Thursday, July 19, 2018

No More Calling Me "Whitey" - That's a Racial Slur!

I was reading VoxDay, and came upon this lively discussion of the Papa John trashing (full disclosure - I LOVE Papa John's).

The comments were interesting, and included the suggestion:
Why don't we start calling ourselves Indigenous Europeans - and INSISTING that others do the same?
We need to start responding to accusations that we have White Privilege with "That's Indigenous European. White is a racist term, and we won't tolerate it."

 Let's have some fun with this. Act VERY serious, and, if they won't comply with our preferred designation, immediately go to HR and make a formal complaint. Ham it up. If you can, break down in tears (I do realize that the curvier Indigenous Euros might find this easier, but - make the effort).

Be absolutely obnoxious about it. Act humorless about White people jokes. Point out the oppression of the Gingers, the freckled, the non-tanning IEs. Tell them you were "Born This Way".

The Storyteller’s Art: Say Something!

     [Yes, Gentle Reader, it’s sad but true: another repost is upon you. This one was stimulated by Sarah Hoyt’s PJMedia column on what to do when “your novel dies,” and reinforced by the strange increase in email inquiries about “how you do this” – i.e., how to write fiction. As with all the “Storyteller’s Art” pieces, this one first appeared at Eternity Road and is featured in this free download at SmashWords. -- FWP]

     As we all know, stories come in many lengths. A story may be as short as a few dozen words, or as long as Robert Jordan's multi-million-word The Wheel Of Time series. But many persons, and no few would-be storytellers, never ponder what it is that dictates the length of a particular story.

     The subject is at some remove from fundamental considerations. The major elements of any story are:

  • Theme,
  • Plot,
  • Characterization,
  • Style.

     Length is not among them. Which of these, if any, should dictate the appropriate length at which to tell some particular story?

     Many would nominate plot. After all, a long plot, with lots of separate skeins and events, will necessarily take a lot of prose to relate, won't it? It surely will -- but is the plot the story? If it is, ought it to be?

     If you've never encountered a novel that seemed unbearably long, despite its profusion of related events, you're a fortunate soul. Your Curmudgeon could rattle off two dozen titles without pausing for breath, at the conclusion of each of which he ardently wanted to know whom he could sue for a refund of the time he'd wasted.

     Plot is a major element of all fiction, but it's not as fundamental, and therefore not as determinative, as theme. Indeed, plot's whole point is to express or illuminate the story's theme. If the plot, which one would accurately assess as the "proximate cause" of the story's length, overruns what's required to express the theme, the story will be perceived as too long and possibly heavy handed as well. If the plot is insufficient to express the theme, the story will be perceived as either too short or, worse, themeless.

     Virtually everyone understands plot, characterization, and style, both as mechanical matters and as necessities without which one cannot write fiction. But a depressing number of writers have no grasp of theme. Indeed, themelessness and thematic incoherence are probably the most common failings in the fiction of our time.

     It's often been said, and in university classrooms at that, that what one likes or dislikes about a particular storyteller is his style -- that is, the particular way in which he chooses to string words, sentences, and paragraphs together, with specific attention to his use of literary devices, descriptive images, and wordplay. This sentiment is in keeping with the prevailing trends in American "literary" fiction, which tends to emphasize style so greatly that plot, characterization, and theme are all but effaced from the scene. It's your Curmudgeon's firm opinion -- and no, it's not a humble one; it's actually rather arrogant, but it's quite firm for all of that -- that this is the reason most readers cannot abide "literary" fiction. For a rather remarkable extended exegesis upon this subject, please refer to B. R. Myers's now-famous essay A Reader's Manifesto.

     On the basis of a nearly fifty-year acquaintance with the written word -- in all its forms but, most apposite to this discussion, especially with fiction -- your Curmudgeon has rejected the "style uber alles" gospel with extreme prejudice. Style, divorced from theme, is as pointless as prestidigitation. It's pure packaging, devoid of content. Its proper place is to tell a story that has a worthwhile theme. When fetishized, it deprives the reader of his fundamental reason for reading: to acquire new knowledge about life, or a new perspective on it, by viewing it through the eyes of a perceptive and articulate observer.

     But why, then, does a reader become especially fond of some writer or group of writers? Style is their most obvious distinguishing quality, is it not? If it's not their style that holds his affection, what could it be?

     Your Curmudgeon proposes: sensibility.

     Yes, writers have very different styles. Some are austere and distant, formalists of classical discipline who regard a dangling preposition as something up with which one should never put. Others strive for a Hemingwayesque simplicity, They write short, single-clause sentences. Those sentences contain nothing but nouns and verbs. They leave all else to the reader's imagination. Still others are Faulknerian in the luxuriance of their prose, every sentence a labyrinthine maze of baroque elaboration decorated with as many descriptive and evocative elements as one can digest before running out of breath. But this is packaging for a story and, beneath the story, supporting it with relevance and timeliness, its theme.

     A writer's sensibility is composed of the sorts of themes he likes to explore, and the angle from which he approaches them. It partakes greatly of his moral vision. Indeed, it cannot be separated from his grasp on the moral order of the universe...whether or not he believes there is one.

     Gentle Reader, have you ever encountered a writer whose command of the language is superb and precise, but whose stories proclaim ideas that you simply can't abide? Have you ever encountered a writer whose works, despite serious shortcomings of style, throb so powerfully with truth that you can't imagine ever forgoing them? If so, you're peering down the barrel of auctorial sensibility. You're staring the bullet of theme right in the face. It's the ultimate weapon in the battle for the reader's time, money, and attention.

     Needless to say, a writer's sensibility can only interlock with the affections of readers who share his fundamental moral vision. That's why your Curmudgeon can't abide John Irving, despite his stylistic gifts, and why he owns every mark on parchment Robert B. Parker, no stylist as the term is generally understood, has ever produced. Ardent admirers of John Irving resonate to his moral and political views; they see the world as he sees it, which gives his stories the ring of truth and significance to them. Few of them would have any patience for Parker's quite different vision.

     A writer's sensibility, which compounds his moral views and his sense of human character into themes that can be fictionally explored, is near to unalterable. Probably no writer of note exemplifies this better than the late Robert A. Heinlein. Heinlein wrote for more than fifty years. In surveying the sweep of his works, one can see a dramatic evolution in his style, and comparably large changes in his attitude toward plot. But his underlying sensibility -- his penchant for writing stories about men compelled to be competent and independent in the face of severe challenges -- never changed. His fiction was always an expression of his innermost convictions about the nature of Man and the obligations incumbent upon manhood. Much the same could be said about Jack Vance.

     Many a writer discovers his sensibility by trying to violate it. Ayn Rand wrote a dramatization of this titled "The Simplest Thing In The World," whose protagonist, desperate to break into the world of commercial fiction, strains without success to write a story whose theme cross-cuts his own moral code.

     Your Curmudgeon has his own sensibility, of course; it should be quite evident from the stories he’s written. It's a sensibility that's out of step with what's currently commercially favored, but what of that? To try to set this "ill-favoured thing, but mine own" aside in favor of something that would sell would nullify whatever piddling value your Curmudgeon can bring to a story. It would eventuate in themelessness -- the inability to say anything worth reading -- or thematic incoherence -- a hard-driven clash between the actions of the story's characters and the writer's convictions about the nature and motivations of Man. It would be a waste of perfectly good words.

     There are a lot of aspiring writers in the world. No doubt a few are readers of your Curmudgeon’s stuff. There's a lot of advice being offered to aspiring writers, often at high prices and mostly by people who couldn't produce a decent shopping list. Though there are no magic formulae by which to achieve publishability and commercial renown, there are definitely fatal errors by which one can lose one's writerly self-respect, a commodity for the loss of which no degree of extrinsic success will compensate. The biggest and most seductive of the fatal errors is the betrayal of one's sensibility.

