsi Gabbard.

Notes
[1]  "Russia-gate Flops as Democrats’ Golden Ticket." By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, 6/21/17.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Whom Are You Addressing?

     In any politically oriented statement, whether oral or written, the issuer must have a clear conception of his audience:

  1. Who are they?
  2. What convictions do they already hold, and why?
  3. To what sort of arguments are they most likely to be receptive?

     It’s a bit like marketing fiction. If Smith dislikes vampire stories, you can’t reach him (or his wallet) with a vampire story. To get into his billfold, you must offer him something he likes to read, at least generically. That having been said, the reverse is also true. If you detest vampire stories but that’s all Smith is willing to read, you might as well forget trying to hook him.

     I couldn’t help but address this subject after reading this piece:

     Rant: Stop with the False Equivalencies

     No, "everyone" does not need to simmer down.

     No, the right does not "do it too." Not as extensively and not with the same viciousness.

     And so on, and so on, and so on...

     Now, I like Stephanie. I read her blog fairly often. (It helps that we’re both SF readers. Inasmuch as I’m an SF writer, reading it is a professional requirement. Got to stay aware of what “the competition” is doing, don’t y’know.) But if she had a clear conception of her audience, her piece would have been quite different. Indeed, she might not have written it at all.

     Stephanie’s audience, like mine, is populated just about 100% by conservatives and libertarians. Those folks don’t need to be told that the Left’s many attempts to play the tu quoque game with us are utter, scrofulous deceits. They know it already – and it chafes them quite as badly as it does Stephanie.

     But the matter is more involved than that. Let’s have a quick gedankenexperiment. Let’s imagine that Stephanie’s audience had been replaced, for the duration of the cited article, with one that’s predominantly left-liberal. What then? Would her piece have persuaded any of those imagined lefties to change their ways?

     I think not, for some very simple reasons:

  1. Left-liberals in our time are not concerned with evidence;
  2. The tu quoque tactic is too useful to the Left for them to surrender it;
  3. A left-liberal receptive to Stephanie’s piece would swiftly be “read out of the church,” friendless.

     The only imaginable audience to which Stephanie’s article might be both interesting and effective is an audience of the uncommitted but open-minded, and such persons don’t read political blogs. They prefer not to court the attention of ideologues and partisans, whom they regard with a moderate distaste, about like door-to-door religious proselytizers. They talk about politics only among themselves...if at all.

     I could go on about this. I could embellish it with clever arguments and illuminating examples. However, I know my audience would prefer to read about just about anything else, so I’ll close here.

     Back later, I hope.

Anything but a look in the mirror.

Robert Parry has an excellent article on the dark night of the soul of the Democrats:
By insisting that Hillary Clinton be the Democratic nominee – after leftist populist Bernie Sanders was pushed aside – the party also ignored the fact that many Americans, including many Democrats, viewed Clinton as the perfectly imperfect candidate for an anti-Establishment year with many Americans still fuming over the Wall Street bailouts and amid the growing sense that the system was rigged for the well-connected and against the average guy or gal.

In the face of those sentiments, the Democrats nominated a candidate who personified how a relatively small number of lucky Americans can play the system and make tons of money while the masses have seen their dreams crushed and their bank accounts drained. And Clinton apparently still hasn’t learned that lesson.[1]

Highly recommended.

Notes
[1]  "Russia-gate Flops as Democrats’ Golden Ticket." By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, 6/21/17.

Something rotten.

Deir ez-Zor, Syria, was the site of a (anti-Assad) Coalition air strike on a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) position. Some eight minutes later ISIS troops attacked the SAA position. A coincidence it wasn't.

The U.S. maintained that the attack was a "mistake" but it defies logic. The government troops had been there for some time and minimal radio traffic analysis would have clearly shown that those troops were communicating on SAA tactical frequencies, not to mention multiple opportunities to visually inspect the positions by satellite or photo.

More to my point here, the Russian liaison officer attempted to contact his U.S. counterpart over some sort of hotline to call off the strike on the government troops but the latter officer had mysteriously gone "walkabout" and was unavailable. The Coalition strike lasted for, or continued for, about an hour with multiple SAA deaths and injuries. The American position that an officer standing watch at one end of a hot line could wander off for a coffee break with no one to cover for him in his absence is absurd.

Having established itself as an entity given to lies, the U.S. took the position that its attack on a Syrian air force fighter-bomber was necessary because it was attacking Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) troops, or too close too them, is worthless.

In the case of the attack on the Syrian jet, it isn't that a watch officer was absent from his post but that the U.S. did not make any attempt even to use the available coordination channel to avoid tragic errors.

The [Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation] explained the reasons for suspending the memorandum [for preventing incidents in Syria's skies]. According to the ministry, at the moment the Syrian warplane was hit by the US fighter, Russia’s Aerospace Forces were carrying out missions in Syria’s airspace; [sic]

"However, the coalition command did not use the existing communication line between the air commands of Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and Khmeimim Air Base to prevent incidents in Syria’s airspace."

"We consider the actions of the US command as a deliberate default on their obligations under the memorandum on on [sic] preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria signed on October 20, 2015," the Defense Ministry stressed.[1]

Apparently, no warning was given by the U.S. plane to the Syrian pilot either. He was just blown out of the sky. Other commentary on the web has also made the point that Turkey has attacked SDF troops with no retaliation or defensive response by the U.S.

As with the attack on Deir ez-Zor, this June 19, 2017 attack on a Syrian war plane smells.

Notes
[1] "Russia cuts deconfliction channel with Washington after US downs Syrian jet." By TASS, 6/19/17 (emphasis added).

H/t: Pundita.

Reverse Donald Trump.

". . . Paris [Macron] will no longer insist Assad leaving is a pre-condition for peace talks."

* * * *

Between introducing a measure of sanity on Syria in Paris, and attempting a Russia reset it looks like President Macron might turn out to be substantially better than candidate Macron. A kind of reverse Donald Trump if you will.[1]

Notes
[1]  "Macron Has Just Taken France out of the 'Assad Must Go' Camp." By RI Staff, Russia Insider, 6/21/17 (emphasis in original).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Islam Is Toxic To Human Life

     I’ve said it before. I’m saying it again.

Islam Is Not A Religion.

     It’s a totalitarian political system with some pseudo-theological window dressing.

     Therefore, Muslims do not belong in these United States. So why do we continue to:

  1. Tolerate the ones that are here, who ceaselessly demand special accommodations to their “beliefs;”
  2. And continue to admit more of them?

     Why do we accept events such as this:

     Read the story.

     These creatures are savages! Whether or not they admit it, the “moderates” believe the violent ones among them are following the dictates of their religion. Indeed, they support the jihadists with money and concealment, and look down upon themselves for not doing likewise.

     No further immigration of Muslims can be permitted.
     Every Muslim in the U.S. must be expelled.
     All mosques must be demolished.

     Wake up, America...before you wake up dead.

And your first clue was . . . what?

“I think we’re in a time when we can’t ignore the extremism from the Left,” said Oren Segal, the director of the Center on Extremism, an arm of the Anti-Defamation League.[1]
Those guys don't miss a trick.

Notes
[1] "The 'Extremism Experts' Who Used To Fear The Right, Are Now Worried About The Left." By Daniel Lang, SHTFplan.com, 6/20/17.

H/t: Zero Hedge.

The Fear Weapon

     "Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." [Frank Herbert, Dune]

     Just a week ago, an important article appeared at Chateau Heartiste. It’s a long narrative about an attempted carjacking, in Baltimore, of a white man by a black thug, and it deserves to be read in its entirety. However, for me the most important bit is at the conclusion:

     The experience hasn’t really changed me, but it certainly has honed my resolve, Heartiste. If white men are to take back the cities they built, they will need to use the same weapon on the dindus as they do on us – fear.

     Oh my stars and garters, yes. Mega-emphatically YES! But generalized. For the enemy isn’t just the army of black thugs that have made so many of our urban areas into combat zones. The threat goes well beyond them...all the way to the pinnacle of our political system.


     There’s a story about Timur i-leng, the Oriental warlord of the Fourteenth Century, becoming so greatly feared that his armies had no need to fight: the mere notice by a sitting ruler that Timur was approaching and would demand his fealty was enough to make several such potentates submit without resistance. While the tale is fanciful and probably mere legend, the lesson it bears is important.

     Fear is, in a sense, the ultimate weapon. He who can create sufficient fear in his enemy can induce the enemy to surrender without fighting: the highest form of victory. Failing that, swords must clash and men must die.

     A few years ago, I wrote at some length about the power of fear. One particular bit seems especially relevant today:

     Today, when the State has become predatory beyond all expectation and its eyes are everywhere, the sense of insecurity among those of us ill-equipped to fight it directly is stronger than ever. The urge to withdraw into anonymity and invisibility can overpower us. And that, of course, is exactly what our political masters want.

     Have a gander at this article, reflect on what it means for the right to keep and bear arms, and ponder: Will that right be undone de facto, by Gestapo tactics of the sort John Filippidis and his family endured? Then have a look at the statistics in this paper, and ponder whether you can master your fears sufficiently to speak out against such tyranny.

     That’s the power the fear weapon in the hands of the State has over ordinary, peaceable citizens: enough to have us all cowering before its agents look in our direction.

     But the fear weapon is indifferent to the identity of its wielder. Is there some possibility that We the People could wield it as effectively against the State as the State has done against us?


     Here are the material bases of the State’s fear weapon:

  • Its agents act “under color of law.”
  • The great majority of those agents are effectively protected against any redress.
  • The “alphabet agencies” have managed to place themselves “above the law” de facto.
  • The laws themselves are so many, and so obscure, that no one can be certain he hasn’t violated them.
  • Even an innocent man fears to face an accusation in court, because of the expense and the damage to his reputation.

     There are some lesser (and not entirely material) elements to the State’s fear weapon, but we can neglect them for the moment. What about the material elements private Americans could use to cause the State to fear us?

  • We have the numbers.
  • Americans are rather heavily armed.
  • Without our funding, the State could not survive.

     Those three considerations are what make “the consent of the governed” more than a pretty phrase. However, at this time none of them are being put to effective use. How might that be changed?


     A lot of ink and a great many pixels have been lavished on a phantasm: the “government shutdown.” Whenever Congress bestirs itself to limit federal spending in any way, we’re threatened with a “government shutdown”...as if the federal government would ever willingly shut down 100%. Note that in each of the “government shutdowns” of recent years, approximately 85% of all federal employees have remained at their jobs, guaranteed to be paid their full salaries.

     The most recent “government shutdown” frightened Americans so little that Barack Hussein Obama had to make it irritating: he instructed Parks Department employees to prevent access to any federal park or monument, even though the Parks Department remained open and functioning.

     Clearly, the “shutdown” wasn’t frightening enough...yet the phrase “government shutdown” remains a scare-staple of the Establishment, particularly among Democrats. They want us to think that calamity of some sort will ensue should we dare to deny them what they demand. It just isn’t so. In reality, the fear runs in the opposite direction: The Establishment and its minions fear that we’ll discover that we don’t need them and in fact would do better without them.

     Doesn’t that stimulate a few fresh thoughts?


     There’s much more to be said on this subject, but this is enough for now. At least I want to get my Gentle Readers thinking about how we might frighten “our governments” back into the posture of humble submission the Founding Fathers intended that they should occupy. The State has made us cower for so long that turnabout wouldn’t just be “fair play;” it would be the most welcome of all refreshments. Atop that, it might be exactly the remedy for what ails us.

The Heritage Foundation signs on to aggressive war.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, doubted Moscow would follow through on its threat. Russia, for instance, did not retaliate militarily after Turkey shot down its jet in 2015, he noted.

He called the U.S. military’s decision to shoot down a Syrian jet a “welcome development.”

“Washington has sent a clear message to Moscow that it’s no longer business as usual,” he said. “For too long, the Russians have treated Syria as their own backyard.”[1]

Somebody please just shoot me. Last anyone heard, the Russians are in Syria with the permission of the Syrian government. If anyone is treating Syria as its own back yard it is the U.S. and its "coalition partners." They have no rights under international law to be in or over Syria without Syrian government permission, let alone to put troops on the ground and conduct military operations there.

Notes
[1] "US signals involvement in Syria could escalate." By Rebecca Kheel, The Hill, 6/20/17.

Great headlines.

The Russians Do It Again: Democrats Get Crushed In Georgia Election Despite 7x Spending Advantage.
By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, 6/21/17.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Power Canard

     [Inasmuch as the Left has been laboring mightily to eliminate freedom of expression, I’ve decided to resurrect yet another piece from the old Palace of Reason. The following first appeared there on June 7, 2002. -- FWP]


Part One: What is power?

     Someone recently ventured to resurrect the old saw that "money is power." Inasmuch as both terms are undefined to most people, I thought I might lend my offices to the cause of clarity.

     At this time, the wealthiest man in the world is William H. Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft. I've met Mr. Gates. I came away from the meeting with no great opinion of him personally. But I didn't fear him, nor feel a need to please him. Yet, if "money is power," I should have been terrified of eliciting his slightest displeasure.

     Gates, by virtue of his immense wealth and his captaincy of a giant corporation, has a proportional ability to influence the decisions of others -- if those decisions are more sensitive to the prospect of getting some of Gates's bucks than to other factors. However, were he to commit a felony -- say, rape -- his billions would not avail him, except to buy him the best legal defense available. Were he to take umbrage at someone who had slighted him, he could only refuse to do business with that person henceforward.

     Gates has "power to": the power of the Level and the Square. He can undertake vast projects with distant horizons, with a better chance of success than virtually anyone else in the world. But he has not one shred of "power over." He cannot forcibly deprive one human being of his life, liberty or property, not even some utterly derelict, friendless junkie who sleeps on a Washington D.C. heating grille, without exposing himself to legal redress... unless he succeeds in purchasing immunity from the agents of the State.

     Political power is "power over": the power of the Gun, the power to deprive men of their lives, liberties, or properties without fear of a legal backblast. Consider the lowest, scrawniest bureaucrat from the Department of Health and Human Services. He wields "power over", over all of us. His ability to write regulations with the force of law, to levy fines, to order U.S. Marshals to take citizens into custody and to kill them if they resist, is infinitely more "power over" than Bill Gates has on the best days of his life.

     Politicians and bureaucrats have managed to confuse "power to" with "power over" in the public mind. They have induced the people to forget that "power to" can do them no harm unless "power over" is for sale -- and that the more "power over" we tolerate, the more of it will inevitably be for sale, as those who wield political power are always drawn from the lowest of the moral strata.


Part Two: The proper limits of power.

     Once we're past the "power to" vs. "power over" confusion, much becomes clear about the American Left. One thing that ought not to occupy us, not for a second, is why they want power over us. Motives don't matter. Ask the citizens of the former Soviet Union.

     The question lefties hate is, "Where's the stopping point? At what point does the individual's right to be left alone forbid further expansion of the reach of government?" The true answer, "there is no stopping point," wouldn't go over big with most Americans, no matter how "compassionate" their inclinations. So they slide around it.

     But it's necessary, in conversations with the still-reachable, to be able to demonstrate this. The best evidence is the evolution of the left-wing attitude toward freedom of speech.

     When freedom weenies get into a discussion of this, it's usually misdirected toward matters like the Mapplethorpe or Serrano obscenities. This is a waste of time for us. The issue there isn't freedom of speech, it's coercive government funding for the arts, about which there's no debate. If the cretins who purvey pictures of crucifixes in urine and bullwhips protruding from men's anuses had to get by on the merits of their art, rather than on their ability to woo funding from the NEA, they'd starve to death in a month.

     The American Left started out as passionate about the idea of free expression, but over the last thirty years, the trend has reversed. Today, freedom of expression is reserved, in their view, only for people who agree with them. Folks such as Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin have orchestrated a national campaign for the idea that words are just as deadly as bullets, and should be even more closely regulated... by themselves.

     The seed idea comes from Herbert Marcuse's 1965 essay "Repressive Tolerance," in which he argued that the importance of achieving preeminence for socialist ideas was so great that to tolerate dissent from them was itself a crime. He called unabashedly for suspension of the rights to free speech and free assembly, until society had been restructured to fit socialist premises. The past thirty-five years have seen the American Left, once passionate in defense of this freedom, move into an ever-closer embrace of censorship in support of that ultimate chimera, "social justice."

     If free speech, which for decades was the only freedom the Left would rise to defend, must be disposed of when it impedes the socialization of America, then what freedom would remain? And what becomes of their claim to represent any "liberal" idea?


Part Three: Classifying the American Power-Seeker.

     So: Their followers may not know it and may not want to believe it, but the inner circle of the American Left is interested solely in gaining unlimited power over the rest of us. Where does this put them on the Great Taxonomic Chart of Politics?

     Communism -- nationalization of all industry and commerce -- is utterly unworkable and leads to mass poverty. Even folks who still call themselves Communists will admit it. But there's another totalitarian political faith that tries to avert Communism's failings while preserving its core. That creed leaves the nominal ownership of things in private hands, but then regulates their use and interplay as tightly as possible, and confiscates the greater part of the earnings from all commerce. It also extends into private lives, regulating and planning as much of human existence as possible -- all the while preserving the fiction that private life and private property still exist. It's this alternative to Communism that bears the greatest resemblance to the Left's program today.

     "Why bother to socialize industries? We socialize human beings." -- Adolf Hitler.

     Of course, typical Leftists will be horrified at the fascist label. But the similarities between the Left's programs and those of Mussolini are striking, especially as regards the ever-tightening regulatory web and ever-higher taxation the Left advocates. Yet, when compelled to concede this, they will insist that their purposes are utterly benign, so there can be no comparing them to the historic monsters that designed their ideological model.

     But really, is a social-welfare fascist any better in practice than a garden-variety fascist?

     In his 1944 book The Road To Serfdom, economics Nobelist Friedrich Hayek included a stunning essay titled "Why The Worst Get On Top." Its penetration of the dynamics of unlimited power caused the socialists of the Western world to crusade for a ban on Hayek's book. Yet Hayek's common sense thesis can be summarized in two points:

  • When unlimited power exists in the State, the man most likely to grasp it for his own will be the man who wants it most, and is most willing to use it.
  • Once someone stands at the pinnacle of power, his attention will be given primarily to eliminating threats to his hegemony, which means surrounding himself with henchmen who will do as he directs, without questions or moral qualms.

     When Gerald Ford said: "Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have," he was stating a truth that went completely over the heads of many well-meaning Americans. But it was a warning to be heeded. Social-welfare fascism, the operating principle of the American Left, would be no more "compassionate" once established here than Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini were.

“Them”

     [The following brief piece first appeared at the old Palace of Reason on June 7, 2002. It provides a conceptual supplement to yesterday’s ultra-tirade. -- FWP]


     "States, like men, have their growth, their manhood, their decrepitude, and their decay." -- Walter S. Landor.

     Who's responsible for the poor condition of the roads, the axle-breaking potholes, the piles of detritus that offend the eye and nose? Not you nor I, but "them." But getting "them" to deal with any of it is like pulling teeth, whereas none of us have the time or wherewithal; we're all too busy earning enough to pay our taxes. That's just the way things are.

     Who's responsible for that elderly widow down the block, the one who can't really get around any more and should get a visit about three times a day to make sure she's all right? Not you nor I, but "them." And "they" haven't been doing such a good job of it, or she wouldn't have broken both hips in six months' time. But "they" took the job, and it's not ours to question their performance now that we've surrendered it to "them." That's just the way things are.

     Who's responsible for dealing with the gang that claims to "own" this block, that's committed one mugging after another for years but never seems to be taken in hand? Not you nor I, but "them." "They" claim to own all the police powers, though they exercise them quite selectively, and only when it suits their mood. "They" forbade us our own means of defense, too; for us to own and carry guns is far too dangerous to the public peace. What public peace, you say? Well, yes. But we can't seem to get our guns or our authority as citizens back, so we have to hide behind the double-locked doors of our homes and leave the streets to animals that walk upright. That's just the way things are.

     Why is it the way things are? Because at various times and on various grounds, "they" persuaded us to transfer our responsibilities to them. It's not clear why we did it. After all, "they" hadn't been doing that well with the jobs we'd previously assigned "them." But we did it, perhaps out of wishful thinking, perhaps out of laziness. And there seems to have been a ratchet involved, for, much as we'd like to, we can't seem to transfer the responsibilities back into our own hands.

     Can the ratchet be undone? I don't know. I think it would require far too many men willing to court danger and possible death to wrest back the police powers, however unwisely they were delegated. We'll get our guns back only by armed insurrection. As for the sweeping transfer of civil responsibility and public property back into the hands of common citizens, that's almost as unlikely. They require tax revolts and organized resistance to the seizure of property through condemnation, which, though guaranteed successful if enough people participate, are as rare as snowballs in July. The wrath of the State is terrible toward those who deny its power to tax and confiscate, and everyone fears to step forward in defiance only to find himself alone.

     We should have known better. We probably did.