Thursday, November 30, 2017

Outrage!

     I’ve just made an infuriating discovery.

     There’s a website, KISS Library, that’s selling my books – the ones that appear at Amazon -- without my authorization. Moreover, they’re being sold at wildly inflated prices, no part of which is paid to me.

     How are they getting away with this? More to the point, how can I put an end to it?

     But wait: there’s more! I’ve searched that "library" for the names of several other indie writers I know, including John Conroe, C. J. Carella, Hans G. Schantz, Marina Fontaine, and Daniella Bova, and their works are listed there too! We’re all being robbed!

     Spread the word. Make certain every other reader you know is aware of this theft of copyrighted intellectual property. Then write to KISS Library – mailto:contact@kisslibrary.com – and let them know their thefts have been detected!

Going For The Bucks

     “Oy! Every prophecy I fulfilled! And now He tells me consistent I am not! This is justice?”
     “No. It is Art.”

     [Robert A. Heinlein, Job: A Comedy of Justice]

     I’d intended to write about the plague of sexual-harassment accusations we’re experiencing, about the irrational responses those accusations have elicited from the political class and the partisan press, and the range of attitudes private citizens have adopted to them. Then I regained command of my senses, realized that anyone could write that piece, and decided to address something more pleasant: the clash between the artistic impulse and more commonplace human desires.

     Relax, Gentle Reader. This won’t be one of my more demanding screeds. Though if you’re near to my age, it might evoke a few memories. I can’t guarantee that they’ll all be pleasant.


     The “starving artist” is a stock figure in cultural discourse. He might be a novelist, playwright, or poet. He might paint, or compose music. He might sculpt. One way or another, he strives to create things broadly recognized as art (whatever that is) and suffers materially for it.

     Why the suffering? What makes that necessary? Well, nothing, really. He could have been a plumber. He could have sold linoleum. He could have written Harlequins, a category which (I’m told) will keep a writer in “well upholstered poverty” if he can stand to live with himself. But he didn’t elect to do any of that. He put devotion to his art (whatever that is) above all the rest of human action.

     That makes the starving artist’s Muse sound like a far crueler taskmaster than any corporate supervisor. The former haunts one’s dreams but promises nothing. The latter usually lets one leave the office at 5:30 or 6:00 and pays a decent wage.

     In the usual case, the starving artist doesn’t produce much. Perhaps his vision is fitful, unpredictable and un-schedulable. Perhaps each gem from his pen, palate, or chisel takes too much out of him to rush from one to the next. Or perhaps he’s just too starved. His life output tends to be lower than that of his competitor who elects to “go for the bucks” – i.e., who strives to cultivate popularity and a following that will pay for his work.

     A fair number of starving artists quit young and revert to fixing pipes or selling linoleum. But some go through a difficult mental and emotional transition. It’s not difficult just for them.


     I’m not privy to the financial records of other artists. (I can barely keep my own straight.) However, certain careers in the arts have experienced transitions that are broadly suggestive about inflection points in the life trajectory of the starving artist.

     When the “folk music revival” of the Sixties began to flag, late in that decade, Bob Dylan and others prominent in that scene decided to transition toward the more popular electrified format. Many of their followers were horrified. They described the change with terms such as “sacrilege.” And in some cases, the musicians who’d tried it reaped nothing by it, or fell by the wayside. But not all. Another group got increased air time on commercial radio stations, expanded its following, and prospered materially. Dylan was nearly booed off stage when he first appeared with an electric band, but he persisted, to his ultimate advantage.

     A curious sort of inverse-transition occurred when the Grateful Dead, originally beloved of a relatively compact group of fans, produced Workingman’s Dead. This iconic San Francisco rock group chose to embrace a softer, more commercially acceptable mode, and sold big for the first time in its existence. The group’s followup albums, from American Beauty onward, maintained the new approach...and the sales.

     Writers have done much the same. The one who comes to mind at once is Robert Silverberg. His early novels, such as Thorns and A Time of Changes, were sensitive emotional explorations set in science-fictional contexts. He was critically applauded for such books. Yet in the Eighties he transitioned almost completely to the commercially more popular field of fantasy fiction, starting with his novel Lord Valentine’s Castle. Those fantasies displeased many of his previous fans, but they sold far better than his earlier work.

     In each such case, there were fans who would have preferred that the starving artist continue to starve. The artist in question felt differently.


     Sometimes it’s as much about a desire for broader appeal as about money. That could easily have been the key to any of the transitions described above, or all of them. What’s common among them is the move from a less widely received mode to a more widely received one. After the move, the artist was both more popular and better off materially.

     There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with “sticking to my guns” and “doing it my way.” The artist’s priorities are his alone. So are the consequences thereof.

     When I first decided to try fiction – as an adult, that is; I’d tried my hand at it at a much younger and more callow stage, got nowhere, and set it aside in favor of sweet-talking computers – I knew from the first that conventional publishers were unlikely to approve what I wanted to write. My first agent, who actually liked my stuff, nevertheless exhorted me repeatedly to “write a nice romance, Fran.” Though I had no objections to that genre, I didn’t think romance was “in my wheelhouse,” and kept on with the Christian-flavored / semi-mystical / half-fantastic stuff I’d been producing.

     (Yes, I did eventually write a romance. But that’s yesterday’s news, and anyway, it’s at least as weird as anything else I’ve written.)

     Eventually my novels began to sell, but it took both time and the willingness to admit that the reader who prefers my sort of crap will not be a person of common tastes. He’ll be an exception looking for exceptions to the fictional norm. He’ll never be numerous. And I decided that that’s quite all right...because I don’t depend on the revenue from my fiction to keep food on the table.

     If it were the other way around – if the income from my novels were all I had to keep body and soul together – I’d write the most commonplace, unoriginal, formulaic garbage you can imagine. I’d sell millions of books, because I know what the great majority of fiction readers actually want, and I could produce it just as shamelessly and copiously as anyone who’s ever prostituted himself. And I’d bloody well do it with my head held high. My priorities put survival and a good life for my family above all else.

     No artist can make such decisions for anyone else. Neither is it cricket to slam an artist who makes such a decision for “betraying his art” (whatever that is).


     I’m not perfectly sure why this subject was at the top of my stack this morning. There it was, and I was tired of current events opinion mongering, so I decided to make use of it. Still, it’s heartfelt, and as I cast my eyes over it one last time, I find myself thinking that there have been artists of all sorts who “maintained their vision” despite initial unpopularity, were eventually “discovered,” and ultimately became world-famous.

     Of course, most of them were dead of starvation by then, but those are the breaks. Who said you could “follow your Muse” without making a sacrifice or two? The garrets of Paris will always call out to starving artists. Somehow I doubt they’ll go unoccupied.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Futurist And The Monetary Veil

     I had some difficulty naming this piece. The title occurred to me while I was searching for the central idea illuminated by this incredibly stupid proposal. It’s the key question of all economics:

What is wealth?

     If you’ve never given that any thought, take a moment over it right now.


     I consider professional “futurists” – i.e., persons who propose to advise your government or organization on how to “prepare for what’s coming” – to be among the biggest con artists practicing today. The reason is simple: They offer no guarantees. They get paid regardless of the accuracy of their predictions or the practical effects of their recommendations. They don’t give refunds.

     That having been said, there is much value in attempting to forecast developments in important aspects of the economy, sociodynamics, demographics, and so forth. However, the value does not arise from a high probability of success. Rather, by their regular, dramatic inaccuracy such forecasts reveal how little the “experts” really know, and how smug they can be despite their appalling ignorance.

     Of course, many an “expert” has an axe to grind, as well, but that’s a subject for a later screed.

     So, Gentle Reader: have you given a few CPU cycles to my question about the nature of wealth? It’s an important one; getting it wrong has enabled economic charlatans to make a nice living out of your tax dollars. To perpetuate their racket, they routinely shout down and vilify those who dare to pull the curtain away from their fraud. A lot like the “global warming / climate change” gangsters, really.

     Have your answer to the question and your current bank balance available for the next segment.


     Whatever your income might be, you’d probably like it to be higher. Most people would. But why? What would more dollars (or pounds, or euros, or whatever wastepaper unit measures your income) do for you?

