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.

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.

Monday, November 20, 2017

When One Gap Closes, Another Opens

     Sarah Hoyt’s dissection of a fatuous article about “closing the gender gap” got me thinking afresh about the irrelevance of good intentions, the law of unintended consequences, and my favorite of all the comeuppances natural law awards to meddlers: the Fortinbras Effect.

     You’ve probably never seen the phrase “Fortinbras Effect” before. I coined it some years ago. (As far as I know, I’m the only writer who uses it.) Fortinbras was the foreign warlord in Hamlet who comes onstage at the very end of the play, after all of Denmark’s royals and their heirs are dead, and decides to assert a claim to the Danish throne. Mind you, he didn’t intend that sequence of events; he was merely well positioned to capitalize on it.

     It’s often the case that a seemingly uninvolved party to some passionately disputed controversy ultimately becomes its chief beneficiary, just as Fortinbras did. England’s War of the Roses is a commonly studied case. In that conflict, the noble houses of Lancaster and York were the combatants, but the ultimate victors were the Tudors, who took the throne and held it for more than a century afterward. The houses of Lancaster and York were henceforward only marginal players in future contests over the rule of England.

     We can see a similar effect arising from social engineers’ attempts to goose women out of their homes and into the workplace.

     First and foremost: an economy in which women can and will leave their homes to work for wages is necessarily an advanced economy. It must be at least at the verge of the transition from the Industrial to the Informational orientation. Otherwise, the physical punishment and bodily hazards of paying work would deter large-scale female participation. There are spot-exceptions, of course; the garment industry of the Nineteenth Century in both England and the U.S. is an example. However, as a rule women will not willingly leave their homes to work for wages when the economy emphasizes physical strength, physical endurance, and risks to life and limb.

     Thus, we will not see large-scale female paid labor in a purely Industrial milieu. Counterexamples would be self-correcting, as women who left home to participate in industry would be far less likely to reproduce. But when the transition to an Information economy begins – i.e., once there is a substantial “office” sector — the dynamics change. In such an economy, women can labor for wages without being at a physical disadvantage, and without great risk of injury or death. Whether the incentives to do so will be sufficient to persuade any great number of women to do so is a separate question.

     I’m not a telepath, nor do I play one on the World Wide Web. That having been said, I’m inclined to assume that the intentions of the postwar “women’s liberationists” in encouraging women to consider paid labor as a plausible alternative to homemaking were benign. America’s economy during World War II made considerable use of women while so large a fraction of our manhood was overseas. While some of the consequences of that phenomenon were benign, the explosive rise in birth rates after the war suggests that it had created a “pent-up demand” among American women for some non-economic goods: babies, motherhood, and a return to homemaking rather than the continuation of paid labor.

     It took two decades before more than a trickle of American women returned to paid work. While some might have been responding to another postwar phenomenon – the destigmatization of divorce and the consequent rise in divorce rates – others were propelled by another surging force in the American economy: the increase in the cost of living, driven by accelerating taxation and inflation. With the Seventies and President Nixon’s closure of the “gold window” to foreign holders of dollars, inflation broke free of its final restraints. The purchasing power of each earner plummeted inversely.

     Employers were understandably indisposed to increase wages as rapidly as inflation was eroding the dollar. If families were to maintain or improve their financial statuses, there was only one possible response: wives had to go to work. This accelerated the increase in prices beyond even what inflation was producing. More dollars chasing the same quantity of goods and services always does.

     There are other influences that deserve study: the sexual revolution and the Pill; the rise of the electronics and computer industries; the promotion of “college for everyone;” the two oil embargoes; the steady demise of family businesses and the ongoing corporatization of the workforce; and so forth. However, inflation and taxation are sufficient to account for much of the pressure that propelled women out of their homes, in a great many cases against their will, to work for wages. Compared to those forces, the intentions of the “women’s liberationists” were of no consequence.

     The Law of Unintended Consequences is as immune to repeal as the laws of physics. While some women experienced “net happiness gains” from pursuing wage labor rather than marriage, motherhood, and domesticity, there were others for whom it proved a bad bargain. The latter category didn’t always recognize the loss until too late in life to correct for it.

     When a family loses some fraction of the participation of its bedrock elements – i.e., the husband and wife – it will necessarily experience a degradation of some of its functions. Such a degradation can’t always be remedied by throwing money at it. This is particularly, painfully evident in the deterioration of actual parenting: the nurturance, education, and moral guidance parents have traditionally provided to their children.

     Child-rearing and guidance, like Nature herself, abhors a vacuum. Those who leaped to fill it proved to be hostile to the family itself.

     Persons with an unholy agenda rushed into the breach. Before women rushed into the workplace, the “educational industry” barely deserved that name. Most grammar and high school teachers were young women, usually unmarried. They had no “aides.” The administration of a school comprised a principal, perhaps a vice-principal, and a secretary in a back office. The classroom was reserved entirely for academic subjects, with perhaps two or three periods of “gym” per student per week.

     The mushrooming of “educationists” correlated almost perfectly with women’s pursuit of wage labor. Parents, feeling themselves hard pressed by economic necessities, were seduced into approving of greatly expanded, largely non-academic agendas for the schools. The schools became flush with money. Education became a target for persons with social, political, or other axes to grind. Ironically, a great many of those proselytizers were women.

     In his novel The Hidden Truth, Hans G. Schantz has delineated some of the more odious consequences:

     “The second reason [for women to be seduced into the wage economy] is to get children out of the potentially antisocial environment of the home and into educational settings where we can be sure they’ll get the right values and learn the right lessons to be happy and productive members of society. Working mothers need to send their children to daycare and after-school care where we can be sure they get exposed to the right lessons, or at least not to bad ideas....

     “They are going to assign homework to their students: enough homework to guarantee that even elementary school students are spending all their spare time doing homework. Their poor parents, eager to see that Junior stays up with the rest of the class, will be spending all their time helping their kids get incrementally more proficient on the tests we have designed. They’ll be too busy doing homework to pick up on any antisocial messages at home....

     “Children will be too busy to learn independence at home, too busy to do chores, to learn how to take care of themselves, to be responsible for their own cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Their parents will have to cater to their little darlings’ every need, and their little darlings will be utterly dependent on their parents. When the kids grow up, they will be used to having someone else take care of them. They will shift that spirit of dependence from their parents to their university professors, and ultimately to their government. The next generation will be psychologically prepared to accept a government that would be intrusive even by today’s relaxed standards – a government that will tell them exactly how to behave and what to think. Not a Big Brother government, but a Mommy-State.

     Good intentions had proved impotent.

     In Shakespeare’s Hamlet Fortinbras is presented as a morally neutral, perhaps even benevolent figure. He’s not in Denmark to cause trouble. When at the close of the play he decides to take its throne, it’s not out of rapacity, or at least not necessarily so. But the sort of third party that usually capitalizes on a wound to an important institution is decidedly not a good guy.

     Let’s look at some of the second-order effects of women in the workplace and who has “done a corner” in them:

  1. Women working alongside men has exacerbated the natural tensions between the sexes, creating rich fodder for militant feminists.
  2. Governments have, as Hans G. Schantz notes above, reaped great increases in tax revenue.
  3. “Educators” whose principal concern is the expansion of their own wealth, power, and prestige have deeply colonized state and local governments.
  4. Persons with sexual, political, and other family-hostile agendas have established a firm foothold in the schools.
  5. Perhaps worst of all: As participation in the Information economy demands a certain level of intellect and education, the women unable to take part in it have largely been the poorly educated and the intellectually substandard: the very communities worst afflicted by the rising cost of living, and worst infested by identity-politics hucksters.

     One could hardly look objectively at those forces and call them good for women, families, or the nation.

     One last irony before I close: an economy advanced enough to make it possible and mildly attractive for women to consider wage labor as an alternative to marriage and homemaking is necessarily a rich economy. The one-breadwinner arrangement will be adequate for the great majority of families. Its people, absent excessive predation by the State, will be prosperous and secure. That is hardly the condition of America today. Our prosperity is a phantasm, propped up by debt and unsustainable entitlement programs. Our jobs are anything but secure, though there has been a degree of turnaround in the past year. And the State, in all its manifestations, remains omnipresent, and ever more voracious for our earnings, our freedoms, and our lives.

     Given all that, I’d hesitate to call “closing the gender gap” as it’s routinely imagined a good thing. I’d argue that we’d have been far better off had we managed to perpetuate the familial and social conditions prevalent in America in the Fifties and early Sixties. Unfortunately our ruling class, had other ideas.

     Thoughts, Gentle Readers?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Writers, Beware!

     Just a quick emission, this time of greatest interest to other writers who read Liberty’s Torch. The explosion of independent writers who publish and market their own tales has been matched by a rise in scams aimed at such writers. The majority of scamsters wait for you to go to them...but there’s one that’s rather active that comes to you.

     Representatives of that scam have now called me three times. I seldom answer my phone during the day, so on each occasion the caller has left a message. Yesterday I exercised my Google-Fu on their callback phone number and found this description:

     A few weeks ago, I began hearing from writers who'd been solicited, out of the blue, by a company called LitFire Publishing. In some cases by phone, in others by email, a LitFire "consultant" claimed to have received or seen information about the writers' books (or even to have read them), and wanted to offer a wonderful marketing opportunity--for, of course, a four-figure fee.

     Here's how LitFire describes itself and its services (also see the screenshot at the bottom of this post):

     Founded in 2008, LitFire allows authors to skip the hassles of traditional publishing. The company started out as a publisher of digital books. With hundreds of published titles and more than 50 publishing partners, we have learned how to succeed and soar in the eBook market. In 2014, LitFire expanded its horizon by offering self-publishing. Today, we offer all the services you would expect from a traditional publishing house – from editorial to design to promotion. Our goal is to help independent authors and self-publishers bring their book production and marketing goals to fruition.

     In other words, LitFire is one of those outfits that offers publishing packages, but makes much of its profit from hawking adjunct services such as marketing.

     Don’t be fooled, indie colleagues. This outfit will not help you to sell your books. It wants your money; that’s all. So if someone calls to inquire about one of your books and leaves a message on your machine asking that you call 1-800-511-9787 (usually extension 8125 or 8135), ignore the come-on. Delete the message without returning the call.

     If you return the call, the person on the other end will say flattering things about your book’s sales potential – in their hands, of course – and will try to lead you into speaking of what you’ve done to market it. The voice will be pleasant; the pitch for their services will be subtle and seductive. Never will be heard a discouraging word. But the end of the pitch will involve you sending them a check for a large amount of money, certainly far too large for most of us scribblers to throw off the back of a lettuce truck.

     Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. This is never more important than when you’re confronted by someone who wants to trade you a bunch of unenforceable promises for a bunch of your hard-earned money. Verbum sat sapienti.

Echoes of the Past Haunt Us

The Civil War divisions are still with us. The battle has moved from control of Black people - the South is less divisive than any other part of the country, and has shared power more equally than most of the nation.

No, the essence of the fight - who will control the national treasury?

I write about the fight here.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

American political pathology – Part 2,593.

As instances of our political pathology go this is about a 2.2 on the Richter Scale. The rest of the article from which this excerpt is taken is more detailed and more damning. Other instances are as numberless as the grains of sand on Jeffrey Epstein's island.

Suffice it to say that American politics, Western politics really, are awash in bilge water that even a spirit cook wouldn't think of adding to her concoction. Yes, folks, it's the Russians who are the authors of our ills. We, who have aided and abetted the bowie knife murder of Gaddafi and the death of over 400,000 Syrian civilians for reasons that are top secret, are blameless. Yes, we are. We're devoted to humanity and we are fearless questers after something. I'll get back to on the latter point:
Of course, much of this anti-Russian hysteria comes from the year-long fury about the shocking election of Donald Trump. From the first moments of stunned disbelief over Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the narrative was put in motion to blame Trump’s victory not on Clinton and her wretched campaign but on Russia. That also was viewed as a possible way of reversing the election’s outcome and removing Trump from office.

The major U.S. news media quite openly moved to the forefront of the Resistance. The Washington Post adopted the melodramatic and hypocritical slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as it unleashed its journalists to trumpet the narrative of some disloyal Americans spreading Russian propaganda. Darkness presumably was a fine place to stick people who questioned the Resistance’s Russia-gate narrative.[1]

[1] "America’s Righteous Russia-gate Censorship." By Robert Parry, Russia Insider, 11/18/17.

Social Vectors, Part 3: Outrage

     “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. That's bad manners!” – Napoleon Bonaparte

     In his landmark work The Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell notes that if one spectator at a baseball game stands up, it will enable him to see better (as a certified Short Person, I can confirm this) but that does not mean that if everyone stands up, they will all be able to see better. More directly, there are some tactics that work well in microcosm but don’t “scale up.” This is a particularly important maxim when engaged in the study of political economy.

     It seems to me that it’s equally important in the study of political combat.

     A neologism of relatively recent vintage, the “policy wonk,” refers to a politically engaged person, whether or not in high office or government employ, who has made himself an expert in some realm of public policy. While investigating the origin of wonk, a monosyllable far better suited to onomatopoeia about a digestive-tract noise than to a person of recognized expertise, I found this:

     wonk n 1: an insignificant student who is ridiculed as being affected or boringly studious [syn: swot, grind, nerd, wonk, dweeb]

     Worth a chuckle, isn’t it? Especially in light of the great significance “policy wonks” attained during the political discourse of the Eighties and Nineties. Yet it has considerable import for the political dynamics of our time.

     “Affected or boringly studious.” Not an inspiring picture, is it? It certainly doesn’t conjure up the image of a dynamic leader figure, a Man on Horseback. No, it’s more about desks in dimly lit rooms, hunched over by slightly built young men in glasses, all of them laboring over spreadsheets, footnotes, and speeches to be given to other “policy wonks” at chicken dinners hosted by obscure think tanks.

     The promotion of the “policy wonk” was never about political persuasion, though. It was about inspiring confidence in the supposedly more charismatic politicians the “policy wonks” worked for. “He has the support of the Cato Institute!” “Oh? Well, my guy is backed by the Heritage Foundation!” “Pfui! My candidate is endorsed by the Brookings Institution!” And so on.

     It didn’t work very well. The reasons aren’t far to seek. The general public isn’t really interested in policy technicata, especially when, as former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon put it in A Time For Truth, their prescriptions are aimed merely at making the carriage of State move a little less creakily. As a rule, the mass of voters will gravitate toward one of three attractants. In ascending order of political potency, those are:

  1. Principles,
  2. Promises,
  3. Good Looks.

     And yes, I’m quite serious. John F. Kennedy, a man of approximately no personal achievements, won the presidency largely because he was better looking than boring old Richard M. Nixon. Their debates were the first of their kind to be nationally televised. As Russell Baker noted in his commentary on the subject, while Nixon presented the better arguments, people don’t listen to television; they watch it. (JFK then entangled us in Vietnam and very nearly triggered a world war over the Cuban Missile Crisis, but those are subjects for another screed.)

     Makes you wonder why anyone went to the polls in November 2016, doesn’t it? But only for a moment. While neither candidate was stunningly telegenic, one had a powerful message – Make America Great Again! — while the other had a whiny voice and a sense of entitlement. America made its choice between them on the basis of Attractant #2.

     The Era of the Policy Wonk was clearly behind us.

     “There are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown; and those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they’re jackals with sharp teeth and I'm their tiger; there's a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves.” – spoken by Henry VIII in Robert Bolt’s screenplay for A Man For All Seasons

     The amount of insight in the quote above is simply staggering. Why do people choose to follow a leader? The principle of legitimacy was the Duke of Norfolk’s reason: Henry was the anointed king of England by its laws of primogeniture. Thomas Cromwell was merely politically ambitions and saw attachment to Henry’s aims as his best chance of ascension. The great mass of English commoners was drawn, if at all, to Henry’s seeming dynamism.

     That casts a revealing light on the contemporary uses of outrage and protests.

     Contrast today’s outrage-vendors with the policy wonks. Which group is more attractive to the great mass of Americans? You, Gentle Reader, might be inclined to spurn them both; I would do so as well. But you, Gentle Reader, are not representative of the great mass. Nor is the great mass uniform in what it looks for in a politician, a promulgator, or a Cause.

     To be blunt, a great many persons, dimly aware of their irrelevance to anything beyond themselves, are most attracted by the appearance of commitment, energy, and sincerity in a spokesman.

     The Establishment Right was confounded by this vector. They put forward a gaggle of present and former officeholders who had much more in common with the policy wonks than with the American electorate. Only one of the candidates seemed to possess significant energy – and he was anathema to the mossbacked strategists and kingmakers of the GOP. Nevertheless, Republican voters chose him, and he went on to defeat the Left’s anointed one in the most surprising presidential election since 1860.

     The Left has drawn the moral; the Establishment Right has not.

     In the above, I haven’t spoken specifically of any of the outrage-powered (or outrage-simulating) “movements” that infest our city streets. There’s no need. The point is the energy and commitment they appear to possess. A substantial number of Americans find it attractive. What they claim to be fighting for is largely irrelevant to their appeal. Fortunately given the ugliness of their purported causes, this has affected only a small minority. The tactic doesn’t “scale up” to the national level, because the various “movements” are tribal and particularist and therefore inherently anti-American.

     The vector is the important thing. The Left is exploring the utility of that vector. Except for the populist current behind Donald Trump, the Right is not. The emissions of Establishmentarian commentators testify eloquently to the inertia of their thinking. Granted that they’re also partly motivated by spite and an abiding dislike of the outsider who showed them up. Too bad for them.

     In closing, have an analysis of how the outrage-powered “anti-white” forces can be confounded by their own orientation, and a taste of what truly elicits the ire of its allegiants, shamelessly stolen from Ninety Miles From Tyranny:

     Lovely, aren’t they?

     I think this should bring the “Social Vectors” series to a conclusion. Gentle Readers are invited to suggest other related sociocultural currents and phenomena, but for the moment I expect to turn to other concerns, mainly fictional ones. Expect posting to be light for the weekend.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A True and Wearying Thing

I came across this in a link - I'm sorry, I don't remember the original linker. The key phrase does ring true:

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Another truth that needs to be spoken: Twitter and other social media sites are vicious, catty, intensely FEMALE bullying spaces - and, you don't have to participate.

Really, I mean it. You not only won't disintegrate if you get off the overly dramatic, Mean-Girl, We ALL hate you and Want You to DIE, Bitchy site, your life will be considerably improved.

If you want to know the highlights (or lowlights) of Twitter, it will eventually hit the headlines. Trump's Tweets, alone, usually foment sufficient outrage that avoiding knowing about them is the tricky part.

And, then, there's THIS. Don't fail to read it down to the last sentence.

Social Vectors, Part 2: Plantations

     Owing to the connection to slavery, post-Civil War attempts by plantation owners to keep their former slaves laboring right where they were, and the Democrat Party’s emphasis on identity politics, the metaphor of “keeping ‘em on the plantation” has acquired great contemporary resonance. A recent Breitbart article points at the chagrin of one set of identity-group hucksters over the defectors from their plantation:

     The Guardian called the rise of free-thinking, LGBT conservatives “troubling” in an article on Thursday.

     The article, written by Arwa Mahdawi, criticized popular LGBT conservatives, including former OUT Magazine employee Chadwick Moore, who was fired after coming out as a conservative, and the Log Cabin Republicans, attempting to paint right-wing LGBT men and women as an “influential group of gay, white, and financially well-off men,” made up of Nazis, white nationalists, and misogynists....

     “Some people might argue that the increase in rightwing LGBTQ people represents a move away from identity politics. Ultimately, however, it’s just a move back to the oldest form of identity politics,” she continued. “One in which the protection of whiteness and wealth trumps everything. But as some gay Trump supporters might be starting to realize, the right aren’t your friends, and eventually they’ll come for you.”...

     In February, LGBT writer Skylar Baker-Jordan also attacked gay conservatives in an article for the Independent, where he claimed he would refuse to accept gay people who “come out” as supporters of President Trump, while in June, Slate likened LGBT conservatives to “villains.”

     The hysteria is real and palpable. Just as with the emergence of strong black and female conservative figures – surely you’ve heard the phrases “race traitor” and “gender traitor?” — the plantation overseers fear a steady crumbling of their identity groups. The solidity of those groups is what makes the overseers valuable to the Democrats. It gives them negotiating power they fear to lose.

     However, the use of ostracism and condemnation to arrest those “traitors” and bring them back to the planation appears to be failing the Left. It’s worth a few CPU cycles to investigate why.

     The desire to be thought well of is universal. We all want others to see us as worthy of respect. That’s completely independent of race, sex, and sexual orientation. But what makes a person appear worthy to others can be affected by social, cultural, and political factors.

     In yesterday’s piece, I poked at some of the vectors that are helping to propel male-to-female transgenderism. Those vectors have certain motifs in common with the ones gradually drawing individuals out of the racial, sexual, and sex-orientation plantations of the Left and toward a more independent frame of mind.

     In general, Smith will desire the good opinion of those who have Smith’s good opinion. If Smith thinks well of Jones but not of Davis, he will seek Jones’s approval but be relatively indifferent to Davis’s. Among the characteristics most commonly thought praiseworthy is independence of mind: the willingness to look at some controversy with no particular concern for what others think. When that trait is made perceptible, as is the case with black, female, and LGBT conservatives, the independent-minded individual becomes an accretion nucleus, around whom others of less intellectual courage will collect.

     It might seem that such independence is not ideologically directed – e.g., that if the great majority of LGBT persons were politically conservative, a “maverick” liberal would be an accretion nucleus for his views. Perhaps, if the logical and evidentiary bases of liberalism and conservatism were equally sound, it might prove to be so. But it isn’t that way today, in large part because the Left has attempted to wall off its identity-group plantations against ideological divergence.

     When the border guards’ guns point inward, at their fellow subjects, it’s clear to those subjects that the guards’ function is not to defend them – that there are things the subjects are not allowed to learn.

     Courage is inherently admirable. Intellectual courage married to the will to speak one’s mind is admired in direct proportion to the forces amassed against the speaker.

     The irony is staggering. The identity-group plantation overseers would have more luck at retaining their intellectual serfs’ allegiance if, rather than denouncing the escapees as villains, they were to smile winningly, concede each person’s right to his own opinions, and argue persuasively for their preferred positions. However, fear can make one do stupid things, especially when one’s money, power, and prestige are at stake.

     The stupidity reaches Brobdingnagian dimensions when the overseers hurl invective at persons of such integrity and eminence as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Christina Hoff Sommers, Suzanne Venker, Tammy Bruce, Chadwick Moore, and Blaire White.

     Let it be frankly admitted that many in the black, female, and LGBT cohorts sincerely hold left-liberal convictions that are little or not at all affected by the convictions of others. That having been said, identity-group politics is suffering a steady loss of allegiants. That has the Left in a panic. Coalition politics is the heart of its strategy; it has no other.

     To us in the Right, it’s a strong prescription for intellectual honesty and moral courage. It mandates that we eschew all tactics founded on the divide et impera approach of the Left, for our own sake. But let’s not be too vocally triumphant about it. After all, there’s Napoleon’s exhortation to consider: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. That's bad manners!” And we in the Right are all about good manners, aren’t we?

Destroying America one immigrant at a time.

In the past 40 years, upward of 50 million culturally backward, dirt-poor immigrants arrived in America, and state after state has gone blue, but we're always told states are flipping to the Democrats for some reason -- any reason! -- other than immigration.[1]
But speak of the blessing of "diversity" and, voila!, no more problem.

[1] "Yes, Virginia, immigration is turning the country blue." By Ann Coulter, 11/15/17.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Social Vectors, Part 1: Transgenderism

     A few tangential words before I leap into the tirade that’s about to burst forth: I rise early in the morning: typically between 4:30 AM and 5:00 AM. My first truly conscious act is to sit down to Cyclops (my beloved Dell Optiplex 580 computer) and scan the news for spleen fuel. On some mornings I find a great deal that deserves a written reflection; on others, the news is entirely stale and uninteresting. Today was a morning of the former sort. After only half an hour’s work I’d added nine links to my “Future columns” list.

     Sounds like an “Assorted” piece is coming, doesn’t it? But no: the cloud of psychons swirling in my cerebrum decided to engage totally with one particular entry. The others must await their time...and that time might never come.

     I’m blathering about this for a reason. On any given morning the email is likely to present notes from a handful of Gentle Readers who have subjects to suggest for future pieces. They’re nearly always worthy suggestions. Yet I seldom actually adopt any of them. I simply can’t get them to engage with any of my current concerns and thoughts.

     So if you’re one of the Gentle Readers who’s sent me such material and have wondered why I haven’t addressed it, please be assured that: 1) I’m grateful for your suggestion, and 2) it’s no fault of yours that I haven’t written about it. It’s just a quirk of my mental machinery. Somewhere in my subconscious, there’s an Editor-in-Chief who decides my blathering priorities for me. So far I’ve proved powerless to overrule him.

     And with that, it’s on to today’s helping of bile.

     Courtesy of the indispensable Mike Hendrix, we have this observation about the transgender phenomenon:

     Eight trannies elected to office in one night? That’s good. Only two of them now identify as men? That’s bad—especially if one wants to pretend that gender is fluid. If one even dares to notice a firm statistical pattern that the roaring majority of trannies are men who claim they’re women, one risks subverting the entire Tranny Gospel. If, as the case seems to be nearly everywhere worldwide, the overwhelming majority of people who desire to change their sex are men who seek refuge in womanhood, this might suggest that our current cultural climate offers very few perks for men and plenty for women....

     Studies in Europe from the 1980s and 1990s found that when it comes to declaring you’re not the “gender you were assigned at birth,” men chose to become women at anywhere from 2.3 to 4 times the clip that women chose to become men. A study in England from the 1970s found that men chose to be women three times as often as women decided to be men....

     I strongly suspect that the current tranny mania which infects and clogs up so much of our popular discussion does not represent some new, bold, post-gender frontier in human development. If it did, the genders would be swapping genitals at an almost equal rate. But since it’s almost entirely male-to-female, I sense it’s nothing more than a cultural reaction to the fact that in the current climate, there’s almost nothing good about being a man.

     The author of the article, Jim Goad, is known for speaking his mind without concern for who might profess to be “offended” by it. The source, Taki’s Magazine, has a similar reputation. Such outlets are valuable. Far too many persons are unwilling to speak of their perceptions or convictions for fear of a backlash. Perhaps they remember Galileo and “Eppur si muove” too vividly.

     A while back, pricked by having made the acquaintance of two transwomen who struck me as well balanced and generally happy, I resolved to investigate the trend as deeply as possible. I happened upon patterns that struck me as highly significant.

     Before I go into those patterns, allow me to remind you that I was of the opinion that transgenderism is an indication of a mental disorder. I still believe that to be so about most persons who claim they were “born into the wrong body.” Therapists who’ve made a specialty of counseling and treating such persons report that about three out of every four such clients eventually presents an underlying emotional problem of which the claim of transgenderism was merely a symptom. Dealing successfully with the underlying problem, they asserted, could dispose of the impulse to change sex.

     However, be it duly noted that those therapists also asserted that in about one case out of every four, a sex change was the only possible alleviation of the client’s unhappiness.

     I’m not a mental health professional. (I try to avoid them; most of them are completely BLEEP!ing crazy, and such persons frighten me.) But when such a person makes such a declaration, I allow him the presumption of sincerity and his statement the presumption of veracity. I’m neither so knowledgeable nor so arrogant that I’ll dismiss the contentions of others simply because they clash with my preconceptions. So I decided to investigate.

     Here are the patterns I found:

  • A very large majority (perhaps as many as 90%, though the statistics are incomplete) of sex changes are from male to female.
  • Among male-to-female transgenders, the self-perception of inadequacy as a man was prevalent, and was often reinforced by factors in their surroundings.
  • Male-to-female transgenders almost uniformly pursue femininity, often extreme femininity, in appearance, dress, and deportment.
  • A surprising number of men, including some extremely masculine men, found them to be more attractive and sexually appealing than biological women of their acquaintance.

     These are strong patterns that deserve to be explored for their causal connections.

     No one wants to be thought incompetent, inadequate, or unattractive. The demonstration of that claim approaches tautology. Alongside that, no one wants to believe – or to be told – that his personal preferences and tastes are somehow “wrong.”

     Many persons eventually make their peace with being mediocre...but not everyone does. Many persons eventually settle for less than they want, especially as regards love, sex, and long-term partnership...but not everyone does.

     That this has been on my mind lately shouldn’t surprise readers of my fiction. But the causal vectors it suggests don’t get enough attention from most of us, including most of us who comment on the sociocultural scene.

     In a society where both traditional masculinity and traditional femininity have been under sustained attack by vicious, well mobilized forces, the emergence of a socially tolerated “escape” from the pressures was bound to attract a substantial number of dissatisfied, interested persons. “Inadequate” men tired of being treated as inferiors would see transgenderism as such an escape. Masculine men tired of the ravings of “angry ugly girls” and the gradual disappearance of the feminine virtues might find themselves attracted to persons who actively seek to be feminine even though born male. To attain what they seek, both groups would need resolve, perseverance, and the willingness to accept certain compromises.

     No, neither all inclinations to “transition” nor all inclinations among men toward romantic or sexual involvement with transwomen arise from those vectors. However, they go a long way toward explaining why the prevalence of transitions is from male to female, especially in our current legal and social climate of “anything goes.”

     Cole Porter didn’t know the half of it.

     The above presents some obvious implications, most of which are so obvious that I shan’t bother to enumerate them. However, one stands out above the rest: the relative impotence of parental reassurance to the teenage boy who feels himself to be incompetent, inadequate, and / or unattractive as a man. The parents of such a teen would be swimming against the currents, unlikely to persuade Junior to see himself other than as his peer group does. All they can do is praise him for his objective talents and skills, and hope for the best. The hope might be vague, given current trends and conditions, but it’s all they have.

     I continue to believe, as I noted here, that the majority of gender-transitions have net-undesirable consequences: specifically, the transitioned individual is less happy and less successful than he was previously. But that’s not an argument for banning the practice. Neither is it an argument that no one would ever improve his life and its conditions through a transition. Yet the sociocultural factors that propel many such individuals to the most radical imaginable step they might ever take, short of committing murder, should be closely scrutinized...and fought.

     More anon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Savonarola and His Offspring

Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar during the Renaissance. He preached against church corruption, the Medicis, and secular art, among other things. His commission of secular books and art to flames became known as the "Bonfire of the Vanities".

Eventually, he ended where many reformers who take on powerful forces end - in death. He was excommunicated and hung, along with several of his friars. The purification movement petered out.

Periodically, similar manias flare up again. They are generally focused on purification of a society of worldly influences, sins, and corruption. They aim to bring about changes that will help the poor. The leaders take on those who they judge to be despots, and work to encourage the people to revolt against their rule.

There have been many manias since:

  • The Salem Witch Trials - used quasi-legal means to attack those in power, who were accused of working with the Devil
  • The French Revolution - different from the American Revolution, which aimed to establish independence from their colonial rulers, but a true frenzied tearing down of all "corrupt" elements in that society. All of the royal family and most of the nobility were accused of crimes against the people. A rumor could spark the mania to flare up again, and entangle yet another person or family in accusations, which would end in confiscation of property and eventual death by guillotine.
  • The Civil War - I contend that the post-Transcendentalists who lead the Abolition movement were motivated largely by their desire to "purify" America of sin. On the other side, the frenzy was based in Charleston, SC, where the most fervent and rabid secessionists had their base. On both sides, largely a war that pitted those that wanted a country free from slavery (sin), and those that wanted a country free of unconstitutional modifications (sin). [NOTE: both the Carolinas gave a disproportionate number of their citizens to the War for Independence - their children and grandchildren would have grown up hearing stories of how they had fought against tyranny (sin)]
The 60's were yet another example of mania that was based around the idea that America could be purified of its sins. The Weathermen and other radical groups just took this a mini-step further.

Since the Clinton Era, we've seen a permanent cadre of grant-subsidized fanatics who will stop at nothing to purify the USA, and rid it of perceived racism and sexism. To that end, they have initiated a war on individual freedom to start a business, to vote freely, to worship freely, to speak freely, to own a gun, to make decisions for their minor children, to publish anything that is contrary to Progressive Thought - in short, to act as free citizens in a society that they have some control over.

Sexism, Or Sex?

     'Zeb...I think I understand you at last. You atheist. Aren't you?'
     Zeb looked at me bleakly. 'Don't call me an atheist,' he said slowly, 'unless you are really looking for trouble.'
     'Then you aren't one?' I felt a wave of relief, although I still didn't understand him.
     'No, I am not. Not that it is any of your business. My religious faith is a private matter between me and my God. What my inner beliefs are you will have to judge by my actions...for you are not invited to question me about them. I decline to explain them nor to justify them to you. Nor to anyone-not the Lodge Master nor the Grand Inquisitor, if it comes to that.'
     'But you do believe in God?'
     'I told you so, didn't I? Not that you had any business asking me.'
     'Then you must believe in other things?'
     'Of course I do! I believe that a man has an obligation to be merciful to the weak...patient with the stupid...generous with the poor. I think he is obliged to lay down his life for his brothers, should it be required of him. But I don't propose to prove any of those things; they are beyond proof. And I don't demand that you believe as I do.'
     I let out my breath. 'I'm satisfied, Zeb.'
     Instead of looking pleased he answered, 'That's mighty kind of you, brother, mighty kind! Sorry-I shouldn't be sarcastic. But I had no intention of asking for your approval. You goaded me-accidentally, I'm sure-into discussing matters that I never intended to discuss.'

     [Robert A. Heinlein, “If This Goes On”, in Revolt In 2100]

     No doubt most of my Gentle Readers are puzzling over that citation, especially how it relates to the equally quirky title of this piece, and what could possibly follow the two of them. That’s quite all right; in fact, it’s what I was hoping for.

     Today’s broadside is about unnecessary concepts.

     There are a lot of folks who regard God – specifically, a Supreme Being responsible for Creation and its laws – as an unnecessary concept. They aren’t as numerous as are we who consider Him indispensable, of course, but still, there’s an ample supply. A goodly number of atheists manage to live decent, honorable lives without ever “needing” God to do so. Evangelistic atheists often cite this as “proof” that He doesn’t exist. It’s nothing of the sort, of course, but it does lend substance to their contention that God is “unnecessary” least, for them.

     Many Americans now consider religious beliefs a battlefield to be avoided in general conversation. But even more of us are coming to loathe any mention of certain other concepts:

  • Racism;
  • Sexism;
  • Homophobia;
  • Xenophobia;
  • “Trans”-phobia;

     ...and so on. The subjectivity of these things is enough to drive a man to drink, and not from the top shelf. They’ve ruined many human relationships and have made our national discourse far more painful than it’s ever been before.

     So I’ve decided to do away with them.

     Unnecessary concepts attached to imputations about human attitudes are the principal pollutants of civil discourse today. I listed the worst of them above. There are surely others that currently command less attention, but the five in the list above will do for a start.

     I contend that those “isms” and “phobias” are phantasms: chimeric notions that have never existed, do not exist today, and will never exist at any future time. They have no reality except when employed as rhetorical bludgeons by evil-minded demagogues. We in the Right must immediately take that as our working premise, and alter both our rhetoric and our conduct to match.

     Compare and contrast the following two isms: sexism and Marxism. What do you see when you put them side by side?

  • Sexism denotes an attitude by one sex toward the other; or maybe an attitude by each sex toward itself; or maybe an attitude by each sex toward the other.
  • Marxism is an economic conception that demands that the means of production, as generally understood, should belong to those who labor in them.
  • The sexist is inclined to treat persons of the opposite sex differently from his own, or maybe to treat his own sex as superior or inferior, or maybe both or neither.
  • The Marxist votes for nationalizations and redistributive measures.
  • There is no standard by which to determine whether an individual is a sexist.
  • Marxists can be easily distinguished from non-Marxists by their political conduct.

     A concept that cannot predict is an unnecessary concept. An allegation of sexism cannot predict sufficiently well in any venue to be useful for anything. Therefore, sexism is an unnecessary concept. Quod erat demonstrandum.

     While there are two biological sexes, and statistical differences between them that are essentially inarguable, the concept of sexism cannot be relied upon for anything. I maintain that the same is true for racism, homophobia, et cetera.

     From that position, many good things might flow.

     I’m looking forward to an exchange such as the following:

     Woman: Sexist!
     FWP: (snorts) Do you deny that you’re female?
     Woman: Huh? Well, of course not! But—
     FWP: (imperiously) Are you displeased that I recognize you as female?
     Woman: No, but—
     FWP: Stop right there. You admit to being female, and I recognize you as such. That’s all that’s going on here, so take your mentalist act and skedaddle along. I have nothing more to say to you.

     Many have orated about the Left’s attempt to claim the “moral high ground” with its accusations that conservatives are racists, sexists, et cetera. The point of the exchange above is to suggest that there’s a higher “high ground” that conservatives can claim: that of objective reality itself. The key is to refuse to allow any pretense of validity to the unnecessary concepts of racism, sexism, and so forth, and to insist solely upon what’s real and observable.

     The virtue of this approach is that it treats each individual as an individual. It refuses to see any group or its claims as relevant to relations between individuals. If practiced consistently by enough Americans, it could sweep the Left’s moral pretenses into the ashcan of forgotten rhetoric.

     It would require awareness of context and interlocutor, and more than a little determination. It would demand an absolute refusal to discuss groups or attitudes toward them. It might occasion a few bellows. But it would badly upset the Left’s applecart, because its entire strategy relies upon group affiliation and the “isms,” “phobias,” and other phantasms associated with them.

     Note that what I’ve called “unnecessary concepts” are collectivist concepts. Collectivism is the denial of individual autonomy: the denial of the individual’s rights and responsibilities as a moral agent. It subsumes him into a group that supposedly possesses those things. Strangely, that group is never around to change the oil or take out the garbage when those chores impend.

     Group identification has been promoted as a route toward effectiveness for the weak: “In union there is strength.” But we know, from many decades of experience, that “in union” there is political power, and that power and its benefits will find their way into the hands of the least ethical and most ruthless pursuers. “The little guy” gets only crumbs and promises, if he gets anything at all.

     The dissolution of group-identity politics and claims can begin only with individuals determined to see and relate only to individuals, never to the groups to which they profess allegiance. It rejects groups as obstacles to seeing the individual, in whom all rights and responsibilities really reside. Today it’s the road less traveled by. Taking it, refusing the course of groups and their claims, could make a huge difference.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Day Off

     For a good reason this time: I’ve just popped an appealing idea for a story, and I hope to get the whole thing done in first draft today!

     If you have any unallocated prayer bandwidth, toss a Hail Mary my way. If I’m successful – a bet against the odds, as I write fiction much less rapidly than non-fiction – I’ll announce it later to a flourish of trumpets. And who knows? You might even get to see the results when it’s finished.

     UPDATE: No, I didn't finish it -- but I made a good start (about 3,000 words) and I hope to have it done by week's end. Watch this space!

Pakistani honor killings.

Nearly 1,000 Pakistani women are killed by close relatives each year in honor killings.[1]
No reason to shut off immigration from Pakistan though. These savage cultural attitudes do not come WITH immigrants from Pakistan. They leave those attitudes at the airport when they arrive. We know this, right?

Any risk involving immigration is worth taking because diversity is our most precious value.

[1] "Pakistani bride kills 17 in botched plot to kill husband." AP, 11/1/17.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Utopia By The Glass

     That alcohol in dilute aqueous solution, when taken into the human organism, acts as a depressant, not a stimulant, is now so much a commonplace of knowledge that even the more advanced varieties of physiologists are beginning to be aware of it. The intelligent layman no longer resorts to the jug when he has important business before him, whether intellectual or manual; he resorts to it after his business is done, and he desires to release his taut nerves and reduce the steam-pressure in his spleen. Alcohol, so to speak, unwinds us. It raises the threshold of sensation and makes us less sensitive to external stimuli, and particularly to those that are unpleasant. Putting a brake upon all the qualities which enable us to get on in the world and shine before our fellows - for example, combativeness, shrewdness, diligence, ambition-, it releases the qualities which mellow us and make our fellows love us - for example, amiability, generosity, toleration, humor, sympathy. A man who has taken aboard two or three cocktails is less competent than he was before to steer a battleship down the Ambrose Channel, or to cut off a leg, or to draw up a deed of trust, or to conduct Bach's B minor mass, but he is immensely more competent to entertain a dinner party, to admire a pretty girl, or to hear Bach's B minor mass. The harsh, useful things of the world, from pulling teeth to digging potatoes, are best done by men who are as starkly sober as so many convicts in the death-house, but the lovely and useless things, the charming and exhilarating things, are best done by men with, as the phrase is, a few sheets in the wind. Pithecanthropus erectus was a teetotaler, but the angels, you may be sure, know what is proper at 5 p.m.

     All this is so obvious that I marvel that no utopian has ever proposed to abolish all the sorrows of the world by the simple device of getting and keeping the whole human race gently stewed. I do not say drunk, remember; I say simply gently stewed - and apologize, as in duty bound, for not knowing how to describe the state in a more seemly phrase. The man who is in it is a man who has put all of his best qualities into his showcase. He is not only immensely more amiable than the cold sober man; he is immeasurably more decent. He reacts to all situations in an expansive, generous and humane manner. He has become more liberal, more tolerant, more kind. He is a better citizen, husband, father, friend. The enterprises that make human life on this earth uncomfortable and unsafe are never launched by such men. They are not makers of wars; they do not rob and oppress anyone. All the great villainies of history have been perpetrated by sober men, and chiefly by teetotalers. But all the charming and beautiful things, from the Song of Songs to terrapin à la Maryland, and from the nine Beethoven symphonies to the Martini cocktail, have been given to humanity by men who, when the hour came, turned from well water to something with color to it, and more in it than mere oxygen and hydrogen.

     I am well aware, of course, that getting the whole human race stewed and keeping it stewed, year in and year out, would present formidable technical difficulties. It would be hard to make the daily dose of each individual conform exactly to his private needs, and hard to get it to him at precisely the right time. On the one hand there would be the constant danger that large minorities might occasionally become cold sober, and so start wars, theological disputes, moral reforms, and other such unpleasantnesses. On the other hand, there would be danger that other minorities might proceed to actual intoxication, and so annoy us all with their fatuous bawling or maudlin tears. But such technical obstacles, of course, are by no means insurmountable. Perhaps they might be got around by abandoning the administration of alcohol per ora and distributing it instead by impregnating the air with it. I throw out the suggestion, and pass on. Such questions are for men skilled in therapeutics, government and business efficiency. They exist today and their enterprises often show a high ingenuity, but, being chiefly sober, they devote too much of their time to harassing the rest of us. Half-stewed, they would be ten times as genial, and perhaps at least half as efficient. Thousands of them, relieved of their present anti-social duties, would be idle, and eager for occupation. I trust to them in this small matter. If they didn't succeed completely, they would at least succeed partially.

     The objection remains that even small doses of alcohol, if each followed upon the heels of its predecessor before the effects of the latter had worn off, would have a deleterious effect upon the physical health of the race - that the death-rate would increase, and whole categories of human beings would be exterminated. The answer here is that what I propose is not lengthening the span of life, but augmenting its joys. Suppose we assume that its duration is reduced by 20%. My reply is that its delights will be increased at least 100%. Misled by statisticians, we fall only too often into the error of worshiping mere figures. To say that A will live to be eighty and B will die at forty is certainly not to argue plausibly that A is more to be envied than B. A, in point of fact, may have to spend all of his eighty years in Kansas or Arkansas, with nothing to eat save corn and hog-meat and nothing to drink save polluted river water, whereas B may put in his twenty years of discretion upon the Côte d'Azur, wie Gott Im Frankreich. It is my contention that the world I picture, assuming the average duration of human life to be cut down even 50%, would be an infinitely happier and more charming world than that we live in today - that no intelligent human being, having once tasted its peace and joy, would go back voluntarily to the harsh brutalities and stupidities that we now suffer, and idiotically strive to prolong. If intelligent Americans, in these depressing days, still cling to life and try to stretch it out longer and longer, it is surely not logically, but only instinctively. It is the primeval brute in them that hangs on, not the man. The man knows only too well that ten years in a genuine civilized and happy country would be infinitely better than a geological epoch under the curses he must now face and endure every day.

     Moreover, there is no need to admit that the moderate alcoholization of the whole race would materially reduce the duration of life. A great many of us are moderately alcoholized already, and yet manage to survive quite as long as the blue-noses. As for the blue-noses themselves, who would repine if breathing alcohol-laden air brought them down with delirium tremens and so sterilized and exterminated them? The advantage to the race in general would be obvious and incalculable. All the worst strains - which now not only persist, but even prosper - would be stamped out in a few generations, and so the average human being would move appreciably away from, say, the norm of a Baptist clergyman in Georgia and toward the norm of Shakespeare, Mozart and Goethe. It would take æons, of course, to go all the way, but there would be a progress with every generation, slow but sure. Today, it must be manifest, we make no progress at all; instead we slip steadily backward. That the average civilized man of today is inferior to the average civilized man of two or three generations ago is too plain to need arguing. He has less enterprise and courage; he is less resourceful and various; he is more like a rabbit and less like a lion. Harsh oppressions have made him what he is. He is the victim of tyrants. Well, no man with two or three cocktails in him is a tyrant. He may be foolish, but he is not cruel. He may be noisy, but he is also tolerant, generous and kind. My proposal would restore Christianity to the world. It would rescue mankind from moralists, pedants and brutes.

     [Henry Louis Mencken, cribbed from A Mencken Chrestomathy, after my third glass of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. Any typos are my fault alone. -- FWP]

The insufferable United States.

The arrogance and deceit of the U.S. government knows no bounds:
So the US Justice Department is cracking down on RT America for what it says is manipulation of US domestic affairs while the US State Department announces a new program to manipulate Hungary’s domestic affairs.

The State Department’s new program would send three-quarters of a million dollars to Washington-selected Hungarian media outlets to “increase citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues in Hungary.” On what authority does the United States pick winners and losers in Hungary’s diverse media environment? Since when does one government have the right to determine what news is “objective” in another country? Hungary is not a country to be “regime-changed” — it is a full democracy where the will of the people is regularly expressed at the ballot box and where the media competes freely in the marketplace of ideas.

Washington’s Hungarian media project is clearly meant to interfere in that country’s domestic political environment.

"Manipulation: The US State Department’s New Program to Take On Hungarian Media." By Daniel McAdams, Straight Line Logic, 11/12/17.

Union Cards

     I was thinking I might take today off from the blog. I had a strenuous day yesterday, topped off by disappointments and bad food. I told myself that I could use a respite and was preparing to enjoy some downtime.

     Then, courtesy of Victory Girls, I read this article:

     Rapists and sexual harassers deserve no sympathy and no due process. They deserve an eternity of suffering and torment, much like what their victims have to go through everyday.

     However, this is not about rapists or victims of rape, but rather, about how so called “sexual harassment” is being used to devalue the work of longtime civil right activists and pushers of progressive values . Hollywood is currently experiencing what is perhaps its most damning controversy yet, which has seen many (mostly liberal) men like Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Ben Affleck and Kevin Spacey accused of sexual assault by men and women, some of whom allege that the assault took place decades ago....

     Regardless of whether any of these men are guilty of the crimes they have been accused of or not, one thing is for sure – the ones who hold left wing values have earned the right to make at least one mistake in their lives.

     Now, the site from which the above was pulled has a “Trolls” category, and it is possible that this piece of filth was meant merely to enrage conservatives, rather than as the expression of a sincerely held opinion. However, as the Victory Girls’ piece sets forth, there are many on the Left who would agree with its sentiments:

     Just remember, to Whoopi Goldberg, Roman Polanski’s victimization of a kid wasn’t “rape rape.”

     Just remember, Hollywood starlets have for decades kissed up to Harvey Weinstein, and ensured he was isolated from criticism regarding his widely-known proclivity toward sexual predation.

     Just remember, Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual assaults of Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones, were ignored, and Billy boy wound up in the White House for two terms.

     Meanwhile, Bill Maher developed a convenient lapse in memory about l’affaire Clinton, when he recently claimed liberals “arrest” our alleged rapists but conservatives “elect them.”...

     Three accusers came out to accuse Bill Clinton of actual rape. Rape. And yet, he still was elected President twice.

     In our hyperpoliticized age, accusations of sexual misconduct and the responses to them aren’t about morality or decency. They’re about who’s a member of which union.

     When “the personal is political” – never forget that that’s been the Left’s mantra for decades — there is no such thing as purely personal conduct...or misconduct. Moreover, from the Left’s perspective political considerations will always have the highest priority. Is the alleged offender a conservative? Then the scandal must be amplified to the heavens, whether or not there’s substantiation for it; it could be the key to a Congressional majority. Is he a liberal? Then we must exonerate him at any cost, for we can’t afford to lose his services.

     Sexually related behavior is frequently the grist for the Left’s mill because “the flesh is weak.” Men prominent in politics, who are guaranteed to have larger egos and higher opinions of themselves than the rest of us Y-chromosome bearers, are unusually prone to sexual excesses. (Concerning women prominent in politics, the evidence is too scant for a reliable evaluation.) Thus it is easier, if not always easy in absolute terms, to unearth sexually suggestive behavior at the very least in the pasts of such men.

     As it happens, sexual sins are not uniformly distributed. You’ll find them far more often among the luminaries of the Left, for several reasons:

  • The Left’s total lack of moral standards;
  • The adulation it showers upon its public figures;
  • Its willingness to exculpate such persons for just about anything.

     It’s of a piece with the Left’s total endorsement of any and every sort of sexual aberration or perversion...that is, unless it can somehow be used against a conservative. But it does put them in the uncomfortable position of trying to rationalize away the conduct of persons such as Roman Polanski, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill Clinton. The effort is required of them, for how else could they continue to excoriate the few sinners on the Right accused of lesser sins?

     Remember Mark Foley?
     Remember Larry Craig?
     Remember Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings?
     Remember the smears of Fred Thompson for the heinous crime of marrying a younger woman?

     And of course there’s no need to “remember” the campaign to disparage Donald Trump. That’s fresh in the memory. Yet no single instance of actual misconduct by Trump was ever verified. He’s had three wives, two of whom he divorced. That’s not something I can approve, but he’s not a Catholic, and his moral pledges are not mine. While he was between wives, he apparently dated widely, as unmarried men are known to do, and often much younger women, as rich and powerful unmarried men are known to do. How great an offense is that? How does Trump’s record compare with Woody Allen’s three marriages, of which the most recent was to his stepdaughter Soon-yi Previn?

     The hypocrisy is too staggering for words.

     If we omit the arguments over sexual morality itself, this is a peripheral topic. It’s a resultant of our hyperpoliticized sociocultural milieu. The Left might soon find its ass in a crack over this. The evidence of its bad faith is growing too copious, and too well confirmed, to fan-dance it away.

     Compare the Left’s defenses of Leftist sexual predators with the Sturm und Drang over Vice-president Mike Pence’s policy of never being alone with a woman other than his wife. That’s the sort of self-protection a conservative politician must adopt today. But the Left attempted to turn it into a criticism of Pence.

     Pence doesn’t belong to the right union. Or perhaps it’s that he belongs to the Right union, whose members take sexual predation seriously. The secretions flow much more freely in the other tent.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dining Out On A Sunday


     Sunday is a truly unfortunate day to go out to eat...and mid-day (2:30 - 4:00 PM) is the worst of all times. We tried three different restaurants today. The first one was serving "brunch" and didn't want to hear about anything else. The second one was so jammed that diners waiting for tables were playing War and Go Fish on the hoods of their cars. The third one let us in...and then served us food so tasteless it might as well have been library paste (Cf. Evelyn Waugh's "Decline and Fall").

     We last tried Sunday dinner out a few years ago, in the Berkshires. The first restaurant made us wait 45 minutes for a table we’d reserved that morning. The second one seated us...and then told us the kitchen had just been closed by the Department of Health. The third one brought us menus...and was never heard from again.

     We wound up at Burger King, at 11:30 PM. We raised a lot of eyebrows, pulling into the parking lot in a Mercedes S550. We raised even more by being dressed in our best: me in a charcoal suit and tie, my wife in her minks and diamonds. We waited 20 minutes for a completely pedestrian order – hamburgers, fries, and a shake each – and they got it wrong.

     There’s a moral in there. somewhere.