Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Enemies, Negotiations, And The Legacy Fetish

Barack Hussein Obama appears to have grasped that he stands at the edge of a precipice. He’s pushed Congress, the courts, and the electorate about as far as they’re willing to go. The few major “achievements” of his time in the White House are all proving to be failures if not catastrophes. Were he to leave office today, he’d have nothing to point back to as a positive mark he’d left on the United States, even by his own twisted standards.

Which is why getting a deal with Iran, an enemy of the United States since 1979, is at the top of his agenda.

However, Obama has abandoned neither his premises nor his standards. He still regards his own country as “the problem” in any conflict with another nation. He still considers the approbation of the Left, and of left-leaning regimes wherever they are, as the highest possible mark of distinction. These are the considerations—the only considerations—that shape his approach to the nuclear negotiations with the mad mullahs.

Those premises and standards make him the living creature most dangerous to the peace of the world in our time.


“You can always get an agreement if you’re willing to give enough away.” – former U. S. Senator Robert Dole of Kansas

Negotiation is a well studied field with rules all its own. Those rules are few but absolute. Violating them during a serious negotiation can cost more than you can afford.

The first rule of negotiation is to know your interests and their ranking in priority order. To one who is negotiating for his own sake, this is usually perfectly clear. However, in international negotiations, matters can be quite different: the ruling regimes involved might have interests that diverge from the interests of the nations they rule. Worse yet, the negotiators designated by those regimes might have a third set of interests distinct from the other two. The potential for conflict could hardly be more obvious.

The second rule of negotiation is to know the dealbreakers: i.e., those issues on which either you or your adversary in negotiation is absolutely unwilling to concede. You cannot succeed in coming away from the table with an agreement worth having if either of you stake out a position that violates one or more of the other side’s dealbreakers.

The third rule of negotiation is to have a tenable, credible ultimate fallback agenda: i.e., what you are demonstrably ready, willing, and able to do in the event that no deal can be struck. This is particularly important in negotiations with an enemy, for example, over an armistice, a truce, or a peace treaty. If such an enemy doesn’t believe you’re prepared to invoke that fallback agenda, he can keep you at the table until you die of old age.

The current face-off between America and Iran violates all three of the above rules. The American side has acted throughout as if the most important outcome is that there be an agreement regardless of the specifics of its terms. This is plainly a dismissal of the American (and allied) interests involved. Worse, it implies that there are no dealbreakers for our side, despite repeated statements by American presidents and secretaries of state that Iran shall not be permitted to have a nuclear weapon. Worst of all, the Obama Administration has made it quite plain that there is no American fallback position. The only imaginable fallback should the talks fail (in objective terms, not Obamunist terms) would be a war of decapitation, as no sanctions regime capable of breaking the theocrats of Iran of their nuclear ambitions can be enforced by the U.S. alone, and the other nations involved are unwilling to assist in such a regime.

The behavior of Secretary of State John Kerry in Lausanne and of Obama here in America can only be interpreted as above. There is no way their doggedness in pursuing a deal with Iran, when it has become plain that Iran will not comply with the terms of any deal that impedes its progress toward nuclear arms, could be taken as genuinely in harmony with the foreclosure of that eventuality.


Despite all the above, the events that have transpired in Lausanne make plain that Obama is determined that there shall be an agreement, no matter what it specifies or how long it takes. He clearly doesn’t mean what he’s said about being resolute that Iran not acquire nuclear weapons. He and his spokesmen have implied repeatedly that war is absolutely beyond contemplation. Indeed, even a stiff sanctions regime is anathema to him. An agreement to which he can point as an achievement, as Bill Clinton pointed to the foolish agreement his administration concluded with North Korea over the very same subject, is all that matters to him.

The security of the United States would be badly imperiled by such an empty deal. The continuing existence of the state of Israel would become dubious. In no way would the Iranian theocrats be in the least inconvenienced.

I’m groping for a Last Graf. I can’t find one. Our electorate has twice put a narcissistic community organizer of immutable socialist ideals and impenetrable incompetence into the highest office in the United States. This is one of the consequences, over which our supposedly Republican-controlled Congress will probably demonstrate its recent impotence once again.

We have sown the wind. A whirlwind will follow. Film at eleven...if we’re lucky enough to survive that long.

Conversations

CSO: Geez, this getting old is awful.
FWP: And you get so little time to get ready for it.
CSO: Huh?
FWP: Think about it. At 59, you’re still expected to be useful and not allowed to be offensive. At 60, suddenly you’re an animated paperweight who just sits at a desk and farts all day.
CSO: Oh, come on!
FWP: No, really! It’s only two years ago I was still useful. I still remember it clearly.
CSO: Well, I’ve always been offensive.
FWP: (Remains discreetly silent)

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Ant, Atlanta, and Allatoona





We recently spent a few days at Lake Allatoona, in Bartow County, Georgia.  While there, I met a woman who was devoted to gardening, canning, and tanning (of animal hides).  I asked why she felt that compulsion.  She said, “Since I was a teenager, God has put it in my heart to get ready.” Canning and tanning in 2015 – how primitive.  Although her desire to be self-reliant may seem out of step now, she would have been in good company in Allatoona 150 years earlier.  


In spring, 1864, General Sherman’s forces bypassed the Allatoona area on their way to Atlanta.  Nonetheless, Allatoona remained strategically important since the Western and Atlantic Railroad ran through it.  Sherman knew the terrain could be easily defended because twenty years earlier, in 1844, as a young Lieutenant, Sherman had ridden through there on horseback.  

Because of Sherman’s foreknowledge, his axis of advance from Tennessee to Atlanta initially bypassed the Allatoona Pass.  He later secured Allatoona to establish a logistical hub from June until November of 1864. The rail line and surrounding area were deemed indispensable to supporting Sherman’s “scorched earth” strategy, his 100,000 man Army, the September 1864 sacking of Atlanta, and eventual March to the Sea.    