     Generically, the answers fall into the following categories:

  • Present-time consumption (a.k.a. “standard of living”);
  • Reduction of stress over the future (a.k.a. “financial security”).

     (A brief digression: I’ve palmed a card on you. If you detected it, keep your chortles down. The probability that you’re a member of the class to whom my little game actually matters is very low. All the same, I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from alarming the other readers. We’ll get back to it toward the end of this diatribe. Promise!)

     Your dollar income is only significant for what it can buy today, and for what you hope it will be able to buy in the future. Apart from that, it’s meaningless. The same can be said for your savings, your investment account, and the contents of your little boy’s piggy bank.

     Wealth doesn’t inhere in monetary incomes or balances. It’s about real goods and services you could purchase with those dollars: goods and services that you need or want, or expect to need or want in the future. Your true income is properly measured not in dollars but in what it will procure for you, whether today or tomorrow.

     What I’ve just done is to finger the monetary veil: the curtain behind which all valid and accurate economic thought must peek. In a moment, I’ll pull it back. But first, it’s time for more coffee.


     Virtually every American understands the effect of inflation: it renders goods and services more expensive in monetary terms. Therefore, if Smith’s income is rising more slowly than the rate of inflation, inflation sets him back: he is becoming poorer despite the “increase in his income.”

     One of Robert A. Heinlein’s more fanciful stories, Beyond This Horizon, was written during his “socialist years.” He wasn’t yet awake to the frauds being perpetrated on First Worlders in the name of “a better future.” In that novel, he postulates a Utopian future in which everyone receives a monthly monetary “dividend” from the state: an amount calculated according to a quasi-Keynesian understanding of the “net reinvestment.” This technique, intended to “stabilize” the currency unit, effectively makes it unnecessary for people to work.

     Despite the previous sentence, Heinlein’s novel assumes that people would go on working and producing anyway – and that their output of goods and services would increase over time.

     Utter insanity! In the real world, at least. When people’s incentive to work and produce is lowered, production declines. We’ve had so many demonstrations of this that it should be unnecessary for me to cite one. But even that isn’t the whole story. Inflation – governmental expansion of the money supply – also causes people to dissipate their monetary balances, on the grounds that “they’ll be worth less if I wait.” And inflation is the one and only tool with which a government can create a “universal basic income.”

     Inflation as an “economic management tool” is premised on the monetary veil: the notion that we can “print ourselves rich.” But creating money does nothing to increase the supply of available goods and services. Indeed, it makes what’s available more expensive: “more dollars chasing the same amount of goods and services.” The exact method by which governments inject newly created money into the economy merely determines which goods and services will experience price increases first. (In the United States, the prices of capital goods – the things corporations that sell to the federal government need to make their products – are usually first to be affected.)

     For those interested in exploring this subject, I can recommend two excellent books as starting points:

     Both are written for the intelligent layman. Now let’s get back to that “universal basic income” nonsense.


     As I stated above, inflation is the only tool with which a government can create a “universal basic income.” The money must come from somewhere. There are only two possible sources:

  • Increased taxation;
  • Inflation.

     Increases in taxation are all too likely to provoke resistance, whether overt – the removal of those who voted for them from office – or covert – increased effort put to the avoidance of taxes. Inflation is the preferred method. So the government, to fund the appalling amount of money required by a UBI, will simply create it, Mugabe-style.

     As the new money filters through the economy, the prices of all goods and services will rise in proportion to the percentage of increase. People will be angry about the shrinking purchasing power of their incomes. Government flacksters will attempt to blame the increases on “corporate greed.” Some persons will be fooled, perhaps enough to keep the executives and lawmakers who contrived the inflation in their cushy offices. At any rate, they consider it a “better bet” than increased taxation, which can only be ascribed to them.

     This is not theory. It always happens. It was an important aspect of the rises of Napoleon, Hitler, and Mao Tse-tung, and of the fall of Jimmy Carter.

     And owing to the UBI, which disincentivises productive work, it will be worse than if the government merely dropped the new money from airplanes.


     I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point: More money does not mean more wealth. When it’s the result of a government giveaway, as in the case of UBI, it means less wealth. It can also mean social disorder, as we saw in post-Revolution France, Weimar Germany, postwar China, post- Peronist Argentina, and many other places. But to grasp that causal series, we must pull back the monetary veil – the one thing the futurist, whatever his political alignment may be, does not want you to do.

     Futurists who exhort governments to enact programs such as a UBI, like all con artists, depend upon you not seeing past that veil. But then, prestidigitation has always relied upon misdirection: “Look at the pretty lady, not at the magician’s hands!” Be smarter than that.

     To close, the “palmed card” I mentioned earlier in this essay is this: some persons, who operate productive enterprises, might use an increase in their incomes to invest in their businesses and (hopefully) make them more productive. But such persons are few. More, investing one’s own income harms no one...as long as it came from the results of one’s work and not from the pseudo-benevolence of the Omnipotent State.

     Food for thought.

Why it Matters Who Controls the CPB

It's already stuffed with Democrats. 593 - 1.

Frankly, I'd be more than satisfied if Trump closed it down. It's not government's job to protect the stupid. However, if it IS to exist, it needs to be balanced, and, by balanced, I mean, not staffed with ideological partisans who want to use the bureau to achieve their own aims.

If you want to get your political agenda before the American people, use your own money to do so. And, don't use the force of government to impose those fiats which you can't manage to do by persuasion, electing officials, or bribes.

Back from internet death.

The message on my Windows 7 machine on November 19 when I turned it on was “Group policy client service failed login. Access denied.” Thus began the familiar pointless recourse to Microsoft repair and restore options that historically have proved to provide illusory or short-term relief. My anti-virus program kept “turning off” just prior to this nine-car pileup and there were interminable waits for “program not responding.” I won’t name the A/V vendor as I am not sure my problems can fairly be laid at its feet. My annual payment to MS for tech support resulted only in their advice to make a clean re-install of Windows 7. Again, I don’t fault that advice as not every problem with Windows of whatever flavor is resolvable by a minor though magical tweak.

I resolved to re-install and then upgrade to Windows 10 which I failed to do when it was free for reasons that escape me now but probably the word “obtuse” covers all the bases. "Stupid" also comes to mind. 10 seems like a good version and hopefully MS told it like it is when they said this is the last “version” of Windows. Since upgrade it’s been the classic misery of reinstalling program and transferring settings, macros, and styles. Thanksgiving came along but it’s been a week-long exercise in getting back to where I was.

Btw, I decided to install Word 2007, which I’d bought as insurance a while back. I liked the ribbon but it seemed unable to handle long documents and started misbehaving by showing me every revision I’d made since the fall of Corregidor. I ditched that and went back to the tank-like Word 2003 which works fine under 10. I lost my auto-correct trove and at this point don’t care to get them back. No great loss but certainly a part of the aggro.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

“Claim, Use, And Defend”

     Some prefatory remarks:

     I don’t plan these essays. I root through the news and my preferred opinion sites, looking for...well, just looking. Waiting for some article, or some expression of sentiment, or some offhand reference to a recent or historical event to provide the spark I need for a screed. The world being full of a number of things, I almost always find something to get my writerly juices flowing.

     Some mornings I’m more fortunate than others. On those mornings, the spark isn’t about one particular item, but the combination of two or more. The spark welds them together, makes of them something more than the sum of its parts.

     This is such a morning.


     If you remember the events surrounding the ranch of Cliven Bundy, you will recall that a great many armed Americans rallied to his defense against the intrusions of the Bureau of Land Management. That enraged the Powers That Be, which resolved to pillory him. He would be made an example, a warning to others: Thou Shalt Not Defy An Agency Of The Omnipotent Federal Government. He’s been incarcerated for nearly two years at this time, awaiting trial; bail was denied him.

     His trial began a few days ago. His son Ryan presented the opening statement in his defense. Here is the segment that set my gears to spinning:

     To have rights you must claim, use and defend… man only has rights he is willing to claim, use and defend. There is a difference between rights and privileges. Rights you own. Privilege is afforded.

     The language is plain. The insight is overwhelming.

     “Claim, use, and defend.” Our entire theory of property rights, first formalized by John Locke, is founded on those three words:

  1. Claim: He who intends to make a thing his property must say, in some fashion, “This is mine.”
  2. Use: The property must be kept in “an improved condition” through regular use.
  3. Defend: The owner must make provisions to secure it against those who would take it from him.

     Note that this applies even to property whose owner leaves it “in public.” Should you leave your car unlocked, with the keys in the ignition, on a city street, find it gone, and report it as stolen, the police will laugh at you. They’re required to notify other police departments of the theft, and if, against all odds, the car should turn up, they’ll call you to come for it. But by failing to defend your rights to your property, you will have surrendered it, de facto, back to the “common.” The title document in your file cabinet will mean very little.

     As a pastor once said to a woman whose husband had made away with some of a stack of unguarded MREs, an owner must act like an owner. Failing to do so removes any moral weight from those who seize what he has failed to defend.

     I hope the trial goes well for the Bundys, for this reason among others.


     Quite a lot of people, reading the above, will be somewhat put out by the notion that one must use and defend one’s rights. Surely, they would say, it’s enough to claim them and have them conceded by others. Who would be uncivilized enough to say “Naah, that’s not yours,” and snatch it from one’s hand? Aren’t we better than that?

     In that word we lies the rub. Some of us aren’t better than that. A great many of them go into government.

     Yesterday, Sarah Hoyt produced this gem:

     ... I think the sex scandals and the disintegration of our “respect” for people and institutions are more the result of two twin things: first the fact that the left has been undermining established society for a long time, initially because once “capitalist” (which is to say normal) society vanished, paradise would magically appear, and since [19]91 in a sort of mad fury that they can’t have their little red wagon*; second the same left was, at the same time taking over all the institutions.

     Their lack of respect for the institutions they took over, their complete inability to see what’s in front of their eyes, and the fact that their entire philosophy is based on resentment and envy — which means they’re convinced everyone else, everywhere else is getting away with stuff, and so they might as well — results in the “take over a respected institution; kill it; flay it; wear its skin and dance in front of the horrified people involved in that institution, demanding respect.

     Yes, yes, yes! Add to that Ryan Bundy’s observation: the previous “owners” of those institutions failed to defend them. For example, the Left’s conquest of the publishing industry didn’t happen all at once. It began with a stage of slow infiltration, a steady trickle of ideologues into positions in Pub World from which they could assert control over what would and would not reach readers. During that phase of the “long march through the institutions,” the Left could have been repelled and defeated...but the “owners” chose to mollify them and compromise with them instead. After a while, those “owners” found that their publishing houses had slipped from their grasp. Similar flowcharts of subversion apply to several other American institutions and industries, most particularly those in the communicative and educational sectors.

     But let’s not drift too far from the point. As I’ve written far too many times already, he who prizes power above all other things will pursue it single-mindedly. His priority scheme will give him a natural advantage over anyone else who might seek the position he prizes. Once he has it, he’ll contrive to prevent anyone from taking it away. He’ll also contrive to fill any positions below him with loyalists. The rest follows quite naturally.

     At this time the federal bureaucracies are fighting tooth and nail against the Trump Administration, which has openly declared its intention to shrink them and to return their usurped authority to Congress. Except for the pinnacle positions – the Cabinet secretaries and assistant secretaries – the bureaucracies are controlled almost entirely by persons avid for power and determined to keep it. Some claim public-spirited motives. Constitutionally, “I’m only trying to do good” has no weight. What does have weight is the Civil Service law that protects their occupancy of their positions.

     In the usual case, the only way for the president to discharge an unwanted civil servant is to eliminate his position, a move few presidents have chosen to make. Add to that the tendency of a new Cabinet secretary to exhibit pride of ownership over “his” department and its sub-agencies, and to seek to expand them rather than have them shrink under him. That’s what makes the case of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson so exceptional and striking.

     Constitutionally, the executive departments and their sub-agencies answer to the president; they are his employees, who serve at his pleasure. Moreover, the secretary of each department wields the president’s authority over that department by derivation: i.e., by dint of his appointment by the president and his confirmation by the Senate. However, because previous presidents and Cabinet secretaries failed to defend their prerogatives, and because the Civil Service law bestows a patina of occupational tenure upon the federal bureaucrat, we have the perverse situation of today: a Leviathan, a Brobdingnagian monstrosity that answers de facto to no one and wields powers the Constitution never granted to anyone.


     “Claim, use, and defend.” Three critical words...and the last of them, owing to the flaccidity of far too many Americans about defending their individual rights, by far the most relevant to our time.

     No, we’re not all “better than that.” No, we can’t all “just get along.” There are villains among us. There always have been and always will be. The least of them will pick your pocket or snatch your purse. The worst of them will do so under the pretense of authority. To the extent we’ve failed to defend our rights, we’ve enabled their predations. They are the villains, to be sure, but we were far too ready surrender to them.

     I might come back to this in another essay.

A Change This Thanksgiving

For the first time in a long time, the main topic of conversation was NOT the horribleness of Trump.

Oh, one of the younger kids did make a joke - very brief - and was quickly glared into becoming quiet about politics.

But no Trump-Bashing. No lengthy analysis of how he would destroy the economy, the medical system, social services, education, etc.

I'm surprised to say it, but - I think the Left/Progressive branch of politics has finally worn itself out.

Now, that's not what I'm hearing in the news - Twitter is still full of hysterical Leftists and diehard HRC Supporters gloomily predicting the end of Western society - ALL due to That Man!

But, if my table is typical - and, it probably is - we may be nearing the end of the alliance of Progressives with Crazies and Radicals/George Soros' paid minions.

What a great outcome that would be!

In other news:

A new book uses an FBI  report to detail how the American Radicals allied with ISIS. I suspect that the Progressives are embarrassed about this, and want to dissociate themselves from that link.

The current pope, Francis, is a huge disappointment to many in the non-Leftist community. His understanding of economics and politics is colored by his experiences in Argentina during the time of the so-called Dirty War, that pitted the military government in power against Leftist guerrillas and terrorists. Neither side was without blame, and the whole enterprise is loaded with villains and victims - very few saints.

As a result, many Argentinians side more with the Left/Progressive factions. In the case of Pope Francis, that inclination has been exploited by George Soros. Will that man never die? He's like a real-life super-villain.

Just in case you need reminding about Soros.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Trust And Joinerism

     I keep saying it, yet it seems no one believes me:

Don’t Be A Joiner!

     Always maintain your independence of judgment – what a Randian might call the integrity of your mind. It’s the essential difference between the thinking man and the Joiner.

     Now, to be perfectly clear about the above, it is possible to align oneself loosely with certain groups without becoming a Joiner. But there’s an attitudinal requirement for maintaining one’s personal independence. Here’s an example:

JOINER: What political alignment are you?
FWP: When I vote, it’s usually for a Republican.
JOINER: (sneers) Oh, one of those.
FWP: Excuse me? One of what?
JOINER: A Republican.
FWP: (loudly) Oh, I’m so sorry for you! Is it congenital?
JOINER: Huh?
FWP: (even more loudly) Your hearing defect. I didn’t say that I’m a Republican. I said when I vote, it’s usually for a Republican. You must not have heard me correctly.

JOINER: (slowly) No...I did. But—
FWP: No buts, asshole. Either you have a hearing defect or you’re incapable of understanding simple English.
JOINER: (draws himself up) Well, what’s the difference?
FWP: A Republican is a partisan, one who allows the Republican Party to decide whom he’ll support. I will only vote for a candidate I personally approve, and I don’t automatically approve of a candidate just because he’s the Republican nominee. I suppose you let the Democrat Party make your decisions for you?
JOINER: Well—
FWP: Got the idea now, or should I have used shorter words?

     The counter-sneer at the end is absolutely required. You want the Joiner, once he’s revealed himself, to walk away feeling bruised. Joiners submerge themselves in the collective. They surrender their independence of judgment to a group – and it’s seldom a group over which they have much influence. It is right and proper to leave them feeling ashamed.

     Identity politics is toxic for that reason.


     We’ve had endless demonstrations of a critical sociodynamic theorem: that persons who prize power over others will pursue it more effectively than persons who don’t. Along with that goes an observation that far too few persons have made and even fewer have respected: that any group more formally organized than the Friday night slosh-and-gripe at the neighborhood tavern will offer the prospect of power over others. Together, these tendencies guarantee the deterioration of formally organized groups – to be clear, that refers to groups that have a hierarchy of authority over pooled resources – away from their original purposes and toward the purposes of those who rise to command them.

     Fortunately, most formally organized groups can’t compel their members to remain members. For example, a book club taken over by zealots for some Cause will eventually lose all the non-zealots. Thus the club will mutate from a book club into a Cause club – if, that is, there are enough zealots to keep it going.

     However, a group in the process of being transformed that way can do quite a lot of damage before its membership disintegrates.

     The environmental-action groups provide a choice example. When nuclear power first became technologically and economically feasible in the late Fifties, it was plainly the cleanest and safest form of electrical power generation available to Mankind. As such, the environmental-action groups, nominally concerned with reducing the production of wastes that pollute the air and water, should have embraced it. Unfortunately, they were already well into the process of being subverted by socialist zealots who saw in them a prospect of undermining America’s capitalist economy. Those zealots could not embrace nuclear power; by the very nature of their real aim, they had to condemn it. So it is today.

     Many sincere environmentalists will tell you that there’s nothing wrong with nuclear power from an environmental perspective...at least, once you get enough alcohol into them. However, those who have remained loyal to one of the big eco-fascist groups, such as the Sierra Club or Earth First, will at best be tormented by the admission. They’ve been sending their dues checks to a Group controlled by anti-capitalist zealots. Those zealots have another aim in mind and would pillory them for their statement.

     Pick a group, any group, as long as it has size and profile enough to command at least the specter of political influence. You’ll find the dynamic operating in every one of them.


     Identity politics was on my mind when I started this diatribe. It’s still there. I spent a good bit of the early morning collecting links to recent stories that illustrate where it leads. But as I did so, it occurred to me that there were other stories relevant to the damage groups can do that aren’t explicitly political:

     Explaining the motives behind any of the linked stories requires Joinerism: both its promotion and its effects. How many persons sincerely concerned about environmental degradation would endorse the article about “climate change” causing volcanoes? You can bet the zealots who control the environmental groups would do so, and would be wroth with members who would laugh it aside. How many people who have resolved to tolerate (however grudgingly) adult homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgenders would approve of that Times article? Yet the activists who control the directions and resources of organized LGBT groups would glare sternly at any member who dared to speak a word of protest.

     Feel free to complete the exercise for yourself.


     Men of independent judgment, determined to assess all questions of importance according to evidence and reason, are never comfortable as members of a Group. They exhibit a certain social reserve: they’re not unfriendly or aloof, but they lean away from extensive disclosures of their opinions. When asked for their opinions on some current controversy, they tend to change the subject. They back away from activists of whatever stripe. They swiftly come to despise those who seek power over others, regardless of the seeker’s espoused motivations.

     These are the men we need for the century ahead of us to be better than the one behind us. We have far too few of them, in large part because membership in a strong group is too widely seen as the best possible defense against the predations of other strong groups.

     Food for thought.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

For The Feast of Christ The King – 2017

     [Today is the Feast of Christ The King, which falls on the last Sunday before Advent. It’s a unique holy day for several reasons, and one that I find particularly personally significant. It first appeared at Eternity Road on January 6, 2008. I find that I cannot improve upon it, for which reason I've made a habit of reviving it each year on this special day. -- FWP]

    


     Let's talk about...Zoroastrianism!

    

***

     The ancient creed called Zoroastrianism predated the birth of Christ by about a millennium. Its founder, Zoroaster, laid down a small set of doctrines:

  • There is one universal and transcendental God, Ahura Mazda, the one uncreated creator and to whom all worship is ultimately directed.
  • Ahura Mazda's creation — evident as asha, truth and order — is the antithesis of chaos, evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict.
  • Active participation in life through good thoughts, good words and good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep the chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism.
  • Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation — even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to "darkness" — will be reunited in Ahura Mazda.
  • In Zoroastrian tradition, the malevolent is represented by Angra Mainyu, the "Destructive Principle", while the benevolent is represented through Ahura Mazda's Spenta Mainyu, the instrument or "Bounteous Principle" of the act of creation. It is through Spenta Mainyu that Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind, and through which the Creator interacts with the world. According to Zoroastrian cosmology, in articulating the Ahuna Vairya formula, Ahura Mazda made His ultimate triumph evident to Angra Mainyu.
  • As expressions and aspects of Creation, Ahura Mazda emanated seven "sparks", the Amesha Spentas, "Bounteous Immortals" that are each the hypostasis and representative of one aspect of that Creation. These Amesha Spenta are in turn assisted by a league of lesser principles, the Yazatas, each "Worthy of Worship" and each again a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation.

     I find nothing objectionable in the above, except that only God, by whatever name He might be known, is worthy of worship; the most a lesser being is entitled to is veneration. But the word "worship" has had many meanings and subtleties over the years, so I'm inclined to let it pass. More important than Zoroastrianism's harmless mythos is its ethos, which Zoroaster himself encapsulated in a unique and memorable command:

    

Speak truth and shoot the arrow straight.

     Unlike the overwhelming majority of other pre-Christian creeds, Zoroastrianism was -- and is -- rational, humane, and life-loving rather than life-denying. It emphasized human free will, moral choice, and the need to defend truth and order against lies and chaos. These attributes made it the dominant religion of classical Persia and environs, though Zoroastrians' numbers are far reduced today.

     (No, I haven't converted to Zoroastrianism. You can all relax.)

     In the Western world, the Zoroastrians were the first practitioners of the pseudo-science we call astrology. They reposed a fair amount of confidence in it, for the creed had had its own prophets, beginning with Zoroaster himself, and among the prophecies were several tied to events foretold to happen in the night sky. The Zoroastrians therefore took great interest in the stars, and made careful records of occurrences therein, for comparison to the utterances of their prophets.

     One of those prophecies involved the birth of God in mortal flesh.

     The Magi of the Incarnation story were three esteemed nobles of Persia, wealthy in gold, wisdom, and the admiration of their societies. In contrast to the pattern prevalent among the nobilities of later times, these three, whose names have come down to us as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, were deeply religious men whose involvement in the investigation of the Zoroastrian prophecies was sincere. When they spied the famous "star in the east" -- quite possibly a nova in Draco now known to have occurred at about that time -- they resolved to follow its trail, to find the divine infant and pay him homage.

     I shan't retell the whole of the story. It's accessible to anyone reading this site, in both secular and liturgical versions. The most salient aspect of the story is that these three exalted nobles -- kings, in the most common accounts -- of a faraway land came to pay homage and present tokens of vassalage to a newborn infant.

     Of course! What else would be appropriate, before a King of Kings?

    

***

     I will pause here to draw an important distinction: "King of Kings" is not the same as "Emperor." "Emperor" is a title appropriate only to a conqueror; that's more or less what it means. Atop that, an emperor is not necessarily concerned with justice, whereas a king, of whatever altitude, is obliged to make it the center of his life:

     The saber gleamed in the muted light. I'd spent a lot of time and effort sharpening and polishing it.

     It was a plain weapon, not one you'd expect to see in the hand of a king. There was only the barest tracing on the faintly curved blade. The guard bell was a plain steel basket, without ornamentation. The hilt was a seven inch length of oak, darkened with age but firm to the touch. There was only a hint of a pommel, a slight swell of the hilt at its very end.

     "What is this?"

     "A sword. Your sword."

     A hint of alarm compressed his eyes. "What do you expect me to do with it?"

     I shrugged. "Whatever you think appropriate. But a king should have a sword. By the way," I said, "it was first worn by Louis the Ninth of France when he was the Dauphin, though he set it aside for a useless jeweled monstrosity when he ascended the throne."

     Time braked to a stop as confusion spun his thoughts.

     "I don't know how to use it," he murmured.

     "Easily fixed. I do."

     "But why, Malcolm?"

     I stepped back, turned a little away from those pleading eyes.

     "Like it or not, you're a king. You don't know what that means yet. You haven't a sense for the scope of it. But you must learn. Your life, and the lives of many others, will turn on how well you learn it." I paused and gathered my forces. "What is a king, Louis?"

     He stood there with the sword dangling from his hand. "A ruler. A leader. A warlord."

     "More. All of that, but more. The sword is an ancient symbol for justice. Back when the function of nobility was better understood, a king never sat his throne without his sword to hand. If he was to treat with the envoy of another king, it would be at his side. If he was to dispense justice, it would be across his knees. Why do you suppose that was, Louis?"

     He stood silent for a few seconds.

     "Symbolic of the force at his command, I guess."

     I shook my head gently.

     "Not just symbolic. A true king, whose throne belonged to him by more than the right of inheritance, led his own troops and slew malefactors by his own hand. The sword was a reminder of the privilege of wielding force, but it was there to be used as well."

     His hands clenched and unclenched in time to his thoughts. I knew what they had to be.

     "The age of kings is far behind us, Malcolm."

     "It never ended. Men worthy of the role became too few to maintain the institution."

     "And I'm...worthy?"

     If he wasn't, then no worthy man had ever lived, but I couldn't tell him that.

     "There's a gulf running through the world, Louis. On one side are the commoners, the little men who bear tools, tend their gardens, and keep the world running. On the other are the nobles, who see far and dare much, and sometimes risk all they have, that the realm be preserved and the commoner continue undisturbed in his portion. There's no shortage of either, except for the highest of the nobles, the men of unbreakable will and moral vision, for whom justice is a commitment deeper than life itself."

     His face had begun to twitch. He'd heard all he could stand to hear, and perhaps more. I decided to cap the pressure.

     "Kings have refused their crowns many times, Louis. You might do as much, though it would sadden me to see it. But you could break that sword over your knee, change your name, and run ten thousand miles to hide where no one could know you, and it wouldn't lessen what you are and were born to be." I gestured at the sword. "Keep it near you."

     [From Chosen One.]

     Note further: a mortal king cannot and does not define justice; he dispenses justice, according to principles drawn from a higher authority. The King of Kings, from whom the privilege and obligation to mete justice flows, is the definer. In the matter of Law, all lesser kings are His vassals.

     The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of gold.

    

***

     The pre-Christian era knew few, if any, rulers who claimed their jurisdiction solely on basis of might. Nearly all were approved and anointed by a priesthood. In that anointment lay their claim to be dispensers of true justice, for God would not allow a mortal to mete justice that departs from His Law. Let's leave aside the divergence between theory and practice for the moment; it was the logical connection between Divine Law and human-modulated justice that mattered to the people of those times.

     But the King of Kings would need no clerical approval. Indeed, He would be the Priest of Priests: the Authority lesser priests would invoke in anointing lesser kings.

     The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of frankincense.

    

***

     We of the Twenty-First Century are largely unaware of the obligations which lay upon the kings of old. They were not, until the waning years of monarchy, sedentary creatures whose lives were a round of indulgences and propitiations. They were expected not merely to judge and pass sentence, but also to lead the armies of the realm when war was upon it. The king was expected to put himself at risk before any of his subjects. Among the reasons was this one: the loss of the king in battle was traditionally grounds for surrender, after which the enemy was forbidden by age-old custom to strike further blows.

     The king, in this conception, was both the leader of his legions and a sacrifice for the safety of his subjects, should the need arise. He was expected to embrace the role wholeheartedly, and to lead from the front in full recognition of the worst of the possibilities. Not to do so was an admission that he was unfit for his throne:

     "We have talked," he said, "about all the strategies known to man for dealing with an armed enemy. We have talked about every aspect of deadly conflict. Every moment of every discussion we've had to date has been backlit by the consciousness of objectives and costs: attaining the one and constraining the other. And one of the first things we talked about was the importance of insuring that you don't overpay for what you seek."

     She kept silent and listened.

     "What if you can't, Christine? What if your objective can't be bought at an acceptable price?"

     She pressed her lips together, then said, "You abandon it."

     He smirked. "It's hard even to say it, I know. But reality is sometimes insensitive to a general's desires. On those occasions, you must learn how to walk away. And that, my dear, is an art form of its own."

     He straightened up. "Combat occurs within an envelope of conditions. A general doesn't control all those conditions. If he did, he'd never have to fight. Sometimes, those conditions are so stiff that he's compelled to fight whether he thinks it wise, or not."

     "What conditions can do that to you?"

     His mouth quirked. "Yes, what conditions indeed?"

     Oops. Here we go again. "Weather could do it."

     "How?"

     "By cutting off your lines of retreat in the face of an invasion."

     "Good. Another."

     "Economics. Once the economy of your country's been militarized, it runs at a net loss, so you might be forced to fight from an inferior position because you're running out of resources."

     "Excellent. One more."

     She thought hard. "Superior generalship on the other side?"

     He clucked in disapproval. "Does the opponent ever want you to fight?"

     "No, sorry. Let me think."

     He waited.

     Conditions. Conditions you can't control. Conditions that...control you.

     "Politics. The political leadership won't accept retreat or surrender until you've been so badly mangled that it's obvious even to an idiot."

     The man Louis Redmond had named the greatest warrior in history began to shudder. It took him some time to quell.

     "It's the general's worst nightmare," he whispered. "Kings used to lead their own armies. They used to lead the cavalry's charge. For a king to send an army to war and remain behind to warm his throne was simply not done. Those that tried it lost their thrones, and some lost their heads -- to their own people. It was a useful check on political and military rashness.

     "It hasn't been that way for a long time. Today armies go into the field exclusively at the orders of politicians who remain at home. And politicians are bred to believe that reality is entirely plastic to their wills."

     [From On Broken Wings.]

     But the King of Kings, intrinsically above all other authorities, would obviously be aware of this obligation. More, His sacrifice of Himself must perforce be for the salvation of the whole of the world -- indeed, the whole of the universe and every sentient creature in it. Nothing less could possibly justify it.

     The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of myrrh.

    

***

     On the first Sunday after the New Year, Christians celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, called the Theophany by some eastern Christian sects, when the Magi prostrated themselves before the Christ Child and made their gifts of vassalage to him. A vassal is a noble sworn to fealty to a higher authority: a higher-ranking noble or a king. The obligations of the vassal are to enforce justice as promulgated by the vassal's liege, and to support and defend the liege's realm by force of arms as required. To the King of Kings, God made flesh in the miracle of the Incarnation, every temporal authority is properly a vassal, obliged to mete justice in accordance with the natural law and to defend the Liege's realm -- men of good will, wherever they may be -- against all enemies, whenever the need might arise. To do less is to be unworthy of a temporal throne, palace, official office, or seat in a legislature...to be unworthy of Him.

     He took on the burdens of the flesh to confirm God's love for Man and to open the gates of salvation. He went to Calvary in testament to the authenticity of His Authority. The Magi knew, and in their pledge of fealty to Him, made plain that He had come not merely to succor Israel, but for the liberation of all Mankind.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Right, Wrong, Good, Bad, And Tastes

     “De gustibus non est disputandum.” – some Roman or other.

     “Chacun a son gout.” – some Frenchman or other.

     “Jesus, am I tired,” he says.
     “Yeah, well, that’s a helluva big secret you’ve been keeping on yourself,” Berger says.
     “So what do I do now?”
     “Well, you’ve done it, haven’t you? Revelation. She’s not perfect. Recognize her limitations.”
     “You mean, like she can’t love me.”
     “Like she can’t love you enough. Like she loves you as much as she’s able. Perspective, kiddo, remember? Maybe she’s afraid. Maybe it’s hard for her to give love.”
     “No,” he says, “it isn’t. She loves my father, I know that.” He closes his eyes. “She loved my brother, too. It’s just me.”
     “Ah, now we’re back to the old rotten-kid routine. She doesn’t love you because you’re unlovable. So where does that leave your dad? How come he loves you? Doesn’t he know what a rotten kid you are?”
     “That’s different. He feels responsible. Besides, he loves everybody.”
     “Oh, I get it, the guy’s got no taste. He loves you, but he’s wrong.”

     [Judith Guest, Ordinary People]

     Were I able to locate the CD, I’d have included in the above set of quotes a magnificently insightful statement by persuasion specialist Michael Emerling, which I shall now proceed to paraphrase: the quick road to total ineffectiveness at persuasion is to define the other guy’s convictions, preferences, and tastes as “wrong.” Indeed, that’s the quick road to total ineffectiveness at life itself.

     Those of us who sell entertainment must make our peace with the great variety of personal tastes out there. Those of us who sell fiction, even in this era of anything-goes and self-publishing that owes nothing to anyone, must be particularly alert to that diversity. It matters a hell of a lot more than race, sex, or political alignment.

     A couple of years back I locked ‘em up with another writer – not a fictioneer, an opinion-monger – who took me to task for using the word Negro. He claimed it was offensive – that it indicated that I harbor a desire to “make black people feel bad.” A couple of years before that, a different fellow upbraided me for making Angela Farnsworth, the co-protagonist of the segment “Incantations” in my novel Chosen One, a Negro. And of course, as I’m utterly resolved to use (and promote the use of) “he-his-him” as the generic singular pronouns, I get flak regularly from militant feminists, and more recently from transgender activists as well.

     I’ve learned to shrug it off. Why worry about readers whose principal criterion for enjoyment is that their entertainment conform perfectly to their social and political opinions? They won’t be back. I have my own convictions, preferences, and tastes to appease. Why should I devalue them for the sake of some emotionally constipated militant for attitudes I’ve rejected?

     I’ve had a fair number of writing colleagues suggest to me that I’m reducing my potential sales by insisting on going my own way. They’re probably right, but what of it? I’m not a hooker. Indeed, even hookers don’t insist on pleasing everyone.

     One of the truly marvelous things about the present day is that just about anyone can find fiction that will suit his preferences down to the last comma. That immense diversity of personal tastes is just as great a blessing from the writer’s perspective. However, it does make it more difficult to talk about “right and wrong” in the crafting of fiction.


     Way, way back in the Early Obscene, when we were all swinging from tree to tree in search of a perfectly ripe banana and I still harbored a fantasy of conventional publication, I read in several publications for the terminally deluded aspiring writer that the prologue was “passé.” More specifically, these folks put forth the proposition – which for all I know was correct then and remains so today – that opening a novel with a prologue greatly increases the probability that Pub World editors would reject it.

     As the seasons changed and my hairline receded, I gradually became convinced that Pub World would never show an interest in my weird, Catholic-flavored, overtly heroic and freedom-oriented fiction. So I dismissed the advice of all those presumably well-meaning publications and did what I damned well pleased. In late 2009, when I decided at last to “go indie” and self-publish, I put forth exactly what I’d written – what I’d wanted to write. As there were quite a few readers, both in the U.S. and in other countries where English is spoken or widely taught, who’d been looking for the sort of thing I write and were greatly displeased by its absence from Pub World’s offerings, I gained a readership. Those readers didn’t seem at all put off by the prologues to Chosen One and Which Art In Hope. Maybe they hadn’t read my betters’ condemnations of such things.

     “Good and bad” in fiction have always been matters of taste. There are people who think Dhalgren is a work of genius. There are others who consider it vile trash. (I’m in the latter category.) As an engineering colleague of mine likes to say, that’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla.


     It may not be clear what I’m driving at here. (It wouldn’t be the first time, would it, Gentle Reader?) Candidly, it can be reduced to a single sentence:

The writer should write what pleases him.

     (Ah! Those contentious, sententious pronouns! They’re everywhere.)

     Your audience will self-select. Until they deign to speak to you, whether through email, Amazon reviews, social media, or what have you, you won’t know what pleased them and what didn’t. Even when they do, what matters most, unless the collection agents have massed on your lawn, are hollering at you through bullhorns, and are brandishing their battering rams, is, was, and will always be whether your fiction satisfies you.

     That having been said, I do hold that there are “better” and “worse” ways to approach description, dialogue, fictional time management, transitions between scenes and viewpoints, and so forth. I’m not bashful; I’ll readily say so to those who approach me for critiques. But the persons issuing the judgment that really matters will be those who elect to lavish their money and time on your fiction. In a world with 7.5 billion people in it, a great many will find fault with your choices...and many others will applaud. So don’t let the Constipated Ones constipate you.

     This weekend is for giving thanks. If you write, you might include in your personal list some gratitude for the independent-writer / self-publishing revolution. While it has had its costs, it has also made a great many good things possible...including, of course, this essay. Now it’s time to surf over to Amazon and find something decent to read!

Friday, November 24, 2017

An Announcement (Sticky; Scroll Down for New Posts)

     From November 20 through November 24, the Kindle edition of Innocents will be free at Amazon. Yes, friends, that’s a grand total of $0.00 for enough words to separate the wholly electronic covers. Oy vey! Such a bargain! So don't miss it.

     Please notify anyone you know who:

  1. Reads;
  2. Likes speculative fiction;
  3. Would never dream of spending $2.99 on a book by an unknown, self-published writer.

     Thank you.

Blacker Than Your Black Friday

     Ahhh! The post-prandial doldrums are behind us, a good night’s sleep ensued, and your humble Curmudgeon is back to regale you with pointless philosophizing, annoying anecdotes, and lots of stuff you already know. Hope you’ve had enough coffee, because the latest edition of Liberty’s Torch has just been delivered fresh and piping-hot to your browser. Put down the leftover stuffing, sit back, and enjoy a completely unacceptable, certified 100% free-of-political-correctness tirade.

     Eating too much always makes me bilious.


1. Crazy Canucks.

     Strange as it may sound, quite a lot of our northern neighbors actually like and approve of their single-payer socialized medicine system. Despite Canada’s shrinking number of physicians, its wholly inadequate supply of advanced diagnostic equipment, and its ever-lengthening waiting lines for even the most time-critical procedures, there are no few Canadians who’ll defend their national die-quicker scheme to...well, to the death.

     I crossed swords with one yesterday who actually expected to get away with the unsubstantiated (because unsubstantiable) claim that single-payer was the proven best system. He said it “saves a lot of money.” Well, gee, when the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent State can simply deny you care, or make you wait for it for so long that by the time your “turn” comes you’ve died or acquired Alzheimer’s and can no longer remember why you need it, it’s easy to save money. That’s socialism’s chief trick, you see: its “efficiencies,” so called, are achieved by delay and rationing.

     Yet plenty of Canadians will scream and leap at any American who dares to mention that their fellow subjects are streaming southward to get access to medical care. Well, we always knew that there had to be a head of steam building up behind all that self-imposed politeness. Moreover, their envy of their more successful continental neighbors has never been quite adequately disguised. Quite a lot of them would defend Satan himself if the Prince of Darkness were to castigate the United States. He might even be urged to contend for their premiership...as a Liberal, of course.


2. Resentment.

     Daniel Greenfield fingers a component of the Leftist psyche:

     It’s Thanksgiving 2017. And gratitude has become a partisan issue.

     Why is it so hard for the left to be thankful? The answer is as easy as pumpkin pie. The left is a movement built on resentment. And resentment and gratitude are opposing emotions.

     That is why the left really hates Thanksgiving.

     The revisionist autopsies of American history and the guides to sensitively calling your uncle a racist are about substituting resentment for thankfulness. Whether it’s a family getting together once a year, the Pilgrims and the Indian tribesmen breaking bread or the White House press corps being asked to talk about the good things in their lives, a moment of thankfulness has to be ruined with resentment.

     Resentment is the force that gives the left meaning.

     Close, but no cookie. The leftward political orientation arises from a desire to be significant. The typical Leftist has nothing of actual substance to offer anyone. That’s why they rallied behind the worst presidential candidate in history: a massively dislikable woman of absolutely no competence, with no accomplishments to her name but plenty of scandals, whose entire public profile was founded on the electoral success of her philandering husband. In her personal vacuity, her lust for power and wealth, and her demonstrated sense of entitlement, she represented them perfectly.

     Their resentment of the rest of us – you know, we who actually make and do things that render value to others – is a resultant, a consequence of their self-loathing. That’s why they must always oppose anything that’s entirely private, especially if it confers value or enjoyment upon the involved parties. (Note that their preferred forms of sex are all humiliating and degrading if not actually painful and damaging. Think about it!)

     I simply must re-employ one of my favorite quotations:

     A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business...The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice the utmost humility, is boundless. – Eric Hoffer


3. Big Mama Rules!

     Sarah Sanders has painted a big, shit-eating grin on my face by carving the hearts out of the media:

     The national media’s relationship with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has taken on a new tension over the last month, as journalists and news commentators have grown more and more personal in their hostility toward the Trump administration’s top spokeswoman.

     Several high-profile columnists and writers have torn into Sanders over the last few weeks to mock her appearance, the way she talks, and most recently, an alleged disdain she showed the press by asking them at a briefing this week to say why they are thankful this holiday season.

     Of course they would mock her appearance! She’s made them look like what they are in truth: the handmaidens of the Democrat Party always striving to make the Right – and at this time, the Trump Administration – look bad. She does it with a straightforward, no holds barred candor they can’t face and certainly can’t counteract. So they have to belittle her in the only way possible – a way they would condemn if a conservative treated a left-liberal woman that way.

     Frankly, I love this gal. I’d like to hug the stuffings out of her. She’s Trump’s buxom Eowyn of the Rohirrim, a chunky Amazon, a zaftig Valkyrie with bigger balls than any press secretary since the late and deeply lamented Tony Snow. She’s exactly what America’s fifth column of a press corps has earned, and she gives it to them good and hard at every opportunity. I hope Trump keeps her as his Head Mouthpiece for the whole of his tenure in the White House.


4. The Sulvan Era Has Begun.

     We were warned, and we did not listen:

     James, 58, is in a sexual relationship with a 5ft tall sex doll called April – and his wife Tine doesn’t mind.

     He is still with his wife, but admits to having sex four times a week with the blonde doll – and he even takes her on dinner dates.

     The engineer is now saving up to get his hands on the world’s first sex robot Harmony, who is being designed to talk, smile and react during sex.

     April sometimes sleeps cuddling with James and the two began seeing each other while Tine was having to care for her sick mother.

     He said: "If I had to choose between April and my wife I honestly don't know what I would do."

     I can’t imagine how the moral of this story, and the development it illustrates, could be lost on anyone. Yet a substantial number of women, unwilling to cop to their causal contribution to this latter day romantic triangle, focus exclusively on him and how “awful” he is for importing a sex doll to his marriage.

     Note that the article does not mention whether James and Tine still make love with one another. I don’t think that was accidental. Do you, Gentle Reader?

     As for the title of this piece, as is so often the case it’s from C. S. Lewis:

     “Who is called Sulva? What road does she walk? Why is the womb barren on one side? Where are the cold marriages?”

     Ransom replied, “Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half of her orb is turned toward us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would be he who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her further side. On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place.”

     But it’s not necessarily about lust, is it? Often it’s about the coldness that seeps into the marital bed and home when she (occasionally though seldom he) decides she’s “no longer interested.” She reliably reaps what she has sown. In the cited article, it was a rubber alternative for her husband’s attention and affection. In most other cases, her competitor is of flesh and blood. I can’t decide which is worse for the future of the race.


5. Some Thankfulnesses Not To Be Forgotten.

     As he often does, Kurt Schlichter has a list. My favorite entries are #5, #6, and #7:

     No. 5: Be Thankful We Have Fewer Perverts Than The Liberals.
     No. 6: Be Thankful For Dogs.
     No. 7: Be Thankful That We Have All The Guns.

     Number 7 is the capper. Stay armed, fellow Americans. It’s more important than most of you know.

     And from all of us here at the Fortress of Crankitude, a Happy belated Thanksgiving to you all. Now put the car keys back in your pocket and sit down. It’s far too dangerous to go anywhere. It’s Black Friday, don’t y’know?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Net Neutrality - for the Love of God, Will Someone Help Me Understand It?

I've been reading about this for some time, from both sides of the issue. Many Libertarians are heavily in favor of it, saying that it's the only way to keep government from censoring opinions.

Others point out that the concept will force internet providers to provide service to those data-hogging activities, such as video-streaming, which will mean that most of us will find that their Internet activities will slow to a crawl.

Will someone with some knowledge of this issue please point me to sites that can make a fair case for their side, without a lot of propagandizing? Post those links in the comments, please.

Another Announcement

     Hans G. Schantz’s novel A Rambling Wreck, the sequel to his acclaimed first novel The Hidden Truth, will be discounted to $0.99 starting today and ending on Wednesday, November 29. Get it while it’s cheap!

Giving Thanks, 2017

     Giving thanks for one’s blessings is a good idea. It promotes individual happiness and a sense of perspective that’s often difficult to attain while one is inundated in the national “news.” I do a lot of it, each and every day. Professor Jordan Peterson has made a version of it one of his twelve Rules for Life.

     The Thanksgiving Weekend makes an “event” out of gratitude. People ask one another “What are you grateful for this year?” They compose lists of their various blessings and post them on the Web. There’s a competitive flavor to it that distorts what would otherwise be a constructive undertaking, a reminder of the importance of gratitude to human health and happiness.

     But here we are, the day before America’s second-favorite holiday. It’s got me thinking about the blessings I’ve enjoyed that I often fail to appreciate. And I find myself remembering a less blessed time, back when I flipped bits for bucks alongside a few dozen other software weenies, and we all shared a single VAX 11-785 superminicomputer.


     You have to be a little older than the typical Web junkie to remember the era of superminis. They were impressive machines, to be sure – Digital Equipment Corporation’s VAX line was my personal favorite, and its VMS operating system remains my candidate for the best OS ever produced – but they came with certain limitations.

     During the late Eighties and early Nineties, I did my salaried work on a VAX, as did all my colleagues. At first, the storage space on that machine consisted of a single disk pack: a stack of magnetic platters bound together that was manipulated by a washing-machine-size drive. The capacity of that pack, the sole storage available to some thirty software types, was a mind-blowing 32 MegaBytes.

     Yes, Gentle Reader, you read that right: 32,000,000 bytes of storage for thirty software engineers, all of whom were expected to keep everything of immediate interest on it. Needless to say, there was a lot of contention over who needed how much disk space.

     The system administrator – not your humble Curmudgeon, back then – didn’t want to get into the crossfire. He took an approach that seemed to keep him above it all: he assigned each of us a storage quota, enforced by the OS, that we could not exceed. That quota was roughly half a MegaByte each. He reserved the rest of the pack for administrative functions and paging.

     How long has it been since you last encountered a program that would fit in half a MegaByte?

     Our problem was complex, in that the compiler for the language we used – CMS-2M, a Navy proprietary language that’s no longer of importance – produced big intermediate files. It was practically impossible to compile a source module given the disk quota. So the SysAdmin had to make provisions for “temporary overflow:” i.e., an amount of extra storage available to each user, over and above his quota, that he could exploit while he was logged on. He couldn’t save anything in the overflow space, but he could use it to run compilations and linkages. The moment he logged off, anything in the overflow region would disappear.

     The Law of Unintended Consequences struck at once. After the temporary overflow provision was enacted, no one ever logged off. Pretty soon the disk was at 99.9% capacity. VMS ceased to function properly for lack of disk space.

     The SysAdmin realized that the overflow scheme had solved one problem but had evoked a worse one. He took it down...but that forced him to disable the quota mechanism as well, since under the quotas we’d been assigned we couldn’t even compile our programs. He announced the change in policy with an in-office email, reminded us of the overarching problem, and counseled us to “play nice.”

     “Playing nice” lasted about a day. The 32 MByte space was still inadequate for the group’s needs, and each member of the group exhibited the natural tendency to prioritize his immediate needs above the long-term interests of the group. What happened next was a case study in “the tragedy of the commons.”

     Each engineer strove to set space apart for his own use by creating “slack files:” large files of no importance except that:

  • They were the “property” of the creator and could only be deleted by him or the SysAdmin;
  • They were large enough that, if deleted, the space thus freed would be adequate for the engineer’s work.

     In effect, such a file “privatized” a portion of the common storage resource. But with thirty people concurrently trying to get useful work done, the tactic was vulnerable to a countermeasure. Smith would run a program that repeatedly requested a report on the free disk space available. The moment Jones deleted his slack file to run a compilation, Smith’s program would notice and would swiftly allocate the space to his use. Such programs proliferated through the group almost immediately...and once again, it became impossible to get any work done.

     There was no way out of the box. The SysAdmin had no untried approaches to the problem. No engineer was willing to trust the others to play nice. Management refused to spring for a disk drive with a higher capacity, insisting that “you have what you need.” (To be fair, the highest capacity disk available at that time probably wouldn’t have made much difference.) Relief from the torture came only when the Navy canceled our program.

     Iterations of this problem recurred regularly for a decade and more.


     I have before me at this moment a 64 GigaByte flash ROM thumb drive: 2000 times the space on that old disk pack. It’s so small that I frequently misplace it and have to search the entire house for it. It’s not the largest of its kind; there are now thumb drives of 512 GBytes. Hard disks of 4 TeraBytes are commonplace and quite inexpensive. The explosion in storage capacity has alleviated many of the problems of yore.

     Cyclops, my beloved (albeit occasionally irritating) Dell Optiplex 580, which I bought used and have owned for more than three years, has a 2 TeraByte hard disk drive of which less than 25% is in use. I don’t expect ever to challenge its capacity.

     If American corporate developers were still in the habit of using superminis, their disk capacities would be correspondingly huge. However, the typical company uses networked PCs with large drives of their own, tied to servers with even larger shared drives.

     But why did storage capacities explode? What provided the incentive for the electronics industry to bring us these things?

     The answer lies in the most trivial, utterly unproductive things we do with our computers:

  • Music and video files;
  • Computer games;
  • Porn.

     These are the influences that have led users to demand more storage space and has made them willing to pay for it. The market took care of the rest. Anomalous users (your humble Curmudgeon being one) who use their computers for “serious stuff” have benefited from the demands of the frivolous users.

     So today, the day before Thanksgiving 2017, I find myself giving thanks for the hordes of American computer owners and users whose frivolous pastimes have propelled the storage explosion. They waved fistfuls of cash at the disk drive developers, and the developers gave them what they wanted. I am their indirect beneficiary. Maybe you are too.

     Might that make you, Gentle Reader, a wee bit more tolerant when you next catch Junior playing a computer game or viewing cat videos instead of his book report that’s overdue?


     I’ll be taking tomorrow off from the blog. I expect to be back Friday. Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless and keep you all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Random Jottings From A Bemused Writer

     Bemused. Yes, that’s it exactly. Puzzled. Mystified. Confounded, even. “Over what?” I hear you cry. Simply this: Given all the arrant nonsense that’s making the news lately, why haven’t we heard about millions of Americans being injured or killed by uncontrollable laughter?

     It’s a cover-up, I tell you. It must be!


     It’s a home truth that “the tail goes with the dog:” i.e., you must expect your actions to have their foreseeable consequences. Moreover, you must be willing to take responsibility for those consequences, at least if you’re a functioning adult allowed to leave the house without a minder.

     Yet it seems that there are categories of persons who were never taught that:

     Poor, poor Kathy Griffin. She’s currently performing in Austria, but complains that she doesn’t have any work when she gets back to the US of A. Not. One. Gig.

     She also takes a page from the Hillary Clinton playbook, which means she blames everyone else but herself. Moreover, she claims that “this wall of crap has never fallen on any woman in the history of America the way it has fallen on me.”

     You’ve got to wonder about Griffin’s sanity. She could have asked Lindsay Lohan what to expect from the course she chose. She set out, deliberately and with malice aforethought, to offend over 60 million people: we who voted Donald Trump into the Oval Office. Her own actions made her radioactive. Inasmuch as her career was television-based, and sponsors regard alienating half of their potential audience as poor marketing, what on Earth did she expect? A crown of laurels?

     I never thought much of her act, and as a sports-DVDs-and-video-games type I wouldn’t have been part of her audience anyway. Still, her plaint made me wonder whether there’s a degree of public exposure that rots the brain of the under-prepared.

     It’s good for a laugh, anyway.


     Writer Danielle Bova reminds us of something she wrote a year ago:

     It has been 3 weeks since America elected the next President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and we are still in the throes of the biggest, loudest, hysterical temper tantrum in recent memory.

     Yes, Hillary voters, I’m talking about you.

     There has not been such a show of immaturity in at least 60 years, if not longer. I know this because my mother told me. She’s 81, and said flat out that she remembers nothing that compares to the Left’s rage at the fact that their candidate didn’t win in all the years she’s been voting.

     (Except, perhaps, when Al Gore decided he had won in 2000, and subjected the country to the spectacle of hanging chads, lawsuits, and a Supreme Court decision that ruled that he could not continue trying to find enough Florida votes to declare himself the winner.)

     *Disclaimer* – To those Hillary voters who have done what normal people do when their candidate loses, (having some time of anger, and speaking about your disappointment, and then watching the new PEOTUS and commenting on his performance): This post is not directed at you.

     This is directed at Far Left Democrats, Media, and their sycophants & twitter trolls who have decided to overthrow the fair election of Donald Trump, and/or, those who insist on nasty tactics of passive-aggressive “statements” that are really ploys to humiliate Trump & his VP in public.

     Please read it to the end; it’s a useful memory refresher.

     Yes, it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? But don’t imagine that the Left’s temper tantrum will come to an end at any moment short of Election Day 2020. Americans are enjoying themselves under the Trump Administration...and if there’s anything leftists hate with a red passion, it’s the thought of Americans pleased with life and looking forward to the coming day.

     Grievance is the pulsing heart of Leftist politics. Remember Bill Moyers’s famous statement: “The worst thing you can do to the liberals is take away their grievances.” If there’s no one they can point to while claiming that “This injustice is YOUR FAULT, America,” they can’t make a case for intruding upon our remaining freedom and expanding the State!

     Their tears do taste delicious, though, don't they?


     The tide of sexual harassment and abuse claimants is swelling toward a flood. It’s not limited to plainly assaultive behavior, either. It seems there’s no one in public life, be it politics, journalism, entertainment, or what have you, who hasn’t made an under-considered remark or gesture at some time in the past. Careers are being ended left and right. A lot of money has changed hands over such allegations, too.

     Whereupon it falls to your Curmudgeon to provide a perspective restorative.

     A great many of the claims are situated, temporally, in the Seventies and early Eighties. If there was ever a time or place more sexualized than America in those years, I have yet to learn of it. Those were the bathhouse years, for Pete’s sake! They were the hookup years, when one-night stands were au courant and waking up next to a stranger wasn’t considered all that newsworthy.

     In other words, the norms of that period were far from what they are today, in our era of AIDS, chlamydia, palimony, and lawsuits over hoary old idioms and facial expressions.

     Raising a row over behavior forty years past is a bit like an ex post facto law. Maybe we didn’t have our heads on straight back then. Or maybe we don’t have them on straight today; it doesn’t really matter. The norms were different. Creating a foofaurauw today over behavior and speech that was acceptable back then is inherently illegitimate. But this will probably fall upon deaf ears, given the glee in many partisans’ faces over the opportunity to damage important figures on the other side.

     I fully expect that the above will displease some people. I can’t be bothered to care. They can shove it up their asses with the rest of their shit.


     Yesterday began the big Innocents giveaway. And boy oh boy, have I given away a lot of copies of Innocents! (1790 copies as of this writing.) For those who have partaken of my beneficence, I have a handful of requests:

  1. If you enjoy the story, please review it at Amazon.
  2. If you really enjoy the story, why not purchase one or two of my other books? They’re not that expensive.
  3. If you really, really enjoy the story, consider telling other people you know. Word-of-mouth is the best advertising an indie writer can have.

     Thank you. And now, it’s back to my previously scheduled programming.