Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Stretch Of Quiet

     No doubt the regular Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch have noticed that things have been a trifle static here for the past few days. One of my reasons for encouraging various other commentators to join me here as Co-Conspirators was to avoid such a stretch of stagnancy. By and large the tactic has worked well; when one of us was otherwise occupied, the others would still be contributing. But as any sports fanatic can tell you, there will be days when all the games are interrupted by commercials simultaneously, and there is nothing to be done about it.

     Just now Linda Fox is in Cleveland. Colonel Bunny is busy with private matters. Mike Hendrix appears to be focused elsewhere. We haven’t heard from Scott Angell or Patrice Stanton in a dog’s age. And I, who’ve been Mr. Essay-A-Day for something like twenty years, have been fixated upon completing Novel #14, to be titled The Wise and the Mad.

     The final stages of a novel-project always drain me dry. The sense of having shot every round in my arsenal, with the concomitant need to sit back a while, “rearm and reload,” is difficult to countervail. While I can’t speak for others, it’s part of the price this novelist pays for his antisocial habit. Lawrence Block once compared it to finishing a marathon. Few persons who reach the finish line immediately start lifting weights or doing calisthenics.

     To be somewhat more concise, writing is hard work, at least for those of us who take it seriously. The fatigue it can induce is as serious as the social, cultural or political events and trends upon which it’s focused – and such things are the only inducements to composition that can animate me.

     So, with the very recent completion of the aforementioned novel, I decided to “kick back” for a few days: to pen the occasional funny piece or brief personal reflection, but to let the “little gray cells” (Agatha Christie) have some time to relax and recuperate.


     Times of repose are not necessarily times of idleness. Some of the very best relaxation comes not from sitting still but from switching tracks. In my case, that can mean anything from hopping into Joy, my red 2009 Corvette convertible, lowering the top, and zooming around New York in a totally frivolous, expensive, and unproductive manner, to rereading the collected works of Herbert Spencer, to meditating at length upon matters of faith and the spirit.

     I’ve spent much of the past few days doing something no one who knows me at all well would expect from me: redecorating my home. When I first moved in here thirty-nine years ago, the Fortress of Crankitude was a pretty Spartan place. I had very little furniture, few “creature comforts,” and little inclination to think about esthetic factors. I was spending about sixty hours a week at my day job, and the Fortress itself needed too much work for me to spend time on irrelevancies. I was kept hopping just from the work involved in earning a living and keeping the roof over my head...well…over my head.

     Time brings changes. Today I no longer work for wages. I spend most of my time at home. That has elicited a desire to make that home as pleasant and convenient as possible, short of hiring a fleet of servants. But I’ve delegated the heavy stuff to a handful of professional contractors. That leaves me time to gussy up the place in smaller ways.

     Of course, some of the seemingly smaller ways can come with large price tags. $6000 to build Beth the office of her dreams. $3100 for a lighting system. $2000 for having the living room floor refinished and stained a beautiful dark walnut. $5200 for a new leather sectional. And here’s the latest absurdity:

     Hey, we have an empty corner in our newly refinished and refurnished living room! I have to fill it with something! (Beth originally suggested a “bar globe” that you can keep whiskey bottles in, but we eventually decided that would be tacky.)

     The Fortress is approaching a state in which no further improvement is conceivable. I suppose when that point is reached, I’ll have to sell it and move.


     Anyway: Yes, I’m okay. Yes, there will be a return to normal levels of dynamism here at Liberty’s Torch. No, that won’t occur right away. I need a day or two more to recharge, to fiddle with the placement of furniture and tchotchkes, and to think about Life, the Universe, and what major fiction challenge to tackle next. But you shouldn’t worry. Unlike this celebrated bird:

     …I really am just resting. I’m sure Linda, the Colonel, et alii will also be back in due course.

     Be well. Be free and happy. And keep the faith. Remember: it might be even money that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlamp of an oncoming train, but that means it’s even money that it’s not, too. So look on the bright side. Until you get run over, at least.

America, the dumpster fire.

In 1913, citizens of the Western world had every reason to hope that the future would hold nothing but gradual but constant improvement in the quality of life. They had not the faintest idea how degraded and poisonous life would become in the "advanced" West.
Not long ago, few Americans of the thinking persuasion might have imagined that such a well-engineered republic, with its exquisite checks and balances, sturdy institutions, and time-tested traditions would end up as so much smoldering goop in a national dumpster fire, but such is the sad state-of-the-union moving into the fateful summer of 2019.[1]
We are a feckless nation that is utterly ignorant of the jewel that we inherited from our ancestors. We have found 10,000 ways to foul our own nest and cannot manage to handle the most basic of societal and governmental functions. Complete scum undermine out most basic institutions. Government response? None.

Notes
[1] "The Golem Strikes Back." By James Howard Kunstler, 5/24/19.

Everybody's bitch.

Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan confirmed to Congress this week that his agency is merely acting as a checkpoint for adults crossing the United States-Mexico border with children, as “100 percent” are being released into the interior of the country.
"DHS: ‘100 %’ Border Crossers with Children Being Released into U.S., Given Work Permits." By John Binder, Breitbart, 5/24/19.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

“Kings Play Chess On Funny Green Squares”

     Carl von Linne, better known to us of the present day as Linnaeus, was born on May 23, 1707 in Rashult, Sweden. It would be only a few years longer before he started rearranging everything in his parents’ closets.

     The young Linnaeus drove his mother half crazy with his unending and unanswerable questions. “Why do you keep the dinner plates and the saucers in the same cabinet when they’re so obviously of different ranks?” “How can the dish towels belong in the linen closet with the bath sheets?” He was even more disturbed by having to keep all his playthings in a single chest, despite there being no discernible relation between the building blocks and the toy swords.

