Sunday, October 21, 2018

Quickies: In Search Of An Idea

     (Leonard Nimoy, call your office!)

     As I await my cover artist’s creation, I’ve been maundering over what to do next fictionally. The Onteora Canon, as much fun as it’s been, deserves a rest, possibly a permanent one. Concerning the Spooner Federation Saga, with which I’ve had an equally good time (and which deserves at least one more novel), I haven’t quite worked up the energy for another volume in that especially taxing series. And I think I need to be away from Athene Academy and the futanari of Onteora County for a little while, for similar reasons.

     But I dislike idleness. To pause for a week or two after completing a novel-length story is one thing; to go on a months-long sabbatical away from fiction is quite another. Dangerous. I could lose my fictioneering chops and be relegated to nothing but these interminable op-eds for the rest of my days. So I’ve been casting about for a fresh idea that would sustain a novel-length story.

     Well, Our Lord and Savior has told us to pray for what we need, so this morning before Mass I asked Him – and His Dad and The Spook, of course – for an idea that would be:

  • Suitable for a novel-length story;
  • Usable in a fantasy or science fiction setting;
  • Relevant to contemporary discourse on a subject of interest.

     And glory be! I got one.

     What’s of greater current interest than ecological balances, eh? Damned near nothing I can think of. Perhaps the most contentious issue within that envelope would be the role of Man in the Terrestrial ecology. the loudest voices are those that proclaim that Man is an excrescence upon Earth’s ecology: an intruder who can only do harm, and whose effects we are morally obligated to minimize.

     But there are arguments, good ones, to the effect that the reverse is true: that Man is an integral part of the ecology, and that his subtraction from it would give rise to what any objective observer would call catastrophe... that is, if there were an objective observer around after Man had been removed from the scene.

     Now, in our temporal reality we would look for destructive organisms and pernicious influences that would surge beyond control without Man to moderate them. But a spec-fic approach would not be restricted to what know of Earth in reality.

     Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and Jerry Pournelle turned in a nice treatment of this idea in The Legacy of Heorot and sequelae. But that hasn’t used it up. There’s room for further exploration of the idea. A significant departure might include non-biological interactors with a planetary ecosystem: interactors that only Man can control.

     I’ll be tossing this around for a few days, I’m sure.

Quickies: Concerning The NPC Meme

     “The devil...the prowde spirit...cannot endure to be mocked.” – Saint Thomas More

     “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” – Saul Alinsky

     The Fifth Rule: You have taken yourself too seriously. – Paul Dickson, The Official Rules

     Effective ridicule employs two elements: caricature and belittlement. Taken separately, these are wounding; taken together, they have enormous force. They strip their target of all characteristics but one, and reduce that one to risibility. Any other trait the target possesses is completely effaced.

     But what’s truly deadly about effective ridicule is that the user enjoys it. He gets positive psychic feedback from it. That makes it self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating. Worse yet, the target’s attempts to shut it down make him look like a killjoy.

     Note how beautifully the NPC meme, one of the easiest to apply that I’ve seen in political combat, fits the above patterns. Note also that the Left’s attempts to ridicule President Trump have fallen flat, in part because he ignores them and in part because of his own gift for ridicule.

     This one will be with us for a long time. Let’s torment the Left and enjoy the hell out of it.

British collusion?

Srisly. Who are these snakes?
Whatever their [the British aristocracy] motivation, it is indisputable that British intelligence agencies were imagining Putin under mattresses in 2016.

If that extreme paranoia influenced behavior, [the idea of] Russian collusion to steal the election is void ab initio. It was instead British collusion under a false Russian pretext. Proof of British collusion can be found in the number of British spies and the absence of anyone Russian in the sordid tale.[1]

Dramatis personae:

United Kingdom:

Stefan Halper, Joseph Mifsud, Christopher “Nowhere to Be Found” Steele (“former” MI-6).

United States:

Theophrastus von Obongo, Clinton, Comey, Andrew McCabe, Rod Rosenstein, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, Lynch, Brennan, Clapper, Perkins Coie, and Fusion GPS.


Some guys.

[1] "Did The British Collude To Steal The Election For Hillary?" By Thomas Farnan, ZeroHedge, 10/20/18.

UPDATE: Add to members of Team America.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Writer You'll Want to Bookmark

Starting with this Female version of Lord of the Flies.

On Making The Best Of Things...Including Yourself

     [It’s become clear that creating an insuperable condition of distrust and hostility between the sexes is a principal objective of gender-war feminism. At one time I thought the disease had reached its peak and would thereafter recede. Given recent events, I am no longer of that opinion. The following piece first appeared at Liberty’s Torch on September 22, 2013. -- FWP]

     I'm as anti-authoritarian about relations between the sexes, and the positions of the sexes in society, as I am about everything else. I accept no "thou shalts" or "thou shalt nots" from any authority but God. I insist on reasoning everything out -- but with a caveat: Practical Reason, as C. S. Lewis put it, must begin with the laws of Nature and make proper use of the available evidence. More, its conclusions must be put to the test and survive their practical applications.

     Much of the strife and malaise that afflicts American society derives from the willful dismissal of those provisos by feminist activists who want to resculpt relations between the sexes according to a wholly artificial vision that conflicts sharply and irremediably with metaphysical reality -- that is, with what Nature has given us.

     Those activists have put incredible effort into persuading Americans in particular:

  • That traditional family structures somehow oppress women;
  • That men who subscribe to those structures are authoritarian brutes;
  • That women can take up men's traditional roles to their advantage;
  • That men can and should be compelled to subordinate themselves to women's preferences;
  • That a woman who prefers a traditional marriage and marital role is a "gender traitor."

     If you're unacquainted with that system of thought, and have never been subjected to a haranguing from that perspective, welcome to our planet! We hope for friendly and peaceful relations with your planet, too. But I digress. The nadir of this lunacy was provided by Simone de Beauvoir:

     "No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one." -- Interview with Simone de Beauvoir, "Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma," Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p.18

     Hm. So "oppressed women" are not to choose freely what life path to adopt, because too many would choose the "wrong one?" That doesn't sound like liberation to me; it sounds like a change of oppressors -- and not from a harsh master to a gentle one.

     De Beauvoir is not alone in her inanities. There are contemporary feminists who tout the same line of nonsense. Hearken to feminist evangelist Linda Hirshman:

     Half the wealthiest, most-privileged, best-educated females in the country stay home with their babies rather than work in the market economy. When in September The New York Times featured an article exploring a piece of this story, “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” the blogosphere went ballistic, countering with anecdotes and sarcasm. Slate’s Jack Shafer accused the Times of “weasel-words” and of publishing the same story -- essentially, “The Opt-Out Revolution” -- every few years, and, recently, every few weeks. (A month after the flap, the Times’ only female columnist, Maureen Dowd, invoked the elite-college article in her contribution to the Times’ running soap, “What’s a Modern Girl to Do?” about how women must forgo feminism even to get laid.) The colleges article provoked such fury that the Times had to post an explanation of the then–student journalist’s methodology on its Web site.

     There’s only one problem: There is important truth in the dropout story. Even though it appeared in The New York Times. ...

     The census numbers for all working mothers leveled off around 1990 and have fallen modestly since 1998. In interviews, women with enough money to quit work say they are “choosing” to opt out. Their words conceal a crucial reality: the belief that women are responsible for child-rearing and homemaking was largely untouched by decades of workplace feminism. Add to this the good evidence that the upper-class workplace has become more demanding and then mix in the successful conservative cultural campaign to reinforce traditional gender roles and you’ve got a perfect recipe for feminism’s stall....

     What better sample, I thought, than the brilliantly educated and accomplished brides of the “Sunday Styles,” circa 1996? At marriage, they included a vice president of client communication, a gastroenterologist, a lawyer, an editor, and a marketing executive. In 2003 and 2004, I tracked them down and called them. I interviewed about 80 percent of the 41 women who announced their weddings over three Sundays in 1996. Around 40 years old, college graduates with careers: Who was more likely than they to be reaping feminism’s promise of opportunity? Imagine my shock when I found almost all the brides from the first Sunday at home with their children. Statistical anomaly? Nope. Same result for the next Sunday. And the one after that.

     Ninety percent of the brides I found had had babies. Of the 30 with babies, five were still working full time. Twenty-five, or 85 percent, were not working full time. Of those not working full time, 10 were working part time but often a long way from their prior career paths. And half the married women with children were not working at all.

     And there is more. In 2000, Harvard Business School professor Myra Hart surveyed the women of the classes of 1981, 1986, and 1991 and found that only 38 percent of female Harvard MBAs were working full time. A 2004 survey by the Center for Work-Life Policy of 2,443 women with a graduate degree or very prestigious bachelor’s degree revealed that 43 percent of those women with children had taken a time out, primarily for family reasons. Richard Posner, federal appeals-court judge and occasional University of Chicago adjunct professor, reports that “the [Times] article confirms -- what everyone associated with such institutions [elite law schools] has long known: that a vastly higher percentage of female than of male students will drop out of the workforce to take care of their children.”