     When you write, say something. Always have a conscious theme. Make it something that's critically important: to you, and hopefully to the larger world. That will energize you and call forth your passions in service to your prose. Then make sure your story's characters act in such a fashion that the story's events, and above all its ending, are foreordained, and express your theme with all the clarity and grace you can muster.

     If you already know your sensibility, stay true to it. If you don't -- if this entire discussion has appeared to you like water to a fish -- you can only discover your sensibility, and bring it to its peak of expressive power, by choosing your themes according to your passion for them, and then by writing from the heart. When you've done that for a while, return to this essay. Your Curmudgeon guarantees you an "of course!" experience.

Why? Why? Why?

Why should Trump give any credence to the intelligence agencies who first tried to prevent, and later subvert, his presidency?
"U.S. President Donald Trump Initially Refused to Acknowledge Manufactured Reality." By Doug “Uncola” Lynn, The Burning Platform, 7/18/18.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Big Gains

     The great military leaders have had many divergent “styles,” if it’s legitimate to use that term in speaking of mortal combat, but they’ve had one thing in common:

They cut their losses and reinforced their successes.

     It seems simple to me: Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. There are some exceptions, of course: If the enemy is about to take your capital, whether he’s currently pressing you backward is less important than saving the collection of imbeciles and poltroons that run your country. But in the main, recognizing that progress is to be emulated and regress renounced is the heart of any successful campaign.

     As with combat, so also with politics.

     We in the Right have fumbled about, strategically and tactically, for far too long. We’ve been in a reactive mode – “on the back foot,” as our English cousins might say – for nearly the whole of the Trump Administration. Yet the great majority of our explicitly political tactics have failed to serve us. It’s time we took a hard look at what we’ve been doing, that we might stop doing what’s not working and striven to better understand where we’ve made gains.

     The emphasized insight above is highly important, perhaps even critical. Yet there is another, more relevant than ever before, that we should join to it: Our adversary, the political Left, does what it does always for strategic or tactical reasons. Continuous awareness of that core precept is vital if we’re to triumph over it.

     The multitudinous, unending “accusations” Leftists have leveled at Trump Administration officials have had little to do with the facts, and far more with the prospect of gain for the Left. Their allies in the media march in lockstep with their tactics. (Why that’s so is a subject for another screed. That it’s so should be obvious by now, if you’ll allow me the use of two of my “favorite” words.) That makes it important to note those occasions where their approach is working and where it fails them.

     Allow me to repeat an old parable that has great relevance to media relations:

     Some years ago, a theater impresario whom we shall call Smith, whose current production Hoity-Toity was, shall we say, not repaying its production costs received a phone call from Jones, a well-known reporter for the prestigious publication Theater Life. Their conversation ran as follows:

     "Mr. Smith," Jones said, "I'm calling to ask a few questions about Hoity-Toity."

     "Go right ahead," Smith said.

     "Well, first of all," Jones said, "the talk is that Hoity-Toity is falling deeply into arrears and will soon be closed. Is that the case?"

     Smith, a careful and experienced man, counted to ten before answering. "I would imagine that if I were to say no, your story in tomorrow's edition would be headlined 'Smith Denies Hoity-Toity Near To Closing.' Am I correct?"

     "Well, yes," Jones said. "Something like that, anyway."

     "Well, then," Smith said, "I'll answer your question if you'll answer one for me. How's that sound?"

     "Fair enough," Jones said warily. "What's your question?"

     "Mr. Jones, is it true that your wife has syphilis?"

     "What?" Jones shrieked. "Why are you asking me that? What put such an idea into your head?"

     "Oh, you know how the rumor mill churns," Smith said breezily. "But, as it happens, you're on speakerphone and Davis is here from Variety. If you were to answer no, he might have a story in tomorrow's edition headlined 'Jones Denies Wife Has Syphilis.' What would you think of a story like that?"

     There was a long silence on the line. Finally, Jones said, "All right, Smith. I take your point."

     What would be the effect of a story headlined “Smith Denies Hoity-Toity Near To Closing” – ? It would be to reinforce in the reader’s mind two key elements: “Hoity-Toity” and “closing.” It would suggest that the show is a failure. It would discourage potential patrons of the show. There’s a strong presumption in the human mind that “my fellow humans, when they move or act en masse, are usually right.” We might deplore it. We might call it “the behavior of lemmings,” but it’s there...and you respond to it too.

     That suggests that it’s a mistake to reply to, or to attempt to refute, those “accusations.” Every time we do so, we reinforce the key elements of the accusation and thus compound the losses it inflicts on us. Worse, we give the Left a particle of respectability it doesn’t deserve and should not get. Note that this does not imply answering with Left-like vitriol, but rather ignoring them, including their media handmaidens.

     There are no gains to be had by responding. Not even minor ones.

     One seeming implication of the above is that “what works for the Left might work for us.” I must admit that I once thought so. I don’t any longer. Here’s why.

     I don’t know who originated it, but a rather clever saying runs that you should “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.” There’s a huge nugget of insight in there. The “audience” to such a wrestling match will be unable to tell you from the pig. Those who pay attention to the event will be doing so to laugh at you. Not at the pig. The pig will merely be doing what comes naturally. You, on the other hand, will have debased yourself – not a clever way to inspire emulation.

     Just about everyone prefers the society of high achievers. We prefer to keep company with them if they’ll have us. We certainly prefer to do business with them, for success in business arises from giving the customer what he wants at a price he can afford, and leaving him with the conviction that he’s been well served , not taken for a mark or a fool. And we tend to emulate the characteristics and behavior of those who have achieved something we’d like to achieve ourselves. There are big gains to be had from emulation.

     Just now, for example, the Trump Administration is racking up the successes in economics and international relations. Those who are paying attention are aware of this – Right and Left. The Left’s denigrations, accusations, and insults are intended to distract the public from Trump’s successes. To the extent that it’s making any gains in that fashion, the credit must go to those who’ve managed to obstruct the real news – that is, reportage about what’s really happening. For among Americans aware of the gains the Administration is accumulating, Trump’s popularity and overall approval are advancing. Therefore it behooves the Left that those gains either go unreported, or are displaced from public attention by its attacks.

     The only countermeasure is to keep our focus on what the Administration has achieved, and to talk it up without pausing to respond to the Left’s stream of distractive emissions.

     One last observation and I’ll close for the morning. This one deserves emphasis:

A divided focus is always less effective than a unitary one.

     Herbert Spencer made the point brilliantly:

     A blade which is designed both to shave and to carve, will certainly not shave so well as a razor or carve so well as a carving-knife. An academy of painting, which should also be a bank, would in all probability exhibit very bad pictures and discount very bad bills. A gas company, which should also be an infant-school society, would, we apprehend, light the streets ill and teach the children ill. -- Herbert Spencer, "Over-Legislation"

     If we resolve to ignore those things we find annoying and to concentrate on those measures which redound to our advantage, we will reap gains. In the nature of things, those gains will tend to compound, as they build upon their predecessors. A unitary focus is therefore strategically the one to adopt, rather than a focus that devotes part of our attention to responding to Leftist detractors.

     This came home to me, in part, because of the following exchange:

Miscellaneous Leftist: You’re a [racist / sexist / homophobe / fascist] (insert one or more)!
FWP: So what?
ML: So what? So what?? Don’t you care?
FWP: Why should I care what you think? I’ve got other things to do. You know, people to oppress for material gain and countries to topple out of sheer spite.
ML: But—but—!
FWP: (smiles) Have a nice life.

     Now, that’s an abstraction from other exchanges that were more personal and more detailed. But it does express the pattern. It’s spared me more agita, and saved me more time, than attempting to refute the insincere accusations that follow the pattern.

     It might not work for everyone. It might take more resolve and confidence than some folks can muster. But my experience has been wholly positive. Besides, it does allow me to focus on oppressing the weak and overthrowing foreign governments. Do what you do best, I always say!