     Child therapists were mystified, but continued to take the Linnaeus family’s money for several years. They decided to desist when the young man entered grammar school. His teachers, they reasoned, would be better equipped to free him of his obsession. But it was not to be. The boy persisted in sorting his classmates by gender, height, and their relative interest in the sciences. He was often found pawing through the contents of their desks and clucking over the intimacy of pens and pencils in the same pocket.

     Relief would come only when young Carl was introduced to the horrid mess of pre-scientific biological classification. There he found a fertile field for his “gift,” and he exercised it to its fullest. In consequence millions of students of later generations have had to memorize the title of this piece, never grasping why it should matter to anyone…or what sort of absurd not-quite-chess, not-quite-checkers game is played on a board with green squares.

     Linnaeus’s later life was marked by a seemingly endless flood of arguments about whose wife belonged with whom and where to stand in line. Despite the many controversies attendant upon his erratic behavior, he was eventually recognized as a titan of sorts, to be classified (despite his estate’s posthumous but strenuous objections) as on the same plane as the nameless genius who wrote the Alphabet Song.

     Linneaus has been proposed as the Patron Saint of Obsessive-Compulsives. However, rather than pursue the canonization process, several popes have elected to “kick the can down the road” to a more orderly time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Quickies: Efficiency Has Its Limits And You’d Bloody Well Better Respect Them

     If you read nothing else today, savor this incredibly funny tale of home maintenance gone badly wrong by the great Gerard Vanderleun. But do make sure you’re securely seated, seat belt buckled and tray table closed before you do.

     Gerard’s tale nearly killed me, as I own three vacuums: two Eureka baglesses that are impossible to empty without turning the environs into a Superfund site and an Oreck upright that's the bane of my existence. Gerard has taught me something that, perhaps, I should not have learned.

     I also own a Bissell carpet steamer, a Bissell steamer for tile floors, and a Bona sanitization unit for hardwood – no, we do not eat off the floors here at the Fortress, but it never hurts to be prepared – and I sometimes wonder where I acquired this urge to own every floor-cleaning device in existence. I'm certain that it wasn't from my mother, who regarded housecleaning as beneath her. Neither could it have been from my father, who couldn't even turn on a vacuum without injuring himself. Sigh, Maybe there are some things Man was not meant to know.

     (With that, it’s back to my labors on The Wise and the Mad, which I hope to complete this month. There are no, repeat no vacuuming, steaming, or other floor-cleaning scenes in this novel. There are, however, a lot of food-related scenes, so remember to take properly modest bites and keep your chin over your plate. See you later. 23 Skidoo. Cheers. And stuff.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Form Of Our Destructor

     Many look; far fewer actually see.

     I’m going to do a terrible thing here: I’m going to quote from an explicitly Marxist website:

     [T]he oppression of women, their marginalisation within society, and the repression of their sexual behaviour emerged, reducing them to mere instruments of reproduction (caring for the household and children), and became structural and embedded historically, together with the evolution of various family and social structures. Attitudes towards sexual behaviour that falls outside of reproduction within the monogamous family, on the other hand, depends on how much they are considered as a threat to the family as an institution. Homosexual love between women has been subject to varying degrees of repression at different periods in history (we have only mentioned a few above). We can argue, however, that as long as the monogamous family is considered the fundamental cornerstone of society and the only model for legitimate emotional and sexual behaviour, it will be impossible to overcome social discrimination based on sexual orientations.

     The struggle against sexual discrimination is linked to the struggle against class society in general for several reasons. The first, as we have explained, is that only the abolition of class society can create the material economic basis and cultural drive sufficient to dismantle the model of the monogamous family as the only basic unit of society.

     Note the title of that scrofulous essay: “LGBT: Liberation and Revolution.” Then proceed to this even more strident one:

     Arguably the most infamous demand of The Communist Manifesto is the “abolition of the family.” The family, Marx and Engels noted, was where patriarchy and capitalism worked in tandem to produce willing, alienated workers, where women became little more than “instruments of production” for the men who lorded over them. Radical queer politics in the 1960s and ’70s added to their critique of the bourgeois family when activists challenged the heteronormativity of familial relations….

     It’s a central idea to feminism anyway, that mothers aren’t natural entities; they’re making choices to look after this other person. It’s not some sort of mechanical, automatic process; it’s a practice of grounding sociality. Mothers nurture, but they also kill and abuse their wards. That’s why it’s so valuable to denaturalize the mother-child bond. To do anything otherwise is to devalue that work. That’s the horizon that I think opens up the space for a revolutionary politics.

     Again, note the title: “Want to Dismantle Capitalism? Abolish the Family.”

     Any problems tracing the common thread here, Gentle Reader?


     The “thinking” exemplified above has been going on for a very long time. Every Communist regime has labored like Hercules to undermine and destroy family bonds. Communists have targeted virtually every institution that families participate in together, seeking to outlaw it if they couldn’t “denaturalize” it. They’ve had their successes, despite the power of family attachments and parental love. Many of those successes have arisen from economic pressures. We’ve seen a fair amount of that in these United States, as the two-income family gradually supersedes the older one-income model as the norm.

     Yes, unrestricted abortion is part of it, but that’s the fish-in-a-barrel class. More subtle, and therefore far more threatening, is the combination of predatory taxation, persistent inflation, the “war between the sexes,” careerism among women, the consequent diminution of family sizes, and the proliferation of “day care” institutions, some of which reach all the way to early infancy.

     No doubt there are several reasons the Powers That Be have encouraged those developments. In his excellent and ominous first novel The Hidden Truth, Hans G. Schantz outlined a “game plan” that combines them into a sinister paradigm. The pattern is so similar to the economic, social, and political developments in post-World-War-II Western societies that only the willfully blind could miss it. The more recent promotion, almost entirely by the Left, of non-reproductive, family-averse behaviors such as homosexuality and transgenderism fits into the pattern very well. While there are conservatively inclined, family oriented gays and transgenders, they’re a small (but brave) minority. Moreover, they get no breaks from Nature; they must struggle with the clash between their yearnings for family and their other desires.