Failing to halt the Federal forces’ advance on Atlanta, the Confederates determined their best way to stop Sherman would be an attack on Allatoona.  On October 5, 1864, Confederate General Samuel French moved his 3,300 man Division northward to attack the Federal supply base.  They also intended to “fill up the deep cut at Allatoona with logs, brush, rails, dirt, etc.”  The “needless effusion of blood” produced a high percentage of casualties: 706 Union; 897 Confederate.  The Rebels destroyed about eight miles of rail line, but were unsuccessful in blocking the pass, destroying the garrison, and were unable to seize or destroy the one million rations stored there.


Regarding the Federal forces, one report says, “Elements were out of control and sacked homes depleting meager supplies.” Concluding that, “Property destruction and the deaths of one-third of Bartow county's soldiers during the war caused financial and social calamity for many.”  

The ransacking of Americans’ finances by the feds continues unabated to this day: a fiscal policy of printing and pumping, $18 trillion in debt, and trillions more in unfunded liabilities.  They fail to enforce our borders and then bestow benefits on the lawbreakers.  


 

The federal government is not content to just destabilize nearly two-thirds of America’s families.  They’ve weaponized government agencies to threaten all kinds of institutions.  The IRS is targeting conservative organizations.  The EPA is targeting the energy sector.  FEMA is after governors that don’t accept climate change.  Obamacare is sabotaging the medical system and economy in all sorts of ways, and most recently, “The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report saying the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation unfairly treated gun dealers and other companies as illegal entities, convincing banks to stop doing business with them under the Obama administration’s Operation Choke Point.”  Now they’re even naming their destructive operations.   


My newfound Allatoona friend eventually became a Scout leader.  Makes sense-- their motto which has been used by millions of Scouts around the world since 1907, “Be Prepared.”  In Scouting for Boys, the   motto is explained:  “This means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty… by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.”  It continues, “BE PREPARED to die for your country if need be, so that when the moment arrives you may charge home with confidence, not caring whether you are going to be killed or not”


It remains to be seen who ultimately will do more destruction to Allatoona and Atlanta, William Tecumseh Sherman or the present administration.  Nonetheless, like the lady at Allatoona and the ant -- Be Prepared.


Point / Counterpoint

Two fascinating items from the weekend provide a most revealing glimpse into two contrasting mindsets. The first is from a state legislator from Vermont:

Vermont, if memory serves, observes the Second Amendment in all its glory: i.e., its laws recognize the right of the people to keep and bear arms. This is sometimes called “constitutional carry:” no permit is required to acquire a handgun, nor to carry it publicly. The number of Vermonters who exercise their rights to carry is unknown...as it should be.

Apparently, Miss Carlson is dissatisfied with this state of affairs. Whether Vermonters are aware of her opinions is also unknown...but they’re not likely to remain unaware for long.

The second item comes from the reliable, redoubtable University of Tennessee Professor of Law Glenn Harlan Reynolds, also known as InstaPundit:

Ignorance of the law, we are often told, is no excuse. "Every man is presumed to know the law," says a long-established legal aphorism. And if you are charged with a crime, you would be well advised to rely on some other defense than "I had no idea that was illegal."

But not everybody favors this state of affairs. While a century or two ago nearly all crime was traditional common-law crime — rape, murder, theft and other things that pretty much everyone should know are bad — nowadays we face all sorts of "regulatory crimes" in which intuitions of right and wrong play no role, but for which the penalties are high.

If you walk down the sidewalk, pick up a pretty feather, and take it home, you could be a felon — if it happens to be a bald eagle feather. Bald eagles are plentiful now, and were taken off the endangered species list years ago, but the federal law making possession of them a crime for most people is still on the books, and federal agents are even infiltrating some Native-American powwows in order to find and arrest people. (And feathers from lesser-known birds, like the red-tailed hawk are also covered). Other examples abound, from getting lost in a storm and snowmobiling on the wrong bit of federal land, to diverting storm sewer water around a building.

Please read it all.

“Not everybody favors this state of affairs,” indeed. For when the law, by its very luxuriance, cannot be known in its entirety by any person – when regulatory bodies that legislative oversight, much less Constitutional authority, are permitted to pass regulations with the force of law of which no private citizen is informed – the law has gone through a great and unacceptable transformation: it has become the private, secret property of the State.


The relevance of this situation to firearms law is especially strong, as the fifty states and the District of Columbia each have their own firearms laws and regulations, some of which are under legal challenge due to recent Supreme Court decisions. Thus, a man with carry rights (permitted or otherwise) in his home state is under obligation to determine to and through what other states he can travel armed without putting himself at hazard of legal penalty. Should he confuse the laws of one state with those of another, his mistake could tell heavily upon him and his family. Particularly firearms-hostile jurisdictions have levied harsh prison sentences and stiff fines upon Americans utterly innocent of any true wrongdoing. In some cases, the victims’ cars and other personal possessions have been confiscated.

But ignorance of the law is no excuse, right? Right?


If you read yesterday’s tirade, you should be concerned, at the very least, about the state of law and justice in these United States. Yet believe it or not, I know people who will defend the legal status quo to the point of a screaming fit. “It’s got to be that way!” Many of them confuse this situation with the “rule of law,” whether deliberately or otherwise.

It’s an unstable situation for at least two reasons.

First, there can never be sufficient enforcement nor prosecutorial nor judicial power to enforce all the laws extant in a uniform fashion. Laws that go unenforced implicitly weaken all law, and the rule of law itself as a governing concept. Their consequences include such ideas as “laws are for the little people.” When ordinary private Americans see politicians and celebrities granted special exemption from the laws – recall the David Gregory incident? – the damage is fatally compounded.