     Your gains are likely to be largest, most satisfying, and most likely to earn admiration and engender emulation, if you focus on one thing: whatever you do best. Isn’t that what makes you happiest? And isn’t it the reason for the division of labor?

     Cut your losses.
     Reinforce your successes.
     Do what you do best and ignore the rest.

     Time for me to get on the tractor. Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Quickies: The Anti-Trumpers Have A Sad

     When your grand hope for pulling down the president rallies to his defense in a shatteringly effective way:

     ...what do you have left?

     I’m no fan of Vladimir Putin, but the hope on the Left (and the NeverTrump “Right”) that Putin would assist them in their campaign against President Trump was ludicrous on its face. Putin has absolutely no reason to do any such thing. Ironically, that would be the case even if the Russian government did possess incriminating material on Trump. Russia is in a state of need that requires the assistance of wealthy foreign powers inclined to help – and what power is wealthier or better known for international benevolence than the United States?

     You don’t undermine the potentate of your best hope for the recovery of superpower status. Even that Trump was willing to have a summit meeting with Putin is a boost to the ailing nation. It suggests more stature than the bankrupt kleptocracy really deserves, and makes plausible a greater degree of commercial involvement between Russia and the states of Europe.

     Mind you, Trump is still putting pressure on Germany in particular to seek out fuel sources from other nations, instead of rendering itself dangerously dependent on Russia as a sole source. However, that’s a specifically NATO matter. In most regards, Trump is willing to cultivate better relations with Russia. They could only stand on a basis of respect for American interests and for the sovereignty of other nations. Trump has been explicit about that throughout his foreign dealings to date.

     But the luminaries of the “Resistance” must color the thing to their preferences:

     And so the carnival rolls onward.

A little cold water on the hysteria.

But it wasn’t the Intelligence Community that said ‘Russia hacked the DNC’... a play that was about getting you to ignore the CONTENT of Hillary/DNC emails. (Thus the quip ‘Russia rigged our elections by exposing how our elections are rigged.’).

It was Brennan and Clapper and a dozen ‘handpicked’ analysts from just 3 agencies. Even then the NSA boys only said ‘moderate confidence’ which is analyst speak for ‘we have no real evidence.’ The CIA and FBI analysts, relying on the DNC-linked CrowdStrike analysis of a server they never examined, said ‘high confidence’ which means ‘we can’t prove this but we totally believe it was Russia’s government because wouldn’t it be just like those aggressive Russkis?’

Comment by I Am Jack’s Macroaggression on “Mish: "Mass Hysteria." By Mike 'Mish' Shedlock, ZeroHedge, 7/17/18.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ultra-Quickies: Oops!

     I forgot! I completely forgot to put something up at Liberty’s Torch this morning. Blame it on Experienced; I’d finally gotten “into gear” and was pumping it out nineteen to the dozen. Either that or senility is finally making serious inroads. Your Curmudgeon reports; you decide.

     I’m pretty much drained from the day’s adventures. And here it is nearly 3:00 PM, too. Well, just for a “placeholder” of sorts, have a ridiculous little episode from the Trump-Putin press briefing earlier today:

     I hope you viewed that; it’s quite short. It suggests that it must be awfully easy to get a job as a political reporter these days.

Fight Over Some Books

I wrote on my other blog about a fight between cops and teachers about a summer reading list.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Something to Put on Strzok's Boo-Boo

You could take cheap small bandaids, and add these stickers to them - in honor of Strzok's being declared eligible for a Purple Heart by a member of Congress. If someone wants to get these, I'll toss in a few bucks to PayPal to help cover the cost.

A cheap way to flood the House of Representatives with our feedback on the issue.

There’s Always A New Frontier

     At least, there is for those determined to break down every remaining norm of conduct.

     I didn’t think we’d ever see this. But it’s here.

     In a country fanatically dedicated to the protection of the innocent, especially those who can’t protect themselves, we’re seeing a new, surprisingly energetic campaign to normalize sex between adults and young children. How can this be? Who is propelling it? Why is it getting the smallest scintilla of respect?

     Have Americans become so inured to the dismantling of barriers that once protected us that we’ll allow this to roll over us with only token resistance? Or are we just taking a moment to get over our astonishment before slapping down this new demand with all the fury our society can muster?

     Some of the “arguments” being advanced in defense of pedophilia are mind-blowing:

  • “Love is love.”
  • “It’s nobody else’s business.”
  • “It’s not as harmful as was once claimed.”
  • “We allow children to consent to abortions, don’t we?”
  • “It’s just a sexual preference, no different from homosexuality.”

     I hope and pray most fervently that the reaction against this new “movement for liberty and equality” is smashed flat. In particular, I hope the political Left, for all its lunacy, isn’t quite insane enough to embrace it. But why it’s arising now is worth some thought.

     Supposedly, a small but measurable fraction of the U.S. population feels the pedophilic impulse. That fraction has been estimated – God only knows how – as somewhere from 0.5% to 3%. Even at the low end, that would make it probable that each of us has known someone who occasionally feels a desire to have sex with a minor. It would also imply that the great majority of those persons either never act on the impulse or are clever enough not to get caught.

     Note that the current estimate of the homosexual fraction of our populace is also around 3%. But is the prevalence of a desire any sort of rationale for legitimizing it?

     The last five decades have seen a convulsive loosening of norms and constraints applicable to sex. We’ve serially decided to tolerate:

  • Divorce and remarriage;
  • Premarital and extramarital sex;
  • Homosexuality and bisexuality;
  • Various sexual fetishes;
  • Sadism and masochism.

     In the matter of sexual conduct, few barriers remain to be broken. But why pedophilia? Haven’t we agreed that below a certain age – I think most states put it at 16 years of age – an individual is not competent to make the weighty decisions that go along with sexual activity? I could understand there being some differences of opinion about what the age should be. I can’t understand the claim that there’s no appropriate minimum age of consent.

     Is this a consequence of allowing Muslims into our society? Or does it spring from the latitude our society has granted to talking about sex and fooling around with its peripherals (e.g., child beauty pageants)? Were we fated to come to this pass from the moment we separated sex from the marital bond?

     Would any non-pedophiles like to argue in favor of legitimizing pedophilia?

     Everywhere around the world, horrors proliferate. Third World countries are aflame with wars and insurrections. Much of South America is strangling on socialism. The nations of Europe are dying demographically. Some are trying to stave off the end by importing Muslim savages. Africans who’ve contracted the AIDS virus routinely rape young children in the belief that sex with a virgin would cure them. Several nations have legalized assisted suicide. I’ve written before about the incomprehensible Groningen Protocol. Only here in the United States does there remain some measure of public order and respect for human life.

     Yes, I said “some measure.” No nation in which a million babies are aborted yearly can claim to be wholly respectful toward the miracle of life. Even so, we’re doing better than most of the world, in most of the respects that matter. But no nation, as far as I’m aware, has baldly legalized sex between adults and children of any age.

     What are we doing on this ledge? How did we get up here in the first place? Can’t we see how far there is to fall? What will it take to dismount without incident?

     Is what I’ve vented about here merely a transient, a blip soon to vanish permanently from the national radar, or are we genuinely threatened by it?


Blinding, death star-level of irony – II.

Hypocrisy is probably more accurate.
International order for 4 centuries has been based on non-interference in the internal affairs of others and respect for sovereignty. Russia has violated this norm by seizing Crimea and by interfering in the 2016 US election. We must deal w Putin’s Russia as the rogue state it is.[1]
~ Richard N. Haass, President, Council of Foreign Relations.

B’s comment (at Moon of Alabama): “Shorter: ‘Westphalianism for us, intervention for everyone else.”

[1] "The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-35." By b, Moon of Alabama, 7/15/18.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fiction Writing Notes

     I’m rather bored with the heavy sociopolitical stuff, so for this fine Saturday in July, have a few assorted observations about the writing of fiction. Feel free to disagree with any of them.