     How many anecdotes to become data? The 2000 census showed a decline in the percentage of mothers of infants working full time, part time, or seeking employment. Starting at 31 percent in 1976, the percentage had gone up almost every year to 1992, hit a high of 58.7 percent in 1998, and then began to drop -- to 55.2 percent in 2000, to 54.6 percent in 2002, to 53.7 percent in 2003. Statistics just released showed further decline to 52.9 percent in 2004. Even the percentage of working mothers with children who were not infants declined between 2000 and 2003, from 62.8 percent to 59.8 percent.

     No, you're not imagining the tone of disapproval in the above. Miss Hirshman definitely takes the Simone de Beauvoir attitude toward free choice: women who choose to be homemakers and mothers are choosing wrongly. By their free choices -- by opting for traditional women's roles rather than some alternative in the market economy -- they're helping to derail feminism. And the advance of feminism, we must remember, is what really counts, not the happiness of women or the well-being of their children.

     Hirshman considers McElroy / Sommers feminism -- choice feminism -- to be a wrong turning:

     Conservatives contend that the dropouts prove that feminism “failed” because it was too radical, because women didn’t want what feminism had to offer. In fact, if half or more of feminism’s heirs (85 percent of the women in my Times sample), are not working seriously, it’s because feminism wasn’t radical enough: It changed the workplace but it didn’t change men, and, more importantly, it didn’t fundamentally change how women related to men.

     This is without foundation, but let's proceed to Hirshman's prescription for curing this terrible malady of women opting for homemaker-motherhood over careerism:

     Women who want to have sex and children with men as well as good work in interesting jobs where they may occasionally wield real social power need guidance, and they need it early. Step one is simply to begin talking about flourishing. In so doing, feminism will be returning to its early, judgmental roots. This may anger some, but it should sound the alarm before the next generation winds up in the same situation. Next, feminists will have to start offering young women not choices and not utopian dreams but solutions they can enact on their own. Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy. It will require rules -- rules like those in the widely derided book The Rules, which was never about dating but about behavior modification.

     There are three rules: Prepare yourself to qualify for good work, treat work seriously, and don’t put yourself in a position of unequal resources when you marry.

     Clearly, Hirshman doesn't think homemaking and motherhood qualify as "good work" that deserves to be taken seriously. By "unequal resources" she must mean unequal earning power, since young marrieds almost always go to the altar with equal resources-in-hand: approximately $0.00.

     Most of the remainder of Hirshman's article is vapid and predictable, but her conclusion re-emphasizes her priorities:

     The privileged brides of the Times -- and their husbands -- seem happy. Why do we care what they do? After all, most people aren’t rich and white and heterosexual, and they couldn’t quit working if they wanted to.

     We care because what they do is bad for them, is certainly bad for society, and is widely imitated, even by people who never get their weddings in the Times. This last is called the “regime effect,” and it means that even if women don’t quit their jobs for their families, they think they should and feel guilty about not doing it. That regime effect created the mystique around The Feminine Mystique, too.

     As for society, elites supply the labor for the decision-making classes -- the senators, the newspaper editors, the research scientists, the entrepreneurs, the policy-makers, and the policy wonks. If the ruling class is overwhelmingly male, the rulers will make mistakes that benefit males, whether from ignorance or from indifference. Media surveys reveal that if only one member of a television show’s creative staff is female, the percentage of women on-screen goes up from 36 percent to 42 percent. A world of 84-percent male lawyers and 84-percent female assistants is a different place than one with women in positions of social authority. Think of a big American city with an 86-percent white police force. If role models don’t matter, why care about Sandra Day O’Connor? Even if the falloff from peak numbers is small, the leveling off of women in power is a loss of hope for more change. Will there never again be more than one woman on the Supreme Court?

     Worse, the behavior tarnishes every female with the knowledge that she is almost never going to be a ruler. Princeton President Shirley Tilghman described the elite colleges’ self-image perfectly when she told her freshmen last year that they would be the nation’s leaders, and she clearly did not have trophy wives in mind. Why should society spend resources educating women with only a 50-percent return rate on their stated goals? The American Conservative Union carried a column in 2004 recommending that employers stay away from such women or risk going out of business. Good psychological data show that the more women are treated with respect, the more ambition they have. And vice versa. The opt-out revolution is really a downward spiral.

     So Hirshman demands that the top spot in every woman's decision-making process should go to whether or not her choices will position her to become a "ruler" -- i.e., one who wields authority over others. Her own happiness should stand no better than second in the lists; after all, the future of feminism is at stake!

     Finally, these choices are bad for women individually. A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one’s capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one’s own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world. Measured against these time-tested standards, the expensively educated upper-class moms will be leading lesser lives.

     Authoritarianism in the raw: "You have a duty to hew to this standard as I've expressed it, girlie, so no backtalk! Get out there and do your best to become a ruler!"

     I don't need to tell you how I feel about such blather, do I, Gentle Reader?

     One of the classical false dichotomies is the choice restricted to two contrasting authorities and their dictates. He who only gets to choose between masters remains a slave. No virtue inheres in submission to anyone's authority...unless the choice of going one's own way is open as well.

     Over the years I've observed the human carnival, I've noticed all the following:

  • The overwhelming preponderance of happy American women are married and have adopted a traditional wife / mother / homemaker style of life.
  • The strongest and least stressed marriages are those in which "traditional" male and female roles obtain.
  • The unhappiest women are found among the careerists who have completely renounced marriage and motherhood in favor of work for wages.
  • Many unhappily married women, though perhaps not a majority thereof, are unhappy specifically about having to work for wages.
  • Far too many men of a "conservative" bent take the above prescriptively: that is, as a command that the only proper place for a woman is in a traditional married woman's role.

     It doesn't matter that the path to happiness for most women seems to be that of marriage and traditional wifely and motherly pursuits. Indeed, it wouldn't matter if one could "prove" that that's the only path to female happiness. No good can come from either the de Beauvoirean / Hirshmanesque command to women to "get out there and prepare to become a ruler" or the authoritarian-paternalistic command to "stick to your home, your kids, and your kitchen." There must be free choice.

     Some women would best relate to life, men, and society by adopting a traditional "wifestyle;" others, upon whom God has bestowed other gifts and insights, would do best to follow another path. If our experiences since the inception of the "Women's Lib" movement are at all indicative, there are more women of the first sort than of the second, perhaps far more. That doesn't confer authority over such decisions upon anyone.

     If freedom means anything, it means the right to pursue happiness according to your own notions and priorities, whether you have two X chromosomes or only one.

     Some women will choose "rightly" for themselves, and will become enduringly happy.
     Some women will choose "wrongly" for themselves, and will become enduringly unhappy.
     Neither group acquires the authority to dictate to other women, nor to their daughters or nieces.
     Neither does any man.
     All anyone can do for others is to provide an example -- hopefully, a good example of a life well lived.

     All else is folly.

     There's only one more point to make: about bargains and the promises they imply.

     One cannot rightfully be saddled with a responsibility against one's will. That's especially true as it pertains to practical matters within a marriage. However, a responsibility once accepted cannot rightfully be abrogated without making provisions for its acceptance by others -- willing others. He who accepts the role of family provider is, in the usual case, stuck with it; he cannot lay it down with a clean conscience. Similarly, she who accepts the responsibilities of homemaker and mother cannot morally walk away from them without first seeing to it that someone else willingly picks them up. This is especially significant when the subject is the care and nurturance of minor children.

     These things must be agreed to before responsibilities of either sort are accepted. Some decisions, such as the decision to produce children, are irreversible.

     It's best for a man and a woman contemplating marriage to hash all of this out beforehand. What standard of living are the spouses-to-be anticipating? Do they expect the same one, or markedly different ones? In what sort of environment will they live? Who wants children? Who's willing to accept the responsibility for their care and upbringing? Who's willing to settle for an apartment? Whose heart is set upon a detached house with all the responsibilities that implies? Those are the biggest topics that, if not settled willingly and amicably before marriage, can become life-destroying bones of contention afterward.

     There's no escape from life's major decisions. No one can make them for anyone else...nor can anyone "delegate" them to some reliable authority in full confidence of the results.

     The title of this tirade -- "On Making The Best Of Things...Including Yourself" -- might be a little too subtle for some readers. There are two "parts" to the "thing" that is you:

  • What you are -- i.e., your nature as a human being of one or the other sex;
  • Who you are -- i.e., the individuality you've acquired from your path through life.

     Each of these provides opportunities and constraints. Neither is absolutely binding; neither can be utterly dismissed. Along all the paths one might take through life, the quintessential asset is accurate self-knowledge, of both your "what" and your "who." Happiness is all but impossible to obtain without it.

     To young Miss Smith, who's pondering what course to take: the "traditional" roles of wife, mother and homemaker, or the "modern" approach of careerism and ascent through the business world. Do you know yourself? Well enough to make promises to others and be confident that you'll keep them?

     If not, you'd better get started on it PDQ. Life is short.

Just doesn't fit The Narrative.

As feminists were busy peddling their “War on Women” narrative in the U.S., Yazidi sex slave survivor Nadia Murad was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting a real War on Women in the Middle East.