Second, once the notion has been accepted that the law, because of its volume and complexity, cannot be uniformly enforced, prosecutorial discretion becomes the sole determinant of who the victims will be and how badly they will suffer. Prosecutors become more powerful, de facto, than any other public official. Those in whose souls resides a seed of corruptibility are tempted to use that power. Some of them will succumb.

“Law has lost its soul and become jungle.” – Bertrand de Jouvenel


Juries willing to acquit in defiance of a trial judge’s instructions can only do so much to offset the malady described above. Even if every such jury were aware of its powers and all of them used them in every applicable instance, indictment and trial are themselves terrible ordeals to undergo. The accused citizen is often unable to maintain a job and an income. He’s usually bankrupted by lawyer’s fees, if nothing else. His familial relations will be affected as well. And of course, his reputation is likely to suffer regardless of the ultimate verdict.

Only the complete rejection of the existing corpus juris and its replacement by a penal law utterly dependent on the common understanding of justice – what used to distinguish between malum in se and malum prohibitum offenses – can correct the travesty that law and justice have become. But that cannot occur as long as there exist legislatures that feel free to disregard the constraints of the Constitution, prosecutors who believe themselves empowered to discriminate between accused citizens, regulators allowed to write “laws” beyond the legislated law and without oversight...or millions of Americans who think “there oughta be a law” is a respectable thing to say or think about any deed not covered by Commandments Five through Eight.

Food for thought.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

King’s “Justice”

     It’s a measure of the uselessness of American media that I had to learn about the following atrocity from an article in The New Zealand Herald:

[United Against Nuclear Iran] was founded in 2008 by a former CIA director and a group of retired diplomats to advocate against the nuclear Iran.

Its board includes former directors of foreign intelligence services including the U.K.'s MI-6, Germany's BND - and Israel's Mossad.

One of the strategies pursued by United Against is a campaign to "name and shame" entities that trade with Iran.

The organization named [Greek Shipping magnate Victor] Restis, who in turn sued United Against for falsely claiming his companies were "front men for the illicit activities of the Iranian regime."

     So far, nothing out of the ordinary, right? Ladies, hold on to your boyfriends: This is where things get really interesting. When the suit reached the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, a third player emerged:

The Department of Justice intervened in September, asserting the state secrets privilege.

That so-called privilege doesn't come from the Constitution or from statute.

It's an unwritten judicial rule that allows the Government to block discovery of information through ordinary litigation "when disclosure would be inimical to national security," as the district court described it.

What followed would be comical if it weren't so serious.

The government asserted privilege "by submitting classified declaration by the head of the department which has control over the matter."

But even the identity of that official is itself a secret that the court declined to reveal.

The Government said that "disclosing even the identity of the agency involved creates an unwarranted risk of exposing the information it seeks to protect."

The court accepted that argument.

     That’s right. Restis was denied access to the one and only legal path to restitution because Uncle Sam has secrets that might be “endangered.” What secrets? About what subjects? Collected by whom? You’re not cleared to know that.

     But we’re not quite done yet:

Having barred access to information, the court went on to dismiss the case altogether.

Even if Restis could prove his case without the excluded evidence, the court said, it was "convinced that further litigation of this action would impose an unjustifiable risk of disclosing state secrets."

That is, even if the court were to block discovery of any actual state secret, the mere fact of the lawsuit would have a tendency to endanger national security - even if the trial took place entirely in secret.

The court thus came perilously close to saying that the case should be dismissed because it might be embarrassing to the Government.

The trial judge, Edgardo Ramos, admitted that the outcome was "harsh."

As he put it, "plaintiffs not only do not get their day in court, but cannot be told why".

     Scared yet?


     Time was, we thought of the great judicial dangers to the private citizen as arising from such outrages as the Star Chamber, wherein an individual could be put at hazard of his life and freedom for “offenses” that fell under no statute, or for unspecified offenses. In the case above we have an almost perfectly opposite example: an individual is denied access to the courts because the State deems it contrary to its interests to allow it, but declines to say why.

     That happened in the United States, Gentle Reader. In my home state of New York.

     If the government can demand such a thing in a civil matter and have the demand honored by a supposedly independent court, it can do so in any matter whatsoever: civil, criminal, or petition for redress of grievances. The courts, supposedly the people’s defense not only against the predators among us but also the predators above us, have been nullified as instruments of justice. Their first obligation is to defer to the demands of the State.

     The needs of the State come first, don’t y’know.


     Why hasn’t this story appeared in an American organ? Do the barons of the Main Stream Media think it insignificant? Do they consider it perilously inflammatory? Or do they deem it not of interest to the majority of their dwindling readerships?

     I can easily imagine some publisher saying “Well, it’s a marginal defamation suit filed by a non-citizen, and the slanders hadn’t gotten around yet, and besides, this sort of government interference with the courts doesn’t happen all that often anyway, so what’s the big deal?” Minimization tactics. Keep the sheeple docile by reducing the destruction of justice to a minor matter, a triviality. The hell of it is, that’s a rationalization a lot of people would accept. “Wouldn’t happen to an American.” “Practically no one’s heard the slanders, so it’s almost as if they never happened.” “Protecting state secrets? Well, if they’re important enough, I suppose.”

     I think of this as the “hole in the leather” principle. Leather garments are altered only at great risk, because a hole in leather is forever. You can’t fix or patch such a hole. Neither can you fix or patch a gap in the legal system that allows the government to demand that a suit be dropped without saying why. Once that State privilege has been accepted—even once—it cannot be repaired.

     In the absolute monarchies, a king could get away with this...for a while. But kings are mortal and vulnerable. Charles I of England was beheaded for similar crimes. It’s a bit more difficult to behead the federal government of the United States. Granted that the notion has a lot of appeal.

There is no law. Barack Hussein Obama has demonstrated this.
There is no justice. The dismissal of Restis v. United Against Nuclear Iran has demonstrated this.
There is no redress of grievances against the State. This has been demonstrated too many times to require examples.

     Panama’s looking better all the time. I’m told the politicians there stay bought.

     Have a nice day.

     [Applause to Keith at Crusader Rabbit for the original link.]

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bill Whittle on Gun Control/Murder rates

Just watched this 6:25 sec video by Bill Whittle on Gun Control/Murder rates:

URL = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pELwCqz2JfE  

Doing a search of Liberty's Torch, I did find eight other Bill Whittle videos going back as far as 2012 (but not this one}.  If you've seen it already I apologize, if not, I highly recommend it.

Ideal educational material for that favorite liberal in your life.

Just How Good Are You?

     Time was, an American was reluctant to “talk himself up:” i.e., to boast openly to others about his abilities or achievements. These days, the reverse ethic is in force. At least, I often hear other people boasting about this or that under conditions where the “aw shucks” / toe rubbed in the sand response of earlier generations would have been regarded as near to obligatory.

     This has some distressing consequences. For one thing, it tends to alienate others who have a reasonably good opinion of themselves. For another, boasting routinely elicits boasting, and anyone with the slightest acquaintance with positive feedback knows how destructive that can be.

     No, this won’t be another sermonette on humility. The subject is on my mind for other reasons.


     Are you good at what you do? I’m pleased to hear it, but allow me to ask a question: How do you know?

     Most of us are competent, or perhaps slightly better, at what we’ve made our occupations. That’s a survival necessity. Even the most ramified division-of-labor economy requires that you be able to do something of value to others well enough to get paid for it. (Let’s agree to omit consideration of those whose survival skill is wheedling charity out of others.) But that makes competence-or-a-little-better the very definition of mediocrity.

     Let’s imagine for a moment that you were to become determined to find out exactly how good you are at your trade. What metric would apply? Can you think of an absolute standard against which to measure yourself? I can’t. Among other things, most human qualities are immensurate. They simply can’t be expressed in numbers, and as Robert A. Heinlein has told us, if it cannot be expressed in figures, it’s merely someone’s opinion.

     That throws us back to relative measures: “how good you are” as a ranking against others who do the same thing. How would you go about determining that?

     That’s not quite as tough a nut to crack, at least when the sample space and the skill in question are closely defined. But there’s still a lot of fuzz on it. It’s inherently imprecise. It’s driven by a variable set of performances. It’s dependent on the opinions of some evaluator who might have considerations in mind that another evaluator would dismiss.

     The subject should make a thoughtful man uncomfortable about having it brought up in his presence. All the same, there are times when there’s no way to avoid it—and the verdicts issued at such times can have a large impact upon one’s life and mental health.


     I’m about to retire from my lifelong trade. I’ve made decent money at it, and I’ve had a good time doing so. I expect to miss it at least somewhat when I down tools for the last time. What I won’t miss is the annual demand that I justify my continuing employment.

     A lot of employers, perhaps most of them, put their employees through that wringer. It’s usually called something more benign, such as a performance appraisal. The very cruelest version compels the employee to evaluate himself, a double-bind if ever there was one. It practically forces him to boast about what he’s done over the evaluation interval, at least if he’s hoping for a merit raise atop the perpetuation of his job.

     I hate it. I’ve always hated it—and I’m one of the lucky ones who, except for one case in which my employer collapsed, has never had to worry about continuing to draw a salary. So in recent years I’ve rebelled against it. No, not by refusing to fill out the forms or attend the review. I chose another approach. For each question on the form that asked me to assess myself in some particular way, I inserted the following sentence:

I should not be the one to answer this. Talk to my customers.

     The first two times I did that, it earned me the proverbial hairy eyeball from my supervisor. He would ask, usually in tones that implied severe negative consequences for non-cooperation, why I thought I could get away with it. I gritted my mental teeth, smiled pleasantly, and replied thus:

I could tell you anything at all. Without input from my customers you would have no alternative but to accept it. Have you talked to them? If so, what did they say? If not, why not? Are you afraid of what you’d hear? I’m not.

     After the second iteration of that “procedure,” word got around. Don’t challenge him. He’ll make you feel like an incompetent idiot, and he’ll do it with a smile. Inasmuch as most persons in a supervisory position don’t enjoy feeling incompetent or idiotic, I got no more grief about it after that.

     The unspoken implication of my rejoinder was, of course, that the evaluation is the supervisor’s duty. That implies a responsibility to collect as much relevant data as he can. But most supervisors dislike that responsibility just as much as they dislike feeling incompetent. There’s a good reason: they’re the same thing.


     I’d love to see the boasting plague ended now and forever. It reeks of a “measuring contest.” It calls to mind an image of two Neanderthals roaring at one another over an open fire while brandishing their favorite antelope femurs. The return of proper outward modesty might even be accompanied by a renewed inward willingness to reflect upon one’s essential smallness. That would conduce to a number of other benefits, both individual and social.

     Socrates is reputed to have said “Only one thing do I know, and that is that I know nothing.” It might be apocryphal; many statements attributed to the great departed can’t be verified. But it’s true even so. The greatest savants of the ages were aware that however much they knew, however much they had achieved, was minuscule compared to the immensity of reality—of Truth. It wasn’t until many centuries later that Kurt Godel proved that this is unavoidable, but the wisest among us have known it even so.

     Unfortunately, we won’t enjoy such a retrenchment toward modesty while the incentives to boast remain as strong as they are. There are legal structures behind those incentives. So I won’t be holding my breath. I will, however, enjoy having been released from their grip.


     Braggadocio is at the heart of many a social malady. Among those worst afflicted by it, it often leads to violence. All the same, it’s a symptom of a deeper lack, usually the lack of a worthy hero one can admire and strive to emulate.

     Think about the behavior of celebrities. Of entertainers. Of contemporary sports figures. Of politicians, as painful as that may be. In the absence of better heroes—men of achievement who were raised to glory by others, but who remained modest and quiet even while being celebrated—young men will emulate that sort of behavior. The consequences are in plain sight.

     This is one of the influences most responsible for making the world what it is. It’s a great part of the reason why I write fiction. One recent story was propelled by that and nothing else.

     Just a morsel of food for thought on an unexpectedly snowy Saturday.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Querulous Queries, Rumbly Ruminations, and Surly Surmises

     Haven’t done one of these in a while. Suppose it’s time.


     Obama just shafted Israel again, by releasing U.S. confirmation of Israel’s nuclear armament. Is there anyone with three functioning brain cells who still believes Obama’s a Christian – or an American?


     This article at the Daily Caller is supposedly about a hoax. Don’t know about that. It’s a good reflection of the censoriousness and overall attitudes of the “angry ugly-girl” Left. The real question is how many journalists will regard it as a command from She Who Must Be Obeyed.

     You can call the vicious, lying, power-obsessed bitch whatever you want, for my money. She deserves the worst you can say about her: Her cooperation with his deceits gave Bill Clinton the White House. If “reporters” had been willing to follow the Bimbo Trail in 1992, we might have avoided a Clinton presidency. Hell, we might have avoided two Clinton presidencies. But we’ve learned how foolish it is to expect “Democrat operatives with bylines” (Glenn Reynolds) to report on anything that would cast an unfavorable light on the Democrat Wonder Boy of the Month.


     There’s a good, albeit somber, article today at Neo-NeoCon. Guess she belongs in the blogroll. Can’t imagine why I’m so reluctant to grow it...or prune it.


     Does anyone else out there think PJ Media is turning sort of mushy and irrelevant? It started out well enough, and it published good stuff for a good spell, but lately the bulk of its material seems shrugworthy. Well, all things must pass, as the poet says.


     There are several kinds of perfection. (Bear in mind that perfect comes from a Latin word that means “finished.”) This kind should be enjoyed greatly and celebrated enthusiastically. The, ah, owner seems to agree.

     (To those who think the female breast is an obscene sight: Keep it to yourself.)


     Read The Declination. Read it. The proprietor has things to say, and he says them very well. Helps that he’s a friend, of course, but quality will always out.


     Just noticed how often I omit the subject of a sentence. Mustn’t let that get to be a habit. Anyway, onward.


     Does anyone know what’s up with His Majesty? No time to write? Nothing to write about? Inquiring minds want to know!


     If this is nailed down, it will send tidal waves through the airline business. Truth be told, I suspected it from the first. However, that having been said, I won’t fly on an AirBus and I won’t allow the C.S.O. to fly on one. The designers deliberately contrived to forbid manual override of many important computer-initiated maneuvers.

     I’m a software guy. One of the very best, in fact. And I tell you quite plainly: Do not trust your life to an automated, digitally-controlled system. Take it from one who knows.


     Rush Limbaugh and others are vehement that the infamous Bergdahl trade had nothing to do with getting Bergdahl back. Their contention is that it was entirely about vacating a few more cells at Camp X-Ray. Not sure, myself. Think how eager Obama is to let millions of other anti-Americans into the country.


     Colin Flaherty continues to commit flagrant acts of journalism. For my money, he’s one of the best half-dozen actual newsmen in America. Of course, the Left purely hates him for undermining the central pillar of its Narrative. But that’s testimony in his favor.

     Be sure to read White Girl Bleed A Lot. It could save your life some day...some day very soon.


     I like Ashe Schow. A lot. She’s a big part of what makes the Washington Examiner worth your time and attention. Doesn’t hurt that she’s damned good lookin’, either:


     I’m a big advocate of nuclear weapons – in the right hands, of course (i.e., mine). Nuclear weapons do something that’s desperately needed to be done since Waterloo: they put the political class on the battlefield. Of course, not everyone is happy about that.


     We’ve been seeing quite a lot of this lately. Has there always been this much of it and it’s only just now emerging into public view, or has there been an explosion of it recently?

     Adults and children are practically two different species. They shouldn’t be conducting clandestine love affairs with one another. But much the same could be said about men and women...and with no small amount of justice.


     That’s all for today. Time to take the tractor to see the tractor doctor. After that, it’s fiction and general home maintenance, possibly for the entire weekend. Enjoy your Friday!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Cowing

“The State is based on threat.” – Robert Anton Wilson
“I was never molested by any person but those who represented the State.” – Henry David Thoreau

Every government demands immediate, unresisting obedience from every one of its subjects at every instant of every day. No, not every government gets such total submission, and not all of them expect it at all times, but they all demand it...and they have their ways of working toward it.

In the majority of cases, the key element of the government’s strategy is fear:

  • Fear of the government’s agents;
  • Fear of the opinions of other subjects;
  • Fear of those from whom the government claims to “protect” us.

All three of those varieties of fear are being deployed here in the Land of the Formerly Free.


Concerning fear of the agents of the State, John Whitehead provides an example from the words of a generally decent man:

Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. [Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham]

Needless to say, the government is happy to have Reverend Graham’s assistance in cowing the public. Here’s a little self-exculpation for police wrongdoing from a Los Angeles cop:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

...While most citizens are courteous and law abiding, the subset of people we generally interact with everyday are not the genteel types. You don’t know what is in my mind when I stop you. Did I just get a radio call of a shooting moments ago? Am I looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive? For you, this might be a “simple” traffic stop, for me each traffic stop is a potentially dangerous encounter. Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns. Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is.

Interpret that however you will.


Prosecutors’ offices are masters of the fine art of untraceable slander: spreading accusations about a targeted citizen that causes his neighbors and friends to view him unfavorably. Thus the second technique for cowing us comes into play: The willingness to believe an accusation from an “official” source.

Consider the number of recent cases of false accusations of rape. Rape is a particularly horrible crime; back when we were more civilized, it was punishable by death. Surely it’s an accusation no one should take – or make – lightly.