     The admirably prolific Sarah Hoyt has something to say about writing and the “Muse” canard:

     My writing career (though it was 10 years before I sold a story) could be said to have started the night my husband told me writers write every day. He's a musician you see. (Not for a living. He's a mathematician, but the two afflictions often go together.) Musicians practice every day. I told him I wasn't even sure that I could write commercially in another language (this was the year I moved to the US). And I might never have been good enough, and besides, well… besides, I really couldn't force myself to write when I wasn't inspired. He looked at me like I had two heads and told me, no, if I wanted to be a writer I had to write every day. Practice has a magic of its own. Just write it....

     The second thing I can tell you is that the muse or inspiration is a lie. Sure, sometimes it strikes and you write stuff in white-hot joy. That's great. But you know what? You can do it when it doesn't strike too.

     Sarah’s observations are worthwhile, but I must add a caveat.

     Yes, writers write. Yes, writing every day is a salubrious way to defeat your hesitance and develop the “habit” of writing that a productive writer would need. But there is a price, and it can appear rather stiff to the aspirant who’s unprepared for it.

     Some of what you write will be bad. Embarrassingly bad. The day after you’ve written it, it will assault your eyes and rattle your brain. You’ll cringe away from it, desperate to believe that you had absolutely nothing to do with its creation, that some evil entity stole your graceful, piercing prose and substituted a deformed mutant changeling. You’ll be tempted to swear off writing forever.

     And there is nothing to do for it but to plow onward.

     In one of his books on writing, Lawrence Block relates a tale about a writer friend who’d contracted to write the libretto for an opera. The friend called Block in a panic. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t catch the rhythm of the thing. The story failed to energize him. Every sentence he wrote frankly stank. But he was under contract, and the deadline was nearing.

     Block gave his friend this bit of entirely unexpected advice: “Then write a bad libretto.” And the friend took it.

     Sometimes there’s no way out. But he who perseveres might find a way through.

     A favorite subject of mine, when conversing with other indie writers, is methods of promotion. I’ve learned a fair amount from such conversations. However, I’ve also noticed that very few fiction writers put much effort into their promotional blurbs. It’s a skill that’s worth refining.

     Terry Lacy recommends an approach:

     Archaeologist Indiana Jones has to get the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. He wins the treasure and the girl.

     Twenty-one words. The concept is simple enough and one of the many assignments I had to master in grad school. It's based on the simple idea that—according to some psychological study somewhere—if you meet a stranger, you have twenty-one words to get them interested in your idea. That's whatever you're selling, and we're all selling something, from an insurance policy to a novel I want you to read, to a pleasant conversation in an airport lounge, it's all one big sales pitch. If you hook them in 21 words, they continue to listen. If you don't, they tune you out—their minds go elsewhere.

     Now before you decide this is stupid, think about it. It's the elevator pitch, only shorter. You don't have an entire elevator ride—you have a sentence—maybe two—before your audience decides if you are worth their time. If that sounds mean, it's a mean old world out there—and in the faceless world of the internet, it's only getting worse.

     This exercise is valuable for more than one reason. Obviously, a concise, well-focused “elevator pitch” is useful in approaching busy Hollywood executives. But beyond that, it respects one of the ugly facts of fiction marketing: the potential purchaser won’t spend more than about 60 seconds on his decision to buy or not to buy. And if old Will will forgive me, that is the question, isn’t it?

     And, entirely apart from promotional considerations, practicing “precision writing” — producing a coherent narrative in a fixed number of words – is excellent exercise for cultivating the habit of precision in all modes of expression, including oral communication.

     Allow me a brief vignette. A few years ago, a young colleague, more or less out of the blue, complimented me on my “clarity,” both spoken and written. He asked how I’d learned it and whether he could make use of the same technique. It gave me pause for thought.

     After a moment’s reflection, I said “Meetings.”

     “Huh?” he said. “How did that come out of meetings? At the meetings I’ve had to attend, people drone on and on and seldom if ever make a point!”

     “Exactly,” I replied. “They horrified me. I became so determined not to be profligate with others’ time that I concentrated on boiling down what I have to say to the irreducible minimum. It turns out that that doesn’t just shorten your meetings; it makes your statements clearer as well.”

     And he smiled.

     In recent years I’ve become easily irritated by caricatures. Until recently, it hadn’t occurred to me how easy it is to create caricatures among one’s Supporting Cast characters. Some are more irritating than others – the greedy businessman who worships profit and will trample anyone who stands between it and him; the brain-dead housewife who knows nothing beyond Kinder, Kirche, und Kuche; the “crusader” whose motives are pure as the driven snow and whose policies never evoke a second-order effect – but there are many kinds, and all of them are detrimental to the plausibility of a story. The consequences are worse than the typical indie writer thinks.

     Lately the one that’s acted on my nerves like grade 0 sandpaper is the hyperzealous, utterly intolerant Christian cleric who wants his flock to get out there and fight “sin” (as he defines it) physically. Such stick-figure caricatures of priests and ministers appear regularly in fiction about persons from some “oppressed” minority. The use of such a character as a major antagonist can destroy an otherwise worthy story, entirely because of his implausibility.

     (Yeah, yeah, I know: Westboro Baptist Church. Now name another one.)

     A good story does require some sort of tension or conflict, but if the tension or conflict arises solely because of a caricature antagonist, it won’t persuade. It will work serious damage on the reader’s “willing suspension of disbelief,” the asset which above all others the writer must strain to preserve. Without that – the acceptance of the “story universe” and its premises as true enough for the purposes of the entertainment offered – the story becomes trite. Cartoonish.

     If you’re laboring over a fiction that depends upon such an antagonist, I sincerely and solemnly urge you to reconsider. Your “story universe” already has two strikes against it. You can do better, and you should.

     That’s all for today, I think. To those who’ve written to inquire about the status of Experienced, I’m still at work on it...and it’s a lot more work, of more kinds, than I’d expected it to be. I’ve already thrown out two false starts and am straining to develop a third approach wholly divergent from the others. But never fear: it will be finished. I just hope it won’t finish me.

     Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Against Whom? Against What?

     I have a ton of things to write about this morning, and it’s impossible for me to address all of them, so I think I’ll just pick the top card off the stack, write about that, and call it a day. Here we go. Let’s see, now...ah, NATO!

     President Trump’s upbraiding of the underperforming members of the Atlantic Alliance has been very much in the news for several reasons. Not the least of those is Trump’s forthrightness about their parsimony on defense: something no other president has properly addressed. But to be candid, the “alliance” has been on my mind for other reasons, anyway.

     The North Atlantic Treaty was ratified in 1949 by its original twelve member nations: roughly, the ones we normally mean when we refer to “Western Europe,” plus the United States. That treaty committed its signatories to regarding an armed attack upon any one of them as an attack upon all of them, and to rendering appropriate assistance to the attacked nation(s). The principal motivating force was the Soviet Union, which in subjugating and garrisoning ten Eastern European nations (which the Soviets would later weld into the Warsaw Pact) had created an immediate and menacing threat to the security of the Western European nations. As the nations of Europe were still in a condition of military and economic exhaustion from World War II, the Truman Administration deemed it reasonable to “guarantee” their security by pledging America’s forces, especially its nuclear deterrent, to their defense.

     Owing to the persistent representation that only NATO kept the Soviets at bay, the U.S. poured tens of thousands of men, thousands of tons of war materiel, and trillions of dollars of expenditure into NATO over the forty years that followed. The consequences were many. Three were notable above all others:

  1. The swelling of American expenditures on our military, emphatically including our forces positioned in Europe;
  2. The eventual severing of the dollar from its backing by gold in August, 1971, which gave rise to the rapid inflations of the succeeding years;
  3. The rapid expansion of Western Europe’s “welfare states,” as the militaries of those nations were starved of funds and gradually declined to effective nullities.

     In 1989, one by one the Soviet satellites rebelled against their overseer and overthrew the Communist regimes that had hagridden them. The Warsaw pact was no more. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union dissolved as well. But NATO continued, as did the decay of Western Europe’s self-defense capabilities and the deterioration of the dollar.

     Questions immediately arose about the significance of NATO in a post-Soviet / Warsaw Pact world. What threat was the alliance directed against now? No answers were forthcoming. Today, nearly thirty years later, we still don’t have any.

     The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities ... it is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. – George Washington, Farewell Address.
     Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide. – Abraham Lincoln, the Lyceum Address.

     Massive reluctance to involve itself in the quarrels of other nations and other continents had marked American foreign policy from our founding up to our entrance into World War I. For 125 years the U.S. forged no alliances with other nations. Indeed, even upon entering the Great War, we formed none; we fought alongside the forces of the Triple Entente but remained formally outside it as an “associated power.” It took our involvement in World War II – Say, remember FDR saying “Your boys are not going to be sent to any foreign wars” -- ? Charming, wasn’t it? – to bring about the reversal of that attitude.

     America felt secure, divided from the quarrelsome Old World by two immense oceans. She was secure. Excepting an attack by ICBMs, she still is. To form an enduring alliance with European states, immediately after having shed the blood of thousands of young American men to liberate them from Hitler’s regime with the assistance of the Soviet Union, seemed questionable even at the time. The rationale provided for the alliance was largely charitable: exhausted Europe simply couldn’t “go it alone” in the face of the huge Soviet military, especially given its forward positioning along the western borders of the satellite nations. The devastated nations of Western Europe needed defensive help, and only the United States, with its vast manpower, intact economy, and nuclear forces, could provide it.

     It was plain at that time that NATO was a one-way commitment. Should we be attacked, the European members of NATO could (and would) contribute nothing to America’s defense. Indeed, the matter is even plainer today.

     A military alliance between (or among) nations unequal in size and power will always be represented to the common citizen as something other than it really is. The plain words of the North Atlantic Treaty make it sound like a mutual commitment among equals. Yet anyone looking at the conditions of the signatories would immediately have known better.

     The alliance did provide certain advantages to the U.S. federal government. First, the “need” to keep large forces in Europe provided a rationale for the maintenance of wartime levels of defense spending, which Washington used to prop up employment in that economic sector. Second, the presence of heavily armed American forces in Europe gave the U.S. massive influence over the governments of the European members, especially as regards relations with the member nations of the Warsaw Pact. Third, for a time the American military presence in Europe helped to bolster European confidence in the terms of the Bretton Woods agreement, whose signatories had accepted the American dollar as the world’s reserve currency in place of an explicitly commodity-based standard.

     As long as the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact persisted, NATO could be rationalized to some degree. Yet its shortcomings were plainly visible from early on. The European members refused to meet their treaty commitment to maintaining their defenses, and the U.S. could not chivvy them into doing so. The cost of our forces in Europe rose steadily. The impediment to our capacity to meet military challenges elsewhere became visible over time. American military spending put immense inflationary pressure on the dollar. In combination with the Johnson Administration’s expansion of the American welfare state, federal expenditures became ever more of a threat to the American economy and the soundness of the dollar.

     When the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989 and 1990, it was time to breathe a sigh of relief and schedule the dissolution of the alliance. We didn’t. While arguments still persist about whether an alliance without a specific threat to actuate it is ever reasonable, the disadvantages of NATO to the United States – to say nothing of those to the long-term health of the European members – have loomed ever larger.

     “You don’t remove someone from an alliance,” General Barcena said. “It’s simply...not done. Everyone needs allies.”
     “We’re sort of down to bedrock,” Admiral Duvall said, sighing. “This isn’t about establishing and maintaining international relations. This is about the survival of Terra.”

     [John Ringo, The Hot Gate]

     The interstellar warfare at issue in John Ringo’s Troy Rising series is a matter of planetary survival. Everyone in the stories is aware of that. It tends to clarify issues pertinent to defense and “alliances.” Yet even under such terrible threats, “diplomats” will routinely attempt to sell black as white: to represent their participation in an asymmetrical alliance as something other than it really is. Men whose lives are on the line don’t allow such representations to pass unchallenged.

     When lives are not on the line other than in extreme theory, the diplomats whose nations benefit from such an alliance will redouble their efforts. The diplomats from nations that suffer from the alliance will demonstrate in whose interests they really labor: are they those of the State Department, or those of the United States?

     We have reached a point in international affairs where that question should be put to every member of the political class who favors the perpetuation of the NATO alliance, and to every member of the command structure of the American military who feels the same. They must be compelled to give their reasons...and We the People must be allowed to hear them, undecorated. American military protection has been guaranteed, at Americans’ expense, to far too much of the world. The greatest beneficiary of our generosity is a massive continental federation whose wealth and population renders it entirely capable of defending itself. For three decades the threat that would invoke such defense has gone unnamed. It’s time that changed, as well.

Made Me Laugh!

From Stilton's Place:

Folks, if Stilton's Place is not on your subscription list, it should be. Go here to subscribe.

Cognitive Bias and Decision Making

I was reading this article about Cognitive Bias and Gun Control. In it, the author discusses the emotional component surrounding this issue, and how it colors people's thinking about it. The author had been speaking to students in Canada, and asked them to raise their hands if they thought the USA was a dangerous place to visit.
About 80% of the students raised their hands. This is surprising to me because although I live and work in Canada and I’m a Canadian citizen, I grew up in the US; my family still lives there and I still think it’s a reasonably safe place to visit. Most students justified their answer by referring to school shootings, gun violence, and problems with American police. Importantly, none of these students had ever actually encountered violence in the US. They were thinking about it because it has been in the news. That were making a judgment on the basis of the available evidence about the likelihood of violence.
 So, when you think about the forces that shape people's ideas about issues, don't discount the impact that the media's saturation approach to the 'right' way to think about these concepts has on the minds of the viewers.

That's true of many of the contentious issues of our time. They bring up a concern, we respond with a logic-based reason why that is not a valid concern or a problem that has to be solved in just one, Leftist way.

They are not convinced. We naturally assume that this means that they are deliberately misunderstanding, or willfully ignoring the facts, and the underlying logic that supports them.

Or, maybe, they are just dumb. Or evil.

What else could account for the inability to change their thinking, given rational reasons why they should?



A non-Logical, non-linear, block to their thinking processes. Because to leap past that block is to violate their deepest self - the Id, as Freud called it (yes, I know he was a twisted fraud, but, his terms are part of the culture).

That part of the Self, that is most clearly seen in 2-year old children, who would rather suffer actual pain rather than change, because of how they FEEL. Who cannot reason their way through events, but must be emotionally engaged with the outcome.

Am I saying that ALL Leftists are immature?


But, it's fairly clear that most Leftists/Progressives/Liberals function on the FEELS side of the brain, rather than the THINKING part of it. That's why they make what they consider 'unarguable' statements:

  • That's a HURTFUL statement!
  • You have trampled on my feelings!
  • OMZ!!! Trump is LITERALLY Hitler!!!!!
No attempt to argue rationally or logically. Just raw appeal to emotion.

And, to be fair, with many people, that's a winning 'argument'.

It takes a LOT of cognitive dissonance to finally 'flip' someone that deeply into their closely held beliefs. You either have to overwhelm their bias with a lot of contrary evidence, or - try bypassing the appeals to logic with a certain type - the FEELS type.

In that case, what works?

You have to show (preferably with pictures - hits a different part of the brain) them victims of their policies - preferably Minorities, Women, Poor. After you have engaged their FEELS part of the brain, hit them with some evidence. If you use numbers, show them in graphical format (these are, generally, NOT math nerds).

Make these mini-appeals to non-logic short, punchy, and with only ONE talking point at a time. ONE link to an article that provides more detail. LiberalLogic101 (now on Facebook) shows how to do it.

Funny is good - don't waste time trying to picture HRC with devil's horns. Don't DIRECTLY beat up a hero - their eyes will glide right past that.

Instead, focus on a poignant picture of a kid, with a short statement about how their policy will hurt/has hurt that kid. And a link.

That's it.

Or, put a politician's words from two different dates, side-by-side, showing that the guy has no morals, but will say anything to get elected/stay in power. Or, compare a Conservative's words with a Progressive's on the same topic.

Don't be afraid to hit them over the head with the hypocrisy. Try to stay away from HRC, BC, Obama(s), or Trump. They all are polarizing, and no one can see them without having their emotional response block any new knowledge.

Some examples:

As you can see from my examples, you don't have to be an artist to make these. Just use Powerpoint to set up each meme as a slide, Save As... a jpeg (each slide will be under a folder), and Upload.

Use on FB, Twitter, Gab (on that platform, you're spreading the word to people who are likely to multiply your efforts), and Google Plus, to name just a few. If you want to, try Instagram and SnapChat - that will circulate these among the younger crowd.


Yet Another Republican Speaking Truth To Progressive Power!

I've decided to hammer down on using that label Progressive for all of these hearings - with enough of us using a coordinated effort, we may retire that Label forthwith!

Trey Gowdy and Gohmert have been capturing all the YouTube views, but I couldn't resist this vid from Rep. Ratcliffe (R-TX). He is AWESOME!

The Face That Launched a Thousand Changed Votes

It's kinda funny, how the Democrats keep 'going for the Kill Shot' - and missing.

They desperately want to have another pivotal moment - that time in the spotlight, when their Victimized Representative, with Righteous Indignation, delivered with the Proper Patrician Posture and Steely Sneer, proclaims:
Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
The Left LIVES for that Moment. Where most of us Normals dream of performing heroic deeds, vanquishing the enemy, and restoring civilization, SJWs dream of:

Holy Victimization. 

Being in the spotlight, Speaking Truth to Power - it makes them shiver with ecstasy! It is the martyrdom they yearn for!

Well, except for that whole Willing to Die for the Cause thingy. They well know that Mumsy and Daddums lawyers will keep them from ever seeing the inside of an icky prison, and their connections will ensure that they can sidestep into a cushy foundation directorship, once their (ghostwritten) Book Tour ends, and the speaking engagement dry up.

Look at the face in the video - he is clearly relishing his Moment. His sneering testimony, his 'clever' phrasing that he expects will result in evasion of that Hiss-ified fate of being indicted for perjury, his anger - at being questioned by these - these - these - Trumpian Buffoons!

How DARE they!

Accompanied with Tweenish Eyerolls!

I generally prefer the still pictures to the videos in these posts. However, the Google links to still shots showing Strzok's expressions are few. Video uploads are the only way to put his animus on proper display.

BTW, I saw something today I'd not seen before on YouTube. The channel no longer permits anonymous commenting.

Guess the SJWs/KGBs want to be able to track down all of us Deplorables for future reckoning.


     The C.S.O. has been having some difficulties with our front screen door. Here’s a snippet of our just-concluded exchange about them:

CSO: I think the problem is with the turny thing.
FWP: “Turny thing?” In my country we call that a knob.

CSO: Well, you knew what I meant!
FWP: And a good thing for you. No one else on Earth would have.

CSO: Everyone I work with understands the way I talk!
FWP: No wonder you love your work so much.

CSO: I’m gonna start collecting your foibles.
FWP: Well, at least my foibles aren’t voible.

     At which point we were both laughing too hard to continue.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Minimum Requirements

     It’s occasionally been my lot to need the answer to a pressing question for which no “stock” answer seems applicable. One such question runs thus:

     “What’s the minimum I need to do or not do, to say or not say, if I’m to avoid an unacceptable deterioration to my current situation?”

     Questions of personal standards often play into the answer: specifically, how to avoid compromising them. Compromising one’s standards is “a short route to chaos.” (Cf. A Man for All Seasons.) It’s highly likely to bring sorrow at a later time. The twin constraints can be difficult to meet.

     Now, as it happens – this will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been a Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch for more than a few minutes – I’m a Catholic. I do have a few differences with the Church. Nevertheless, I’m serious about my faith. For a brief glimpse at how serious, read the vignette I provide here. It’s one of the things on which I refuse to compromise.

     But it’s seldom been required of anyone to compromise his personal faith, or his personal political opinions, or anything else that's his by right for the sake of public order. (Seldom, not “never.”) That is, until recently.

     Via the esteemed Mike Hendrix comes an article of which I’d not be aware except for his citation thereof:

     When I saw Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt in a tea house last week, I walked up to him and told him to resign. Three days later, he was gone. I obviously can’t claim credit for his departure, which was long in the making. But I would like to think I provided a helpful nudge....

     Some say it wasn’t “civil” of me to approach Pruitt at lunch and that it’s a sign of dark times ahead for our political climate. But these arguments are not genuine: The bogus “civility” argument has arisen because conservatives are losing on the content of the arguments....

     After I told Scott Pruitt that he was bad for the environment and that he was taking handouts from energy lobbyists, Pruitt’s office made sure to tell the press that he had said “thank you” to me. What they didn’t say is telling. They didn’t offer any substantive defense of his policies. They’d rather keep the focus on civility than the serious repercussions of their actions on our planet.

     Now this Kristin Mink person is plainly not honest. (Granted, the article’s provenance was reason to suspect that ab initio.) It’s the Left that has lost the battle of ideas, having no substantive arguments for its policy preferences in the face of the massive empirical evidence against them. It’s the Left that has resorted to harassment, intimidation, and street violence to suppress expressions of conservative or libertarian sentiment. It’s the Left that’s been issuing calls for “civility,” as they find themselves on the receiving end of tactics comparable to those.

     But dishonesty is normal on the Left. Anyone with enough functioning gray matter to graduate from middle school can’t accept the Left’s prescriptions on a rational or evidentiary basis. It takes the deliberate suppression of one’s rationality, coupled to a willful blindness toward the evidence, to remain firmly in the Left’s camp.

     Despite all that, there are many Leftists among us: in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our schools, in the news and entertainment media, even in the businesses we patronize...though given their lunatic opinions about economics, how a Leftist could make a business work remains a conundrum. That makes it necessary to ask oneself the question I posed above, with slightly more specificity:

     “What’s the minimum I need to do or not do, to say or not say, if I’m to avoid unacceptable consequences stemming from my need to coexist with this person?”

     The answer can be elusive.

     Now that the Left, through its media handmaidens, has endorsed harassment, intimidation, and violence as “legitimate modes of protest,” the question has become more urgent than ever. Just about anyone known to be in the Right, or in the employ of the Trump Administration, can become a target, as the episodes involving Scott Pruitt, Stephen Miller, Kirstjen Nielsen, and Mitch McConnell should make plain. Yet it is painfully well known that to rise up on one’s hind legs and bellow back into the face of someone who behaves as Kristin Mink did generally reaps negative consequences. Even if there are no immediate repercussions, they’ll soon come along. The media make sure of it.

     What, then, must we do?

     It’s terribly unclear. No one wants to feel he’s a prisoner of his home and office. No one wants to be passive in the face of abuse. And no one wants the abuse to propagate to his loved ones, his neighbors, or his employer. But neither total passivity nor reciprocal pugnacity appear to solve the problems involved.

     In the comments to this piece, my commenters submitted a couple of suggestions: “[Tell] him that he was too stupid to argue with,” and “I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man.” While these are clever, and also confer a certain satisfaction on the user, they haven’t proved themselves in practice. I don’t expect they would, given that argument is no longer on the Left’s agenda. (It’s certainly not on the agenda of someone who harasses you at dinner in a public place.)

     Bear always in mind that the need is not to make converts, or to win an argument, or to humiliate the oppressor. It’s to be left alone in peace. And it is becoming a need ever more widely felt, including by private citizens of conservative inclinations who might choose to express them by wearing a hat.

     Thoughts, Gentle Readers?

Blinding, death star-level of irony.

Well, Iran needs to get out of Syria. They have no business there. There’s no reason for them to be there. There’s been Iranian influence there for a long time. Iranian forces, Iranian militias must leave the country.[1]
~ Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State.

[1] "Pompeo’s Breathtaking Arrogance." By Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, 7/11/18.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Why the Left's Argument for a Borderless World is Nonsense

It contradicts human nature.

It argues that random strangers, simply due to THEIR need, deserve to have first claim on money, property, education, medical treatment, and other 'goodies' in American society.

If you believe that, try this thought test:

Imagine that you have some savings. Now, take HALF of it, and give it to a deserving stranger that I select. You will have no input on who gets to receive that money. Rather than calling you generous, I snipe that any reluctance to give the money, without strings, immediately, is stingy. And racist.

Imagine that I come back and make a grab for your kid's college savings, as well. Will you give it up, willingly? That is, in effect, what you've been forced to do by the states that drop the price of college tuition for illegal aliens have done. By funding those recipients, I've raised the priced that YOUR kid will pay.

Still in favor of reduced tuition for 'Dreamers'?

Think of what residents in border towns face. They have to wait for medical service, and pay full freight. The border-jumpers crowd the ER space, and never have to pay a dime. Whether the Illegal alien is taken in first, or the sheer number simply makes all ER visitors wait longer, still means a long time sitting in uncomfortable chairs, while sick or injured.

Not to mention that staff overseeing detainees complained about the diseases that were being brought in with their human carriers. "About 10-15% of apprehended illegal immigrants have scabies." For your information, this is scabies - an infestation with parasitic mites.

The CDC says, no. Here's where they are wrong, and the report is misleading. This is surveying refugees that were seen by US-connected medical people, ONLY. It does not address those aliens evading Border inspection (this report also looks at disease rates of aliens in the EU).
Each refugee or immigrant who enters the United States must undergo a medical examination in their country of origin. These legally required medical examinations identify persons with inadmissible conditions of public health significance before they enter the United States. The examinations are conducted by panel physicians, who are medically trained, licensed, and experienced physicians practicing overseas who are appointed by the local U.S. embassy or consulate and who follow the CDC medical screening guidelines provided to DOS and HHS.
Here is the reality:
TB is one of the most serious threats. Latent TB can remain dormant for years, even decades. It is alarming that 18 percent of refugees in Arizona arrive with latent TB, while in the general Arizona population the incidence was only 4 percent. Multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB), common in migrants, may cost more than $400,000 per patient, compared with $20,000 for the drug-responsive TB that has been predominant in U.S.-born patients. Treatment of MDR-TB has serious side effects, with no guarantee of success.
Read more at 
FoxNews says that the government is lying about the extent of the TB problem.
This is the same HHS that previously denied there were any cases of scabies. They make it sound as if there are very few health problems among the illegals. They even downplay the lice epidemic -- just 119 “officially confirmed” cases.
“They are lying,” one nurse told me. “We treated that many kids with lice on a given day. We would put 20 kids in front of us – 10 in each row. You could see the bugs crawling through their hair.” 
Even the elected officials who have a right to investigate are kept out.
BCFS won't even allow random inspections of their facilities by the media or members of Congress.
Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstein was denied access last week to the HHS facility at Fort Sill – another facility run by BCFS.
“There is no excuse for denying a federal representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held,” the congressman said in a statement.
Bridenstein said he was told that unannounced visitors are not allowed – even if they are elected officials – and that he would have to make an appointment to visit the facility.
“What are they trying to hide?” he asked. “Do they not want the children to speak with members of Congress?” 
BTW, that's Baptist Child & Family Services. One of the many organizations that are getting Federal money to run the centers. MANY of which are Pro-Open Borders.


Not that closely related - but, interesting. VERY interesting.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Day Off

     I’m badly overburdened and already exhausted, Gentle Reader, so there’ll be nothing from me today. Enjoy a day off from my blather.

It does.

The possibility that liberal democracy inevitably leads to cultural suicide is unpleasant, so even the red-pilled look the other way.[1]
The problems created by liberalism can only be solved by illiberal methods. Not an original thought of mine and I do harp on it. But no less true for all that.

[1] "No Easy Answers." By Z Man, The Z Man, 7/11/18.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Levels of "Civility" vs. Blatant Threats

I do understand the anger about the immigration issue - on both sides. Neither is arguing for hate and repression. Each side sees itself as the only thing that is standing between a vulnerable population and the Oppressive Hand of Government.

It's just that they disagree with who the victim is.

For the Pro-Open Borders people, the victims are those that trample over laws and regulations about Border Control. They believe that need - or, self-identified need - trump ANY national considerations. They point to the poem on the Statue of Liberty and their interpretations of the Bible to justify their position.

They are passionate about their cause. For them, this passion must mean that they are right.

The other side, in favor of the USA being in charge of when, how, and IF immigration shall take place, see the victims as those who can't get a job in a local economy swamped by illegal aliens. Whose children's education is hampered by the influx of non-citizens into their schools, taking up scarce resources, teachers' time, and overcrowding the English-speaking classes, so that ESL classes can remain small They are furious about the growth of MS-13 and other primarily non-citizen gangs, and the disruption to their community that the gang's presence causes. They object to courts treating citizens accused of crimes more severely than the non-citizens are handled.

They point to long-established national and international law to support their position, as well as to the Constitution, which gives the Executive Branch the responsibility for regulating and enforcing the borders.  They object to the UN-Equal representation that counting illegally-present persons in the Census gives those states which encourage their influx (number of Representatives, and Electoral Votes, is determined by the people present in the states - whether they have a right to be there, or not). They object to the local and state costs of Open Borders, and - because the Federal government returns to the states much of the income tax money collected - based, in part, on population (legal or not), the states that facilitate and encourage Open Borders get more than their share of the Federal Budget.

The passion one side feels does NOT justify blatant threats against opponents of Open Borders. And, yet, this is what Progressives are doing, whether activist, politician, or those in the media.

“But This Time It Will Work!”

     Kurt Schlichter has penned a bitingly funny column about the Democrats’ embrace of socialism. As usual, it’s worth your time. However, Schlichter is largely in the business of entertaining (not preaching to) the choir. If our fellow Americans are to be defended against the further incursion of socialism into our polity, a more sober, factual, and analytical approach is needed.

     And who would better craft a sober, meticulously factual and rigorously analytical approach to socialism than your not particularly humble Curmudgeon?

     The empirical evidence against socialism is devastating...which is why the advocates of socialism regularly protest that “that wasn’t real socialism.” When asked to cite a successful socialist economy, they hem and haw. Some point haltingly and with obvious reluctance at the Scandinavian welfare states. Yet all of those have steadily backed away from their march toward socialism over the last two decades. A stable and prosperous socialist nation in which there is no forcible repression of dissidents does not exist anywhere on Earth, and never has.

     But advocates of socialism have their own version of the old trial lawyer’s maxim. You remember that one, don’t you, Gentle Reader?

  1. When the facts are against you, pound the law.
  2. When the law is against you, pound the facts.
  3. When both are against you, pound the table.

     With socialists, it goes like this:

  1. When the theory fails, argue for the practice.
  2. When the practice fails, argue for the theory.
  3. When both fail, call your opponent a tool of the plutocrats and an enemy of the proletariat.

     A fair number of socialist flacksters have plumped for method #3 above, but the ones more apt to receive respectful attention – from the major media, at least – distance themselves from the practical examples of socialist states and emphasize socialist theory. In doing so, they gloss over the nuts and bolts of the theory in favor of promises that “we know how to make it work now:” essentially an ad hominem against all those who’ve saddled other nations with socialist regimes and have brought them to ruin.

     So the theory is what will receive my attention today.

     Socialist theory rests on two premises:

  1. The Objective Theory of Value
  2. The Theory of Surplus Value (specifically, in capitalist systems of production).

     The second of those premises requires the first one, but let’s examine them one at a time.

     The Objective Theory of Value holds that the value of a product or a service is objective -- that is, inherent in the thing itself. For example: a man makes a chair out of wood he possesses. That chair, according to the Objective Theory of Value, has an inherent, objective value that derives from the materials used to make it and the labor the maker invested in it. In socialist principle, that value is measurable in monetary terms. Therefore, anyone who seeks to buy the chair “should” expect to pay the monetary measure of its inherent, objective value. To contrive somehow to pay less would be to rob the maker.

     The planners of a socialist economy devote a great percentage of their efforts to determining those values. The result is always a shortage of what their subjects really want and a surplus of what they don’t. Why?

     It would be flip simply to say that the Objective Theory of Value is wrong. That’s what we would naturally conclude from the experiences of socialist nations. But it remains important that one be capable of taking an analytical approach to the matter.

     There are several refutations to the theory. The simplest is the regression to elements. The value of the chair derives from the materials and labor, you say? But that implies that the materials and labor have objective values of their own. What if we were to separate those things? Would they still possess the same values standing apart from all else? The question is unanswerable.

     Additionally, we may ask: What if the same materials and the same quantity of labor were put to making something else – perhaps a mass of toothpicks? Would those toothpicks, in aggregate, possess the same objective value as the chair, even if there were no demand for them? Why? That question is equally unanswerable.

     Regression to elements is particularly devastating when it’s applied to services. Here’s an example: If there are exactly as many service providers – doctors; carpenters; ditch diggers; it doesn’t matter – as are required to provide all the services required at a given time, what is the objective value of the services of one additional provider? No one needs his labor or whatever it might accomplish, so how can it have an inherent, objective value? That question is also unanswerable.

     From the above, it becomes clear why socialism requires a command economy in which central planners decree how much of what shall be produced, who shall produce it, and at what monetary price it shall be sold. Coercion by the State is required to keep such a system in place. Absent such coercion, workers would produce what they thought they could sell at a profit, or would sell their labor to an enterprise whose executives would make such decisions (and do the work of marketing and distribution) for them. Purchasers would buy the goods and services they wanted, at prices set by the forces of supply and demand. Notions of objective value have no place in such a scheme...just as freedom of choice has no place in a socialist system.

     But let’s imagine that the Objective Theory of Value has somehow been vindicated, and pass on to the Theory of Surplus Value, which requires it. This is the core of Karl Marx’s attack on capitalism, and so requires a proper refutation.

     The Theory of Surplus Value holds that if a capitalist employer succeeds in selling a product produced by his workers at a profit – that is, at a price greater than the total cost of the labor and materials that went into it – that profit is actually surplus value invested in the product by his workers, and rightfully belongs to them. In Marx’s theory, his profit expresses the difference between what he pays the workers and the true, objective value of their labor.

     One can easily see the gaping holes in this notion. The employer must labor as well, mustn’t he? He must seek out markets for the product, must make deals with middlemen-distributors and retailers, must determine the appropriate rate of production, must provide any capital equipment his workers need, and must contrive to withstand market fluctuations, when production outpaces demand for the product. Perhaps more important than all of that taken together, he must conceive of the product, its most important characteristics, and how it would satisfy some need or desire felt by prospective purchasers. Such insight is required even by entrepreneurs who enter a field that already exists: making chairs, perhaps. If the employer’s workers’ labor has inherent, objective value, surely his does as well!

     The considerations above disappear only when every worker works entirely for himself: an impossible condition in an economy even slightly removed from the primitive hunter-gatherer condition of our Neanderthal ancestors. When they’re admitted and addressed, they introduce the problem of determining the inherent, objective value of the employer’s labor: a problem that can only be solved by recourse to the forces of supply and demand.

     Because socialist theory is so easily holed, contemporary socialists tend to avert such considerations, dismissing them as “vulgar Marxism.” They prefer to speak of other things. For example, they point to the common facilities whose production and maintenance we of the West have traditionally delegated to governments: roads, bridges, dams, armies, and the like. These, the socialist flackster will assert, are just as much socialist undertakings as anything else we might “choose to do together.” So you see, socialism can work!

     Three-Card Monte hucksters are more honest than that.

     Whenever an undertaking is delegated to a government, we must make certain sacrifices for the purpose:

  • First, we must surrender our freedom of choice about the facility that will be produced and what ultimate characteristics it will have.
  • Second, we must surrender all authority over that facility to the State.
  • Third, we must accept that there will be “free riders” who will get to use the facility without paying for it.
  • Fourth, we must accept that it will be produced, operated, and maintained inefficiently.

     The above are the reasons why free societies are extremely judicious about what facilities they’ll permit the State to build. Specifically, it is rational to permit the State to build and manage only those facilities:

  • That inherently manifest externalities: i.e., free riders will be able to use them without paying for them;
  • That have an overhead character: i.e., they’re neither capital nor consumer goods, but rather exist out of unavoidable necessity.

     The roads are a good example. The earliest roads produced in North America were privately planned, fabricated, and owned. They were about as good as any roads could be in that time frame. However, those who produced and maintained them eventually lost interest in doing so, specifically because of the free-rider problem. The road could not be made to return revenues that would meet its cost of operation, much less its cost of production.

     Along with that, a road is an overhead. We don’t build a road because we want it for its own sake – i.e., it’s not a consumer good – nor for its ability to help us produce something else – i.e., it’s not a capital good. We build roads because they’re necessary if we want to get around at an adequate speed and in adequate safety, conditions of vital importance to a society with a division-of-labor economy.

     The combination of externalities with overhead character renders the thing a public good: one that can justifiably be placed under the aegis of the State. Because we give the responsibility for producing them to the State, we must accept government authority over them and government-level degrees of inefficiencies and waste in their production, operation, and maintenance.

     Anarchist theorists have opined that even public goods can and should be produced by private operators for private reasons. There have been a few cases where that has occurred – there are a few privately-operated roads in the U.S., for example – but the societies of the West have almost uniformly preferred to leave such things to governments, despite the one-size-must-fit-all nature of the product and the inefficiencies and waste State action always incurs.

     “But this time will be different,” the socialist flackster protests. “Now we know how to make it work!” As Kurt Schlichter points out indirectly in his column, socialism can “work” if what one means by “work” is sufficiently evil:

     Socialism is about taking your stuff and your freedom and killing you if you complain. They try to pass it off as just Liberalism 2.0, but then you usually don’t call something by a name unless you mean it. If they don’t mean “socialism,” why do they call themselves “socialists?”...

     You see, socialism is the doctrine that people like you and I get to slave away for the benefit of the people those in charge decide are worthy – especially those in charge. Do you think when there’s socialized medicine you’ll find yourself on a six-month waiting list to get a wisdom tooth pulled next to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or any other bigwig?...

     Socialism means what’s theirs is theirs and so is what’s yours. Our private property – what we have worked for and accumulated over decades – is no longer ours. It’s theirs, to be done with – to be redistributed – as those in power wish. And if you object, they will send people with guns to make you comply.

     In practice, socialism invests the masters of the State with absolute power, which they use to become rich while those under their hand are impoverished. If that’s the outcome you want, then yes, socialism can “work.”

     But don’t expect Bernie Sanders, Tom Perez, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to admit that that’s what they mean when they wax lyrical about the glorious socialist future. They’ll just call you a capitalist tool, and talk about some good your sweat must fund so they can provide it gratis to others who’ll vote for them. All in the name of the common good, of course.