Tuesday, December 12, 2017

White Identitarianism, Its Promise, And Its Peril

     Above the entrance to the church fluttered a hastily made banner. The masculine symbol had been crudely painted on a white sheet; the white flag indicated that the worshipers were white males and that blacks and women were "welcome" at their own risk. The population was now split into four mutually antagonistic segments. The separate groups began to realize that there was some point in keeping their members together in little cadres. The streets and apartment buildings were death traps.
     Inside the church the men were silent in prayer. They were led by an elderly deacon, whose inexperience and confusion were no greater or less than any in the congregation.
     "Merciful God," he prayed, "in whatever Form the various members of our flock picture You, corporal Entity or insubstantial Spirit, we ask that You guide us in this time of direst peril.
     "Brother lifts sword against brother, and brother against sister. Husband and wife are torn asunder against Your holiest ordainments. Protect us, and show us our proper response. Perhaps it is true that vengeance is solely Yours; but speak to us, then, concerning Limited Cautionary Retaliation, and other alternatives. We would see a sign, for truly we are lost in the mires of day-to-day living."
     The deacon continued his prayer, but soon there began a series of poundings on the door. The deacon stopped for just a second, looking up nervously, his hand straying to his sidearm. When nothing further happened, he finished the prayer and the members of the congregation added, if they chose, their amens.
     At the end of the service the men rose to leave. They stood at the door, in no hurry to abandon the sanctuary of the church. At last the deacon led them out. It was immediately noticed that a yellow factsheet had been nailed to the outside of the door. The Roman Catholics of the neighborhood had decided to end the centuries-long schism. Why not now, when everybody else was settling their differences? A Final Solution.
     A bullet split wood from the door frame. The men standing on the stoop jumped back inside. A voice called from the street, "You damn commie atheist Protestants! We're gonna wipe you out and send your lousy heretic souls straight to Hell!" More gunfire. The stained glass windows of the church shattered, and there were cries from inside.
     "They got one of the elders!"
     "It's those crummy Catholics. We should have got them when we had the chance. Damn it, now they got us holed up in here."
     The next day a blue factsheet was circulated by the Jewish community explaining that they had finally gotten tired of having their gabardine spat on and that everybody'd just have to watch out. Around the world the remaining clusters of people fractured again, on the basis of creed.
     It was getting so you didn't know who you could trust.

     [George Alec Effinger, “All The Last Wars At Once”]

     Identity politics. Identity movements. Identity ambiguity. Identity fluidity. Identity versus Identity.

     It’s all getting to be a bit much.

     Having said that, I shall remind my Gentle Readers that I believe the rise of the white identity movement, generally connected to the ill-defined political movement that styles itself the Alt-Right, was:

  • Compelled by the prevailing sociopolitical conditions;
  • On the whole, a positive development.

     I maintain those stances despite my conviction that identitarianism is a form of collectivism, and usually proves destructive in the long run.

     Yet I own and regularly wear a sweatshirt emblazoned with the slogan:


     (Don’t fall off your chair, now!)

     Bril emerged near the pink star, disliking its light, and found the fourth planet. It hung waiting for him like an exotic fruit. (And was it ripe, and could he ripen it? And what if it were poison?) He left his machine in orbit and descended in a bubble. A young savage watched him come and waited by a waterfall.
     "Earth was my mother," said Bril from the bubble. It was the formal greeting of all humankind, spoken in the Old Tongue.
     "And my father," said the savage, in an atrocious accent.
     Watchfully, Bril emerged from the bubble, but stood very close by it. He completed his part of the ritual. "I respect the disparity of our wants, as individuals, and greet you."
     "I respect the identity of our needs, as humans, and greet you. I am Wonyne," said the youth, "son of Tanyne, of the Senate, and Nina. This place is Xanadu, the district, on Xanadu, the fourth planet."
     "I am Bril of Kit Carson, second planet of the Sumner System, and a member of the Sole Authority," said the newcomer, adding, "and I come in peace."
     He waited then, to see if the savage would discard any weapons he might have, according to historic protocol. Wonyne did not; he apparently had none. He wore only a cobwebby tunic and a broad belt made of flat, black, brilliantly polished stones and could hardly have concealed so much as a dart. Bril waited yet another moment, watching the untroubled face of the savage, to see if Wonyne suspected anything of the arsenal hidden in the sleek black uniform, the gleaming jackboots, the metal gauntlets.
     Wonyne said only, "Then, in peace, welcome." He smiled. "Come with me to Tanyne's house and mine, and be refreshed."

     [Theodore Sturgeon, “The Skills of Xanadu”]

     (Another “don’t” for you: Don’t wish you had a memory like mine. Yes, it provides me with a great many interesting bits of reference material, some allegorical and some more direct, but it’s also a source of a mighty sorrow. I remember far more than I’d like. I often wish I were as good at forgetting as I am at remembering, for the past is both an inexhaustible treasure and an indelible record of human folly: mine included.)

     Human commonalities mostly express needs: survival needs; security needs; the need for acceptance; the need for self-approval; the need for self-improvement. These are close to being defining characteristics for Homo sapiens terrestrialis. Black, white, brown, red, or yellow, we all share them. None of the lesser orders possess them all.

     Human individuality is mostly about wants: our personal desires, preferences, and tastes. These are beyond my ability to enumerate. No two of us have exactly the same set, to exactly the same intensities, arranged in exactly the same priority order.

     Identity movements attempt to add an intermediate category: some characteristic that serves both to collect some of us into a mobilizable group and, thus collected, to divide them from others. These days, the movements most in the news pertain to race, sex, and erotic orientation.

     The collection part is potentially innocent. There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in some aspect of oneself. I am pleased – occasionally, somewhat more – to be all of the following:

  • White;
  • Male;
  • Heterosexual;
  • Catholic;
  • Married;
  • Politically libertarian-conservative;
  • A technologist;
  • A scientist;
  • A writer.

     To the extent that any of the above characteristics are alterable, I would not dream of altering them. I’m happy to be what I am, and I hope most profoundly that you are, too. No matter how greatly we may differ, I want you to be happy with yourself.

     I also don’t want you to hate me. Or anyone else, come to think of it. That’s how self-regard that takes pleasure in various of one’s characteristics can remain innocent.

     Love of oneself does not require hatred of anyone else. Similarly, love of “one’s own” – whites, men, heterosexuals, Catholics, whatever — does not require hatred of those who aren’t part of the relevant group. Yet contemporary identity movements are as flush with hatred as they are with love...and sometimes much more so.

     The promise of identity groups is the same as the promise of a group of any other sort: to the extent that the members of the group can collaborate on a common aim without doing damage to persons not in the group, they can help one another to advance on that aim.

     The early civil rights movement showcased that promise. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t promote hatred of anyone. Indeed, he emphasized Christian love of neighbor, regardless of the color of the neighbor’s skin. Dr. King and his followers didn’t seek to deprive anyone of anything; they merely sought equal treatment under the law for the American Negro. If it had remained that innocent, the civil rights movement would have been wholly constructive. Unfortunately, it fell into the pit of Hell with Dr. King’s assassination and the ascendancy of figures such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakhan, all of whom promoted envy, resentment, and hatred – successfully.

     Thus also with white identitarianism.

     The burgeoning white-identity movement can still retain its innocence. However, purveyors of hatred are gaining a purchase on it. The hatreds are variously aimed: at blacks; at Orientals; at Jews; at Muslims; and so forth. Not only is that a corruption; it weakens the movement’s possibilities for gaining its proper aim.

     Hatred deflects one’s energies from constructive channels into destructive ones. If it is unnecessary to the attainment of the common aim – and I maintain that it is – then it can, should, and must be avoided.

     This is a book of love: love of one’s own, not hatred of the other. It is intended to bring hope, not to fuel a sense of hopelessness. It is meant to bring people together, not to drive them apart.

     [Robert S. Oculus III, The White Book]

     Are you minded to be an identitarian of any sort, Gentle Reader? It wouldn’t surprise me. The whole country is trending that way, to the extent that a couple of states are actually taking secession. I won’t insult your intelligence with an inanity such as “love trumps hate,” or anything like it. But I will exhort you to be aware of your true motivations.

     Love of one’s own is right and proper. The defense of one’s own against aggressors, regardless of their identities, is right and proper. The desire to get along with one’s neighbors necessarily includes those things – and includes one’s neighbors within their protection.