     Patterns matter. Even those that ultimately prove to have formed out of sheer coincidence should be studied as closely as human intellect permits. Considering that, as Arne Stromberg has said, the family is the essential building block of every stable society, this is a pattern that deserves the closest scrutiny:

     “Families are the fundamental building blocks of a stable society. Extended families -- clans -- are the best conceivable environment for the rearing of children, the perpetuation of a commercial forte, and the germination of new families and their ventures. A clan like yours, Miss Albermayer, conserves a brilliant genetic line and a priceless medical specialty at the same time. A clan like yours, Mr. Morelon, makes possible a benign agricultural empire and produces natural leaders one after another while connecting Hope to its most distant origins. And all healthy families, which cherish life and bind their members to one another in unembarrassed love, can find far more to occupy and amuse them than they need.

     “When Earth's regard for families and their most fundamental function deteriorated, her people ceased to enjoy the sorts of ties that had held them together throughout the history of Man. Without families, and especially without children, they groped for other things to fill their time, whether to give them a sense of purpose, or to distract them from the waning of their lives. Some invested themselves in industry or commerce, but without the sense of the family line to be built up and made prominent, those things failed to satisfy. Others immersed themselves in games, toys, fripperies, and increasingly bizarre forms of entertainment, which palled on them even faster. Still others made a fetish out of sex; there was a substantial sex industry on Earth, though it tended to operate in the shadows and was seldom openly discussed. They needed emotion and substance, but all they could contrive was sensation and novelty, and they pumped an ever greater share of their effort and wealth into seeking them. That's my thesis, for what it's worth.”

     Ponder well, Gentle Reader.


     One more thought before I close for today: the articles I cited in the first segment are both explicit about their animosity toward free market economics, a.k.a. capitalism. Their hostility toward the family is instrumental: it is intended to be principally a stroke against capitalism. This reveals them to be users of the homosexual and transgender communities. They are not allies from conviction but exploiters of those communities, in the belief that their enlargement would assist in the destruction of capitalism. Is their belief correct?

     I think it is. Family bonds and obligations provide good men the most powerful of all incentives to be producers and earners. Were those incentives to be subtracted, a great deal of the fuel would be removed from the economic engines of capitalist societies. Note that this is observably the case in those nations where birth rates have fallen below replacement levels: e.g., Japan, Russia, and the entire continent of Europe.

     Yet I have also said (and I continue to believe) that it is virtually impossible to get people to reproduce for the sake of a future they don’t expect to see. People in First World societies who have children do so for the sake of having children; no other desire participates. The demotion of children from an economic asset to a luxury good forces them to compete with other luxury goods – and children have been losing that competition for decades now.

     Food for thought.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Oh, I Do Declare! The Old South is...

...still there! The NY Times is aghast to discover that the Deep South is still traditional in its culture.

Full disclosure: I'm an Ohio transplant to SC. I've lived there for 14 years, and I have made many friends. Still, in many ways, I'm a foreigner. I still am a passionate Cleveland Indians fan (Go Tribe!!!!), my husband still roots for the Cleveland Browns, and I never seem to get my vegetable/flower garden in early enough. For me, Easter is the earliest planting season - most years, we have at least one sub-freezing day, if not more, in early April.

But, I've grown to think of the South as an adopted home. My kids tease me about the slight drawl I've acquired. I'm more tolerant of guns than I was when I lived in a Northern urban region.

I was always a Christian believer (Catholic version), even as a high school graduate. Later, in college, and after, my husband and I were regular attendees at church. So, the pro-religious tendencies of Southerners didn't upset me.

In schools across the South, the Pledge of Allegiance is recited each day, followed by a moment of silence - both are observed respectfully. True, in the New South urban areas, this tradition is not always strictly observed - but that's also true of many other traditions.

I had an easier adjustment to the cultural differences between North and South than my husband. My dad was raised in WV, and, on visits with relatives, I became accustomed to hearing a different point of view. The boy living next door to me in Lakewood, OH, was a rabid Civil War buff - he had a full Yankee uniform (not the NYC kind). By default, in any board games or re-enactment, I was Gray Confederate. I was 10 when the Civil War Centennial  commenced, so my exposure to the controversies - and to the reality of the Civil Rights fight - was a major part of my childhood.

I live in a well-integrated city - more so than most Northern cities or towns, and considerably more than the new developments that most New Southerners live in. These high-income homes are economically segregated, and few People of Color live there. For that reason, few of the New Southerners have Black neighbors. But, despite this, they are the experts on How Black People Think.

North or South, most people socialize with family, school friends, and neighbors. School friends, for non-college graduates, might include some people of other ethnicities - but, for those in fraternities/sororities, there is usually a sharp division between those for Blacks, and those for Whites. Black social clubs seldom include White members. These clubs are where the New Southern Elite are found.

What differentiates the South is the preference for Tradition, and a strong Culture that supports it. The South has its ways, from open and public display of religious feeling, to teaching your children to call adults Ma'am and Sir, and to showing respect for those in the military. Across social and economic classes, I have always been treated with courtesy - you might say it's in their DNA.

The dominant religion is Christian, mostly of the Protestant kind. For several years, in the Low Country, I attended a mission church (about 50 families) - Catholics were that rare in the county seat I lived in. Although fewer of the young are church members (almost 1/3 of those brought up in the New Southern cities are nearly completely ignorant of ANY religion).

The standard Christian theology of the South is Old School, and solidly against abortion. Which puts them in sharp conflict with Those New Southerners Who Scoff at Our Backward Ways. Like our contentious regional ancestors, we may be destined to lose in a Glorious Cause, but that won't stop us from throwing ourselves into the fight with all we've got.