That doesn’t mean such an accusation, once made, should be immediately and uncritically believed:

In March 2006, Crystal Gail Mangum, an African-American student at North Carolina Central University[1][2] who worked as a stripper,[3] dancer and escort, falsely accused three white students, members of the Duke Blue Devils men's lacrosse team, of raping her at a party held at the house of two of the team's captains in Durham, North Carolina, on March 13, 2006. Many people involved in, or commenting on the case, including prosecutor Michael "Mike" Nifong, either called the alleged assault a hate crime or suggested it might be one.[4][5][6][7]

In response to the allegations Duke University suspended the lacrosse team for two games on March 28, 2006. On April 5, 2006, Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was forced to resign under threat by athletic director Joe Alleva and Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the remainder of the 2006 season. On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players – Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans – were victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."[8] The initial prosecutor, Durham County, North Carolina District Attorney Michael Nifong, labeled a "rogue prosecutor" by Cooper, withdrew from the case in January 2007 after the North Carolina state Bar filed ethics charges against him. In June 2007, Nifong was disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation", making him the first prosecutor in North Carolina disbarred for trial conduct. Nifong served one day in jail for lying about sharing DNA tests (criminal contempt); the lab director said it was a misunderstanding and Nifong claimed it was due to weak memory.[9] Mangum faced no charges for her false accusations as Cooper declined to prosecute her.[10]

Cooper pointed to several inconsistencies in Mangum's accounts of the evening and Seligmann and Finnerty's alibi evidence, in the findings report's summary. The Durham Police Department came under fire for violating their own policies by allowing Nifong to act as the de facto head of the investigation; giving a suspect-only photo identification procedure to Mangum; pursuing the case despite vast discrepancies in notes taken by Investigator Benjamin Himan and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb; and distributing a poster presuming the guilt of the suspects shortly after the allegations.[11] The ex-players are seeking unspecified damages and new criminal justice reform laws in a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the City of Durham.[11] The case sparked varied responses from the media, faculty groups, students, the community, and others.

Nor are prosecutors the only ones who exploit the power of a charge of rape:

Tawana Glenda Brawley (born 1972) is an African-American woman from Wappingers Falls, New York, who gained notoriety in 1987–88 for falsely accusing six white men of having raped her. The charges received widespread national attention because of her age (15), the persons accused (including police officers and a prosecuting attorney), and the shocking state in which Brawley was found after the alleged rape (in a trash bag, with racial slurs written on her body and covered in feces). Brawley's accusations were given widespread media attention in part from the involvement of her advisers, including the Reverend Al Sharpton and attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason.[1]

After hearing evidence, a grand jury concluded in October 1988 that Brawley had not been the victim of a forcible sexual assault and that she herself may have created the appearance of such an attack.[2] The New York prosecutor whom Brawley had accused as one of her alleged assailants successfully sued Brawley and her three advisers for defamation.[3]

That case made the odious Al Sharpton a national celebrity of the order (and variety) of Jesse Jackson.


If we can be induced to fear others, particularly those nearest to us, the more credulous among us will be more likely to look to the government for “protection.” The government is quite amenable to such developments. In fact, it strives to help them along:

Crime stats published by the FBI and relied upon by the media distort the gun violence and leave the public with the impression "mass shooting" incidents are a much bigger threat than they really are, according to a criminologist and Second Amendment scholar.

The bureau's annual reports tabulating and classifying a wide range of crime throughout the nation have been historically free of politics, but John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, said the latest statistics contain numbers that are misleading at best and deliberately fudged at worst. Lott believes the numbers may have been presented to overstate for political purposes the true risk of being a victim of random gun crimes.

“The FBI put out a clearly incorrect set of numbers on public shootings shortly before the November election last year,” said Lott, a frequent opinion writer for FoxNews.com and author of "More Guns, Less Crime." “I have been reading FBI reports for 30 years and I have never seen anything like this. It is one thing for the Bureau of Justice Statistics or the National Institute of Justice to put out politically biased studies, but there has always been a Chinese wall separating the FBI raw data collection from political pressures.”

About half of the population of the United States owns one or more firearms. The government is laboring mightily to make the other half suspicious of us. Fraudulent statistics that can be blared out by anti-gun-rights media organs make a major contribution to the government’s efforts. One need only look at the hysteria the state of Connecticut engendered after the Newtown massacre, or the comparable aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, to grasp the utility to the government of having our neighbors fear us.


One final thought before I close for today. The government’s efforts at cowing us have intensified greatly in the last few years. The reason might seem counter-intuitive: it’s a response to the upsurge in political activism by Americans unhappy with the direction the country has taken and determined to reverse its course. The government and its hangers-on could have adopted an attitude of conciliation, which will strike many a Gentle Reader as the more sensible approach. However, those in its driver’s seat find such an approach unpalatable, as it would imply a willingness to admit to errors and to make concessions, at least on conditions: an attitude any power-worshipper would deem anathema.

But if the government must struggle to make us fear, by implication we have little objective reason to fear. Indeed, we might be in far less danger – from anyone or anything – than we’ve long supposed. It suggests that our response to the government’s efforts should be to redouble our own.

“Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have we got a surprise for you.

Progressives (liberals, leftists, socialists, communists) all disdain the West's achievement of institutionalizing respect for basic rights, limited government and the rule of law. That achievement is now under determined attack by Progressives (i.e., Western elites) but they have no concept of the ghastly consequences of abandoning that achievement:
A former senior propagandist, Jang Jin-Sun, defected to South Korea and told the documentary’s producers, “In North Korea they promote the leader to be the sun. If you go too close you burn, if you go too far you freeze to death.”[1]
Demanded his rights and
voted "NO" on the execution deal.
Progressives always assume they will end up at that perfect orbit around the leader or oligarchs of the massively statist regimes they struggle so hard to create in their own countries. They think they will be warm and comfy once their freedom-loving, traditionalist enemies have been vanquished.

Blacks similarly think that a leftist victory will mean their emancipation from the hated white man but never stop to consider what radical leftist white men will do to them when they no longer have any need for their votes.

Notes
[1] "The Dangers Of Exposing North Korea’s Secrets. A documentary's chilling tale -- in front of the camera, and behind it." By Bethany Mandel, The Federalist, 1/17/15.

H/t: what-when-how for image.

One nation. Two cultures.

"Woman Convicted of Firing Gun into McDonalds Drive-Thru Over Missing Bacon." Sputnik News, 3/26/15.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Uneasy Allies: Geopolitics And Cash

I’ve written before – sorry, I’m unable to backlink to it just now – that at a deep level, all governments are allied with all others against their citizens / subjects. This is inherent in the nature of the State: a predatory entity that will only be tolerated for as long as those subject to it regard it as preferable to no State. Note the importance of perception here. It need not be objectively true that your State is preferable to a condition of anarchy; it’s only necessary that a sufficient percentage of subjects believe that to be the case. Therefore, the power-wielder’s first duty is to manage the perceptions of his subjects toward that end. By unavoidable implication, the role (in your State’s schemes) of every other State is to look threatening to you.

Once again, the threats need not be objectively real so long as the perceptions are sufficiently strong and widespread. For example, the geopolitics of the Cold War years were largely propelled by Americans’ fear of the Soviets and vice-versa. In reality, the Soviets posed almost no threat to the United States, though we were provided with reasons to think otherwise. Similarly, until quite recently Red China was no threat to the U.S. Indeed, even today its ability to harm America or Americans is quite limited, though more substantial than in previous years. A good case could be made that the regimes in Iran and North Korea are objectively more threatening to America and American interests than either of the aforementioned “superpowers.”

However, the “assistance” other States provide in helping a given regime to keep its subjects properly subjugated doesn’t make them that regime’s friends. As Benjamin Netanyahu said before Congress quite recently, there are times when the enemy of your enemy is just another of your enemies. That’s often the case in geopolitics.

I wrote in the Foreword to Freedom’s Scion that:

The States of Earth exist in an anarchic relation to one another. Each has its own regional code of law, which might differ markedly from all the others. Despite several thrusts at the matter over the centuries, there is no “super-State” to enforce a uniform code of law over them all. More, they view one another as competitors in many different areas; their populations and institutions are often in sharp economic competition with one another. Thus, they are often at odds. They resolve important disputes among them through negotiation or warfare.

Yet individuals manage to move among them with a fair degree of facility and (usually) little risk. Cross-border trade is commonplace, in some places torrential. Though wars are frequent, they seldom result in major alterations to the overall political pattern. The uber-anarchy of Terrestrial society exhibits more stability than one would expect from two hundred well armed, quarrelsome States, each of which perpetually schemes at snatching some advantage at another’s expense.

The negotiations and advantages of which I wrote in the above often include international agreements of some sort: for example, on matters of trade and finance, currency management, or border controls. Sometimes such agreements synergize with a regime’s deeper priority of “keeping us on the plantation.”


Have a gander at this bit of news from France:

Under the auspices of fighting terrorism, France’s Minister of Finance, Monsieur Michel Sapin, has rolled out a series of eight new restrictions aimed specifically at minimizing the use of cash.

Among the new restrictions is a prohibition of making more than 1,000 euros in cash payments (down from 3,000 before).

Large cash withdrawals exceeding 10,000 euros per month will also now be monitored and reported to the French authorities.

Foreign exchange offices will now be required to obtain a copy of someone’s ID to exchange more than 1,000 euros.

There are several more beyond this. And, just for good measure, they threw in a few controls that aren’t even related to cash.

Most importantly, moving and transporting GOLD through France, even through a professional freight service, must now be declared and reported to French customs.

Simon Black says “It’s pretty obvious what’s happening here.” He’s right. But note the correlation with developments closer to home:

     Imagine going to the bank to withdraw some cash.

     Having some cash on hand is always a prudent strategy, and especially today when more and more bank deposits are creeping into negative territory, meaning that you have to pay the banks for the privilege that they gamble with your money.

     You tell the teller that you’d like to withdraw $5,000 from your account. She hesitates nervously and wants to know why.

     You try to politely let her know that that’s none of the bank’s business as it’s your money.

     The teller disappears for a few minutes, leaving you waiting.

     When she returns she tells you that you can collect your money in a few days as they don’t have it on hand at the moment.

     Slightly irritated because of the inconvenience, you head home.

     But as you pull into your driveway later there’s an unexpected surprise waiting for you: two police officers would like to have a word with you about your intended withdrawal earlier…

That’s from just four days ago, Gentle Reader. Do you suppose there might have been a few words exchanged between Washington and Paris over this? Especially given the acceleration of the rate at which Americans are expatriating? France, currently laboring under an overtly Socialist government, has much the same problem...and quite a few of its richer subjects have been coming here in preference to allowing La Belle Patrie to mulct them further.


Cash has “no provenance.” The cash in your hand could have come from anywhere; unless its delivery to you was actively witnessed and recorded, there’s no way to trace it backward. The same is true of other tangible items that have been used as cash, such as gold and silver.

Governments have always hated cash. Their war against cash has never ceased. Some of the most important “fronts” in that war are at national borders.

Among the developments of recent years that governments have encouraged has been the steady blossoming of cashless commerce: electronic funds transfer. In the United States, all such transfers are monitored by the Federal Reserve Bank. Indeed, the original form of EFT, the “wire transfer,” passes directly through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Supposedly this is to guarantee that banks won’t play fast and loose with the reserve requirements. If you believe that, I have a wonderful opportunity for you. No checks, please. Cash only. Small bills.

U.S. financial dominance has depended on the status of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a status conferred upon it at Bretton Woods in 1944. It’s the main reason Washington has been able to inflate without limit. However, there’s a development in progress that’s got our government, and quite a few others, unsettled: the emergence of a new regional banking system founded on a Chinese bank:

Britain has become the first major Western government to apply for membership in a proposed Chinese-led Asian regional bank that Washington worries will undercut institutions such as the World Bank.

The British Treasury said Thursday it will join talks this month on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank's structure and governance arrangements.

China proposed the bank in 2013 to finance construction of roads and other infrastructure. It has pledged to put up most of its initial $50 billion in capital.

Twenty-one other governments including India, New Zealand and Thailand have said they want to join. For now, the United States and its close allies Japan, South Korea and Australia are not part of the new club.

The bank is one of a series of initiatives by Beijing to increase its influence in global finance and expand trade links with Asian neighbors and developing countries in Africa and Latin America.

A fair number of other countries have announced their intention to join that new system. It threatens to compete with American financial power, long a virtual monopoly in international finance, in a fashion that would reduce Washington’s overall ability to influence world affairs, especially in the vital Pacific Rim nations. Needless to say, Washington’s expressed concerns address such apolitical matters as reserves and lending standards. Sincere or cosmetic? You be the judge.


“When danger looms, go to cash” has long been a maxim for the well prepared. With cash transactions becoming rarer and government controls becoming ever tighter, the use of cash for non-trivial transactions grows more hazardous in and of itself. For one thing, the rarer they become, the more attention they’ll draw from anyone who becomes aware of them. For another, due to inflation the average amount involved in a “non-trivial transaction” is larger than it’s ever been and will grow larger still.

Add to the above Washington’s fears for the dollar’s reserve-currency status. What do you expect will happen to cash and the laws surrounding it next?

Fortunately, the State can’t completely eliminate the concept of cash. Any tangible that’s sufficiently recognizable, durable, and divisible can function as cash. Time was, tobacco and liquor were frequently used as cash in North America, especially in trades between Amerinds and Euro-derived Americans. A society with a low volume of commerce can easily do so:

    Armand peered into the throat of the little carburetor for verisimilitude while his detached viewpoint quested within for the obstruction that had choked it. It was hardly a moment before he'd found the problem: a clot of carbonaceous lint, left unconsumed by the low-temperature distillation technique the Hopeless used to make alcohol from their composted wastes, was lodged firmly in the jet. He stuck a thin strip of stiff plastic into the device and swished it around as he closed a telekinetic grip on the clot, carefully teased it free, and anchored it to the end of his probe. He pulled the probe gently out of the carburetor's throat and showed the clot to Nigel Simpson.

    "See why I've been telling you to filter your alcohol before you use it?"

    Simpson snorted and reached for the carburetor. Armand pulled it out of his reach.

    "Did you forget my fee, Nigel?"

    The forger's face reddened. "Don't I have credit with you?"

    Armand stared him full in the eyes. "I have a wife to feed." At the far end of their hut, Teresza looked up from her sewing. Armand turned and grinned to indicate that the situation was non-threatening, and she returned to her labors. "No one has credit here. Particularly not a man as well known for his selective memory as you."

    Simpson sprouted angry lines around his mouth and eyes. He was twice Armand's age and half his size, a venal little toad of a man who'd steal the eyes out of Armand's head if he thought he could make a clean getaway. He was smart enough to know that he'd only get his property back if Armand could be persuaded to release it to him, but not smart enough to accept the fact with good grace.

    Over the six months since they'd crossed the land bridge, the Hopeless of Defiance had come to treasure Armand for his unparalleled knack with their ancient machinery. They revered him for his gift of the fresh-water well. In any contretemps he could count on the backing of nearly all his neighbors and other customers, some out of sincere gratitude, the rest for more practical reasons. Simpson could count on nothing at all.

    "All right." The forger shrugged off his backpack, rummaged around in it and produced a pint flask of clear liquid. He thrust it at Armand with a contemptuous gesture.

    Armand took it, eased out the fibrous stopper, and sniffed. "Vodka?"

    Simpson nodded. "Ninety proof."

    From you, that means probably no better than fifty proof, but I can still get what we need with it.

Such a day might be upon Americans sooner than anyone expects.

What our journalists tell us on immigration.

This quote pertains to how Swedish journalists treat the subject of immigration:
We are supposed to be manipulated to think that it is completely natural that thousands of citizens from another EU-country [Gypsies] occupy streets in every Swedish city and build shantytowns in parks – and that it is our obligation to care for them.

This sort of journalism has a pronounced political agenda: to displace the foreigner [immigration] law and let the [reporters'] personal feelings control the immigration policy. The whole picture, that is, what it is that exactly happens to a country and a people who in an unprecedented fashion are invaded by people from foreign countries and cultures, is deemed irrelevant. Well, at least if that country is Sweden. What the Swedish people think is something you’ll never read about.[1]

Ms. Caesar, the author of the article below, doesn't focus on journalism, however. Rather, she focuses on Swedish feminism whose diseased state cannot be denied.

Do read what she says on that. I merely want to focus on her insightful paragraphs on the madness of the Swedish obsession with destroying Sweden through immigration.

What Caesar writes is applicable to all Western countries, although I grant that it's not clear which phenomenon -- feminism or mass immigration -- is more evil and destructive. Mass third-world immigration is presented to our people, as she notes, as something that's completely natural. It's just beyond ordinary to surrender to foreigners and hand over our country to them so they can (my words) lead us around by the nose using our own laws against us, turn our cities into no-go areas, import their barbaric practices, rape our women, attack and kill us, send billions in remittances back to their true homelands, and demand that we subsidize their parasitic lives and hostility to our culture and laws.

Notes
[1] "Congratulations Pussy Porters!" By Julia Caesar, Snaphanen, 3/7/15, translated and republished at "Congratulations Pussy Porters!" By swedishsurveyor, Swedish Surveyor, 3/23/15 (emphasis added). The mystifying term in the title is explained by swedishsurveyor in the preface to this article.

H/t: College Candy for first image.