     It’s my contention that whites and blacks – more strictly speaking, Caucasians and Negroes – are observably sociopolitically immiscible at this time. The envy, resentment, and hatred that divide the two races dwarf any of our commonalities. Perhaps it need not be that way...but just now, it most certainly is. The facts speak for themselves.

     Facts have more power than anyone’s intentions.

     There’s a separation in progress: the separation of the races into separate, largely racially exclusive zones. That separation is driven by the inchoate realization that blacks mean trouble for whites – that even a sound, self-respecting black married couple can produce children who will hate their white neighbors and see them as acceptable targets for predation. No one who accepts this, consciously or otherwise, will placidly sit still while it takes shape around him.

     But it’s not a reason for whites to hate blacks.

     Similarly, Americans are slowly coming to acknowledge that Muslims mean trouble for Christians and Jews...for all non-Muslims, really. Suspicion has swelled about the rapid multiplication of mosques in this country. Far too many of them have been found to promulgate the Wahhabist / Salafist hatred and militancy that gave birth to Islam-powered terrorism, al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the unending slaughters in the Middle East. Just as whites are steadily separating from blacks, informal, sotto voce cordons are forming around Muslim-heavy districts. This, too, is entirely understandable, right, and proper.

     But it’s not a reason for non-Muslims to hate Muslims.

     It’s possible to love our own, to recognize the facts of our time, and to act on them in defense of ourselves and those we love without hating anyone or wishing them ill.

     There’s much good potential in the loosely defined “alt-right” movement. There’s also a lot of potential for harm, and harm there will surely be if persons with evil intentions gain a foothold within it. Consider the anti-Semitic comments to this movie review.

     You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong. And it is most definitely wrong to hate “the other” and to work for his destruction. If he strikes you, you may strike him back, as grievously as necessary to ensure your survival, security, and the survival and security of those you love. But unless you actually desire the outcome I speculated about here, you need not hate – and if you do hate and do desire that outcome, you are no friend to freedom or justice.

     You're also no friend of mine.

     That’s enough, I think. I could have wrapped it more concisely: Love your own, but don’t hate “the other.” Merely defend yourself against him as necessary. Should defense require separation, then work for that separation. Hatred and what follows in its train are neither desirable nor required.

     Identity groups that retain that posture can be innocent and constructive; they can help us to defend that which is dear to us without causing still greater terror, chaos, and destruction. Those that fall to the infection of hatred will sow the wind.

     With that I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers.

Election Day - Why Won't the Sex Charges Affect Moore's Chances?

The answer is simple, but apparently beyond the average Progressive's ability to understand:

Because we don't believe you anymore

That's unfortunate, as there are likely a few women, caught up in the craziness, whose word IS good. Whose story has some relationship to the facts.

But - and here is the thing, now - there is NO WAY FOR US TO KNOW WHICH SIDE OF THE TRUTH THAT PERSON IS ON.

That being the case, we (the Deplorables) have decided to DIS-believe all of the frenzy that is not accompanied by independent, verifiable EVIDENCE.

Which, the yearbook is NOT.

Anecdotes are not.

Tears and drama, such as "He KISSED me - right on the MOUTH!!!!!"


Not impressed.

It's really hard for them to accept our point of view. Every time it's shown that the "scandals" are not affecting the votes, they double-down and bring out EVEN MORE HORRIFYING AND LURID STORIES,


They don't get it - we REALLY don't trust them to come even close to the truth.

So, I'm expecting yet another "Inexplicable Victory", followed by re-hashing of the charges (no proof, however, just - well, to be charitable, it's GOSSIP).

Followed by shaking their heads, putting on their Mantle of Superior Morality (Trademark pending), and vowing to set up even MORE nonprofits dedicated to <s>getting Democrats elected,/s> re-educating the populace, from birth to death, in properly accepted Progressive Ideology. Fortunately, Mao, Stalin, Castro, Chavez, and a lot of other Leftists have shown the way.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What Makes A Writer “Great?”

     Yes, yes, I’m back. I had a rough couple of days, that’s all. No need to call the coroner just yet.

     In the midst of a delightful flaying of left-wing word mangling, Sarah Hoyt relates this vignette about a Facebook argument over “great” writers:

     [Her interlocutor] entered a discussion on the purpose of writing, and whether writing should/could be good when done simply for money, by saying that since all great writers never made money from their writing, it was obvious that writing for money was a bad thing.

     I countered with the names of six (considered) great writers who made fortunes from writing. He said “Ah, half a dozen out of hundreds” so I continued giving him names, as they occurred to me. It is a fact (perhaps not universally acknowledged, but a fact) that most writers we consider great made money from their writing. If they died in poverty it was because of their spectacularly bad money-management skills. Now, I’m not going to get into an argument over whether writing for money makes writing better. The sample of “writers we consider great” is contaminated by the fact that the writers have to have been widely disseminated enough to begin with for their writing to be known now and considered anything. That implies a degree of initial success, which usually brings money. It’s entirely possible that someone somewhere wrote something great that was never read except by their mother and their cat, but then those writers are not now universally acknowledged as “great.”

     Sarah has exposed a key fact: Circulation is a prerequisite. No writer we deem “great” languished in total obscurity during his working lifetime. All “great” writers were widely read, at least by the standards of their times. Wide circulation brings revenue with it. Whether it was enough revenue to live on is a separate question.

     But writers we consider hacks have also enjoyed wide circulation. Some of them had much wider readerships than any generally acknowledged “great” writer. So while circulation is necessary, it’s not sufficient. I’m sure any of my Gentle Readers could name a number of contemporary hacks who’ve sold millions of books.

     So what does it take? What are the criteria? What makes a writer great? Well, we could say that a great writer is one who has written a great book or books. (Beware the ambiguity of “great book.” We wouldn’t want to use it in the sense of the medieval writer who wrote that “I have before me a great book, for it weigheth four and a half pounds.”) But what makes a book great?

     It’s difficult to become a great writer in certain categories. Take children’s books, for instance. What writer of children’s stories, other than the late, lamented Theodore Seuss Geisel, would anyone call great? The field itself seems to minimize the possibility.

     Similarly, some of the best selling books of all time are cookbooks. But the writers of cookbooks, which they might be accorded respect as great cooks, are seldom (if ever) deemed great writers, despite the painstaking work that goes into transcribing hundreds of recipes.

     Oh, here’s another one: books of mathematical and scientific reference data. Quite a lot of books filled with nothing but logarithms and the values of the trigonometric functions have sold very well indeed. However, their “writers” don’t get a lot of mentions in critical circles. Is that “unfair” in some sense?

     Many persons would dismiss all the above categories as “not real writing.” They have a decent argument for their position. Yet quite a lot of work goes into those books. As they’re relied upon for various purposes by those who buy them, they demand accuracy and precision. That they don’t qualify for literary accolades seems rather sad.

     It appears that in pondering greatness among writers, if we want some degree of commonality about what sort of work would qualify, we must stick to fiction.

     Fiction – the telling of stories – has its own unique demands. The first of them is the toughest to meet:

There must be a story.

     Moreover, the nature of the story is rather narrowly confined. It must be about “people,” broadly defined. Its characters must confront challenges or problems of significance. And whether they succeed or fail, those characters must experience change.

     Let’s tackle the “people” part first. What constitutes “people?” Well, they must be self-aware – sentient. They must have needs and desires. They must have some degree of rational volition – the ability to think through a problem and make conscious decisions about how to solve it. And they must have limitations. That makes it easy to exclude non-rational animals, emotionless and omnipotent beings. Everyone else qualifies, at least prima facie.

     Consider in this light two fantasies: Thomas M. Disch’s The Brave Little Toaster and Richard Adams’s Watership Down. The protagonists in both books are non-human...but they function as people, quite as well as the recognizably human characters in any other novel.

     The “people” in a good story will confront important problems: not a missing sock or a cracked coffee mug; something that calls their convictions and emotions into play. The problem must be clearly drawn, at that; it can’t be something nebulous or puerile such as “finding myself.” And to solve the problem must require that the protagonist experience change: he must grow in some fashion, or learn something about life or himself that he hadn’t previously known.

     Once again, I think we’ve established prerequisites – necessary conditions – for calling a story great, without zeroing in on the defining characteristic of greatness itself. Many a good story has been told that no one, not even the storyteller’s relatives, would call great. There’s something more at work in the crafting of a truly great tale.