The Left has sharply over-reached with their insistence on legalizing abortion until birth (or, even a smidge later). They are making it impossible to stay on the fence about this issue. And, unlike the earlier fight to loosen abortion restrictions, this time the culture is tipping against the Pro-Aborts. Those who've come to regret an abortion choice have access to healing ministries - most notably, Project Rachel, which helps women wrestling with pain after their abortion to find healing. Contrary to the image of the Catholic Church as judgmental and hostile to those who've had an abortion, this ministry is strongly supported.

Younger women are LESS likely to support abortion than their mothers. According to a CBS poll, 72% of women from 18 to 35 are supportive of at least some abortion restrictions.

Don't count us out in GA or AL. We may lose, but the other side will know they've been in a hellava fight. And, the fact is, even if we lose, we may win - in the hearts and minds of people.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Feeling And Not Doing: A Sunday Rumination

     Imagine along with me, if you please, a history other than the one recorded for us. Jesus is born in Nazareth, labors alongside Joseph as a carpenter during his early years, then at age thirty becomes a preacher whose message is exactly the same as in the Gospels…but he never cures the sick, never restores the sight of the blind or the mobility of the lame, and never cleanses a leper. Moreover, he does not travel: he preaches from a fixed base, not far from where he lived his first thirty years. Nor does he journey to Jerusalem, attract the ire of the Sanhedrin, and suffer execution. He lives a comfortable life, and dies old and well respected for his preaching.

     Would that Jesus of Nazareth have transformed the world as did the historical Jesus?

     I can’t see it. The Christ of the Gospels lived His message. Whoever appealed to Him received whatever gift He could bestow. Even had He not suffered His Passion and demonstrated His divinity at the Resurrection, He would still be a standout among the figures of His day. Add the Resurrection and you have the Son of God made Man. (No need to shake well.)

     So when He said to His disciples:

     Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. [John 13:33-35]

     …He had something more than just an emotion in mind.


     A wholesome philosophy of any sort must exhibit (at the very least) the willingness to tolerate those of other creeds, as far as possible without accepting subjugation or suicide. A better creed would mandate not merely tolerance but benevolence: to wish others well regardless of their divergent views. Christianity goes still further. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus commands us to beneficence: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

     That’s love as He loved those who came to Him. It’s the foundation for the Christian encouragement of its communicants to the works of mercy:

  1. Corporal works of mercy (i.e., ministering to the body):
    • Feed the hungry.
    • Give drink to the thirsty.
    • Shelter the homeless.
    • Clothe the naked.
    • Visit the sick and imprisoned.
    • Bury the dead.
    • Give alms to the poor.
  2. Spiritual works of mercy (i.e., ministering to the soul):
    • Admonish the sinner.
    • Instruct the ignorant.
    • Counsel the doubtful.
    • Bear wrongs patiently.
    • Forgive offenses willingly.
    • Comfort the afflicted.
    • Pray for the living and the dead.

     Is there anyone who would not want to be the beneficiary of such beneficence should the need arise?

     Christ commanded us to do all the above, most explicitly, in several Gospel passages. Merely to feel a pleasant benevolence toward others is not enough. When a sincere Christian encounters someone who is in genuine need, he is required to do what he can for that person.

     Christian love of neighbor isn’t just something you feel.


     It’s possible to overstress this concept. We are not commanded to range far afield in search of persons upon whom to perform acts of charity. (We’re also not commanded to impose ourselves on persons who are handling their own difficulties and ask only to be left alone. Indeed, that’s forbidden.) But most of us will find, in our paths at various points in our lives, persons in genuine need of assistance whom we are equipped to help. A Christian is expected to do what he can in such circumstances.

     Note in the previous sentence the qualifying phrase what he can. The beneficent Christian is not expected to endanger himself or his family. He is not expected to endure abuse. And he is not expected to give what he does not possess. God is just.

     God asks only that should the opportunity arise, we validate our professions of love with the appropriate action.

     This is not to denigrate the extraordinary lives of service to others exemplified by such persons as Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. These lives transformed into acts of charity were surely laudable. Yet a just God would not demand them of all of us. He designed our lives as He did because we are allowed to live as we please, subject only to our acceptance of the Two Great Commandments and the Ten that follow from them.

     Still, they who came to Him while He wore the flesh always found that His love was sufficient unto their needs, whatever those were. He did not merely commiserate with His supplicants; He acted. In this His year of 2019, as the Easter season progresses toward Ascension Thursday and the mighty feast of Pentecost, it’s something to bear in mind.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Shocker! Criminals Are Likely to Lie!

I know, I know. It's perplexing. It's counter-intuitive.

But - there you are - "migrants" (PC-speak for illegal aliens) are likely to lie to bolster their claims.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Why "Broken Windows" Works

I lived in cities before, during, and after the Guiliani years. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Rock Hill, SC - none of them as big as NYC, but, having many of the same problems and pathologies as the biggest cities did. Much of what was discovered by testing out solutions during those years also applied to what has happened in schools during those same years.

This link takes you to Instapundit, which excerpts a longer piece on the topic. For many people without personal experience in dealing with these counter-attacks on disorder, the solutions - cleaning subway cars, stopping panhandling, and arresting turnstile-jumpers - seem petty and ridiculous. But when you analyze them individually, the logic of using these particular targets makes a lot of sense.

To begin with, subway graffiti, along with other forms of appropriation of public spaces, is NOT art. It may demonstrate skill in using spray paint to create intricate designs, even approaching a level of skill higher than many artists, but it ain't art.

It's vandalism of property. And, free advertising for gangs.

If you wouldn't argue for billboards that advertise the local gangs, why would you support their use of public property to do the same?

But, it's more than that - it eliminates a reason for young men to wander around public transportation lines late at night. That reduces the number of people hanging out after dark, who have connections to gangs. It makes late night travel safer for working people and patrons of local dining and entertainment establishments.

The second solution - keeping panhandlers from accosting people - also has hidden purposes. It keeps the "guys on the street" from heading out to block people's way, and aggressively demand money in return for not bothering them further.

Why the hell should anyone have to turn over their hard-earned cash just to travel the streets?

The panhandlers and their cousins, the 'cleaning rag' guys - who would try to hit up drivers paused in traffic, using the excuse of providing an unasked-for service - not only contributed to congestion, but created a hazard by blocking car movement.

The last one, for many people, seems ridiculously petty - really, arresting a kid for jumping the turnstile?

Think about it - those kids, if they had to pay for their wandering around the city, wouldn't. They'd stay home if they didn't have a specific purpose. That habit of just hanging out puts people without money or purpose loose in the city, and leads to the infamous Idle Hands scenario. Unemployed young men commit most of the crime. They have little to lose. They may gain status among their peers for daring activity. And this all adds to the number of aimless people on the street who are bored and looking for excitement, which criminal activity provides.

So, yes - seemingly small changes can improve, or destroy, a civilization.

Friday, May 17, 2019

"Wokeness" And The Great Labeling

     Imagine this, if you will: A human society is getting along tolerably well. It’s not a utopia, mind you. There are still persons who struggle to make ends meet. There are still persons who are excluded from various things for bad reasons. There are still persons who suffer wounds to their dignity from the speech or conduct of others. But it’s getting along, owing to the universal recognition of individuals’ rights, and the willingness of the many to help the less fortunate few when the need arises.

     But soft! What’s this? There is a human characteristic, found in everyone who’s ever lived, that’s suddenly become a target for a gaggle of would-be tyrants. (C. S. Lewis called them “Conditioners.”) These persons have decided to label this characteristic, to denounce it roundly and continuously, and to mount a public campaign against it that involves shaming everyone who demonstrates it – or whom they can claim, however implausibly, to have demonstrated it!

     Excuse me! Did I imply that this labeling / public crusade involves only one universal human characteristic? My mistake; it embraces a great many of them, all of which are ineradicable.

     The campaigners against these things don’t merely afflict small pockets of society. They often seem to own the streets. They are making it impossible to have any sort of public discourse. They attack innocent persons on the basis of…well, you name it, but especially for their choices of words.

     These are “The Woke.” They are the scourge of America. Moreover, they’re fully aware of their own odiousness. They flaunt it like a badge of merit.

     Just as a plague of thieves would make property impossible, The Woke are making social intercourse impossible. And they’re proud of it.

     Yet their principal weapons, which ordinary Americans would never have dreamed could be made into a lethal bludgeon, are verbal: the labels they apply to ordinary human characteristics and inclinations. And to this point, almost no one has adopted the proper countermeasure against them.


     Bo Winegard’s essay on The Woke deserves to be cited explicitly at several points. First, Professor Winegard addresses why they do it:

     Because it allows a person priority access to crucial and coveted resources such as money and mates, the desire for status is probably a fundamental human motivation. And because that desire is primitive and powerful, many social practices and activities function at least partially to delineate status relationships. These can be analyzed as status systems and operate in predictable ways because, whatever its diverse manifestations, status has some invariant features. Most importantly, it is inexpansible. That is to say, its supply does not grow. Unlike the economic pie, the status pie remains roughly the same across time. Therefore, players in the status game inevitably inhabit a zero-sum world. If one person’s status goes up, then another’s must go down, which explains why people are exquisitely sensitive not only to gains in their own status, but also to gains in other people’s status. Another’s triumph inevitably rearranges the distribution of a finite and precious resource.

     Among other things, Wokeness appears to operate as just such a status system. This doesn’t mean that its only function is to adjudicate status competitions; but it does mean that one of its crucial functions is to do so. And it does this primarily by offering a signaling vocabulary which can distinguish educated elites from hoi polloi. The elites who thus benefit offer status to those who defend and legitimize the Woke narrative (the preachers); and they strip status from those who dissent.

     Note how closely this analysis of status in Wokeness compares to the Marxist conception of the economic pie. That which is greatly desired but fixed in supply tends to elicit destructive behavior. The Woke certainly produce enough of that.

     To sustain the eternal competition for status in Wokeness, the array of verbal cudgels must be constantly expanded and ramified, even if it means a descent into gibberish:

     Wokeness provides this kind of sophisticated argot for signalers. Those who preach its gospel often use bizarre concepts imported from postmodern theorists, infamous for their impenetrable prose. Terms such as “hegemonic,” “intersectional,” “phallocentric,” and “queerphobe” are regularly deployed, intimidating the uninitiated and impressing those who wish, in the future, to signal their erudition to fawning fans. Even Woke language for popular consumption is complicated by a quickly changing list of taboo epithets. Is it wrong to say homosexual relationship? Is it all right to say African-American? Will I be berated if I say Mexican-American? These changing prohibitions function well to distinguish elites from hoi polloi because they require devotion, erudition, and the right social acquaintances to understand.

     But even gibberish will serve the purposes of The Woke if the gibberish can be made to sound elevated – and threatening. It advances the progress of self-censorship, by which only the certifiably Woke are allowed to speak in an unencumbered fashion.

     However, the inevitable consequence of an inexpansible status system is the emergence of a hierarchy: Inner and Outer Parties, with a small circle of Anointed at the summit of the Inner Party and perhaps a Big Brother figure at the absolute apex. Not all who aspire to membership in the more rarefied circles will be permitted to enter them. This will cause resentment in the excluded, and a measure of guilt in some of the accepted:

     Status disparities cause resentment. And they often also cause guilt. Those on the bottom of the hierarchy become bitter, disdaining those on the top. And this resentment is a constant source of rancor and instability. Those on the top, of course, are generally happier; however, they often experience discord as well, especially perhaps if they are liberal: Why do I deserve this blessed life? Am I really better than those below me? Both problems—the bitterness of those on the bottom and the guilt of those on the top—can be ameliorated by a powerful legitimizing narrative, a narrative that explains why those on the top deserve their status while those on the bottom deserve their rather less charmed lives and, in fact, should be pleased simply to defer to their superiors. Those who provide such a narrative offer a valuable service; therefore, they are recompensed with approval and applause.

     Are these mechanisms eternally stable? Of course not; nothing is. But they might last long enough to destabilize the most successful human society in the history of Man.


     Professor Winegard’s analysis concludes with an opinion about the sincerity of The Woke – in my opinion, an excessively generous assessment:

     Before concluding, it is important to re-emphasize that many of the people in the Woke status system sincerely believe in social justice. And many of their moral concerns are entirely legitimate….The danger is that the status desires of these preachers will eclipse their moral concerns. (Some, of course, would claim that this has already happened.)

     The suggestion that The Woke are sincere about the phantasm of “social justice” runs counter to the available evidence. If there are any in that community who genuinely do care about the persons they supposedly champion – and who are they, specifically? — what are they actually doing about it, other than preening about their superiority to the rest of us? What real-world results, measurable enough to register on some scale of acknowledged significance, can they show us?

     The answer is unpleasant: They can show us nothing of the kind. The devolution of Wokeness from a putatively sincere concern with racial and ethnic exclusion, poverty, or other varieties of imagined “oppression,” into a competition for status has made objective gains of the sort others would admire, or at least respect as indications of sincerity, impossible. Today’s Woke are concerned solely with the status their methods can attain for them.

     It is a mistake to attribute to The Woke any degree of sincerity or integrity, especially as the “causes” they champion are mere fantasies, without exception.


     Of course, the principal concern of anyone who finds The Woke a nuisance, a blight upon civil society, an impediment to constructive discourse and an occasional temptation to murder, must be whether We the Normal and Sensible can do anything about them. The news here is mixed.

     I opened this diatribe with the assertion that at the heart of the matter stand certain universal human characteristics, and that The Woke’s crusades are essentially a practice of applying pejorative labels to these things, denouncing them, and castigating anyone who might exhibit a trace of them:

  • Racism.
  • Sexism.
  • A degree of xenophobia.
  • A belief in biological reality.
  • A preference for those of similar backgrounds and creeds.
  • The belief in personal responsibility; i.e., that “fate” doesn’t control one’s destiny.

     The implication is that these characteristics can be expelled from our species – that a new and better human being can be produced if we just work at it. It’s the purest nonsense. Yet The Woke demonize these things relentlessly, ironically without admitting to their own possession and exhibition of them.

     It’s not quite New Socialist Man stuff, as The Woke lack the power to enforce their wills by law. But verbal beatdowns sufficiently prolonged can affect a man, though the effect is more likely to be negative than positive.

     With the exception of the most elevated of their kind – those who know exactly what they’re about and make no pretense of sincerity even to one another – The Woke suffer a defect in the rational faculty: a mental disease. They have made their pursuit of a phantasm – the quest for moral superiority based on a mere difference of opinion – the core of their existence. And no known therapy is effective against it.

     They cannot be cured. They can only be detoxified. And as their weapons are verbal, so also are the appropriate countermeasures.

     Dismiss the labels. (“So what?”)
     Ignore the castigations. (“Yeah, sure.”)
     Laugh at the humorless scolds who seek to flail you with them.
     Deny them your respect.
     Smirk, flip a hand, and walk on.

     Short of confinement in an institution whose suites have padded walls, it’s all one can do for anyone afflicted with the disease of Wokeness.

     No, there is no cure. But there is hope.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Quickies: Circular Firing Squads Can Reverse Direction Very Swiftly

     There’ve been a number of articles on the Web these past few days about the exchanges of accusations among Justice Department and intelligence community figures who had some hand in the “Russian collusion” hoax that targeted President Trump. The most frequently cited names so far have been those of disgraced former FBI director James Comey and former CIA director John Brennan, who are now sparring over the prominence of their respective roles in the promotion and exploitation of the “Steele dossier.” Many in the Right have been figuratively rubbing their hands together with glee, anticipating a falling-out among highly placed persons involved in the hoax that could lead to all the details of the affair being revealed.

     This does seem a happy development. However, the seeming fusillades among these persons could have another purpose. It could be a tactic intended to persuade those capable of investigating the matter deeply enough to bring major miscreants to justice that “it’s too big” — that is, that a serious, determined plumbing of the cesspool would do unacceptable damage to persons or institutions that we “can’t afford to lose.”

     Do not doubt that that could result. The spanking-new FBI director, Christopher Wray, is already maneuvering to protect “his” Bureau from a housecleaning. Various prominent Republicans have displayed a great reluctance to “perpetuate the nightmare” for the sake of determining the responsible parties, bringing them to justice, and enforcing a thorough cleansing upon the agencies involved. Many highly placed persons, both inside and outside the corridors of power, have opined that the cost of restoring integrity to the Justice Department and the intelligence community might be too high to bear. Never mind what it might cost the country to allow them to remain corrupt. <

     Of course, it could also be about fear of reprisal. The old saying “it ain’t what you know; it’s who you know” is moderately misfocused. As Lawrence Block has observed, it ain’t who you know; it’s what you’ve got on ‘em. The FBI and CIA are fanatic collectors of such information, and have several times proved willing to use it for their own purposes. The IRS also collects dirt in wholesale quantities. As it’s still under the crosshairs for its suppression of conservative political activity, it might be persuaded to lend a hand.

     It’s been noted by many that Washington’s first priority is to protect Washington. The attitude is more pervasive than even a great many cynics would believe. This will bear close scrutiny…and possibly the most extraordinary reaction, should corrective action fail to materialize.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Song Is Over, Thank God

     Decades ago, I read a fair amount of traditional (i.e., “high” or “medieval”) fantasy fiction. You know, the sort Tolkien, Eddison, and Peake wrote. I no longer do, for the same reason I’ve lamented about at other times: the lack of originality the genre displays.

     The field started to slip in a noticeable way in the Seventies with Stephen R. Donaldson’s “Thomas Covenant” books and Terry Brooks’s interminable “Shannara” series. It was easy to see that these writers had nothing new to show us. They merely filed the serial numbers off Tolkien’s model, slapped on a fresh coat of paint, and offered it to us as if it were genuinely original. Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series sharpened my frustration: the first five volumes seemed moderately daring for trad-fantasy, but from number six onward it descended into tedium. Glen Cook was able to make his “Black Company” tales and his “Tyranny of the Night” fresh and original, but he’s the sole exception I’ve encountered to an endless parade of Tolkien imitators.

     The problem might be inherent in trad-fantasy, which is non- or pre-technological in setting and usually magical in motif. There isn’t much one can do to differentiate such a tale from others in its genre. Attempts to achieve freshness by adding just a little technology, or by giving magic a connection to a sketchy supernatural, quasi-theological scheme, usually fail, whether by violating the precepts of the genre or edging into another subcategory of speculative fiction such as “steampunk.” So for some time it’s seemed to me that trad-fantasy as a working field might just have reached its terminus.

     Then along came George R. R. Martin’s novel A Game of Thrones. While the usual lineaments of trad-fantasy were easy to discern, nevertheless there was something fresh about the tale. I read it with pleasure and looked forward to the continuation of the series.

     That sense of originality started to fade somewhere around the midpoint of volume three, A Storm of Swords. I slogged through volume four, A Feast For Crows, with considerable difficulty. I purchased volume five, A Dance Of Dragons, but I never opened it.

     HBO’s video productions of the Martin series have had the same effect on me. Unfortunately, the C.S.O. absolutely loves them – she’ll watch anything with a sufficiently high body count – so I’ve been compelled to suffer through them, pretending an equal degree of enthusiasm for the sake of domestic peace. We both look forward to viewing the final season, albeit for sharply contrasting reasons.

     And today we learn this:

     Many people are upset about the Villain Turn a character took last episode. I think that turn could have been decent -- if this had been a ten episode season, and we had seen the character descend into evil a little at a time, so that we would start anticipating it, then accepting it, and then seeing it as both organic and maybe even inevitable.

     But the way they rushed through this -- all major BULLET POINTS!!! with barely any dramatization around them -- makes this all feel like characters are now just doing things because the producers are bored and have been bored for years and want to move on to ruining another franchise (Star Wars, in this case -- which I'm not sure can be further ruined).

     David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have repeatedly stated that the crowning moment of this book series to them was the Red Wedding, and their major goal was just to do the show justice, and garner enough of an audience, to get greenlit into season 3 so they could film that.

     Well, they did.

     And that being their major goal -- they began getting very bored of the show by season 5 and had to start doing their own writing….Benioff and Weiss began improvising in season 5.

     And it showed. Martin's books might not have provided strong material but they didn't actually improve on his crap; they just made it shorter.

     I must concur.

     Mind you, George R. R. Martin has displayed considerable talent for unique, original stories and characters in the past. During the years he wrote mainly short stories, I would read anything he wrote. I particularly liked his early novel Dying of the Light. So this is not a writer I regard as a hack ab initio. But the “Song of Ice and Fire” series is not up to his earlier standard. Moreover, I think he knows it. I submit his failure to publish the culminating volumes in the series as Exhibit Two.

     There’s a moral in this. Some projects, however promising at the outset, have a dubious future. Sometimes those limits are perceptible early on. It strikes me that in trad-fantasy, that’s true more often than not.

     Had Martin limited himself to three books on the order of magnitude of A Game of Thrones, but with escalating development of plot and characters and a properly closed-off ending, he might deserve a better evaluation than “Yeah, yeah, more of the same.” The HBO series would have been more appealing as well, not the least because it would have ended sooner.

     In all probability, the deciding factor in all of this was money. Despite the endless repetitions of theme, plot, and core motifs, trad-fantasy sells well. Then again, so do romance novels that differ from one another mainly in the names of their characters and the details of their sex scenes. There’s an audience for them that seems impossible to sate, and where there’s a demand, a supply will emerge. It’s far more likely than not that money is what’s propelled Martin and HBO, much as it does the legions of writers churning out pink-and-purple-covered pabulum for Harlequin Books.

The sleep of reason.

[Prof. Mario Caligiuri:] How do you explain that Western countries do not question their alliance with Saudi Arabia, which is generative of Wahhabi ideology and terrorism in the world?

[Prof. Mario Caligiuri:] Sherlock Holmes would say: "Elementary, Watson." This clearly demonstrates that the economic interests, not only of States but especially of multinationals, prevail over the needs of citizens. This is the greatest weakness of democracies that may explode, as was the case in Europe in the twenties and thirties. The results of this era are still being felt today, almost a hundred years later, but we must consider that the degeneration of democracy is like the sleep of reason: it gives rise to monsters. Our mistake today is focused on the monsters and not on the causes of the degeneration of democracy, which, in my opinion, is mainly related to the selection of very inadequate ruling classes.[1]

The West's enfatuation with "democracy" and the mindless extension of the franchise to morons is finally bearing fruit – the enstupidation and degeneration of our civilization. Political debate is dominated by children, freaks, illiterates, and subversives.

Notes
[1] "Prof. Mario Caligiuri: 'The Degeneration of Democracy Is Like the Sleep of Reason: It Gives Rise to Monsters.'" By Mohsen Abdelmoumen, American Herald Tribune, 5/14/19 (emphasis in second paragraph added).

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Oldest Funny Subject Suddenly Isn’t Funny Any More

     "The pleasure is momentary, the position is ridiculous, and the expense is damnable." – Lord Chesterfield

     Certain things become easier with advancing age. One of them is the acquisition of a degree of calm – and a relaxed perspective – about sex.

     The quote above is supposedly from a letter Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son. I have no idea what the context was, but the truths in the quoted epigram are eternal. It suggests to me that Chesterfield had been married, and “of a certain age.” My sainted father, a veteran of both World War II and a stormy, ultimately failed marriage, liked to say that if he had to repeat one of them and was allowed to choose which one, it would be the former. (And please, don’t take “sainted” too literally; just about everything Dad said was liberally laced with expletives. Navy veterans are like that.)

     Allow me to retell an anecdote from some years ago:

     About twenty-five years ago, the C.S.O. and I had another family, the Hudsons, come to dinner at the Fortress: husband, wife, and two teenaged children. It was a pleasant evening, and dinner, cooking being the C.S.O.’s forte, was enjoyed by all. We were past the entrĂ©e and enjoying dessert when one of the teens, a charming young lady whose name was Kristin, asked a question of me that, as the saying goes, “brought down the house:”
     “Fran, what would you say is the biggest difference between teens and adults?”

     Kristin’s parents were immediately alert. Mind you, I wasn’t known in their household as some fount of eternal wisdom. Hell, I’m not known that way in my own household. But as you may have noticed, I do have opinions, and I tend to dispense them freely. Moreover, the way Kristin asked the question suggested 1) that she seriously wanted to know my opinion, and 2) that her parents had not provided an answer she found satisfactory. So I took the question seriously, and I decided to answer it seriously:

     “Well, Kristin, I’d say it’s what they’re most concerned about. Teenagers tend to be most concerned about sex. But as you get older, you tend to be less concerned about sex and more concerned about money.”

     You could have heard a pin drop. Kristin’s face lit as if I’d provided the Great Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. On the other hand, I think her parents would have looked less shocked if I’d hopped onto the table and dropped my pants. Plainly, by their lights this was something Kristin should not have heard from a respected elder. And yet it was my honest opinion. I believed it then and I believe it today.

     The get-together ended a few uncomfortable minutes later.

     Even the mention of sex in the hearing of the young can make the elders in the room distinctly uncomfortable. It’s not because the elders don’t want the young’uns to know about the process by which human life is generated. They know they’ve lost that battle by the time Junior is ten. But it might be because with the attenuation of their own drives, they’ve become embarrassed about what their sexual decisions have brought upon them.

     A lot of us make bad decisions in the heat of passion. Some of those decisions can have lifelong consequences, as Lord Chesterfield suggested. Meat Loaf would tell you the same:

     Bad decisions of that sort are a major impetus to the growth of the Men Going Their Own Way movement.


     Probably the worst recent development pertaining to the sexual decisions of Americans has been the politicization of sex and everything associated with it. I could list many manifestations. I shan’t, as it’s too early in the morning to chug yet another bottle of Maalox.® But you’re probably already familiar with most of them anyway.

     It’s my contention that mixing politics into an innocent human activity – and sex is innocent until proven guilty – is guaranteed to ruin it. Examples abound. Yet women tend to play the Lysistrata card reflexively when they don’t get what they want. Here’s a washed-up second-tier actress trying that gambit. Over abortion, of all things.

     Here’s Kurt Schlichter’s reaction:

     Let’s review. Alyssa Milano is not going to have sex unless and until you allow her to kill babies. I am unclear on what our reaction is supposed to be. Does she expect us to pull a 180 on pre-birth infanticide in order to keep the Alyssa Option open?...

     I am guessing that this innovative strategy probably won’t be successful in dissuading us from protecting the unborn. Scratching Alyssa Milano off our collective “To-do” list? We can live with that.

     Well, yes. But Milano’s screech does underline just how silly some of us can get about the whole deal. The silliness isn’t confined to actual sexual congress.


     Back during the early years of the Sexual Devolution Revolution, we saw many lampoonings of supposedly traditional sex-related convictions, such as this one:

     Now, I’m not going to say that pornography has no downside. It can warp expectations. It can unhealthfully divert the focus of the young. And yes, it’s had negative impacts on more than a few married couples. But it’s not responsible for rape, or the spread of venereal disease, any more than Grand Theft Auto is responsible for carjackings. There is no correlation among those things, as we’ve learned.

     That makes it rather strange that there should be a sudden surge of condemnations of porn, especially on the World Wide Web. The most common rationale for these condemnations is religious. That, at least, is understandable. The hierarchies of the major religions have all railed against sexual indulgence and any peripheral manifestations of it for many centuries; it’s an important competitor for the attention of the young.

     Allow me to cite a sensible man on the subject:

     The third morning after the system was installed Jill brought a letter, category “G”, to Jubal. The ladies and other females (plus misguided males) who supplied this category usually included pictures alleged to be of themselves; some left little to the imagination.
     This letter enclosed a picture which left nothing to the imagination, then stimulated fresh imaginings. Jill said, “Look at this, Boss! I ask you!”
     Jubal read the letter. “She knows what she wants. What does Mike think?”
     “He hasn’t seen it.”
     Jubal glanced at the picture. “A type which, in my youth, we called ‘stacked.’ Well, her sex is not in doubt, nor her agility. Why show it to me? I’ve seen better.”
     “What should I do! The letter is bad enough . . . but that disgusting picture—should I tear it up?”
     “What’s on the envelope?”
     “Just the address and return address.”
     “How does the address read?”
     “Huh? ‘Mr. Valentine Michael Smith, the Man from’—”
     “Oh! Then it’s not addressed to you.
     “Why, no, of course—”
     “Let’s get something straight. You are neither Mike’s mother nor his chaperon. If Mike wants to read everything addressed to him, including junk mail, he is free to do so.”
     “He does read most of those ads. But you don’t want him to see filth! He’s innocent.”
     “So? How many men has he killed?”
     Jill looked unhappy.
     Jubal went on: “If you want to help him, you will concentrate on teaching him that killing is frowned on in this society. