Friday, March 16, 2018

Odd Thoughts Dept: What’s On The Cereal?

     This might be a symptom of encroaching Alzheimer’s, but lately I find myself increasingly attracted to questions no one is asking (e.g., “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” “Who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop?” and “Who put eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can?”). Just a moment ago I stumbled over one that won’t...let...go:

     What odd-but-edible things have people put on their breakfast cereal?

     I mean, we’ve all seen raisins, blueberries, strawberry halves, and banana slices added to cereal, right? No one would blink at seeing any of those in a bowl of Cheerios®. But I once saw a college classmate grate Parmesan cheese onto his corn flakes. It threw me for quite a loop...but there it was. And yes, he ate it.

     I’d be willing to bet that up to now, no one has ever put:

  • Brussels sprouts;
  • Anchovies;
  • Miniature Snickers® bars;

     ...into a bowl of cereal. But only up to now. Once the possibility has been broached, you just know that someone, somewhere will try it out.

     Would anyone care to submit a tale of deviance at the breakfast table? Preferably true – and edible?

A Closer Look at the SPLC - Part One

The SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) has a map of 917 groups it claims are hate groups in the USA.

917 - there may not even be 917 actual Nazis in the country (so-called hate groups are often infiltrated by the FBI and other groups wanting to keep an eye on them).

One of those "targeted" groups is The Ruth Institute. I hope my use of the term "targeted" was not too triggering.

Why The Ruth Institute?

It opposes non-traditional family structures - that includes step-families formed by divorce, SSM (same-sex marriage), and other variations, such as single parenthood, that may not be in the best interest of the child.

It is centered around the importance of the intact family, for the good of children.
The Ruth Institute believes that:
  • Every person has the right to know his or her cultural heritage and genetic identity.
  • Every child has a right to a relationship with their natural mother and father except for an unavoidable tragedy.
  • The Ruth Institute rejects the idea that a child is a problem to solve if you don’t want one and an object to purchase if you do want one.
 In short, it stands against the organizations and philosophies that break that structure apart. The Leftist Horde has banded against it, for that reason. Can't have dissent that is not punished - VERY STRONGLY punished.

The Vanco Company, which processes credit cards, has terminated its relationship with The Ruth Institute, due to its place on the SPLC list. That means that they will have a harder time getting funds to continue their mission.

You may think, as many Libertarians do, that this is a private decision by a private company. You would be wrong. The Left is making a last-ditch effort to strangle dissent from the Leftist Catechism by using corporate partners to reduce opposition.
Vanco sent the Ruth Institute a letter Thursday, declaring that it was canceling their service immediately. "Vanco has elected to discontinue our processing relationship with The Ruth Institute," the letter read. "The organization has been flagged by Card Brands as being affiliated with a product/service that promotes hate, violence, harassment and/or abuse. Merchants that display such attributes are against Vanco and Wells Fargo processing policies."
In a statement to PJ Media, Vanco confirmed that "we terminated our processing relationship with the Ruth Institute on Thursday, August 31." A Vanco spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny whether or not the company's conclusion that RI "promotes hate" was inspired by the SPLC's "hate map."
 This could cripple the organization. I'm sending a small donation to offset the SPLC's bulling tactic. As they do not have an alternative donation mechanism (and, PayPal has proven itself vulnerable to pressure), the address is below.

They Know What’s Best. Just Ask Them!

     After an unconscionably long time away, laughingly blamed upon such trivia as a crushing workload, the birth of a daughter, and the imminent transformation of his neighborhood into a ghetto, Dystopic / Thales has at long last returned. As usual, it’s well worth your time:

     “It’s for the children” was a tactic employed by the media during the Syrian refugee crisis, often by showing carefully staged bodies of children, or as in one particular example, showing an injured child in an ambulance. In the latter, the child was dirty and bleeding, but journalists still found time to sit him in the otherwise clean ambulance and take a carefully-considered photo to push their political points.

     However, today’s tactic is, perhaps, even more insidious. In this case, Progressives are using the gullibility and lack of experience of children to push for their political goals. One individual of some notoriety, whose name escapes me at the moment (it made the rounds on Twitter, if one of my readers has a name please drop it in the comments), mentioned that children are often wiser than their parents on social and political issues. And they are supposedly less gullible, too. And while Democrats want to raise the age required to purchase a gun, they simultaneously want to lower the voting age. Surely there’s no self-interest in that, right? After all, it’s easier to talk a child into Socialism with a basic “it’s not fair” kind of argument.

     Look, the fact is children just don’t understand. That’s why they are children, not little adults. They don’t have the life experience to make such weighty decisions yet.

     Thank God someone has finally said so.

     One of my blessings / curses is a very clear remembrance of my youth. For reasons beyond the scope of this tirade, I had to “grow up young.” Part of the experience was the shocking discovery that what I’d previously believed, in my youthful ignorance of that ultimate confounder of unfounded opinions, reality, was...not so. At odds with the observable facts. In a word, wrong.

     It was embarrassing, but far less embarrassing than if my father had permitted me to spout off in public, as so many young folks do today.

     You see, back then, when the “older and wiser heads” were still weighing the merits and demerits of descending from the trees, adults had a saying: “Children should be seen and not heard.” It was based on what I call a “sturdy wisdom:” Kids don’t know shit. How could they? We learn the greater part of what we need to know to survive and flourish by observing consequences. Childhood is a period during which one is allowed to be safely irresponsible. Children are insulated against the harsher consequences of their beliefs and actions. As we mathematical types like to say, quod erat demonstrandum.

     Children – a loosely defined term; today I’d say the irresponsible puerility that defines it isn’t guaranteed to be over and done until Junior’s 35th birthday – don’t possess sound perspective or good judgment. But they will exploit any unwarranted attribution of wisdom to preen themselves and offer you all sorts of opinions. Rarely are those opinions worth more than what they once left in their diapers.

     But kids make great foils for evoking tender emotions in the unthinking. Note that I didn’t say “the unthinking adult.” He who can’t or won’t think clearly – i.e., who won’t associate decision and action with consequences and learn from the latter – will only survive if he’s protected from the consequences of his actions by more responsible persons. He remains a child, no matter how old he is.

     The promotion of ignorant, emotion-dominated children — some taller than others — as founts of sociopolitical wisdom is one of the great follies of our era. But it’s massively useful to the Left, whose strategists and tacticians know full well how tender we are toward the kids…and how, as the kids-to-adults ratio continues to shrink, that effect will only become stronger.

     One final thought: Children are more susceptible to appeals to envy than are adults. They’re more likely to wish harm on others who have something they don’t. And they’re quite inventive about justifying demands that arise from their envy.

     Socialism is denotatively defined as a politico-economic system in which “the workers” own “the means of production.” Mind you, many a “socialist” would quarrel with that definition, but that’s the way it was defined by Karl Marx, and that’s the definition that appears in the dictionary:

     Socialism, n: a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

     However, the propulsive impulse toward socialism is envy: the desire to see others who have more brought low. How could it be otherwise? No socialist economy has ever done anything else, and socialist advocates and agitators know it. But children, equipped with neither adequate intellectual knowledge nor real-world experience, can easily be led into it through their propensity to envy.

     It’s been said, though I forget from whom I first heard it, that if the transmission of civilized values and accumulated social capital were to be interrupted for just one generation, Mankind would revert to savagery. The Left is ardent to manipulate us through the uninstructed and inexperienced: our children. Draw the moral – and keep your kids out of their clutches.

Can we all just get a grip?

Russia has been the favorite demon of the intel and media groups for a while, and everyone here knows about all these sanctions and wild accusations. This guy has been in Britain for something like 8 years, living under his own name, and appearing in public like a regular person. The Russians could have killed him at a time of their choosing. But, we are to believe that now, 8 years later, years after he has caused all the damage he is capable of causing, Putin decided he needs to die now, and sent someone to kill him. Russia would gain next to nothing in this scenario, and risk a lot, at least diplomatically. But, Western powers seeking an excuse, any excuse, for a new war have a lot to gain by killing or attempting to kill the guy and blaming Russia for it. And its not like they have to worry about the media, they'll repeat the RUSSIA DID IT line as they have for the past couple years.[1]
Yes, die NOW. The PERFECT time to risk being seen as engaging in underhanded activity that synchs exactly with Nikki Nooki's and Sarah Huckabee Carter's best efforts to paint Russians as wearing loin clothes and putting bones through their noses.

Western governments have all settled on vague allegations of chemical weapons usage as the one-size-fits-all accusation to demonize whoever it is that needs demonizing. What’s next? I mean, where do you go to make Russians out as genetic mistakes after you’ve played the nerve gas, barrel bomb, political assassination, cyber hack, airliner shoot down, deliberate bombing of civilians, and provocative ship and aircraft activity in international waters and skies cards?

[1] "Comment by greenskeeper carl on “Drums Along The Potomac.” By James Kunstler, ZeroHedge, 3/16/18 (emphasis added).

Pearls of expression.

On the possible causes of the FIU pedestrian bridge collapse:
And obviously we can't rule out the Russians.
Comment by Noah B The Savage Gardener on "Mailvox: Hultgreen-Curie, architecture edition." By Vox Popoli, 3/15/18.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Catholic Book Club

Our pastor bought, and distributed, a book to the adults in our church. It's called Kingdom of Happiness, by Jeffrey Kirby, STD.

No, that's not a sexually-related disease, it references his title of education, Sacred Theologiae Doctor ("Doctor of Sacred Theology"). That it shares its initials with an unfortunate condition is merely coincidental.

I can't recommend it highly enough. Our group has been enjoying our reading and discussion, and we all look forward to the next week's discussions. We just finished the chapter, Those Who Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness, and are looking forward to reading The Merciful.

We now look at the Beatitudes in a whole new light.

The Left And The Philosophy Of Power

     This piece from Mike Hendrix has remained on my mind, especially this portion of it:

     [S]ome of them, starting with Obama’s pal Bill Ayers, have openly declared that millions of us will probably have to be marched off to the camps and murdered in order to finally get the dodo off the ground.
     I asked, “well what is going to happen to those people we can’t reeducate, that are diehard capitalists?” and the reply was that they’d have to be eliminated.

     And when I pursued this further, they estimated they would have to eliminate 25 million people in these reeducation centers.

     And when I say “eliminate,” I mean “kill.”

     Twenty-five million people.

     I want you to imagine sitting in a room with 25 people, most of which have graduate degrees, from Columbia and other well-known educational centers, and hear them figuring out the logistics for the elimination of 25 million people.

     And they were dead serious.

     I can recall at least two other such admissions during Obama’s Reign Of Error, which a cursory Duck-Duck-Go-ing doesn’t unearth. But I strongly suspect such sentiments are far from rare among the more dedicated of these Leftard fanatics; mass slaughter is baked right into the totalitarian cake, a feature, not a bug.

     Ayres has dismissed the informant who narrated the above, Larry Grathwohl, as “having no credibility.” But he wouldn’t deny Grathwohl’s assertions directly and unambiguously. Perhaps he’s aware that others have confirmed the sentiments to which Grathwohl testified.

     For my part, I find Grathwohl’s statement entirely consistent with what I know of the Left. Theirs is an ethic-free philosophy. It goes like this:

  1. We are morally superior to our adversaries.
  2. Therefore, they have no right to oppose us.
  3. Therefore, they have no rights at all.
  4. Therefore, we can dispose of them as we please and whenever it suits us.

     Every particle of evidence we have, drawn from the Left’s own words and deeds, confirms this. Bear in mind that some of them have already acted in accordance with it.

     Mike’s assessment is dead on target: mass slaughter and other horrors are “baked right into the totalitarian cake, a feature, not a bug.”

     And it is long past time we in the Right took official notice of it.

     The Philosophy of Power is usually summarized as “might makes right.” That’s actually a misapplication of terms. The Philosophy of Power denies the existence of rights. In effect, it dismisses all conceptions of morals and ethics a priori. Its outlook is teleological: whatever gets the job done. “The job,” of course, will be defined by those who hold the preponderance of might – and they will brook no dissent from it.

     I suppose that comes as no surprise to a regular Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch. What I have in mind this morning is how the Philosophy of Power dovetails, in operation, with another well known conception: the philosophy of Utilitarianism, usually summarized “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

     The Utilitarian will tell you that he seeks “the greatest good for the greatest number,” nothing else. But let’s follow that out for a bit:

  1. First, he and those in league with him must settle upon a “good” to be sought.
  2. Next, they must choose a means by which to seek it.
  3. Next, they must implement their means.
  4. Resisters, who cannot possibly have “the greatest good for the greatest number” as their priority, must be thwarted. But what means would be appropriate?
    • Persuasion has failed.
    • Democratic processes don’t eliminate a resister’s capacity for resistance.
    • Therefore, only force remains.
  5. Having thus satisfied what he uses for a conscience, the Utilitarian will employ coercion.
  6. But coercion only works if behind it looms the ultimate threat: death. So the Utilitarian must be ready to kill those who won’t surrender.

     And as I’ve written before, the Utilitarian makes no “money-back guarantees:”

     It is obvious that many a State policy formulated to bring about some well-conceived end has failed to do so. Sometimes the failure was inherent in the policy conception; sometimes it was the result of discontinuity in administration or application. What matters is that the result upon which the policy was founded was not achieved. How, then, shall we defend, morally or practically, the imposition of collective decision-making that overrode individuals' claims to rightful autonomy, when the very good they were promised in exchange for their rights has failed to materialize? Shall we make restitution to those who were deprived of their lives, liberties, or properties in service to the unachieved goal? If so, what becomes of collective utility's conceptual superiority to individual rights? If not, why should individuals agree to submit to the usurpation of their rights, however conceived, in the first place?

     It becomes clear from such simple analyses that utilitarianism in theory reduces to absolutism in practice.

     And thus we come back to the Philosophy of Power. Gee, it’s like we never left.

     I’ve argued before that there can be no compromise with the Left, because any compromise would undermine a critical principle. The principle, of course, is the existence of natural individual rights. the Left presupposes that no such rights exist. Their polemicists routinely cloak that presumption in the language of the Utilitarian: “This is for the common good.” In effect, this is a bid to nullify any moral test of the means they choose. Their chosen means are always increased government power: the power of the sword.

     If the Left is allowed that power, they will use it. Have no doubt of that – and indulge no further impulse to look like a “nice guy” in confrontation with those to whom power is all.


“Amazing” hardly begins to describe the delusion involved. Highly educated people indulge in willful blindness on all aspects of third-world immigration in Europe and America.

Muslims and Africans do not belong in first-world countries. Their presence in any number is absurd. That they might very much like to live in such countries is undeniable but so also is it undeniable that they have built nothing in their home countries. One can only look at their countries of origin and conclude that they are incapable of building functioning societies that are not highly stratified, klepocratic, and kept in line by primitive Islamic law.

Yet highly educated Westerners slobber over such people and endlessly proclaim to their populations that the immigrant contribution is like no other in all of Western history. In pushing mass immigration, they engage in either pathetic self-delusion or a vicious hatred of their own kind. My money is on “vicious hatred.”

Instead [of confronting third-world gang violence and no-go areas in formerly all-white countries], newspapers like the New York Times have tended in recent years towards the same denialism as Angela Merkel about the problems which mass immigration from the developing world is causing in Europe. They have tended to praise the "courage" of suspending normal border controls while covering over or ignoring the terrible consequences of importing millions of people whose identities are unknown. And of course, like Mayor Hidalgo in Paris, they have tended to shoot the messengers more than report the news, dismissing any such stories as "fake news", "alt-right" or "far right" propaganda. [1]
Major destruction and transformation take place because of immigration madness and the Western elites -- and pathetic man-children -- adamantly refuse to see it.

[1]  "The High Price of Denial." By Douglas Murray, Gatestone Institute, 3/15/18.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Quickies: In Which Direction To Look Next Time

     Do you remember how every talking head with access to a microphone declared with total, unshakeable certainty, that Donald Trump could not win the 2016 presidential election? That he would never be the president? Do you remember major figures in high office, including Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama guaranteeing that there will never, ever be a President Trump? Do you remember how the media ridiculed the few who disagreed, including the endlessly courageous Ann Coulter?

     If you don’t remember, YouTube has lots of video reminders available.

     Do you remember how those selfsame deriders of the Trump candidacy went on to predict disasters, catastrophes tantamount to Armageddon, because Donald Trump had defeated their anointed, pre-certified First Woman President In American History? Do you remember them aghast at how “the best qualified person to be president in history” had lost to the unqualified upstart Trump? Do you remember them nattering about how “much of the country is crying...terrified...fearful for their children’s future?”

     YouTube has lots of reminders of those pronouncements, too.

     This is hubris: the deeply held conviction that one cannot be wrong, that those who disagree cannot be right, that one occupies an elevated plane of knowledge and insight that others cannot reach. This is what comes of “believing your own bullshit,” a sin that Barack Obama admitted to. The Punditocracy adopted that sin long before Obama did – and they simply cannot stand to have reality rubbed in their faces. So they deny it, they scream “fraud,” “cheating,” “collusion,” “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “xenophobia,” and every other imprecation in the book, and do their damnedest to terrify everyone who'll still listen to them.

     “Defeat is education,” Louis Nizer has said. Being proved wrong is education. It disorients. The more conclusively wrong one is shown to be, the more disorienting it is...also, the more therapeutic. At least it can be therapeutic, if one prefers consciousness to catatonia.

     But for being proved wrong to be healthful, one must admit to having been proved wrong and ask the relevant questions: “What did I miss? What evidence did I disregard or under-weight? What flaw in my reasoning led me astray?”

     Who, among the uncounted talking heads who were certain that: 1) Trump would never be president, and: 2) that his presidency would be disastrous for the United States, has asked those questions and answered them honestly, without allowing his prejudices to seize upon evasions or excuses?

     I suppose what I’m asking is whether there are any honest partisans in the media. Are there? Have any of the opinion-mongers I’ve described above displayed even a glimmer of increased knowledge or deepened understanding? Because if there are any such, it would be worthwhile to pay attention to them. They might be the ones who are right the next time around.

     Think about it.

This is Why I Think We Actually, Literally, May Be On the Verge of Civil War

Because a significant number of people cannot even bring themselves to treat family and long-time friends as a part of the human race.

Video about this here.

Years ago, sometime in the mid-1980s, there was a mini-series, North and South. It was an television program that tried to balance the record on both sides, using a fictional story of two families, and their experience. I watched it, in part, as I was also enrolled in a course on Civil War and Reconstruction, as part of my degree.

Side Note - my professor, a gentle and kindly man with an impish sense of humor, said one day about the series, "I just can't see how the South could have produced so much cotton - they couldn't spare any to cover the lady's chests." Well, there were a lot of heaving, exposed bosoms in the story.

It was kinda cheesy, but did reference the events of that time fairly well. Neither side came out as complete villains, or heroes. Just people, doing the best they could under the circumstances.

What was interesting about it was the comparison between two of the main characters, one a secessionist firebrand from the South, the other (played by Kirstie Alley - very good performance, if a little over-the-top), an abolitionist who, after her husband is killed at Harper's Ferry (a Black man), descends into madness.

Well, to be fair, neither of the two fanatics were all that emotionally or mentally stable.

The fanaticism was what fascinated me - the way those two were incapable of seeing the logic or arguments of the opposing side. Most others had opinions, but, in that story, it was the extreme radicals that pushed the war to happen.

Sometimes, I see that same fanaticism at play today.

Past Pleasures, Present Pressures

     I’ve found many things to comment on today. Rather than slough any of them, I’ve decided to produce another of the dreaded “assorted” posts. Proceed at your own risk.

     It occurred to me recently that over the past twenty years I’ve acquired only one new taste. When I was much younger, the world seemed filled to the brim with new and exciting things, and I was eager to sample them all. Yet today, when the explosion of pleasures and diversions has made the spectrum of my youth seem constricted and pale, I have very little interest in trying anything I haven’t yet sampled. It usually seems like too much work and expense for too small a probability of reward. But that’s not the whole story.

     Tastes do tend to set in early to middle adulthood. And “pop” culture, being a form of mass merchandising, must change constantly, for only constant variation can maintain product sales, much less increases thereof. Thus, an older person’s attitude toward current “pop” music, art, or what have you is likely to be negative. But this is normal – a designation the Left is doing its level best to anathematize.

     Some people will do anything to remain “relevant.” The limelight must be a terribly addictive thing, for very few who’ve bathed in it surrender it willingly, even when it’s time and long past time.

     For example, it’s plain from the video in yesterday’s emission that Hillary Clinton has decided to join the cult of victimism. It’s a bit odd for a woman who served as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State to claim that her failure to gain the grand prize of her ambitions was due to anyone other than herself. Yet having been conclusively thwarted in her quest for the presidency after enduring Bill’s philandering for so many years, she had to fall back on something. Perhaps “I’ve been wronged” is the best she can do. At any rate, it’s consistent with her lack of insight and imagination. But to take such a campaign overseas defies all my attempts at explanation.

     Richard Dawkins has morphed from amateur bio-morphologist to professional atheist to crusader against a unique, bizarre notion of “bias:”

     Professional atheist Richard Dawkins continues to push the envelope against a God-deluded world, proposing that cultivating and eating human “meat” might help society overcome its “taboo” against cannibalism.

     Commenting on an article from the UK’s Independent newspaper, which touts the benefits of lab-grown “clean meat,” Dawkins tweeted earlier this month that perhaps something similar could be done with human flesh, which would assist western culture in shedding yet another irrational remnant of its Judeo-Christian roots.

     Dawkins said that eating lab-grown human meat would provide an “interesting test case for consequentialist morality versus ‘yuck reaction’ absolutism,” which keeps people from doing things just because they seem morally repugnant.

     Here we confront a reliable telltale of the ersatz intellectual. Dawkins has not considered even for a moment the possibility that those innate repugnances are founded on built-in knowledge of dangers – what he would call instincts, reinforced and refined by natural selection, in a lesser species. The man simply doesn’t think; he merely emits pronouncements from his personal prejudices. Atop that, he routinely drips scorn and derision upon others for our “irrational” reactions, taboos, and convictions...and the media continue to champion him for it. There’s a moral in there, somewhere.

     Apropos of the subject of tastes: Now and then, the C.S.O. will turn on the television for some purpose other than to watch a Yankee or Ranger game, a movie on DVD, or one of Amazon Prime Video’s offerings. Lately she and (much to my surprise) I have enjoyed TNT’s series The Alienist, about a child-murder spree in late 19th Century New York City. Among its pleasures it numbers the fine acting of Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning, a striking portrait of New York City at that time, including the slums and hovels to which immigrants were relegated in those years, and numerous other fascinating details about the period. Recommended.

     Concerning Amazon Prime Video, we can heartily recommend the following:

  • Mozart in the Jungle
  • Electric Dreams
  • Bosch
  • Wolf Hall
  • Absentia
  • The Kettering Incident
  • Hunted
  • Britannia

     Some of the above are Amazon Originals; the others are acquisitions from British and Australian producers. We found all of them to be worth our time – something I rarely say about a show from the “conventional” TV channels.

     One of the blessings Amazon has brought us is a means whereby niche products can be marketed to niche purchasers. For example, the C.S.O. and I have long desired to revisit our old favorite cartoons: Crusader Rabbit and Rocky and Bullwinkle. There can’t be many persons with that particular yen, which would have made the prospect of recouping the production costs of such DVDs a remote one indeed. But Amazon’s reputation for being the place one can find anything at all means that a niche marketer has a real chance of connecting with his targeted consumer.

     Extend this mechanism to any product – and a growing number of services – then add Amazon’s discounting and justly famous customer service. The effect has broadened the spectrum of product offerings and the prospects of would-be entrepreneurs beyond what would have been thinkable even twenty years ago. I mean, can you imagine succeeding with this product in a world without Amazon?

     I’m at work on a sequel to Innocents, with the working title Experienced. It’s founded on a couple of mild speculations about near-future developments. One of these is a sturdy wisdom of which no Internet user can be ignorant: specifically, that no matter how bizarre some sexual variation seems to Smith, there’s a Jones somewhere who’s, ah, jonesing for it. But the reverse of that coin is interesting, too: If a sexual variation is rendered inaccessible, those who’ve dabbled in it will be vexed, and probably spurred to action.

     So: We know that there are some thousands of persons worldwide who inhabit the borderland of sexual identity: bodies that outwardly appear female, but possess male genitalia. We also know that there are thousands of persons – mostly male – who seek such persons as sex partners. Should the former become unavailable, how would the latter react?

     I explored one possibility in Innocents, albeit without first postulating that “shemales” – born male, but modified through surgery, diet, and hormones into appearing female except for genitalia – had somehow vanished. But given the emergence of a technology of desire control, it’s quite possible that the emotional disorder that gives rise to “shemales” could be extinguished. (See this novel for details.) How would those who desire “shemale” lovers react? For that matter, how would persons who have already elected that state for themselves react to the notion that their aberration is steadily being eliminated from existence, leaving them a demographic isolated in time?

     I await your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Quickies: “Just Asking Questions”

     Yet another example of why I and so many others hold the eponymous founder of the Ace of Spades HQ in such high esteem:

     There is a game in politics. The Truthers played this game; some politicians hoping to curry favors with the Truthers played it. Like John Kerry.

     The game goes like this: While not explicitly endorsing a conspiracy theory for which there is no evidence, you sort of talk it up to maintain its viability as a political attack point. You don't say definitively you believe it -- you just say, as Patterico says today, it raises "interesting" questions.

     You keep your "Clean Skin" as far as being a Conspiracy Theorist, and yet you do all you can to suggest to the conspiracy-minded that the conspiracy is All Too Real.

     It's a way to speak as Yasser Arafat did, to two different audiences telling two different stories. You encourage conspiracy theorizing, while (mostly) not committing yourself to any particular version of the conspiracy theory.

     Just Askin' Questions, you know.

     Exactly. And Our Beloved Media know how the game is played. Whenever a politician or a handmaiden initiates a round, his interlocutor has three choices:

  1. To cooperate passively;
  2. To cooperate actively;
  3. To bore in with sharply focused questions that demand an exact statement of the speaker’s meaning.

     Seldom – oh, how seldom! – does a media interviewer elect choice #3. He would risk the disease media types dread above all others: loss of access. Only an interviewer who feels his position in media firmament to be invulnerable, or one who feels he has nothing more to lose and might as well bet his future on a wild gamble, would do so.

     Please read Ace’s piece in its entirety. It’s excellent even by his standards.

The Will To Believe

     You would think, more than a year into the presidency of Donald Trump, that the talking heads would have relaxed to it. You would think that to be indisputable on the Right, inasmuch as Trump has followed a course more conservative, and more swiftly effective, than the first year of the Reagan Administration. You would think that the applause for Trump from the Heritage Foundation, an unstained bastion of conservative sentiment and thought, would nail it to the barn wall.

     You’d be wrong. The report from the House intelligence committee conducting the Russia probe to the effect that there is no evidence supporting the notion that either campaign colluded with Russia has excited a frenzy in the political and media elite. Some are decrying the committee’s report as partisan, or premature, or what have you. Others are doing their best to back away from positions they’d maintained stoutly before this.

     About 36 minutes into this Special Report video from yesterday evening, comes a panel discussion in which, to quote Ace at AoSHQ:

     Jonah Goldberg emphasized the positive by claiming the big news from the report is that it vindicates the intel agencies' finding that Russia "interfered" in our election. Mollie Hemingway then told him it also knocks down the "Washington consensus" that Trump was a traitor who colluded with Russia.

     At this point, Jonah became visibly angry as he defended the "Washington consensus," as if he were a card-carrying member of it, and essentially defended both the liberal media (such as CNN) and his NeverTrump fellow travelers by claiming that Russia/Trump collusion had never, ever, ever been part of the "Washington consensus." I guess this means, "So I have nothing to apologize for, nor do my palz at CNN."

     Mollie then pointed out that if he and the "Washington consensus" of which he seems so proud and so defensive had not been believers in the collusion narrative, maybe they could have made that clear by explicitly writing what they believed and what they did not believe to be the truth.

     Goldberg was flustered by Hemingway’s riposte. There’s a reason for that: the Punditocracy and the political elite in both parties have strained to associate President Trump with Russian efforts to perturb the 2016 election. Neither the Democrats nor the Republican Establishment nor the media have ever wanted to leave any other impression with the public. All three have done their best to persuade the public – sometimes subtly, sometimes not – that Trump’s accession to the White House is somehow illegitimate. Their pride and prejudices require that they believe and maintain exactly that.

     The will to believe what one wishes to believe can be very strong. Here’s another example:

     How much more self-glorifying can you get? But of course, Hillary Clinton wrote a huge book of excuses and self-exculpations for her election loss. Her vanity demands that she find “victories” beneath her defeat.

     Needless to say, Hillary Clinton would love to see a verdict of collusion with a foreign power against President Trump. Not that it would put her in the Oval Office, of course. But the salve for her wounded ego would be most soothing.

     Wishful thinking is always risky. In politics and political opinion-mongering it can be fatal.

     The aim of the High is to remain where they are. – George Orwell

     The American mind is uncomfortable with the notion of an elite. We have a predisposition toward egalitarianism, even though actual equality among men is impossible. The closest we can come to actual equality is equality in our rights as individuals. This is usually phrased as “equality before the law.”

     But such is the nature of Man that there will always be some who demand to be viewed as superior to others, with all the honors and emoluments attendant thereto. This is the essence of the dynamic of politics: Only persons who believe themselves fit to wield power over others will seek it. Among those, a few will attain their goals while the rest are left behind...but the left-behinds will not cease to believe themselves worthy to rule.

     The same dynamic governs altitude in political commentary. No one who writes political opinion believes that others’ insights and analyses are as good as his. In this field as in politics itself, those who have already established themselves upon the heights will be hostile to the notion that they could ever be seriously wrong. If an “upstart” should challenge them in such a manner, it will provoke them to fury. The panel exchange from yesterday evening’s Special Report provides a tasty example.

     We who ask only to be left alone want clarity of vision and purpose. They who endeavor to rule us – body or mind – want to remain where they are: i.e., to decree and pontificate without challenge or dissent. No one who has attained such a position ever willingly steps down from it. To be challenged by a member of the hoi polloi is to them lese majeste. To be forcibly displaced from the heights is unthinkable.

     I’ve been writing this drivel for more than twenty years. The underlying truths have always been the same. Mankind divides into two mutually hostile groups: those who want to be left alone, and those who refuse to permit it. The former group wriggles and writhes to escape the coils of the latter, while the latter will be damned if it will permit the former to escape.

     Hasn’t anyone spotted a convenient planetoid yet?

     Political tags—such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and. so forth—are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort. -- Robert A. Heinlein

Amazing graphic showing international trade flows.

Click here.

You can manipulate the globe with your mouse.

Hat tip: The Sounding Line.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Story: What It Is, What It Isn’t

     I read – or try to read, at least – quite a lot of fiction from indie writers. The percentage of them who fail to appreciate the required characteristics of a story worth reading is simply appalling. (Sometimes their tales start off well enough to seduce me into paying for their stuff, which makes it worse.) At a rough guess, about 75% of the indie novels I start, I toss aside long before the climax, assuming there will be one. Clearly, the indie movement has had both positive and negative consequences.

     When I find myself unable to finish reading a book, the cause is likely to be a faulty or missing story.

     What constitutes a story is not arbitrary. It wasn’t laid down by some gaggle of fusty academics intent upon distinguishing themselves from the hoi polloi. It’s a discipline that a writer must acquire, and must respect fanatically, if he is to produce worthwhile fiction.

     Yes, this is the start of yet another series of pieces. Consider yourself warned.

     One of the oldest exhortations a writer is guaranteed to receive as (if not before) he sets forth is to write from your passion. That is: write about what engages you deeply and intimately.

     This maxim is susceptible to misinterpretation. “Passion” is not “obsession.” A writer obsessed with sex will succeed in producing only pornography. Neither is a passion the same as a fetish. A writer hung up on mackerel, Corvettes, or the 1927 New York Yankees will fail to attract a readership beyond that of compatible fetishists.

     A passion worth writing from is one that can be communicated to the reader, on the strength of his common humanity with the writer. As I wrote in The Storyteller’s Art,

     [T]he writer can’t simply scream at his readers, “Feel deeply for my characters!” That would be akin to an actor trying to evoke audience emotion without a script, by the sheer power of his expressions and poses. That’s called “emoting,” and no self-respecting theatergoer—or reader—will stand for it.

     Theme, as embodied in plot and character, is the conduit by which the writer transmits his passion to his readers. There’s a conservation law at work here, though not one you’d study in first-year physics: passion can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transmitted from artist to consumer. The passion originates with the writer. He strives to infect his reader with it. His vehicle for doing so is his theme.

     A communicable passion is one that has its roots in our shared human nature: i.e., our common needs, drives, and desires. Military SF writer Tom Kratman has expressed this principle thus: “I write to illuminate eternal verities.” As human nature is, as far as we know, immutable, its elements are as close to eternal as we can find on this side of the veil of Time.

     What human needs, drives, and desires, as depicted in the fiction you’ve read, engage and impassion you? Justice? Freedom? Charity? Love? Courage? Perseverance? Whatever it is, you’re most likely to produce an arresting story by wrapping your tale around it.

     Of course, a passion is not a story; it’s the reason the story is written, the engine that gives it drive. Whatever passion animates it, a story must also conform to Brunner’s Laws of Fiction:

  1. The raw material of fiction is people.
  2. The essence of story is change.

     (The late John Brunner produced some of the most riveting science fiction of his era. His blockbuster Stand on Zanzibar won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, back when the Hugo was an award worth having. In his books, one can see a perfectly disciplined adherence to the two laws above, as if they were written into his genes. Whether or not they were his possessions from the start of his career, formulating and articulating them for our benefit may be his greatest gift to us.)

     A worthwhile story will always be about the changes someone must undergo in confronting some significant problem. The problem might be internal or external; what compels him to confront it is the writer’s choice. In coping with it (or failing to cope with it), he must change. He must learn something about himself, or people generally, or the world around him that has emotional impact, and he must adjust himself, whether attitudinally or behaviorally, in consequence.

     These are the absolute requirements of every worthwhile story. You cannot, no matter how prodigious your effort nor how great your skill with words, create a story worth reading in which the protagonist experiences no change.

     Your probability of success at crafting a worthwhile story will be determined largely by:

  • Whether you’ve selected a sound, communicable passion from which to write;
  • Whether you’ve chosen problem for your protagonist that the reader will deem significant and worthy;
  • Whether you’ve contrived a scheme of events and changes that strike the reader as consistent with our common nature,
  • And whether you can make those things consistent with one another.

     From there, your struggle to entertain, edify, and exalt the reader will enter the realm of narrative technique, about which...

     More anon.

Bayou Renaissance Man: Africa: land, tribes, and animist traditions

Bayou Renaissance Man: Africa: land, tribes, and animist traditions - Commenter is kurt9:

What I've been thinking is this: The average age of a Mid West farmer in the U.S. is early to mid 60's. These guys are going to retire soon. It is my understanding that these Afrikaner farmers are, indeed, excellent farmers.

What if the U.S. government offered to buy out these farmers, pay the proceeds split between the Afrikaners and the South African government, then relocated the Afrikaner farmers that have just been bought out to the U.S. so that they can replace the retiring mid-west farmers?

The big issue is the cost. How much would it cost to buy out these Afrikaners? $10 billion? $50 billion? We dropped $5 Trillion into the Muslim Middle-east over the past 15 years with absolutely nothing in return. It seems to me that this buy-out concept is peanuts in comparison, and we get a whole new generation of farmers in out Mid-west.

Such a buy-out option strikes me as the appropriate positive-sum solution to the issue. The black South Africans get the money, along with the land, that they would not otherwise get. The Afrikaners get some value for their land (which they are not about to get under the current plan). Lastly, the Afrikaners get residency (and ultimately citizenship) in the U.S. The U.S. gets the benefit of another generation of decent farmers to replace the guys who are retiring.

 It seems to me that only issue is how to get this scheme past the PC police here in the U.S.

March 6, 2018 at 10:38 PM

Read the whole thing. The idea has some merit, not just for America, but for other Western countries losing their farmers.

Bayou Renaissance Man: Will autonomous vehicles be used to end private ownership of cars?

Bayou Renaissance Man: Will autonomous vehicles be used to end private ownership of cars?

I ran across this early today, and think that the comments alone make it worth reading.

Leftists: The American people have heard you, loud and clear - they don't trust you, or the crackpot schemes you've long wanted to impose on us.

Your control of people is OVER. Get used to it. The "herd everyone into the cities, and abolish the car" idiocy is dead. Not gonna resurrect.

IF there is a future for the autonomous car, it lies in accommodating the buyer, not the government.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

An Unasked Question

     Typically, the most important questions are the ones no one is asking. However, that qualifying adjective is important, too: some questions aren’t asked because no one sincerely cares about the subject – or the answer.

     Here’s one: What is “free trade,” really? And the follow-up: Why are “free trade agreements” always hundreds of pages long?

     You’d think the first of those two questions would qualify as important, especially in today’s environment of global marketing (and hyper-contentious politics). Well, if that were so, it would be a regular topic of discussion on the talking-head shows...but it isn’t.

     You see, no one involved in trade policy, trade negotiations, or the promulgation of economic nostrums cares to have those questions answered right out in front of God and everybody. Whatever they may say about “free trade,” it’s a matter of absolutely no interest to them. So, just as with many other phrases and positions, they use it as a shibboleth: a touchstone for evaluating potential allies and a verbal shield against their opponents.

     What matters to them, if “free trade” genuinely doesn’t? Ah, that’s the nub, isn’t it?

     In Power and Market, the late Murray Rothbard presented a powerful unifying conception about kinds of human-government actions and interactions:

  • Monadic: These are characterized by a single actor, regardless of whether he acts on others. In political economy, the actor is always a government (e.g., a ban on some good or service).
  • Dyadic: These involve two active elements: one human (or private-sector organization) and one government. Their interaction is dictated by the government (e.g., taxation).
  • Triadic: Here there are three active elements: two human, one government. The government dictates the ways in which the human elements must, may, and must not interact (e.g., trade regulation).

     Dr. Rothbard omitted the case of the international trade agreement from his paradigm. That may be because he saw the matter in terms of two discrete interactions: one government with organizations within its jurisdiction, on each side of the border. Alternately, we might view a “trade agreement” as a form of supra-government which sets terms for interacting private parties, in which case it fits the triadic scheme.

     An international trade agreement – the soi-disant “free trade” agreement – invariably imposes innumerable conditions upon the trading parties. Such an agreement typically specifies tariffs and restrictions that cover hundreds of products or product categories: massive impositions of rules and taxes upon the trades it covers. Wherefore, then, do we call that “free trade?”

     Isn’t this a misnomer? A deliberate attempt to disguise a massive governmental intrusion into commerce as something diametrically different? If so, why do the talking heads who claim to favor free trade permit it? Indeed, why do they assist in perpetuating the lie?

     Free trade, in a world in which words have exact meanings, would be trade that is genuinely free: i.e., in which all that matters are the desires of the buyer and the seller. Free trade would not partake of governmental interference of any sort. Governments would not lay conditions upon it, would not tax it, would not subsidize it, and would not exclude particular categories of goods from it. Yet every “free trade” agreement of the postwar era involves some or all those intrusions.

     Governments are predatory, parasitic entities. Whereas individuals and private organizations live by production and trade, governments live by the sword. By their very nature, they incorporate an incentive structure and a dynamic that can never be altered:

  • To grow without limit;
  • To perpetually increase their power;
  • To exact as much tribute as possible from their subjects.

     Therefore governments are opposed to genuinely free trade by their very nature. They will seek power over it – and they will seek power, and advantages over other governments, from it. When possible, they will disguise those aims with euphemisms and prattle about “national security” or the “common good.”

     If it were not so, we would not confront the farcical phenomenon of the thousand-page “free trade agreement” festooned from end to end by tariffs, regulations, qualifications, and exclusions. Intergovernmental negotiations over free trade would begin with a single question – “Are you for free trade in [some commodity or product]?” — and end with a yes or no reply. As this is not the case, it follows that governments neither permit free trade nor will they ever countenance it in the future.

     Yet while the government most likely to hurt you is the one closest to you, there is no government on Earth that’s not a danger to every living soul. Since we delegate the responsibility for our national defense to the federal government, a certain degree of federal supervision of international trade must go along with it:

  • Trade in weapons;
  • Trade in strategically vital materials;
  • Trade in knowledge germane to weapons science.

     And indeed, the federal government has taken that role in Americans’ trade with other lands for many decades.

     But clearly, federal intrusions into trade go far beyond those areas, as do the intrusions of other national governments. At least, I can see no strategic aspect to peanuts, sugar, or imported tea.

     Most maneuvering over international trade is motivated by politicians’ desire to protect their friends, allies, and foreign clients. Why else would they seek the power to tariff or regulate international trade in shoes? Why else would they promote the importation of oil, especially at a time when the domestic production of oil and gas is breaking all records? Only a desire to direct revenue streams away from disfavored entities and toward favored ones could possibly explain it.

     Over the next few weeks we’ll hear many arguments over the Trump Administration’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The Administration considers those items to be vital to the national security, and a good case can be made for that. But you will never hear any political-class advocate of “free trade” answer, directly and candidly, the questions I posed in the opening segment. Too many rice bowls are at stake. Oftentimes, the advocate’s own livelihood is one of them.

     Now, as a sweetener for the above, somewhat caustic discussion, have an answer to a question virtually no one has asked lately. At least, it hasn’t been asked around the Fortress of Crankitude in a dog’s age:

How To Make Nesselrode Pie:

Author: Kate Wheeler
Serves: 8
Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 40 mins

For crumb crust:
     1½ cup chocolate cookie crumbs
     2 tablespoons sugar
     ½ cup butter
For the filling:
     ½ cup finely diced candied fruit
     ⅓ cup rum
     1½ cup heavy cream, divided into ¾ c. and ¾ c.
     3 egg yolks
     2 tablespoons sugar
     1 tablespoon gelatin
     ⅓ cup cold water
     ½ cup sweetened chestnut puree
     1 teaspoon vanilla
     3 egg whites, beaten until stiff

For crumb crust:
     Process sugar and crumbs in food processor.
     Melt butter, combine with sugar and crumbs.
     Press into a 9 inch pie plate until firm.
     Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes, let cool.
For the filling:
     Pour rum over the fruits, let macerate for at least one hour.
     Bring ¾ c. cream to a simmer. Beat egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow. Whisk in part of the hot cream, then return the eggs to the remainder of the cream and whisk over low heat until the mixture is thickened. Fold in chestnut puree.
     Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small bowl. When the gelatin has absorbed the water and the custard is thickened, whisk the gelatin into the cream and eggs mixture. Refrigerate until firm.
     Break up the firmed custard with some vigorous stirring. Beat the egg whites until stiff and whip the remaining cream. Fold the macerated fruits (with the rum), the whipped cream and the beaten egg whites into the chestnut custard mixture. Pour into the prepared pie shell.
     Chill until firm, and garnish with curls of chocolate.

     Enjoy – in very small portions.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Incomplete Information

I've got a few questions that I'd like answered about the CA Veteran's Facility shooting:

  • I'm guessing, from the last name of the gunman - Wong - that he is Asian in descent. Is he a native American, or immigrant? Not stated in reports.
  • He is identified as a veteran who served a year in Afghanistan. I'm wondering whether he served in a combat position, or even near an active combat zone. No word on his MOS.
  • He was said to have been expelled from one of the facility's programs. They claim that the reasons are "unclear" - that immediately raises a red flag with me. That fuzzy language is often tied to deliberate decisions to suppress evidence.
  • They'd been not able to make contact with the perp for many hours, and yet 6:30 pm is the earliest that they could go in? "We've tried [calling the suspect] numerous times and been trying since 10:30 this morning," Robertson said." Were the women still alive while they were waiting to go in? Could more prompt action have saved them?
  • I'd give a lot to see the autopsy results on the perp and his victims. Did he kill them, or did too many bullets flying into the facility cause some unwanted injuries/death? 
    • "At the earlier briefing, officials said there had been an exchange of gunfire between the suspect, who was armed with a rifle, and a sheriff's deputy, with Robertson saying there were "many bullets fired." MANY? At a person holding hostages?
I'll be updating this as more information becomes available. Below, a picture that is said to be of the perp.

Another, of him in uniform


     It’s not that long ago that the several states operated insane asylums to which one could be committed – involuntarily confined for an indefinite period – through a fairly casual procedure. Actually, such facilities still exist, though they’re fewer. So do the commitment procedures, but the psychiatrists have grown considerably more reluctant to use them.

     Correlate the rate of commitments with the population trend among the “homeless.” Draw your own conclusions. The causal forces might not be determinative. But don’t imagine that there’s no relation between them.

     The misuses and abuses of involuntary commitment are well documented. Here’s one from 2011:

     My friend had been communicating with a mental health professional. He mentioned suicide, but had never harmed himself, made no mention of a plan, and closed the message with: "But I have to go to work. I'll call you later." Hardly seems like an emergency to me though of course I'm no expert.

     Pursuant to NY Mental Hygiene Law § 9.27, an ambulance appeared at his home and took him to an emergency room. His room was strikingly uncomfortable due to the removal of any object he might use to kill himself. While there he was lied to repeatedly by the staff. They lied to me too. They threatened him, and me. They intimidated him and discouraged him from exercising his right to a hearing. They disregarded the laws requiring them to give him proper notice of his rights....

     If you are committed against your will, you do not get read a Miranda warning and you do not have the same right to remain silent. The hospital is required to provide you with written notice of your rights and to post them conspicuously. In practice if they do so the notice is buried among other papers and there is no requirement that they make sure you understand your rights. If you choose to remain silent, your silence will be deemed a lack of cooperation with their evaluation and treatment, and will be used against you in any hearing. My friend did not receive any written notice. When I visited the rights were not posted anywhere I'd call conspicuous - I couldn't find them and I looked for them. There were places where things were posted conspicuously and the relevant rights were not there.

     If you are arrested you have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. You are notified of this as part of the Miranda warning. Once you request an attorney, they can't question you without your attorney present.

     In involuntary commitment, there is no clear right to an attorney. There are some requirements that the Mental Hygiene Legal Service be notified and they will serve, in a sense, as your public defender. In practice you don't get to see them for a while.

     I tried to assist my friend. Hospital staff limited my access to him. They refused to allow me to be present while he was questioned.

     When my friend submitted his written request for a hearing, one of the hospital psychiatrists got right in his face and yelled at him. This treatment was not therapeutic.

     The above comes from an Albany defense lawyer. Clearly, he saw a great gulf between the rights and procedures afforded to one accused of a crime and those afforded to one deemed “a danger to himself or others.” As it happens, New York law on the subject makes plain that this is supposed to be the case:

     Section 9.27(b) describes 11 categories of persons who may request or submit an application for involuntary commitment of an individual. The list includes any person that lives with the allegedly mentally ill person, close family members, the court, the supervisor of a correctional facility, a treating psychiatrist and other professionals familiar with the individual’s lifestyle and behavior patterns. In order to be considered, the request must include written statements regarding the facts surrounding reasons for the request.

     After the request is submitted, a person may be involuntarily committed if:

  • Two physicians agree and present documentation that the person has a mental illness necessitating inpatient care and treatment;
  • The individual’s judgment is so impaired that he cannot understand the need for care and treatment;
  • He poses a substantial threat of harm to himself or others due to his mental illness, which may include the inability to meet his needs for food, shelter, clothing, and health care or dangerous conduct and noncompliance with mental health treatment programs.

     The laws of the other forty-nine states are similar. If this isn’t a situation ready-made for massive abuses, I can’t imagine how to design one. And revelations of abuses of these systems have sufficiently embarrassed America’s “mental health professionals” to make them far more reluctant to engage in involuntary commitments than they were previously.

     But note the last condition listed immediately above: “[if] He poses a substantial threat of harm to himself or others due to his mental illness, which may include the inability to meet his needs for food, shelter, clothing, and health care or dangerous conduct and noncompliance with mental health treatment programs.” That encloses the “homeless” like a tent – something few of them possess.

     Once again: Draw your own conclusions.

     Abuses of the commitment laws were made public in the Seventies to great public indignation. The notion that “a close family member” could say something to “a mental health professional” that might result in one’s involuntary and indefinite confinement appalled huge numbers of Americans (which might say as much about the state of our family relations as anything else). Though changes in the commitment laws and the procedures they specify were generally few and modest, psychiatrists became steadily more reluctant to initiate the process. Insane asylums (by whatever euphemism they were named) closed down in droves.

     One consequence was a tide of releases of the confined back onto the streets. Some of those persons had nowhere else to go.

     Have a few thoughts from CBD at Ace of Spades HQ, about the recent death of a homeless woman:

     What is ironic is that the majority (probably all) of the people involved and interviewed probably support the deinstitutionalization craze that has gripped America since the 1970s. I wonder whether a firm public policy of forced commitment would have helped this woman. My suspicion is that it would have. That is not to say that our institutions were wonderful, but an all-or-nothing approach makes no sense. We have moved the mentally ill out of sometimes awful psychiatric facilities into the revolving door of the street, prison and an early death.

     Collectivization of the inmates of those institutions as “mentally ill” strikes me as unwise. Some of them were surely insane (“a danger to himself or others”) and thus benefited from being confined for their own safety and well-being. But it’s likely, given the weakness of the legal protections of one compelled to undergo psychiatric examination, that some were not – that they were victims of others the law allowed to railroad them into confinement.

     Still, CBD has a point: Surely some of the “homeless” occupy our heating grates because of deinstitutionalization. This is not a matter in which the arrow of justice points unambiguously and inarguably in one and only one direction. How, then, can we distinguish those who would genuinely benefit from confinement from those who are victims of procedural abuse?

     Some final thoughts from Warren Redlich, “Albany lawyer:”

     It is idiotic that those suspected of being a danger to themselves have less rights than those suspected of actually harming others. Yes it is important to make an effort to protect people with dangerous mental health problems. But it is more important that we ensure this is not abused. Anyone subject to involuntary commitment should have at least the same rights as an arrestee.

     And thanks to Winston's comment on facebook, there's another point. When the mental health professional pulls the involuntary commitment trigger, it inherently damages the relationship. That may be necessary at times. But if the process thereafter is unfair, it further damages the relationship between the patient and the entire mental health profession. Future care for this person will be far more difficult.

     Food for thought.