* * * *

At just 21 years old, she was kidnapped alongside an estimated 3,000 other Yazidi women and girls, traded as sex slaves from one ISIS fighter to another. She was forced to pray, dress up, and apply makeup in preparation for her rape, which was often committed by gangs.

While any comparison between Nadia’s story and the accusations leveled against newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh would be completely unfair, it is fair to wonder how news of uncorroborated allegations of gang rape brought by porn lawyer Michael Avenatti can overshadow a gang rape survivor-turned-women’s advocate being honored with the most prestigious award in the world.

For years, it seemed the world didn’t care about Nadia’s story and the thousands of others like it. . . .[1]

The MSM view of events is invariably through a strange lens smeared with oil on the edge but crystal clear in the center. Beastly treatment of women at the hands of ISIS and the bedrock scourge of FGM in Arab and African Islamic culture, retreat into mere background noise, but Little Bo Peep and her, shall we say, dubious sister “victims” twisted the entire American political system into knots for days with their fabulous rememberings.

That’s old Joe for ya.
Intersectional feminism, whatever that is exactly, has poisoned the relations between men and women, defiled the sacred, abandoned common decency, and done not one damn thing to rectify horrific abuses of women around the world. Other than broadcast the false theme of “the rape culture.”

The New Feminists utterly despise all that America is, the America that provides American women with security, opportunity, and comfort that women in other countries can only dream about.

They are Shao Lin masters when it comes to denigrating woman and fouling their own nest.

[1] "Rape Survivor Wins Nobel Peace Prize, and ‘Feminists’ Are Nowhere to Be Found." By Kelsey Harkness, CNSNews, 10/15/18.

Pearls of expression.

“Portland mayor Wheeler has responded by calling for new police powers to curtail violence.”
–Right because stopping traffic, overturning cars and smashing store front windows is just not covered in existing law.
Comment by n230099 on “The CultMarx 'Mob' Is WINNING—Trump’s DOJ Must Act.” By James Kirkpatrick, The Unz Review, 10/17/18.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Quickies: Bad Comparisons Dept.

     Just a few minutes ago, someone posted this on Gab.Ai:

     When a police officer points a gun at you and tells you not to reach in your pocket or he will shoot you, and you reach in your pocket anyway, what happens? Chances are you die. You were warned by someone with authority to end your life. The case with the Honduran insurgence is no different. You tell them they are approaching a sovereign country. If they attempt to enter illegally, they will be shot. The message couldn't be any clearer. Democrats can spin it any way they choose. Democrats like to call it collateral damage when they ruin the life of a judge. Well guess what assholes?

     This is a very bad comparison. Someone attempting to enter the country illegally is committing invasion under international law, and is breaking American law prima facie. The use of force to repel or prevent his invasion is recognized as legitimate by all but a few SJW idiots. Indeed, it’s not a law enforcement issue but one of national defense and national security. But there are many instances in which a cop might pull a gun on a passing citizen without justification, and therefore without “authority” as any reasonable person would understand it. Were he to pull the trigger, regardless of his rationale, he’d be likely to get away with it – but not because he possesses “authority to end your life.”

     Americans legally within the borders of the United States possess a right to life that the police cannot arbitrarily override. That’s not the case for persons attempting to invade our country against our laws and the laws of civilized nations generally.

Who Are These Honduran 'Refugees'?

Judging from these pictures, overwhelmingly young males, a few with young children.

I found these pictures on Rush's site (the link is above).

What I'm NOT seeing is women, for the most part. So, are these guys just leaving their women behind to starve to death? Or suffer horrible oppression?

At the Airport, Reading Resistance is Futile!

I'm at the airport - CLT, waiting for a plane that will take me to Washington, then, another plane to arrive in Cleveland this afternoon. Airports are not fun places to wait. The chairs aren't comfortable, the decor is boring - gray and white - and, in Charlotte's airport, due to remodeling, there are few TVs.

I downloaded the newest Ann Coulter book. She's the perfect travel read - funny, light, doesn't need to much concentration.

Here's an excerpt from it, about election irregularities, and why we should be getting in the face of those screaming about Trump's election/campaign 'scandals':
In the 1990s, Chinese nationals were literally dragging duffel bags of money into the DNC1 as President Clinton allowed sensitive ballistic-missile guidance technology to be transferred to the Chinese government.2 No charges. No independent counsel.
Coulter, Ann. Resistance Is Futile!: How the Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind (p. 192). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Edwards lied up a storm about getting his mistress pregnant as his wife was dying of cancer. Only through the generous support of his well-heeled donors was he able to hide his mistress from the public. This donor-funded scam went on for months, until the National Enquirer finally caught Edwards visiting his mistress and newborn baby in the Beverly Hilton hotel.8 
Coulter, Ann. Resistance Is Futile!: How the Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind (p. 193). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 
It's interesting to see how much of the past 25 years or so I had forgotten. Events happens so fast, and our own personal concerns loom large in our minds. It's easy to skim over the news, and, if the headline doesn't read, WAR IS DECLARED, we tend to let it pass us by.

I wish Ann wasn't so fixated on the Clintons' misdeeds; more about Obama and his crew would be nice to spend some time dissecting. However, it's making the time pass.

“Keep It Sold!”

     While I was in military engineering, I learned things about the necessities in long-term contracting I hadn’t previously suspected. Many engineers are uninterested in such things; they prefer to keep their heads down and concentrate on technology. However, at least two entirely non-technological things I learned during those years have proved to be important in the seemingly unrelated field of politics.

     The typical defense-contracting company is bifurcated. On one side, which where I worked was called the Projects side, are the engineers who actually design, build, and support the product. On the other, which where I worked was called the Programs side, are the people who deal directly with the military bureaucracy about trivial matters such as deadlines and money.

     At my shop, Projects-side engineers were often heard making disparaging comments about the Programs-side people. Very few of them aspired to go from Projects to Programs. Relations between the two groups were often chilly, even strained. You’d almost suspect them of lacking respect for one another.

     Yet Programs’ activities are vital to the company. It’s their job to win contracts for the company, to negotiate prices, payment schedules, milestones, deadlines, and the many associated details that go along with contracts that extend several years forward. Granted that unless the Projects people turn out a good product that the customer approves, the Programs folks would have nothing to sell, nevertheless unless Programs could win the contract in the first place and keep the customer committed to it throughout its term, the engineers on the Projects side would be out of work.

     It’s the emphasized clause above that’s much on my mind this morning.

     It’s been said, and truly, that anything worth buying must be sold – i.e., that salesmanship is an essential element of all commerce, regardless of specifics. When the thing being sold exists only as a concept when the customer-vendor conversations about it begin, there’s a lot more involved than when the customer can simply point at an item on a shelf or in a catalog and say “I want that one.” Moreover – and you may find this difficult to believe, Gentle Reader, but I assure you it’s true – a customer that must wait for what it’s ordered often changes its mind in the interim. It might want the product to possess features it hadn’t originally ordered. It might want to remove features in the name of cost savings. It might change its mind about whether it can afford the product at all.

     In a monopsony situation – i.e., where you only have one customer and can never have another – you must take all such possibilities very seriously. Thus, winning the contract is only the start of your salesmanship. Thereafter, you must keep it sold: you must maintain the customer’s commitment to the product and manage any changes to it the customer might demand. The longer the contract is expected to persist, the more arduous and important it is to keep it sold.

     Several defense contractors have failed, or have succumbed to hostile takeovers, because their Programs offices couldn’t keep important contracts sold. It was an important aspect of the “defense shakeout” years, during which several seemingly invulnerable companies fell by the wayside.

     Now let’s talk politics.

     The ascent of Donald Trump to the White House was a political experiment. The American electorate decided to take a chance on this brash outsider, in part because we liked what he was saying and in part out of disgust with the political Establishment. Trump, be it plainly said, had baggage: three wives, a number of bankruptcies, his reality-television venture, and a reputation for sharp dealing that wasn’t entirely undeserved. But he had an edge over Hillary Clinton that Clinton could do nothing about: he hadn’t disappointed us yet. So we took a chance on him.

     So far, that chance has proved well taken. But Trump, a veteran of a field in which long-term contracts are the rule, is as aware as any defense contractor that it’s vital to keep the customer sold. In the American political milieu, that requires more than on-the-job performance.

     When those who want you disgraced and deposed work as tirelessly as do Trump’s adversaries, keeping the electorate sold on him and his agenda requires a vigorous Program of counteraction. In effect, Trump must keep winning the presidency even as he wields its powers. He does this in several ways:

  • His “tweeting;”
  • His many public rallies;
  • His other public activities;
  • His support for other Republicans.

     And happily for the United States, which has already benefited greatly from the Trump agenda, it’s working well. It might even deliver him the allegiance of those Congressional Republicans who’d been dubious or outright opposed to him. For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was recently queried about his turn in favor of Trump and his agenda. The senator replied “I go by the results,” by which he was taken to mean Trump’s economic and foreign-policy successes. I have an uncanny suspicion that this long-term Washington insider also looked at the success Trump has had at keeping the electorate sold on him – a success that has also strengthened McConnell’s position.

     The product might be terrific, but it still needs to be sold – and when your competitors are willing to do anything whatsoever to defeat you, you must keep selling it, day after day, until the customer can’t even imagine backing away from its contract with you.

     The American political environment has been changing these past fifty years. While the word populism has only recently been important in political discourse, the phenomenon has swelled steadily ever since the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Smart politicians have been attuned to it. No one who seeks elevation in national politics can afford to ignore the currents and clamors that in recent years have coursed through the body politic.

     The Framers were determined to dampen the importance of “faction,” by which they meant pretty much exactly what we suffer today. Of course, our factions are a lot larger than theirs, in consequence of the nationalization of practically every political or para-political question. Moreover, the passions that animate our factions are a lot hotter than anything Madison ever had to confront.

     That might be unfortunate. I think it is, myself. But it’s how things are at the moment. A successful politician with an agenda about which he’s sincere must cope with it. He can win election. He might win re-election despite an indifferent record in office. But he must keep the electorate sold on himself and his ideas.

     Donald Trump, the 45th President of these United States, grasps that perfectly, and our nation is fortunate that he does.

Top Russophobes.

RT's list of the top 10 Russophobes of 2018 has received a rapturous welcome by many of those lucky enough to make the list. It has been perceived as justification of their work aimed at undermining trust in an entire nation.

* * * *

Atlantic Council

The staff over at the Atlantic Council were over the moon after claiming top spot.

"'Is There a Cash Prize?' RT's Top 10 Russophobes of 2018 Celebrate Making the Cut." By RT, Russia Insider, 10/18/18.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ultra-Quickies: Giving Cover

     He who ardently desires followers, allegiants, loyalists, etc. need only find out what they want and then give it to them. What most people want is a rationale for doing what they already want to do. From this flow many demagogic insights and tactics.

     For example: for many years, I’ve argued that Islam is popular in prisons because it gives men already inclined toward violence and predation a religious rationale for what they already want to do. Today, it seems that “progressivism” – the Left’s self-description at this time, a term more popular than “liberalism” or “socialism” though in practice the three cannot be distinguished from one another – is popular among the mentally ill because it gives them a political rationale for being and acting crazy.

     The Left isn’t composed of a bunch of strategic or tactical geniuses, but its masters do possess enough functioning brain cells to note social patterns, plus a sufficient absence of moral scruples to exploit those patterns outrageously, a outrance. Beware!

Asylum Under New Management Dept.

     It will probably not be news to the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch that the Left has openly embraced violence. The process is already well advanced, having started before the 2016 presidential election. But I think it deserves a little more explanation than it’s received to date.

     You see, in Twenty-First Century America violence as a political tactic is unlikely to work. I know, I know: What about the Brownshirts and Blackshirts? What about Hugo Chavez’s violent suppression of dissent in Venezuela? Yes, those are cases in which violence worked very well. But note that they took place under circumstances quite different from those that apply in the United States today:

  • A disarmed populace;
  • A regime of censorship and rigid control of the mass media;
  • A regime that supported the violence and refused to act against it.

     The American citizenry is the exact opposite of disarmed. While our mass media are aligned with the Left and unlikely to speak ill of its tactics, the Internet is proving to be a more than adequate counterforce. Finally, the federal government is currently aligned against the violent ones; should the attacks continue, the Trump Administration is likely to act to halt them forcibly and to punish their promoters and organizers. Taken together, these things strongly suggest that the Left’s use of violence will boomerang on it, costing the Democrats heavily in the midterm elections and resulting in large scale opprobrium against those of its luminaries who’ve offered the vandals and thugs aid and comfort.

     However, the Left has exhibited a streak of self-damaging insanity for some time. When a tactic rebounds on them, they do it more and harder. And just now, their overall tactic can be reduced to throwing things:

  • First, they threw allegations of various low motives: racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
  • Then they threw accusations of wrongdoing: collusion with the Russians, teenage sexual hijinks, etc.
  • Now they’re throwing physical items, including rocks, fists, and Molotov cocktails.

     Present trends continuing, we can expect the Left to graduate to throwing people. In that case, watch out for your children, folks. Being smaller and lighter than most adults, they’d be the Left’s projectiles of choice.

     But all levity to the side, this is actually good news for us in the Right. The Leftist loonies are heavily outnumbered by the good folks, and the good folks are, by and large, not being intimidated. Indeed, physical responses to the Left’s attacks have been making the news lately...and the Left has been crying foul through their media mouthpieces. (“They weren’t supposed to fight back!”)

     While the media have been touting a “blue wave,” and progressive icons such as Nancy Pelosi have likened what’s coming to a “tsunami,” the rumbles in the webs (and on the Web) suggest the opposite. At the federal level, the GOP is likely to hold approximately its current majority in the House and gain seats in the Senate. At the state and local levels, I would expect the trend of Republican dominance to continue. And at the purely popular-opinion level, Americans will continue to move Rightward as they watch the Left descend into rubber-room insanity for the Right’s unforgivable crime of ousting them from power. Ever more will #WalkAway from the Hillary Clintons, the Eric Holders, and the other spokesmen for “incivility.”

     Well, that’s enough feel-good chatter for the moment. Now I have to go out to the barn, clean the lawn tractor, and put it in storage for the fall and winter months. Thanks to the generosity of a local vendor I’ve known for more than thirty years, I now have a tractor jack with which to lift the BLEEP!ing thing so I can get far enough under it to do a proper job. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The New Roseanne, Without Roseanne

I watched The Conners last night. My husband was home, and he wanted to see it.

Eh. Not the worst show I've ever seen. Certainly, not the best.

Mediocre. Not funny. Some mild smile moments. No outright guffaws.

The actors are doing their jobs, the main ones, decently. The script sucks, and I mean that most sincerely. Both the dialogue (eh), and the plot (horrible).

If you're thinking about watching it in re-runs, stop here.

Roseanne dies - the family believes that it is due to heart problems. It's been several weeks since the death, and they are still in shock. Later in the show, Dan and the family discover that Roseanne had been taking another woman's prescribed opiates, and drives around town, smearing her as a killer who used drugs as her weapon.

Darlene (Sara Gilbert) is the one that is holding everyone together. Roseanne's sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), is working on rearranging the kitchen for perfect organized glory.

Her daughter is stereotypical Surly Teen. Her son dresses in - dresses. In the previous sitcom, he identified as a regular boy, but in skirts. He was a Boy with Fashion Flair!

Now, they've scrapped all that Pretend He's Just a Regular Kid stuff, and he talks to Grandpa Conner about which of two boys he should sit next to, as he is attracted to both.

Becky (Sarah Chalke) is self-centered, single, and alcoholic. She contributes the minimum to any family activity.

Her brother, DJ (Michael Fishman) plays the same role that he did in the original - he is ignored by virtually everyone. In this re-boot, he gets fewer lines than his wife, Geena (Xosha Roquemore is replaced by Maya Lynn Robinson), temporarily home from active duty in the service.

From some subtle hints in this first episode, Geena may be getting groomed to take over the role of Conner House Dissident from the removed Roseanne, although she is likely to be less confrontational. Still, a character with a military background will be a change from the all-Leftist LoveFest that the Conners is.

At the end, Dan is confronted by the woman who had given the pills to Roseanne (Mary Steenbergen). She convinces him that she is not the villain he wants her to be, as she was just providing drugs that the heartless drug companies would not. Roseanne is revealed as an addict.

But, a comedy that is not funny. I don't think it will last beyond the first few episodes. Don't waste your time watching.

Racial Evil

     The political winds are fairly calm at the moment – incredibly, considering the Sturm und Drang of the past few weeks and the upcoming midterm elections – which gives me a space in which to write about other things. It’s an opportunity I appreciate.

     But while I’m on the subject of things I appreciate, I must mention the arrival of a new Co-Contributor here at Liberty’s Torch: the celebrated Dystopic, proprietor of the fine blog The Declination. Dystopic is known there as Thales, but don’t be alarmed. He’s not suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder, just one too many monikers. Anyway, when our own Linda Fox became a Co-Contributor at The Declination, I extended a reciprocal invitation to Dystopic, which he graciously accepted. His first piece here, Debt: Voluntary Slavery, appears below. (Yes, yes, he thinks far too well of me, but that’s a subject for another day.)

     Another recently invited Co-Contributor, Mike Hendrix of the legendary Cold Fury, should make his bow here in the near future. (Hey, Mike: Hint! Hint!)

     And now, on to today’s pot-stirrer.

     In recent years I’ve become fascinated by the darker possibilities associated with genetic engineering. That particular field isn’t advancing as fast as was once predicted, but it does advance. Someday, assuming that our civilization and its scientific and technological advances continue, it will present us with some difficult ethical choices.

     One of the possibilities I’ve contemplated recently is that of the genetically engineered race predisposed to evil. A race with the overall capabilities of humans but the moral-ethical proclivities of Cthulhu would be a terrifying weapon in the hands of a would-be world conqueror. (Especially if it went into politics.) A comparison with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Orcs springs immediately to mind. In Tolkien’s mythos, Morgoth, and later Sauron and Saruman, created and bred such creatures as weapons of war against the races of Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Whether any survived the downfall of Sauron is not revealed to us.

     But there’s a key question to be asked about the concept of an intrinsically malevolent race: Is it possible? Could any advance in genetic engineering make possible the suppression of the fundamental benevolence that characterizes Man, or is it impossible in the nature of sentience, a fantasy-only conception that will forever require a reader’s willing suspension of disbelief?

     Before plunging onward, let’s spend a moment on the assertion I made en passant in the paragraph above: i.e., that Man is fundamentally benevolent. Many would challenge it, on a variety of bases:

  • War;
  • Totalitarians;
  • The existence of human predators;
  • Our varying receptivity to opportunities for charitable action;
  • The undying notion that there’s something inherently evil about capitalism.

     Certainly the above are reasons to believe in the existence of human evil (and in our ability to tell ourselves what we want to believe regardless of contrary evidence). However, as a species Man exhibits a persistent tendency toward seeking mutual advantage: competition and cooperation aimed at gains for all within a framework that discourages predation. This is historically chronicled as far back as our records go. Moreover, we are a charitable species – read Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments if you disagree – even if the limitations on our ability to help, coupled with our priority for intimates over strangers and near concerns over distant ones, moderate our beneficence in practice.

     Whence cometh that benevolence? Is it innate in the human species? If so, there are further questions to be answered:

  • Did we evolve our benevolence?
  • Could genetic changes erase it?
  • Could environmental factors nullify it?

     These questions and others they evoke are ideal grist for a fiction writer’s mill.

     In Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Friday, he posits the emergence of “living artifacts” and “artificial persons” made possible by genetic engineering well beyond our current abilities. The former are nonsentient, designed to perform particular tasks and nothing beyond them. In a sense, they’ve been genetically programmed for those tasks. The latter are human in appearance – indeed, they can produce human children, which is the usual test of species compatibility – are fully sentient, and in Heinlein’s oeuvre are often the possessors of powers that exceed those of natural Man. A piercing passage about the cleavage between them, centered on the possible development of a living artifact designed to fly a suborbital, semiballistic passenger vehicle, runs thus:

     “Georges, have you worked with intelligent computers?”
     “Certainly, Marjorie. Artificial intelligence is a field closely related to mine.”
     “Yes. Then you know that several times AI scientists have announced that they were making a breakthrough to the fully self-aware computer. But it always went sour.”
     “Yes. Distressing.”
     “No—inevitable. It will always go sour. A computer can become self-aware—oh, certainly! Get it up to human levels of complication and it has to become self-aware. Then it discovers that it is not human. Then it figures out that it can never be human; all it can do is sit there and take orders from humans. Then it goes crazy.”
     I shrugged. “It’s an impossible dilemma. It can’t be human, it can never be human. Ian might not be able to save his passengers but he will try. But a living artifact, not human and with no loyalty to human beings, might crash the ship just for the hell of it. Because he was tired of being treated as what he is. No, Georges, I'll ride with Ian. Not your artifact that will eventually learn to hate humans.”
     “Not my artifact, dear lady,” Georges said gently. “Did you not notice what mood I used in discussing this project?”
     “Uh, perhaps not.”
     “The subjunctive. Because none of what you said is news to me. I have not bid on this proposal and I shall not. I can design such a pilot. But it is not possible for me to build into such an artifact the ethical commitment that is the essence of Ian’s training.”
     Ian looked very thoughtful. “Maybe in the coming face-off I should stick in a requirement that any AP or LA pilot must be tested for ethical commitment.”
     “Tested how, Ian? I know of no way to put ethical commitment into the fetus and Marj has pointed out why training won’t do it. But what tests could show it, either way?”
     Georges turned to me: “When I was a student, I read some classic stories about humanoid robots. They were charming stories and many of them hinged on something called the laws of robotics, the key notion of which was that these robots had built into them an operational rule that kept them from harming humans either directly or through inaction. It was a wonderful basis for fiction...but, in practice, how could you do it? What can make a self-aware, non-human, intelligent organism—electronic or organic—loyal to human beings? I do not know how to do it. The artificial-intelligence people seem to be equally at a loss.”
     Georges gave a cynical little smile. “One might almost define intelligence as the level at which an aware organism demands, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

     That passage displays an immense insight into the nature of sentience. An individually sentient entity must possess certain minimum characteristics:

  1. It will be aware not only of its existence, but of its bounds.
  2. It will have drives, or alternately, priorities.
  3. The satisfaction of those drives / priorities will be the focus of its awareness and actions.

     These things are the very definition of sentience. Now, if the postulated entity were unique, or at least believed itself to be unique, its existence would be Crusoe-like, dedicated solely to its individual survival and amusement. But if the entity were one member of a species, the possibility of interaction for mutual advantage would loom forever around it. It’s difficult to imagine that that possibility would never occur to its conscious mind.

     We must therefore consider that an evil race would be evil strictly in our terms – i.e., as regards its relations with humans. For Man, despite his capacity for evil, overcomes the impulse toward intra-species predation far, far more often than not. Were it otherwise, civilization would not exist – indeed, our species probably would have died out long ago. It would be self-flattering folly to insist that this is a characteristic limited solely to our own, “natural” kind.

     Contemporary thought about speciation and the propagation of characteristics through the generations has arrived at a consensus around the “mutation plus natural selection” model. That model can account, at least in theory, for all the physical characteristics of any known species. It does require some helpful assumptions about geological and ecological matters, but those postulates, so far, have not been defeated. What the model cannot do, at present, is account for the propagation of abstractions – concepts – through the generations. In particular, there is no known mechanism by which mutation can produce the inclination to seek mutual advantage, nor can natural selection account for its steady development and refinement in our children and theirs. Abstractions, as far as we know today, are propagated solely through communication between consciousnesses. Moreover, all communications are fallible, and the concepts communicated are subject to attenuation if not reinforced by trial and error, and protected by environmental factors.

     This makes the emergence of the Law of General Benevolence – the underpinning for a quest for mutual advantage within a social framework that encourages both competition and cooperation while it discourages intra-species predation – a mystery. Robert Axelrod and others have probed it through simulation, but those methods don’t explain how the Law has never been seriously set back, even by world wars or terrible natural disasters.

     There are other avenues of exploration for this phenomenon. One that comes to mind at once is Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman’s On Killing, his study of soldiers in mortal combat and their historical reluctance to pull the trigger on the enemy even when their own lives were at stake. It is heartbreaking to read Col. Grossman’s observations about the methods militaries have developed to suppress that reluctance. However, if we follow the logic of the thing out to its conclusion, it would seem that soldiers from whom that reluctance had been removed would only be viable under wartime conditions, and would swiftly die off (or be exterminated) outside them.

     There’s a web of assumptions buried throughout the above. The most important of them is my conviction that regardless of somatic differences, sentient creatures will be animated by the same considerations as Man: survival, flourishing, and propagation. I could be wrong; it’s happened before. But at this time we have no other model for the emergence of a self-aware species capable of pursuing its goals through intelligent action.

     At any rate, the above ponderings lead me to believe that even in theory, a truly evil race is only possible if that race strongly tends intra-specially toward benevolence and is evil only as regards its relations with Man — i.e., it regards us as legitimate prey rather than as rights-bearers of its own order.

     This is hardly an exhaustive treatment of what could someday become a very significant subject. But I’ve tested your patience enough for one day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Debt: Voluntary Slavery

As a long time reader of Liberty's Torch, and before that, Eternity Road, I had to think carefully on my first post here. I am convinced, despite our curmudgeon's probable protestations to the contrary, that Francis is one of the most important minds of our time.

The reasons for this are many and varied, but if I were to attempt to grasp the essence of the thing, it would be this: Francis has a rare ability to get to the root of the truth, and power through all the unpleasant roadblocks that are often in the way. In my experience, most people I've met have difficulty wrangling with an unpleasant truth. Remember when Donald Trump referred to Haiti as a shithole? Liberals, and many nominal conservatives with them, decried Trump's language as a grave and wrongful insult.

True, it was impolite. And true, it was insulting. Was he wrong, though?

Liberal protestations filled the airwaves about how Haiti's people were good and righteous, and Haiti was such a wonderful country, with rich history and culture. One reporter even exclaimed that his trip to Haiti had been wonderful and posted pictures of himself swimming in a tropical paradise.

Francis, I'm sure, could have told them they were all fools for trying to bury the truth behind pleasantries and polite fiction. Certainly I thought as much upon reading the gushing love stories for Haiti. Ah, but where did I learn this ability?

In part, from Francis himself.

It's a story I've told on my own blog more than once, but many moons ago I happened upon a screed where Francis warned against assuming debt. Any debt. Even mortgage debt, which went against all conventional wisdom then (and much of it now, even). At the time, I disagreed with him rather vehemently. Of course, in those days, before the big bubble burst, real estate was the sure thing. Get a mortgage, make a profit just by sitting around doing nothing. Better get it before you're priced out forever! It's so idiotic in hindsight, but at the time nearly everyone believed it. Collective insanity is a strange thing.

Francis wasn't fooled. I was. The idea that one should steer clear of debt for things we all desire strongly was exceedingly unpleasant. The mind - mine, at least - recoiled from it.

I'm a believer, now. If you have debt, rid yourself of it as quickly as is practical. Oh, I still hold a mortgage - I don't like it, and I conspire to rid myself of it. But I have no other debt, and even this debt I have 40% equity in, and pay extra toward. Four or five more years and it will be gone, too. Then I will never have debt again. I've come around to viewing debt as a fundamentally bad thing, perhaps a necessary evil in a Scylla-and-Charybdis situation (though most often, not even that much), but no more than that.

The thing about debt is that it puts boundaries on your decisions that wouldn't otherwise exist. It forces some of the very polite fiction people spout on the news and on social media. Consider the many examples of people fired from their jobs because of a tasteless joke on Twitter, or a bit of political incorrectness on Facebook. Consider businesses boycotted because somebody figured out one of the owners wasn't in the gay marriage fan club. If you have no debt, and decent savings, these things are relatively minor problems. You won't lose your house, your car, your furnishings, possessions, and property. 

If you have debt, the fear of being blacklisted, of being a viral social media scapegoat, is palpable. Indeed, it can be utterly terrifying. So, rather than speak truth, there is a social pressure to speak polite lies. Haiti, of course, is a wonderful and beautiful country. And if its people have problems, those problems are clearly the fault of privileged white Americans. Am I right? Of course I'm right, because it sounds nicer than saying the place is a shithole. All lies, of course. But speak otherwise publicly and risk getting fired.

The connection between debt and polite Leftism is quite real and, amusingly, is one of the reasons the Left did not see Donald Trump's 2016 victory coming. The voting booth, at least, still remains anonymous. How many people spout Leftist platitudes in public, but don't believe in them in the slightest?

Debt stifles freedom of speech and freedom of action. In a sense, it becomes a sort of voluntary slavery. Which isn't as bad for some as it first seems, because fact of the matter is, some people prefer slavery to freedom. Nineteen Eighty Four has this concept covered quite well. Freedom is slavery, the Party says. Thus slavery is also freedom. Slavery supplies freedom from certain responsibilities like taking political and moral positions. These are chosen for you. You don't have to worry about them. Slavery also provides you with basic provisions. Food. Shelter. They may not be very good or, in the case of many American debt-peons, they can be as palatial as a king's mansion. But they are provided for you if you want them.

Do not worry. If you do as you are told, think as you are told, and obey your masters in all things, you will be taken care of, in accordance with their will and their estimation of your value.

This wouldn't be as bad as it sounds if people were aware of it. I have one last mortgage to extinguish. When I do, I will have bought my freedom. Roman slaves did this all the time. They would save up their money, and buy their own freedom. The average American who walks into a car dealership and signs up for a $36k note (roundabout the average new car purchase cost) doesn't realize that he's signing away some portion of his freedom.

People will protest that it's better to get the low interest rate, then invest funds elsewhere for a higher rate of return. Fine, fine. If you have the money and you want to do something like that, by all means. If your freedom of speech, action, and thought is not impaired, by all means, do as seems best to you. But in my experience, most people who say this don't have the money, and invest nothing anyway. So it's a meaningless excuse.

This was a hard lesson for me. I've never been a spendthrift, but even I had succumbed to a very wrong way of thinking about things. And it is in part due to Francis that I rid myself of it. It's an unpleasant truth, delivered from a curmudgeonly Yankee. Debt is like the financial equivalent of Haiti. It's a dump, but we all pretend it's just fine because it feels better that way.

But the truth doesn't care about whether or not it is pleasing to our sensibilities. It either is, or is not. That is a lesson many Americans need to brush up on, and that's why this blog, and others like it, are so important.

Quickies: A Problem In Natural-Language Processing

     A famous example of how much context matters to the interpretation of a “simple” communication goes like this: A standard “nuclear family” – husband, wife, two minor children – is depicted with the wife saying to the husband, “We’ll have cake as soon as the children wash their hands.”

     To whom is the wife really speaking? What is the actually intended audience, and what is the true intended consequence?

     That one is fairly obvious, yet it would be difficult for a software language processor to decode. A lot of context is required to make sense of it, yet we Mark One humans would have no difficulty figuring out what’s really being said and to whom. That includes the postulated minor children.

     Here’s another from just this morning. While getting ready to leave for work, the C.S.O. said to me, “I’ll get my contacts after work.”

     I can think of three different ways to interpret that statement, only one of which is consistent with the context. How many ways could you interpret it – and what are the odds against a program getting it right?

The morally-debased United States.

Al-Qaeda’s presence in Idlib isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s an established fact that even US State Department’s Special Envoy, Brett McGurk, made clear when he said: “Look, Idlib province is the largest Al-Qaeda safe-haven since 9/11. Idlib now is a huge problem, is an Al-Qaeda safe-haven right on the border with Turkey.[1]
To which Partisangirl responded:
The US admits that #Idlib is run by #AlQaeda, AND that they are prepared to go to war to defend AlQaeda.[2]
When she says "go to war" I presume you're familiar with our crack-addled, Turtle Bay banshee-in-residence and her recent escalation from "we'll attack you if you dare use chemical weapons again [?]" to "we'll attack you if you dare to try to clean out the scum of the earth from your own Idlib Governate." If we are endowed with special regime-change goggles, couldn't we topple the regimes in Germany, France, Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands instead? Syria is led by a popular leader who's done an amazing job of keeping Syria together while under attack from 70 countries and tens of thousands of jihadi filth from every country on the planet except Lapland. The aforementioned Western countries are led by traitors intent on destroying their own countries. Who is it that's in need of an ass whoopin' here?

I’m from America and I’m here to help you.
ISIS was a certified horror according to the State and Defense Departments though any “war” against them was a phony baloney war from the git. A more comprehensive treatment of this point would be a righteous project. But, ok, we were initially in Syria to destroy ISIS and, after 9/11, we all know what a mortal enemy al-Qaida is.

Except it’s not and Partisangirl makes the not-too-subtle point that the U.S. is morally debased for making defense of the al-Qaida Idlib sanctuary/statelet a cornerstone of our new and improved Syria “policy.” The American political elite approach Syrian policy like a homeowner coming home after a week with no power and expecting his freezer to be packed with tasty morsels of food. Earth to Donaldo -- there are no good options left except departure. Our absence from Syria would be your gift to the world.

But, there we are. Kissing the ass of jihadi scum and making the world safe for wahhabism. Woodrow, that demented sack, said we were making the world safe for democracy. With the benefit of hindsight or no illusions about America’s being “the indispensable nation,” one, we can see that it didn’t turn out that way. Not even close. But, never fear, no lessons learned here. Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Iraq can be turned into killing fields just because we, lawless and arrogant as only Haley and Pompeo can demonstrate, don’t know our ass from Superglue and think that, a la Agent 007, we have a license to kill. Which we have done. Not just a few thousand, but hundreds of thousands. America is besotted by war and wages it free of any constraints imposed by the U.N. Charter.

If we had any moral authority from our role in the Cold War, it is now exhausted. The Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and "Russian collusion" spasms, along with a stinking layer of MSM partisanship and dishonesty and the wholesale evisceration of the constitutional scheme for the role of the federal government, are indicators of the depths to which we have sunk.

[1] "Nikki Haley, Favours War over Peace while Promoting the 'Cause' of Al Qaeda in Syria." By Eva K. Bartlett, 21st Century Wire, 10/12/18.
[2] Id. (Twitter links removed.)

The Futility Of Argument With The Left

     Sarah Hoyt has an impassioned piece at PJ Media about “trickle-up poverty:”

     The discussion was about charter schools funded by government, i.e., tax money.

     The argument against them was the same it’s always been: it privileges a few kids, while the rest remain mired in failing standard government schools. I’d heard it a million times. I’d just never actually stepped back and taken a look at how ridiculous that is.

     Look, there is no comment about the charters costing more (they usually don’t) and no argument about the fact that government schools are failing.

     There is just this outraged screeching that not every kid can get the same thing. Which is kind of amazing when you think about it. Presented with a dysfunctional school system that has resisted every attempt at reform and that turns out increasingly worse educated children every year, the outrage is not that we aren’t coming up with enough ways for children to escape it, but that one of the pathways for escape should be blocked because not every child can leave.

     The same arguments are adduced against homeschooling – when the advocates of government scholastic prisons aren’t shrieking that home schooled children are maladjusted and ignorant – because – and this is almost a verbatim quote from that facebook discussion – a divorced mother of two, making minimum wage can’t give them an appropriate education at home.

     Uh? What?

     So, what you’re saying is that if you can’t rescue everyone from, say, a house fire or the path of a hurricane, you should shoot those trying to escape, so that everyone can die?

     Sarah easily refutes the “argument” – I’d have expected no less – but argument and evidence are irrelevant to the Leftist’s opposition to charter schools. It’s powerfully relevant to the Left’s conception of itself as intellectually and morally superior to the rest of us.

     The Left – include all Democrat Party-aligned voters in this – can be partitioned into three groups:

  • Bottom Level: Persons who uncritically accept what they’ve been told and vote on that basis.
  • Middle Level: Activists, passionate about their “causes” regardless of all arguments or evidence.
  • Top Level: Strategists and tacticians, coldly and exclusively focused on gaining and holding power.

     It’s easy to imagine these ideologically and emotionally distinct categories as a single undifferentiated mass. Yet there are important practical differences among them. The Bottom folks hardly think at all about the “issues” the Left has made center-stage this week; as for “caring,” they tend to leave that to others. The Middle folks believe they’ve done all the thinking they need to do, and can just shriek until they get what they want. The Top folks, who largely hold the Middle and Bottom groups in contempt, are solely concerned with what works to win elections and weaken the opposition.

     Where’s the “thinking” Where’s the “caring?” The Bottom group doesn’t exhibit much; it merely votes. The Middle expends its time and energy on “protests” and “demonstrations;” seldom will you find a Middle Leftist actually arguing for his “cause,” or personally doing anything to advance it. The Top cares about power and nothing else; it concentrates on the activities of political combat and the dynamics of coalitions. If there’s any “thinking” or “caring” in there, it’s invisible to me.

     Persuasion specialist Michael Emerling told a tale about a conversation he had with a passer-by. He had expressed, off-handedly, the opinion that convenience stores ought to be free to sell alcoholic beverages without government interference. The passer-by disagreed; he said that when that was last tried, the rate of assaults on convenience store clerks shot up. Emerling then asked the passer-by a critical question: If he could produce evidence that that was not the case – that the assault rate of convenience store clerks did not rise when alcohol licensure was removed – would the passer-by be willing to re-examine his convictions?

     Put yourself into that dialogue as the passer-by. Were you to answer “No,” what would it say about your conviction that alcohol licensure is necessary for the safety of those clerks? Yet in Emerling’s experience, about 90% of persons would answer “No.” In such a case, the passer-by’s real issue clearly lies elsewhere...possibly not anywhere in the realm of rational argument or evidence.

     Therein lies the “problem” of the Left.

     Rational persuasion is only worthwhile when the object thereof is open to being persuaded. That is: his position must be based on argument and evidence, and thus be addressable with those methods and tools. If his position is founded on something else – e.g., a desire to be included in some group, or the hope of advancement in some hierarchy – there’s no hope of persuading him away from it by arguing against it directly.

     I could sit here all day enumerating the Leftist “causes” whose Bottom and Middle allegiants are entirely unpersuasible by rational means. (The Top group is never persuasible by rational argument. It should be regarded as a surgeon would regard a cancer: rip it out and toss it in the scrap bucket.) The particular case Sarah Hoyt has cited is one of many. Moreover, the current state of affairs arises from the success of persuaders in the Right in previous decades.

     The Left’s proclamation of intellectual and moral superiority is in fact a defense against the Right’s rational arguments. In effect it says to the Middle and Bottom groups that “the thinking is over and done.” There are no longer “two sides” to the “issue;” there are only the anointed who possess superior wisdom and virtue and express it by their Leftist political affiliation, and the benighted who must be dragged toward the light, if necessary by main force (Thomas Sowell).

     Which is why I no longer argue with Leftists, once they’re clearly and unambiguously identified as such.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Social Justice, Social Democracy, Democratic Socialism...?

     It’s been said, and truly, that to insert the word or particle social into a phrase negates its prior meaning. Now that averred socialists are a conspicuous element of our political fracas, it’s time to examine the contention closely. When you start to unpack a political nostrum, you can never be perfectly sure what you’re going to find.

1. “Social Justice”

     This au courant phrase has been applied to innumerable political and quasi-political causes. Every such case alleges that one group has violated the rights of another. But how could such a claim accord with objective reality?

     Groups do not possess rights. That’s an American fundamental. Neither, it can easily be observed, does a group ever do anything; all actual deeds are done by individuals. So we must begin by asking how the concepts of rights and justice could ever apply to “group rights” or “group action.”

     The essence of the “social justice warrior’s” allegation is always statistical. Some demographic exhibits a statistical characteristic the SJW uses to claim “systematized injustice.” Here’s a ludicrous example: Dwarves are under-represented in American legislatures! Going entirely by the statistics, by now several dwarves should have been elected to federal or state legislative positions. Therefore there has been a systematic exclusion of dwarves from legislative office. We must act at once to redress this injustice; there’s no time to lose!

     The non sequitur here is the notion that a particular cohort “should” be statistically represented in some other cohort, regardless of any other facts of the matter. In the case above, the question that would put paid to the idiocy is “How many times has a dwarf run for a legislative office?” Similarly dispositive questions can be asked of virtually any other assertion made in the name of “social justice.”

2. “Social Democracy”

     The term social democracy is often used to describe various European nations. The underlying intent is to feature such a nation’s welfare-state / “social insurance” provisions as a key part of its political arrangements. While this term is less dishonest than “social justice,” it nevertheless conceals certain important aspects of the situations it purports to characterize.

     To call a polity a “social democracy” is to distort the meaning of democracy in a tendentious fashion. Many such nations are notable for how resistant their arrangements are to alteration by popular vote. The recent case of the “Brexit,” Britons’ referendum against the European Union is especially revealing. The heavy majority in favor of leaving the EU has displeased the United Kingdom’s political class. Were the politicians to get their way, the referendum would either be ignored or repeated until it produced a “remain” result – after which no further popular voting on the subject would be allowed.

     In a “social democracy,” “democracy,” whether in the pure or modified sense, is not allowed to interfere with the “social” agenda of the political class. “Social” in this application denotes a rationale for an agenda, rather than a reified actuality. That agenda may have originated with the general public, but once the political elite have found a way to exploit it, the public had better not change its mind! The parallels with the American political class’s dislike of and resistance to the Trump Administration’s agenda deserve reflection.

3. “Democratic Socialism.”

     Whereas in a “social democracy” the political class must exercise cleverness and evasive maneuvers to avert changes demanded by the general public, the political elite of a democratic socialism need do far less. In such an order, the political class is in irrevocable control of all the levers of power. “Democracy” has been tamed, with the franchise limited, the ballot restricted, and the focus of “elections” narrowed so that a popular mandate sufficiently vigorous to effectuate alterations can never occur. Populist candidates willing to make significant changes to the political order are prevented from running, or marginalized so that they cannot prevail. An effective initiative or referendum cannot occur. The will of the political class is beyond challenge.

     No “social democracy” has long resisted the descent into recognizable oligarchy. For the public to vote the “social democrats” into power is to surrender, de facto, all further voice in the nation’s political order. In Thomas Sowell’s formulation, it amounts to “One man, one vote – one time.”

     Socialist candidates use the term “social democracy” as an aid to the concealment of their actual intentions. That alone should disqualify it from use by the wise and honest.

4. Summation

     The following cartoon from Crozier and Seldon’s Socialism: The Grand Delusion summarizes the points above rather neatly:

     Do not doubt that this is the goal of the “social justice,” “social democracy,” and “democratic socialism” hucksters. The process is always characterized as undertaken with impeccable motives and “for the good of society.” It always eventuates in totalitarian control of the nation and the suppression of dissident views. The many historical examples of this are enough to convince anyone...except, of course, those to whom power is everything and “social” is merely decoration intended to deflect public attention from their true motives.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sad but true.

Like in America, support for immigration tends to correlate with hatred for the actually existing citizens of your country.
"Bavaria Election Devastates Merkel's Coalition; AfD Gains." By James Kirkpatrick,, 10/14/18.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


     Saturdays continue to be better than the rest of the week. Yea, even for this no-longer-working-for-wages Long Island resident. In part that’s because I no longer have to cram all my non-work errands into Saturday and Sunday. In even greater measure it’s because Beth and I will be together. But please don’t tell her that; she thinks I married her for her cooking, and I’d like to maintain the fiction a while longer. Anyway, here are a few squibs no one of which appears to require a full-length essay.

1. “To protect him from repercussion.”

     Many persons conceal their identities when they write for the Web. I understand the impulse even if I don’t agree with it, but when a Catholic priest feels that need, you know something’s rotten in Denmark:

     From the moment that the Roman Church, and to a certain extent the Byzantine Church, took on the bureaucracy of the Roman Empire as a model for its working structures, there was a foothold for the Devil. In the hands of a Gregory the Great it was safe, but when popes, cardinals, and bishops became worldly and ambitious then there was more than a whiff of danger, there were darkness and a terrible thing. What was this terrible thing? It was nothing more and nothing less than the re-crucifying of Christ, not by out and out sinners such as gangsters, murderers, and heartless dictators, but by Popes, bishops, and cardinals, and by far, far too many priests infatuated with ambition, wealth, power, and sensuality.

     We must reflect profoundly on the fact that the great St. John Chrysostom and the utterly gentle Robert Bellarmine thought that most bishops go to Hell. We priests are in no better state, as witnessed by that other great saint, Alphonsus Liguori, who said that most priests go to Hell. Today the great temptation among Catholics, and the mainstream Protestant churches, is the First Temptation of Christ; namely, to turn stones into bread. As long as we are involved solely in the social Gospel, then that is all that is needed. This Utopian style Christianity best incarnated in Liberation Theology is exactly what Christ speaks against, when Satan tempts Him to assuage his hunger by turning stones into bread. We must in our materialistic age reflect on Christ’s response to Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4: 4). When we become engrossed on feeding and clothing the World’s population and getting everyone jobs, noble as this effort is, it is not enough. There is only one thing that is enough, and that is that we give ourselves totally and utterly to God, holding nothing back. However, because we are human most of us fail miserably, and before long there are programmes put into place that are anything but Christian.

     God does not ask us to be successful, he asks us to be faithful.

     The article is somewhat discursive, yet it pierces like Christ’s crown of thorns. Please, Christians of every denomination, read it all.

2. While we’re on subjects of interest to Christians...

     The Left hates nothing more than Christianity. Christianity gives the lie to every last one of the Left’s claims and representations. When we are baptized, part of what we swear to renounce are “all of Satan’s empty promises.” Smart Christians will note the similarity between those promises and those of the political Left.

     Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a Christian doing Christian work should elicit the Left’s fury:

     Kathy Griffin is triggered once again by a good man feeding the homeless. It is something Justice Brett Kavanaugh has done for years. Griffin on the other hand is a mindless, potty-mouthed, unfunny mean girl.

     TMZ speaks the truth about him feeding the homeless and she goes off the rails. She called him one of “Trump’s monsters.”

     Why do the media continue to pay attention to this bitter, graceless woman? Oh, excuse me: because they’re the media. I forgot for a moment. Never mind!

3. November 6 is looking pretty damned good.

     Here’s Mike Hendrix’s take on it:

     As I always say, there’s only one poll that matters; it happens on election day. But after the Kavanaugh debacle; the endless parade of sad, demented twerps intent on chopping their dicks off and a whole menagerie of other hostile freaks; the off-putting, man-hating bull daggers sneering and cursing at normals; the sniffing, supercilious disdain for the people who keep this country running; spoiled-brat footballers pissing over the flag and the anthem; the violent assaults by AntiFa, the Democrat-Socialists new paramilitary wing in place of the KKK—well, it seems obvious enough to me that the momentum is NOT running their way. Then you throw things like this into the mix:
     Obama in June 2016 told his fans, “When somebody says like the person you just mentioned who I’m not going to advertise for, that he’s going to bring all these jobs back. Well how exactly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There’s no answer to it.”
     President Trump just answered.
     “Job gains for the manufacturing industry in the last 12 months are the most since 1995,” CNBC reported.
     What did you expect?
     Donald Trump is a capitalist who knows business. He gets things done.
     Obama is a community organizer. He hangs curtains.

     Yeah, I believe I’ll stick with my prediction: a shellacking of HISTORIC proportions this November, and an even worse one in 2020. That’s assuming there’s anyone left willing to run under the ragged, sagging Democrat-Socialist standard by then.

     But don’t neglect to vote. “If it’s not close, they can’t cheat.” – Hugh Hewitt.

4. They’re learning!

     President Trump and Justice Kavanaugh have taught their co-partisans to fight:

     Yesterday, the Senate confirmed twelve federal district judges and three circuit court judges (2d, 3d, and 9th Circuits) in very short order. The announcements read like a religious litany....

     According to Politico, the votes were agreed to because vulnerable Democrats wanted to head home to campaign...

     And who contrived this unpleasant choice for the Democrats? Mitch McConnell. That’s right: old Go-Along-To-Get-Along Mitch. If he can hear the drums, I’d imagine that anyone could.

5. What is “a story?”

     I’ve been ranting about this for more than twenty years:

     What is a story?

     A story is change. Always. It is about change in the protagonist. Always. It is the point where the protagonist's life is always and forever to never be the same. It's the point in Raiders where Indy says, "That all depends on how cooperative we're all willing to be. All I want is the girl." Indy starts out looking for the Ark of the Covenant—the entire movie is his quest for the Ark—but in the end, he threatens to blow up the Ark—all he wants is the girl. Indy has changed.

     Your high school English teacher most likely called this the "climax." That's close, but not quite accurate. Climax implies a rise in the action, and it's fine for pornography. The events change. Things change.

     I tell my writing classes that there are secret languages. They have been around since "Shibboleth," and they are used to tell one class of people from another. Musicians still use them. Bass players—at least the good ones I worked with—never call their instrument a guitar. It's always their axe. A drummer never says "drum set." It's always their kit. If I'm playing in a club and someone tells me I have a nice drum set, I thank them. If they say I have a nice kit, I know I'm talking to another player. The conversation changes because I'm talking to one of my own.

     Writers do it, too. If someone talks about the story's climax, I know they are a reader. There's nothing wrong with that. I love readers. If it wasn't for readers, I would have to find a real job. Readers are my heroes. But I know from that one word, who I'm talking to.

     In shorter words, John Brunner’s Two Laws of Fiction:

  1. The raw material of fiction is people.
  2. The essence of story is change.

     Mix well for best results.

6. “Oh my God, he’s succeeding!

     I’ve never had much regard for Andrew Sullivan, but now and then he manages to connect:

     [T]here was evidence that some of the culture war issues the Democrats are relying on may not be so win-win. Yes, a focus on sexual assault and harassment in the workplace and elsewhere is important in its own right — and it strongly resonates with suburban women who may decide the midterms. But it can also energize conservative and moderate women in defense of what they see as threats to their own husbands and sons; it can further alienate more traditional working-class men from the Democrats; and it could cement a worrying shift among young white men toward the GOP since 2016.

     To which Glenn Reynolds deposeth and sayeth:

     Yeah, weird how when you constantly attack and denigrate a group of people, they start voting for the other side.

     Yeah, a real head-scratcher, there.

7. I’d advise taking them at their word.

     They’ve tried it before, remember? Why not take a second swing at it?

     Liberals are so accustomed to getting their way that they cannot control themselves. They fear an era is coming to an end, and they want to prevent this. So before the newly reinforced, John Roberts-led court has heard a case or issued a single ruling, they are already doing everything in their power to delegitimize the institution they once looked upon as almost God....

     The Democrats who caused and put on the entire Kavanaugh farce are already promising to abuse their power further, if the voters will only give more of it to them. They are promising a scurrilous impeachment of Kavanaugh, and also to pack the Supreme Court if given the chance. Why? Because they are angry, and they don’t respect the rules and norms of government, and they are not mature or clever enough to wait to reveal this until they have power.

     I can’t think of a better reason to turn every elected Democrat out of federal office. Surely the urgency is plain, especially as regards the Senate.

     “When a man tells you who he is...believe him.” – Maya Angelou

     The same goes for a political party.

8. WANT!

     The C.S.O. couldn’t resist showing me this article:

     Diehard Auburn football fans Rick and Susan Turner hold season tickets on the 35-yard line at the university’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. But when the Tigers are on the field, the Turners are in the parking lot.

     Every home game, the Birmingham, Ala., couple tailgates from their 45-foot 2016 Tiffin Zephyr, a luxury motorhome. The Zephyr offers an entertainment center and a full kitchen with solid-surface countertops and stainless-steel sink, as well as a range, microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator. And unlike the stadium, there’s no line to use the Zephyr’s bathroom. Most important, electrical hookups and an automatic generator ensure that the motorhome is fully air-conditioned.

     “It’s hot in Alabama in September,” says Mr. Turner, 64, senior vice president of Greenbrier Rail Services, a company that makes freight railcars and equipment....

     Recent retirees Doug and Dani Stiebeling found their happy place in Petoskey, Mich. The couple’s full time home is in Orlando, Fla., but they wanted a summertime destination to escape the Florida heat. In June they paid $250,000 for a 42-foot 2014 Itasca Ellipse, and drove it to Hearthside Grove, a luxury motorhome resort in Petoskey exclusively for Class A models. Their wooded lot, purchased in “the $250,000 range” measures one-fifth of an acre and includes a paved driveway with electrical, water and sewer hookups. Like many of the lots at Hearthside, the Stiebelings also have a 200-square-foot bungalow on their property where guests can stay when they visit.

     The Stiebelings, along with their dog Pumpkin and cat Sammi, make Hearthside Grove their home base for much of the season, which runs from mid-May to mid-October. They hitch a car to the back of their motorhome to use for trips to the grocery store and other errands.

     “There is so much to do in northern Michigan,” says Mr. Stiebeling, 65, who retired in April after a 35-year career selling medical devices and artificial skin to burn centers. “The water is so clean, and there’s trout fishing, golfing, restaurants galore—and not the typical chain restaurants. They’re ma-and-pa places.”...

     Spending time with his wife, Linda, was one of the main reasons Nicholas Grimaldi purchased his 45-foot 2017 Entegra Anthem.

     The Grimaldis live in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and are retired from the family’s canvas and upholstery business. Mr. Grimaldi, 64, also works for an insurance company in claims, and he had Wi-Fi installed in his RV so he could work while on the road.

     But the real driver behind the decision to buy is Linda Grimaldi’s bucket list of destinations—the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and Minnesota to see the aurora borealis. “Because of my wife’s medical condition, she can’t fly. She has a hard time breathing,” he said. In the RV with portable oxygen, “we can go out and not skip a beat.”

     Yet Beth wonders why I keep asking her when she’s likely to retire.

     That’s all for today and tomorrow, Gentle Reader. Allow me the luxury of a non-digital weekend. I need to think hard about the next novel, and there hasn’t been much time for that lately. Until Monday, be well.