     We’re getting into the subjective here, so as usual, your mileage may vary.

     The emergence during the Twentieth Century of fictional styles that deviate greatly from direct narration was accompanied by a great tumult, among readers and critics both. Some of them, such as stream-of-consciousness, were eventually widely accepted. Others, such as the fragmented, difficult to follow approaches employed by Jerzy Kosinski and J. P. Donleavy, have gained only limited popularity. Curiously, in critical circles the latter command greater prestige than the former. Often a critic will deem a writer’s dramatic deviation from the norm reason enough to call him “great” even if his books don’t sell.

     My own take on this is that such stylistic “innovations” are lace edging at best, sense-clouding deviation for deviation’s sake at worst. The quality of the story being told, particularly how deeply it affects the reader, matters infinitely more than any aspect of style.

     A deeply affecting story needn’t be about world-shaking events. It can be, of course; J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy concerns events that could mean enduring freedom or a permanent descent into slavery for an entire world. But Judith Guest’s beautiful Ordinary People is equally affecting, though it limits itself to the troubles of a single family that’s lost a son in a boating accident.

     Note that the two books above tell widely different kinds of story, and are told in markedly different styles. Yet both fit my criterion for greatness: they couple to the great emotions and what evokes them.

     The great emotions are most reliably evoked by a story that illustrates a great truth about human nature. Sometimes, the central truth will be of the sort that we’re loath to admit to ourselves. That’s the case in Ordinary People, where the Jarrett family’s difficulties arise from the way Beth Jarret blames her son Conrad for her son Jordan’s death. In other cases, the central truth will be about something grander in scale that we (should) all know: the inherent goals of those who embrace evil, and the sacrifices good men must make to defeat them, as in The Lord of the Rings. But one way or another, an eternal verity – an abiding truth that’s both universal among men and inherent in our common nature – will stand at the heart of a great tale.

     A writer will sometimes be accorded greatness on the strength of a single book. Consider Margaret Mitchell and Gone With The Wind. Other writers are deemed great on the basis of a consistent level of excellence in their lifetime body of work, such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Steinbeck. Then there are “split decisions” about writers such as Norman Mailer, who did produce one great book, The Naked and the Dead, and one hell of a lot of schlock. Opinions will always vary.

     The one thing that won’t vary is that people will read their stuff.

     Few writers working today will ever be called great. In part that’s because there are so many writers today, if we allow the title to anyone who’s ever emitted a Kindle eBook. But in larger measure, it’s because there’s a whole lot of detritus obscuring good storytelling in our time. It begins with emphasis on “style.” It ends with “message fiction.” In the middle are the emissions of critics, most of whom couldn’t compose a comprehensible note to their mothers, and literary prizes most commonly awarded by prize juries on the basis of personal acquaintances, commonality of style, and “politically correct” sentiments.

     Most of the garbage will get caught in the filter of time. The good stuff will be read by generations to come. Their readers will select from those survivors which books and writers are to be called great. We won’t be given a vote, except by what we choose to buy, read, and recommend to one another today.

     (Cross-posted at my fiction-promotion site.)

Monday Round-up

I've decided to return to posting 3 X a week, with occasional Sundays. I'm going to put all of those "I HAVE to get this off my chest" posts into a summary. If I stop to post on the spot, I'm going to waste a lot of time I really need to get things done: my book, Christmas prep, household organization and cleaning, etc.

Here's one that 'got my Irish up."

Found this on a site called Dangerous.

"Feminist" Tree Toppers? Words fail me. Here's a picture of Beyonce's topper - I WON'T post Serena Williams' terribly top-heavy one.

Because, nothing says feminist icon like boobs and legs on display.

Man, that ISIS is BRAVE - nothing says True Courage like putting out a death threat against a FOUR-YEAR-OLD.

Which is a greater crime:

  • Rape of a minor
  • Calling that rapist an ethnic slur

Iran, the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world.

Not so.
Before proceeding further here, however, the statistical falseness of the allegation that Iran is the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism has to be clearly recognized as being the ultimate fact; because, if this entire question — to which Mueller and Comey contributed so importantly to answering by their identifying Iran (and Shia generally) as being precisely that (‘the foremost state sponsor of terrorism’) — can be assessed at all objectively, then the statistical answer to it would certainly be the objective one.

Wikipedia’s article on "Iran and state-sponsored terrorism." says: “According to the Global Terrorism Database, the majority of deaths, more than 94% attributed to Islamic terrorism since 2001, were perpetrated by "Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and others. [footnotes omitted]” Only 6% were Shiites, at all — from any country. Similarly, my own independent study of 54 especially prominent global instances of Islamic terrorism was headlined (and reported that) "All Islamic Terrorism Is Perpetrated by Fundamentalist Sunnis, Except Terrorism Against Israel.” (The anti-Israel terrorist instances might constitute the “6%” which was referred to in the Wikipedia article, but that article provided no good link to its source for the “6%” figure.)

So: the basic allegation is false, that Iran is the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism; the general allegation isn’t anywhere near to being true. It’s a lie.

"Here’s why the US spreads falsehoods about Iran. Iran is not sponsoring terrorism, but the US has vested interests in perpetuating lies on the matter." By Eric Zuesse, The Duran, 11/27/17.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Gen. Flynn.

The real reason that the military/security complex is after Gen. Flynn is that he is the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and he said on a TV news show that the decision by the Obama regime to send ISIS to overthrow Syria was a “willful decision” that went against his recommendation.
"Paul Craig Roberts: America Is 'Walking Into Armageddon'." By Paul Craig Roberts, ZeroHedge, 12/8/17.

Day Off

     I’m not feeling well, I have other duties of some weight to address, and we have a major snowstorm bearing down on us, so I hope my Gentle Readers will excuse me for the day. I hope to be back tomorrow. Until then, be well.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The People’s Banana-State Demokratik Republik Of America

     Does anyone here remember Scooter Libby? If not, read the first four paragraphs of the WikiPedia entry about him. Yes, WikiPedia is edited by a bunch of left-liberal shits who’d swear that the Sun rises in the West if they thought it would get their favored candidates elected, but one must start somewhere.

     Scooter Libby did nothing criminal. He certainly had nothing to do with the “outing” of Valerie Plame. Baldly put, he was railroaded – and President George W. Bush displayed a noticeable lack of political courage in not shutting down the witch-hunt that targeted him. Yes, Dubya commuted the sentence Libby was given, but even there he showed less spine than I’d have expected from a man who’d been willing to lead America to war.

     However, what was done to Scooter Libby should have told us something. It was a harbinger of things to come: an early flexing of institutional and political muscle by the Deep State. It displayed its political preferences, which are totally aligned with the Left. It wanted to bring down Dubya or one of his Cabinet secretaries, but couldn’t quite manage it it. So it settled for one of his closer support figures. The indictments, which were garishly publicized, jarred public opinion sufficiently to cement the Democrat Party into control of Congress in the 2006 midterms.

     It’s possible that the witch-hunt aimed at Libby was an attempt to create a lever. Perhaps the “investigators” and “prosecutors” whispered something to him along these lines: “We know these charges are BS, but we can put you in the poor house defending yourself. However, if you’ll give us some dirt on the vice-president or president that we could use to build a case against one of them, we might let this indictment slide.”

     Sound plausible to you, Gentle Reader?

     Fast forward to 2017. The man under the crosshairs is no longer Scooter Libby but another second-echelon political effective: Paul Manafort. The FBI have been “investigating” Manafort since early 2014. They wiretapped his conversations, including those with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. They staged a dawn raid on his home. They picked the lock on his door and rousted him and his wife out of their bed. They seized virtually everything he owned that might have carried a scrap of information. Yet after three and a half – nearly four – years of “investigation,” they can’t make a case against him for anything of substance. Yet they persist. Why?

     I know most of my Gentle Readers are averse to watching videos. Even so, I urge you to watch the Mark Steyn video I’ve embedded below. It’s devastating.

     As Steyn says, in most banana republics, the secret police work for the regime. Here, they’re actively working against the regime: a clear case of the Deep State striving to eject an Administration whose policies it dislikes. As for the minor matter of the “choice of the people,” the Deep State’s attitude seems to be “The ‘people’ be damned. We are the ultimate power in this nation.”

     For my part, it’s getting harder and harder not to lock and load. What about you, Gentle Reader? I await your thoughts.

The Christmas Season, Part 1

     That’s what we call it around here: the Christmas season; i.e., the season centered on the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the events surrounding it. Not “the holiday season.” I know we’re all supposed to be multiculturally inclusive and so forth, but the Fortress of Crankitude is my dive, the residents jitterbug to my tune, and anyway I write what I bloody well please. Besides, whoever heard of Chanukkah carols sung around a Chanukkah tree? So here’s the first of a sporadic set of emissions about the Christmas season, from the crankiest Catholic on the Web by certified measurement.

     (Never fear that I “disrespect” the C.S.O.’s faith, whatever that means. Jesus was the Son of a Jewish mother, after all. The little electric menorah has been deployed in the picture window next to the crèche; the first candles will be lit on Tuesday. For dinner for the occasion I bought her two pounds of chopped liver, two giant spinach knishes, and a large red onion, and she’s agreed to make her intergalactically renowned potato latkes to round it out. That should be sufficient.)

     December 8 is, in a sense, the opening of the Christmas season. On this date, Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Church teaches that Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God, is the one and only human being in recorded history conceived without the taint of “original sin.” This doctrine was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Given that her Son was one of the three Persons of God, it makes sense that the human vessel through which He was to be Incarnated should be special.

     Every word written about Mary, from the Protoevangelium to Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions of her last days, testifies to an abundant, all-pervading grace. The Archangel Gabriel, God’s Annunciator, made it quite explicit:

     And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin's name was Mary.
     And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.
     And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
     And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?
     And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren. Because no word shall be impossible with God.
     And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

     [Luke 1:26-38]

     Considering how heavy a burden it proved to be, Mary’s acceptance of that role was a great gift to us, second only to God’s gift to us of His Son.

     “Original sin” is itself a concept mired in controversy. In recent years, it’s been interpreted as the “brokenness” of Man, being capable of sin by virtue of our free wills and our susceptibility to temptation. Though it’s almost certainly allegorical rather than circumstantial, the story of Adam, Eve, and the Fall dramatizes how human desire can sometimes override our obedience to God and our consciences.

     Mary was free from that weakness. Yet as a human woman she possessed the free will that, along with our intellects, distinguishes us from the lower orders. And so, when Gabriel appeared to her at the Annunciation, she was free to accept or decline the burden of being the Mother of God.

     What if Mary had said “Thanks, but no thanks?” As God does all things for each of His creatures, we would have been redeemed somehow. He did not create us to be forever apart from Him. Still, it’s obvious that history would have been quite different.

     But she accepted it, and so gave us the Redeemer from her own flesh.

     And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth.
     And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
     And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

     [Luke 1:39-48]

     And all generations have called her blessed: the Blessed Virgin, Holy Mother of God, Queen of Angels and Men, the highest of all saints, to whom we give special homage on this day.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Dems Don't Understand What Moral High Ground Is

What it is:
You have the moral high ground if you consistently apply standards to yourself and your allies that are higher than your opponents. You must do this, even when it costs you a political advantage.
What it is NOT:
You do NOT have the moral high ground when the only reason you finally confront a profound failing is to gain political points. This is so, particularly if you have ignored crimes/indignities/moral offenses against others, because the offender is a reliable vote/voice for your moral crusades.
That moral high ground is especially shaky when your party prides itself on standing up for women, yet ignores serial harassment by your guys. When the evidence is clear, yet you fail to act - such as Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd making a "waitress sandwich", paying off (with public funds) those suffering harassment by your guys, or refusing to deal with known offenders, and settling for just warning women on your side to avoid being caught in private rooms/elevators with said offenders - you are enabling those guys to target the not-Elite women. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Nuns - NOT an Outmoded LIfestyle

My eldest is a sister (technically, nuns are the ones in enclosures of some kind - cloistered convent, monastery). She is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Third Order of St. Francis - SSJ/TOSF. She is living in Chicago, teaching at Clare Woods Academy, and, usually, each year she performs in community theater (yes, she loves musical theater, but is NOT the Whoopi Goldberg-type of nun). She has written and talked about life as a sister, as have other religious women.

They are a diverse and accomplished group of women.

I'd like to suggest that you consider donating to an organization dedicated to providing the resources for aging sisters. When many left orders in the 60's and 70's, they left behind other women, now elderly, who need support in their senior years. Many sisters live into their 80's and 90's, and, as always, these senior citizens are in a cash crunch.

The organization I have in mind is SOAR, which support sisters, brothers, and priests who need financial assistance to keep them healthy and alive. Unlike other organizations with this mission, the money to SOAR goes to a charity that cuts out many layers of bureaucracy. You give to SOAR, they provide grants directly to the religious group.

There are many suggested ways to give, including:

  • Life insurance - did you know that if SOAR is a beneficiary, any premiums will be tax-deductible? You can get the deduction now, and benefit them when you die, without having to have that donation through probate.
  • Stocks and bonds - if you would otherwise have a capital gains tax, you can get the deduction by donating, and avoid any tax - both you and SOAR.
  • Matching Gifts - if you're stuck giving to United Way or other charity at work, you can designate SOAR as the recipient.
    • United Way: Write in Support Our Aging Religious, Inc. on your pledge card and include the SOAR! IRS identification number: 52-1485481

Epater Les Femmes Dept.

     I was leafing desultorily (it’s not easy; try it at home) through a congeries of miscellaneous links when I stumbled upon this image:

     As I’ve had occasion to cross swords with a number of “actively looking to be virtuously offended” types, not a few of whom were feminists, I got a kick out of it...but I also started thinking about appropriate rejoinders:

  1. “No, really?”
  2. “Which of your college professors taught you that?”
  3. “Feel free to ogle any part of my anatomy you like.”
  4. “The cantilevering down here is much more interesting.”
  5. (Breathing ever more heavily) “Hold on, I’m not...quite...finished.”

     That’s just off the top of my head. Gentle Readers can submit their candidates in the Comments.

The Rule Of Absolutes

     Recent exchanges of fire in national politics have featured accusations by one side that its opponent maintains a “double standard:” specifically, that it condemns members of the opposition for behavior it excuses in its own allegiants. This is common in political combat. Just now, of course, the fusillades have been over accusations of sexual misbehavior: first leveled at Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore by the Democrats, subsequently barraged at various Democrats, including the Dishonorable Al Franken, by Republicans and conservatives. No doubt the Democrats are sorry they ever started that firefight, as it appears likely to scalp many more Democrats than Republicans.

     However, there are at least two varieties of double standard. The one above describes a “standard” one does not apply to one’s own conduct. It’s usually called hypocrisy. (As it’s the most common form of hypocrisy – yes, there’s more than one kind — let’s call it Type I Hypocrisy to distinguish it from the others. What others? Patience; we’ll get there.) There’s another double standard that’s infinitely more important: a standard that exculpates someone who’s committed a moral wrong on the grounds of the “good stuff” he’s done.

     Not everyone would agree that that second version of a double standard is infinitely the more important one. But then, not everyone agrees that there’s such a thing as a moral absolute.

     First, a few words from Robert A. Heinlein on moral absolutes:

     ‘Maureen, when anyone talks about God’s will or God’s intentions or Nature’s intentions if he is afraid to say “God”, I know at once that he is selling a gold brick. To himself, in some cases, as you were just doing. To read a moral law into the fact that about as many males are born as females is to make too much stew from one oyster; it’s as slippery as Post hoc, propter hoc.
     ‘As for your belief that you will never be tempted, here you are, barely dry behind the ears and only a year past first onset of menses... and you think you know all there is to know about the perils of sex... just as every girl your age throughout history has thought. So go right ahead. Jump the fence with your eyes closed. Break your husband’s heart and ruin his pride. Shame your children. Be a scandal in the public square. Get your tubes filed with pus, then let some butcher cut them out in some dirty back room with no ether. Go right ahead, Maureen. Count the world well lost for love. For that’s what sloppy adultery can get you: the world lost all right and an early grave and children who will never speak your name.’
     ‘But, Father, I was saying that I must shun adultery; it’s too dangerous. I think I can manage it.’ I smiled at him and recited:
     ‘“There was a young lady named Wilde – “‘
     Father picked it up:
     ‘“Who kept herself quite undefiled
     By thinking of Jesus,
     Contagious diseases,
     And the dangers of having a child.”
     ‘Yes, I know; I taught you that limerick. Maureen, you failed to mention the safest route to prudent adultery. Yet I know that you’ve heard of it; I mentioned it the day I tried to give you an estimate of the amount of fence jumping going on in this county.’
     ‘I must have missed it, Father.’
     ‘I know I mentioned it. If you’ve just gotta - and the day might come - tell your husband what is biting you, ask his permission, ask for his help, ask him to stand jigger for you.’
     ‘Oh! Yes, you did tell me about two couples like that here in our county... but I could never figure out who they are.’
     ‘I didn’t intend you to. So I threw in a few false clues.’
     ‘I discounted for that, sir, knowing you. But I still couldn’t guess. Father, that seems so undignified. And wouldn’t, uh, my husband be terribly angry?’
     ‘He might give you a fat lip; he won’t divorce you for asking. Then he might help you anyhow, on the sound theory that you would get into worse trouble if he says No. And -’ Father gave a most evil grin,’ - he might discover he enjoys the role.’
     ‘Father, I find that I’m shocked.’
     ‘Then, get over it. Complacent husbands are common throughout history; there is a lot of voyeur in everyone... especially in males but females weren’t left out. He might jump at the chance to help you... because you helped him just that way, six weeks earlier. Stood lookout for him and that young schoolteacher, then you lied like a diploma to cover up for them. Next commandment.’
     ‘Wait a minute, please! I want to talk about this one some more. Adultery.’
     ‘And that is just what I’m not going to let you do. You think about it but not a word out of you on this subject for at least two weeks. Next.’
     ‘Thou shalt not steal. I couldn’t improve that one, Father.’
     ‘Would you steal to feed a baby?’
     ‘Uh, yes.’
     ‘Think about other exceptions; we’ll discuss it in a year or two. But it is a good general rule....’

     I do not endorse the above view. Saying that something is “a good general rule” is the enabling condition for Type I Hypocrisy: applying your “standard” to others while excusing yourself and your own. It’s no more honest than maintaining that your priorities are “right” but any that disagree with them are “wrong.”

     I don’t deny that decision-making pressures can be intense in critical situations – e.g., situations where someone’s life is at stake – but I do maintain that there are moral absolutes, and Commandments Five through Eight (Catholic enumeration) state them with precision. (For a compact treatment of the pressures and complexity, see this essay.)

     Please allow me the stipulation that there are moral absolutes: i.e., rules that state that certain deeds, in an adequately specified context, are absolutely wrong and are therefore forbidden regardless of whatever excuses might be made for them. Given that premise, in discussing such rules we are plainly talking about something other than priorities or preferences:

There is no valid way to compare the violation of a moral absolute with a difference in priorities.

     The above statement, the most important of all principles in moral philosophy, is what I mean by the rule of absolutes.

     All political exchanges concern either moral absolutes or political priorities. In recent years the Left, which is to say the Democrat Party and its annexes in the media, have strained to make every one of its issues about “rights:” i.e., a moral absolute in the political lexicon. When the Democrats have hegemony, they promote their policies as about “rights,” generally without any further justification. When the Republicans gain a foothold in national politics, the Left is at pains to claim that the implementation of Right-favored policies would violate some group’s “rights.”

     This is tactically easy to understand. According to the rule of absolutes, priorities and preferences must always give way to them. Therefore, if you can seize the “moral high ground” by convincing the public that your own contention is about rights while the opponent’s contention is about preferences, you can defeat your opponent “with prejudice.” But of course, the critical word in the previous sentence, as always, is if.

     But note: even if the Democrats are sincere about their “rights” claims, they’ll readily practice a form of hypocrisy – call it Type II Hypocrisy – when one of their own is found to have committed a deed that’s widely recognized as a moral wrong. A few names from the news should suffice to make the point:

  • Roman Polanski
  • John Conyers
  • Al Franken
  • Ted Kennedy
  • Bill Clinton

     The defensive antiphon to the accusation in the cases above was either “but he’s done so much good stuff!” (by Democrats’ preferences) or “we need him!” Both of those replies elevate preferences over moral absolutes. Yet in cases where a political opponent was accused of a similar violation, the Democrats’ chorus of condemnation was immediate and unsparing.

     The Type II Hypocrite deems moral rules to apply only to “the other side.” But consistency about the rule of absolutes would forbid that.

     An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public. – Charles Maurice Talleyrand de Perigord

     The sole escape from the Rule of Absolutes is to deny the existence of moral absolutes – in Stanley Fish’s formulation, to declare that “all preferences are principled.” The Left won’t do that. It would disarm the Democrats’ contentions about “rights” and deprive them of the use of an accusation of (Type I) Hypocrisy when some Republican is found to have violated his presumed moral standard. If Mark Foley is to be driven out of Congress for exchanging sexy email with a teenager, then John Conyers, Al Franken, et cetera must remain vulnerable to the same (and worse) charges. Their retreat to Type II Hypocrisy, which would never pass muster with the Right, is their way of “keeping the troops in line:” maintaining message discipline among their officials and spokesmen.

     Political obfuscation is indispensable to political interplay. Today the most important form is the attempt to co-measure moral absolutes against political preferences as if they belonged on one axis, when in fact they don’t belong on the same graph. But as Talleyrand said above, once the public has become incensed, political survival lies in confusing the issue.

     Food for thought.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Tax Bill And The High-Tax States

     I suppose this was to be expected:

     Governors of three high-tax states said Monday they’re considering suing to stop the GOP-backed tax overhaul that limits deductions for state and local taxes.

     “We are looking at the legality now. This is double taxation. They are taxing the taxes,” said Gov. Cuomo during a conference call with California Gov. Jerry Brown and New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy.

     “This is from the party that is against taxation. This takes from the richest states and has them subsidize a tax cut for the less wealthy states. It may well be illegal and unconstitutional.”

     Any number of other federal policies that created tax-system-enabled transfers to the high-tax states evoked no protest from those states, back when. But it’s a bit like the joke about the laborer who found an extra dollar in his pay envelope one Friday and said nothing to anyone about it. On the subsequent Friday, his pay envelope was short one dollar...so he went to his supervisor and complained.

     The supervisor cocked an eyebrow and said, “Last week you received a dollar too much. Why didn’t you say anything then?”

     The laborer drew himself up to his full offended dignity. “One mistake, I can overlook,” he said. “But not two.”

     Should Cuomo et alii elect to sue the federal government over the bill, I predict vigorous forum-shopping and copious media bloviation.

     Yes, the tax bill will negatively impact two groups of Americans:

  • Earners in high-income-tax states;
  • Homeowners in high-property-tax states.

     I’m one of each. I’ll take a hit, possibly two or three thousand dollars’ worth. But the correction of incentives is necessary. Indeed, it’s long overdue.

     The political dynamic has a lot in common with the behavior of predators of all kinds. As I wrote in Which Art In Hope:

     “Now, we know from historical data that predators of all sorts will concentrate where the prey is fattest. The State, which is merely an organized band of predators with a veneer of legitimacy derived either from tradition or from a manufactured appearance of the consent of its subjects, took a huge fraction of its subjects’ annual production from them in taxes.”

     (The lecturer who said that to his students, Arne Stromberg, holds the Edmond Genet Chair in Sociology at Gallatin University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning on Hope, so you should give his views respectful consideration.)

     New York, California, Illinois, and New Jersey have crushing tax rates because several decades ago, political predators noticed that the residents of those states had higher incomes than the residents of other states. That created an incentive for those predators to flock to those states and worm their way into politics there. Within each of those states, the most voracious predators are usually found in the large cities, where the pickings are geographically concentrated and the conditions of life compel the centralization of important facilities. (It also helps that the media in large cities can easily be bought off, for reasons beyond the scope of this screed.) As the large corporation assumed economic dominance over the family business, the pursuit of one’s chosen trade led to a reduction in mobility, especially among senior and middle-aged workers. That worked to pin the “prey” in place.

     The federal government should never have collaborated with the state governments to subsidize the states’ predations via the federal tax system. The incentive for it grew as income tax rates rose, particularly during the New Deal years. Making state and local taxes deductible on one’s federal return helped Franklin D. Roosevelt to purchase the support of the states with the largest number of electoral votes.

     But what’s of greater import at this time is whether Cuomo and his High-Tax Comrades can find a federal judge willing to allow their suit.

     These days there isn’t much that can’t touch off a lawsuit. State governments don’t often sue Washington, but there are precedents for it. Should the bill reach President Trump’s desk in something close to its current form, I predict that Cuomo, Brown, and Murphy will sue over it.

     They’ll need a Clinton or Obama appointee to allow the suit to move forward. Nothing in the Constitution requires that Washington make any provision whatsoever for state and local taxes in its own tax systems. Thus, a judge who aced “Straining at Gnats and Swallowing Elephants” in law school and is politically aligned with the leftmost of the Left must be found. Unfortunately, there are plenty of them. However, should the suit survive to reach a federal appeals court, I’m confident that it would be dismissed with prejudice.

     Yes, the tax bill will hit me in the wallet. Still, it’s high time the high-tax states had some clamps put on their jaws. A great part of the reason those states have had trouble retaining young people lies in their tax systems, which make it very difficult to pursue the first years of one’s career there...unless you’re a lawyer or a politician, at least. Without young people a locale tends to ossify, both socially and economically. It doesn’t take long for extortionate taxes to reduce an economically vital region, as Long Island once was, to a retirement community.

     Therefore, it’s time to “take one for the team.” I hope other conservatives in situations such as mine will see it the same way.

What I've Been Doing

We've been on the road for the funeral of a friend of our youth. About 30 years ago, we began attending the funerals of those in our parents' generation. For a time, we seemed to be donning black nearly every week. Over time, the occurrences slowed.

Now, we are starting to see the end of our generation. Bob was one of the elder ones, He'd already survived a major heart attack a few years back. This time, his heart just wasn't strong enough.

We're doing a lot of talking on this trip, about dreams, plans, and how we can improve our health to take advantage of what opportunities we find. Both of us are woefully out of shape, overweight, creaky joints, poor conditioning. We'll begin dealing with that on our return.

Meanwhile, I link here to article I wrote for Medium about plans for retirement, and how they might - or not - be accomplished.

Foreign influence in Washington.

That which must never, ever be discussed.
In any event, the fact is that after what seems like years of accusations, not a single iota of actual evidence has corroborated the charge that the Trump campaign plotted with Putin to deprive Hillary Clinton of her divine right of succession to the Oval Office. The foundational myth upon which the Mueller investigation rests – the idea that Russia was behind the WikiLeaks email dump – was never real, to begin with: the Mueller probe, therefore, once launched, branched out into a more general look at foreign influence on the incoming administration. Which could and should mean that half of Washington will soon be lawyering up. [1]
The Saudis bought off State Department officials with responsibilities pertaining to the Saudi Arabia by letting it be known, shall we say, that after retirement from federal service there might well be lucrative employment opportunities available to “knowledgeable and experienced” (that is to say, cooperative) people (who didn't make waves where Saudi realities are concerned).

It seems to have worked to the benefit of the Saudis as it’s now virtually universally accepted that Iran is the chief sponsor of terrorism around the world. Saudi sponsorship of virulent wahhabiism? Nothing to see here, boys. Move along if you please.

[1] "As the Fake ‘Russia-Gate’ Scandal Fades, the Real ‘Israel-Gate’ Scandal Emerges." By Justin Raimondo, Russia Insider, 12/6/17.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Some Non-News

     My health is currently in a downtrend – I really must stop volunteering to carry refrigerators up the stairs unassisted – which has left me more than usually inclined toward the lighter side of things, by way of compensation. (They say that laughter is the best medicine, and I never argue with they.) In particular, this article tickled me nicely, for reasons that might not be immediately apparent. Give it a look, then return here.

     Now, you probably heard about that yesterday evening, while watching the TV news or reviewing your preferred news websites. And you probably reacted mildly to it: a positive development, but hardly world-shaking. Yet as the Victory Girls’ piece indicates, that simple assertion by the Supreme Court of a statutory power of the president has made the Left go utterly bonkers. Left-leaning “entertainers” and “journalists” predicted everything but the end of the world.

     The Left’s reactions to the GOP tax reform bill were about the same. Have a gander at this collection of shrieks and faints from Twitter.

     Any Monty Python fans in the audience?

     This is no real problem for anyone who can read the bill. First and most important, it eliminates the ObamaCare “individual mandate,” a very important step that frees young, low-income Americans from the requirement to buy medical insurance. Second, it reduces the top corporate income tax rate from 35% to 20%, which will result in a lowering of prices generally, will help to create jobs, and will greatly improve the U.S. as a corporate homeland. Third, it reduces personal income tax rates, though the way the Left is screaming you’d never have believed it.

     Yes, the bill eliminates certain deductions, such as the one for state income taxes, and caps others, such as the deduction for property taxes. However, it greatly increases the standard deduction, a boon for low-income persons who don’t itemize, and the Head-of-Household per-child tax credit, which is especially helpful for single-parent families. On the whole the bill, if it comes out of the conference committee approximately as it stands, will modestly reduce the burden on American taxpayers and accelerate the revitalization of the American economy.

     The Left’s howling over the bill, as with the Supreme Court’s reinstitution of Trump’s travel executive order, is all out of proportion to its provisions and their probable effects. That might have something to do with the elimination of the state income tax deduction and the cap on property tax deductions, which are particularly significant for California, Illinois, and New York, ultra-high-tax states where most left-leaning figures reside. But that’s merely more occasion for mirth for us in the Right – and lest my Gentle Readers forget, I’m a resident of New York, the Vampire State, and am likely to see my aggregate tax burden increase.

     It’s time for the Democrats and their handmaidens in the press and entertainment industry to recognize a simple truth about public rhetoric:

Equating every development you dislike to a surprise nuclear strike will cause ordinary citizens to dismiss whatever else you might say.

     And we’ll laugh while we do so. Watching the Democrats and the stars of their media annex howl and caper like a troop of barefoot midgets on a hot griddle is better amusement than anything on late-night television.

     “Did you meet the Reverend Mother?”
     “The Truthsayer witch from the Imperium?” Hawat’s eyes quickened with interest. “I met her.”
     “She...” Paul hesitated, found that he couldn’t tell Hawat about the ordeal. The inhibitions went deep.
     “Yes? What did she?”
     Paul took two deep breaths. “She said a thing.” “He closed his eyes, calling up the words, and when he spoke his voice unconsciously took on some of the old woman’s tone. “‘You, Paul Atreides, descendant of kings, son of a Duke, you must learn to rule. It’s something none of your ancestors learned.’” Paul opened his eyes. “That made me angry and I said my father rules an entire planet. And she said, ‘He’s losing it.’ And I said my father was getting a richer planet. And she said, ‘He’ll lose that one too.’ And I wanted to run and warn my father, but she said he’d already been warned – by you, by Mother, by many people.”
     “True enough,” Hawat muttered.”
     “Then why’re we going?”
     “Because the Emperor ordered it. And because there’s hope in spite of what that witch-spy said. What else spouted from this ancient fountain of wisdom?”
     Paul looked down at his right hand, clenched into a fist beneath the table. Slowly, he willed the muscles to relax. She put some kind of hold on me, he thought. How?
     “She asked me to tell her what it is to rule,” Paul said. “I said that one commands. And she said I had some unlearning to do.”
     She hit a mark there right enough, Hawat thought. He nodded for Paul to continue.
     “She said a ruler must learn to persuade and not to compel. She said he must lay the best coffee hearth to attract the finest men.”

     [Frank Herbert, Dune]

     If everything’s a crisis, where’s the crisis? – Arthur Herzog, The B.S. Factor

     Many years ago, a wise man told me a parable of sorts: A rider must learn how to direct his horse with gentle, subtle commands. He can’t always be sawing at the reins or kicking the horse in the flanks, for eventually the horse will become non-responsive...or worse, it will turn on him. A horse that has developed insensate flanks and a calloused mouth cannot be ridden to good effect.

     The same is true of the rhetorical arts.

     When the amps are forever turned up to 11, there’s no way to indicate the concepts of better and worse. This is so obvious that I blush to write it...but there’s that word again. Yet the Left, supposedly the political family more skilled at communication and persuasion, has calloused our brains with its unceasing trumpet blasts of impending doom. You’d think people in their trades would have known better...but then, evidence always beats conjecture, and we have plenty of evidence to the contrary.

     Still, we can laugh – and we’ve had several demonstrations that laughter isn’t just good for our souls, but good for the national discourse as well. The overly serious purely hate to be laughed at. It tends to send them away fuming – a state of mind in which many errors are made. If we can keep them in that state, who knows? Further gains than anyone with a “respectable” perch in the Punditocracy has forecast might be possible.

     This isn’t news. It’s a reminder:

Keep your spirits up.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.

     Remember the Fifth Rule:

     A veteran British diplomat had a favorite way to put down a pushy or egotistical junior. The diplomat would call the young man for a heart-to-heart talk and quite often at the end of the talk would say, “Young man, you have broken the Fifth Rule: you have taken yourself too seriously.” That would end the meeting...except that invariably, as the younger man got to the door, he would turn and ask, “What are the other rules?”
     And the diplomat would smile serenely and say, “There are no other rules.”

     [Attributed to Governor Pete du Pont.]

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Useful Defect

     Humans generally share it. The majority of expressed sentiment appears to be against it. We criticize it, at least in particular contexts, yet we continue to exhibit it in those contexts and others. When it manifests in our own behavior, we produce a justification for it that, were it to be offered by others, we’d reject with a sneer. If it’s so widely deplored and decried, why does it persist?

     Because it’s useful.

     What “defect” do I have in mind, Gentle Reader? Use your guess to produce an example of a situation in which you would condemn it. Then produce an example of a situation in which you would use it and be guided by it. Is it really a “defect” if it’s useful enough to be propagated from generation to generation?

     Take a moment over it.

     Have a bit of “logic:”

Postulate: Members of group X possess characteristic Y.
Hypothesis: Mr. A is a member of group X.
Conclusion: Mr. A possesses characteristic Y.

     The above is a simple syllogism of the sort we were all taught to recognize in tenth-grade geometry class. If P, then Q; P; therefore, Q. Right? The form is impeccable; the mechanism is exquisite; the conclusion is irresistible. But despite all that, it’s not quite right. Why?

     Because people are not geometric figures. The postulate itself is a generalization to which there are surely exceptions. We know better than to claim that all members of any human group will exhibit any particular characteristic. Yet in innumerable situations we use such a syllogism to make our decisions, including decisions that could prove critical to life and limb.

     The formal term for such decision making is prejudice. The colloquial term is playing the odds.

     Many persons have inveighed against such decision making. They usually call it “unfair.” And it is unfair...in certain contexts. In others, it’s the best we can do. But persons of a particular bent will not respond sympathetically to this argument.

     What bent is that, you ask? Whoops, coffee cup’s empty again. Back in a jiffy.

     Only a couple of months ago, I wrote:

          Perceptible patterns among adequately defined groups are the basis of stereotypes. The late Joseph Sobran once called stereotypes “amateur sociology.” The bien-pensants are quick to denounce stereotypes, and to call anyone who makes use of one a bigot of some sort. But a stereotype that doesn’t prove accurate more often than not would not last. If the exceptions outnumber those who conform, making the pattern more illusory than real, they can’t fairly be called exceptions.

     In his “Ten Conservative Principles,” the late Russell Kirk, one of the godfathers of contemporary conservatism, expressed a sense that stereotypes and the prejudices they sometimes animate have a place we should not deny to them:

     It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared. In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.

     Despite the wisdom it expresses, there are some limitations to Kirk’s defense of prescription according to longevity of usage. It is unfair and unjust, for example, to judge an individual on any basis other than his individual character and merits – if one has the time and opportunity to find out what those are. But as is the case wherever it appears, the critical word in the previous sentence is if.

     If the pattern is sound, the exceptions will be fewer than the conformants. We may wish it were otherwise; indeed, in many cases it will be our fondest desire. But desire is not a basis for rational thought.

     In reflecting on that passage, I realized that I had omitted an important case.

Let X be a group of humans 10% of which exhibit characteristic Y. Let Mr. A be a member of group X.
Q1: With no opportunity to get to know Mr. A personally, should one assume that he possesses characteristic Y?
Q2: Does the nature of characteristic Y have any bearing on the answer to Q1?

     Had enough time to think about your answers to those questions? Good! Now for the haymaker: What if characteristic Y is an inclination toward murder, enslavement, and rape?

     Don’t answer all at once.

     There was no reason to delay. Retma had already pronounced the epitaph for Man: We did not have the time to learn everything that we wanted to know.
     "So be it," Amalfi said. He touched the button over his heart.
     Creation began.

     [James Blish, The Triumph of Time.]

     Time is our most precious possession. We can’t manufacture it or store it. Nor are we allowed, in the nature of things, to know how much we have.

     The acquisition of information takes time. Sometimes – often – we don’t have enough time to learn what we’d like to know. Sometimes, other priorities militate against it. This is particularly the case, and particularly painful, when applied to human groups.

     If the members of a group overwhelmingly possess some dangerous characteristic, perhaps as carriers of an infectious disease, it’s wise to make a policy of avoiding them. If the members of a group mostly possess such a characteristic, it’s wise to be cautious about one’s interactions and exposure to that group. If some members possess it but slightly less than a majority, one might be inclined toward a slightly lesser degree of caution...but the degree of caution impelled would depend on the seriousness of the disease.

     So also with diseases of the mind, such as race-hatred and Islam.

     If you’re wondering why this, and why today, here’s your answer. It’s not uncommon to encounter persons who pride themselves on their intellect, yet who are capable of great folly. One cannot proceed from platitude to prescription with the sort of confidence that article exhibits...but there are “thinkers” who do it all the time.

     Thinking is a dangerous undertaking, especially if one intends to “think aloud.” I look back over my own record of audible and legible folly with a great deal of embarrassment...yet I do it, though perhaps not as often as one who writes copious op-ed should.

     The Russell Kirk citation above exhibits a great deal of insight. Yes, our generalizations are overwhelmingly likely to have exceptions. (Some of them will have more exceptions than conformants.) But that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful, especially in those contexts where we cannot possibly know all we need or want to know.

     The goal isn’t necessarily always to be “just.” Sometimes it’s to keep life in one’s body, to protect those one loves, or to avert the possibility of damage or loss. Under such circumstances one may justifiably play the odds as one knows them rather than focus fanatically on the existence of exceptions. If it’s a defect, I consider it a markedly useful one. Your mileage may vary.

Tax Bill - It's a START

Neither the House version nor the Senate version is even close to perfect. Too many loopholes, too gentle a treatment of the housing deduction, too many tax brackets, too skewed towards taxing the top.

However, it is a start.

What will be even more important is to eliminate that inequity that occurs when ONE segment of the population - recipients of government benefits - are insulated from the realities of government overspending.

What happens when you spend too much in government, is that you add to the federal debt. Like a household that overspends the wage-earner's paycheck, a debt is a clear indication that your budget is out of whack.

If you start loading up a credit card, eventually, the accumulating interest takes a greater and greater slice out of your available money. You end up paying up mostly (or all) interest, and the debt never goes away.

That's the situation we're in with the federal debt. It CANNOT be solved by "raising taxes on the rich". We don't have that many rich. Those that we do have will find some way to avoid that tax, usually done by <s> bribing</s> donating to politicians.

There are only two real choices:

  • Pay it back, or,
  • Default - yes, that's like a bankruptcy
Neither is palatable to professional politicians. But, default is something that should cause terror among the voters. Default would mean a worldwide collapse of the economy. We're that big, and we owe that much to other nations.

Can we pay it back? Yes, if we refuse to raise the limit on the debt. That's what all that posturing is about a few times a year. That's what Trump forced the Congress to authorize recently. He said, if you want it raised, YOU have to vote for it.

Of course they did. They know their constituents would have horse-whipped them if they didn't.

So, that leaves paying it back.

Such a solution seems insurmountable. But, it's not entirely impossible. We just have to use an all-out approach.
  • No more authorizing programs that are not paid SOLELY from fees exacted on the people who benefit.
  • Immediately - stop ALL raises, inflationary adjustments, and increases on EVERY person getting a government check. Let them begin to feel the pinch that taxpayers feel, whose paycheck is NOT indexed to inflation.
  • Start a bounty program on fraud in government. If you can track down evidence of fraud (NOT accidental overpayment) by a recipient of government money - whether in armed services purchases, welfare fraud, Medicare/Medicaid billing, or manipulating regulations to award money to a specific person/company, you get a percentage of that money. NO plea deals that don't include a FULL payback of the stolen money - non-dischargeable in bankruptcy, loss of government pension and all benefits, and a public admission of a felony - which, by agreement, will NOT qualify for a pardon or clemency.
  • The first year, take 2% of all Social Security checks, and apply the money to the federal debt. The bottom 10% will be exempt.
  • If SS recipients have an income more than twice that of their SS check, they will lose 1/2 of that check - permanently. This will stop the idiocy of paying out to rich retirees, who have income to spare.
  • NO more gender surgery, unless the person has an actual MEDICAL condition. NOT "I FEEL like a woman". Born with ambiguous genitalia, lost a part through accident or cancer surgery, or other honest-to-God medical anomalies qualify. Self-inflicted harm (dick-ectomy, for example) allows you to regain the mutilated part - AFTER counseling. No amounts of threats to DIY or suicide threats will change this policy.
  • End the current student loan program. Reinstate it with limitations:
    • No grant or loan can exceed the AVERAGE of state colleges' yearly tuition.
    • The actual amount is predicated by the students' major - STEM careers can qualify for the max amount. Liberal Arts and Humanities - perhaps 1/2. Students are free to choose, but - it's gonna cost 'ya if you choose poorly.
    • For students not otherwise qualifying for admission into a 4-year school, they may use their loans at a community college or technical school.
    • ALL students must make adequate progress. Regular schedules, with math and english and other requirements each semester. If they don't qualify for college-level courses, they can give up a summer for a prep program - yeah, we'll pay for it with a LOAN. That loan can be converted into a grant, IF they can pass a standardized test at the end.
      • BTW, withdrawals count against the next semester's loan. If you drop, the money you might receive is reduced by an amount equal to that dropped class's cost.
  • Re-vamp the military academies. They are letting in too many marginal soldiers - academically, physically, and morally. Better to have smaller classes than to risk putting unqualified officers in charge.
    • Consider requiring all potential officers to have served in an actual military unit before admitting them.
    • Or, use their summers as a way of getting them into the field for some actual experience each year.
    • Get rid of those Leftist instructors. There are too many qualified teachers to put up with that crap!
That's just a start.

That's Not an Investigation, That's an Attempted Coup

Trying to 'un-do' the election by magnifying and distorting actions by Trump's team into a 'crime' is NOT what was intended in the Constitution.

That's what we call a coup.

Funnily enough, Mueller's investigation team is entirely unconcerned about PROOF of lying by the FBI, State Dept., Justice Dept. and other bureaucracies - as long as it didn't involve Trump. Read the linked article all the way to the end, where is shows how the FBI conspired to cover up the Clinton-Lynch meeting.

If you think Trump is wrong, work to get people elected that oppose his agenda. Don't turn a blind eye to abuses of power (Obama), lies and money-laundering (Clintons), or using a government agency for partisan purposes (IRS, Lerner).

Here's a hint: if you would object to some actions by your enemy, don't ignore that same action by an ally.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Preparing The Way: A Revived Rumination

     [The following Advent Season Rumination first appeared at Eternity Road on December 17, 2006. -- FWP]

     A few years ago, there was a charmingly poignant movie, K-Pax, starring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. If you haven't seen it, the plot concerned a man committed to a mental institution, who claimed to be a visitor from another planet. K-Pax (Spacey), however, was far and away the sanest and most insightful person in the asylum, including all the psychiatrists, therapists, and hired staff. Throughout the movie, the other patients with whom he's confined grow saner and more stable, unquestionably due to his influence. Near the end, K-Pax counsels one patient, who's followed K-Pax's direction and now expects him to dispense a final, ultimate lesson of liberation from helplessness and malaise, to "be ready."

     "Be ready for what?" the patient replies.

     K-Pax's smile fills with serene, optimistic anticipation. "Anything."

     "Ready for anything" is a phrase once used to herald the lurid slam-bang adventures of larger-than-life fictional heroes, the sort that charged in where angels fear to tread, could take anyone's best shot and return it doubled, and always got the girl. It has a sound of whatever-it-takes willingness to confront any opposition on any scale, and to triumph. But clearly from the context, K-Pax didn't have that sort of thing in mind. The exchange ends at that point, leaving the viewer free to speculate about what he did mean, if anything.

     Anything. Even torn from all surrounding supports, the word has an expansive feel to it. We use it a lot, albeit more often than not in a dismissive sense. "What would you like for dinner?" "Anything." "What would you like to watch?" "Oh, anything." "What should we bring as a hostess gift?" With a helpless shrug of (usually male) shoulders: "Anything?"

     Big word. Big scope. Very fuzzy meaning in practice.

     Yet, for an adult, "ready for anything" is an ideal to be striven for. More than that: it's a presumed condition, at least here in America. If you're not "ready for anything," or at least for anything in the common run of American experience, then what the BLEEP! is wrong with you?

     Are you "ready for anything?" I don't think I am. Twenty years ago I might have claimed to be, but not these past few years. Doing my best to cope, though.

     But what does "ready for anything" mean?

     Possibly nothing...and possibly everything of importance to a human soul.

     Every life is visited by trial and loss. If the tabloids and gossip rags do us any service, it's to remind us that the "beautiful people" are no more immune to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than Hamlet or we. Reese Witherspoon has lost her husband; Tom Cruise has lost his mind; Britney Spears has lost her underpants. Wealth, fame, beauty, talent, strength, swiftness, mental acuity, and popularity are no armor. Indeed, as Nachiketa said to Yama in the Katha Upanishad, these things endure only until tomorrow. We gain them with toil, enjoy them for a brief time, and surrender them with much regret.

     If the annals of Man have anything enduring to say to us, it's that nothing endures. "And this, too, shall pass away." Like it or not -- and we won't -- we must be ready for it.

     No one knows what form his own trials will take, nor what they will cost him. All we know is the certainty of sorrow; nothing else in human life is certain. We must be ready for anything.

     Many persons see this, a rather roundabout survey of the Problem of Pain, as a refutation of God's love, and indeed, of His existence. A loving God, they assert, would not have condemned us to lives fated to end in deterioration, loss, suffering, and death. If we are indeed creatures of a greater Being, He must be a fiend to have burdened us so. Better that He not exist at all; to deny Him is actually a greater courtesy than He deserves.

     Such persons have not thought seriously about the nature of temporal existence in a realm ruled by natural laws. Time itself is the traitor. No universe with stable laws, no matter how its Creator might tune them, could be otherwise.

     It's the inexorable forward march of time that brings us low. In a dynamic universe with stable laws, all events converge upon equilibrium. We whose efforts go to creating little pockets of order, in which we might dispose ourselves as we prefer, are up against forces that cannot ultimately be defeated: forces that will fill every valley and bring all mountains low. Order as we see it is an affront to equilibrium. Time levels, and we are all in its path.

     Which is why the arrival in our world, two thousand years ago, of a Being who possesses power over time itself and is unaffected by its ravages was an event of infinite importance.

     I've written before about the uniqueness and beauty of the Christian mythos. Indeed, I've rhapsodized over it so greatly that no doubt a few of you are hoping I'll move on to something else, so you won't have to read any more about it. Sorry! Eight days from now we commemorate the Incarnation, the event that brought the still point of Love transcendent and eternal into time for a brief while, so that we might taste peace. The Advent season, of which this is the first Sunday, is a time of preparation for that event.

     But how are we to prepare? How are we to know that we are prepared?

     In some sense, the thing is impossible. Time-bound Man cannot be fully braced for the arrival of God. We are too limited, too frail, too easily fatigued. But God is aware of that. How could He not be? That's one of the reasons His Son took human form to go among us. It might be one of the reasons He suffered His Son to be tortured to death: Even unto this, I am one with you.

     Perhaps the right approach is a program of foretaste. Though He never went more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born, spoke a language no one on Earth has spoken for centuries, was ultimately arrested as a common criminal and put to the most ignominious death ever devised, Jesus's proclamation of the Kingdom of God and God's New Covenant with Man shook the world. The wonder of that has inspired two millennia's worth of believers to efforts, achievements, and glorifications no other event has inspired.

     It inspires us still, and will do so until time itself has come to an end.

     To allow our hearts to fill with the joy that should attend His coming is the only imaginable preparation for it. It's the point of the Advent liturgy, which, you will note, is entirely free of references to colored balls and tinsel, trans-fat-free holiday cooking, or the next big sale at Best Buy:

     Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachontis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into the country all about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying: The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. [The Gospel According to Luke, 3:1-6]

     Perhaps with that preparation, we shall be ready.

     But ready for what?


     May God bless and keep you all.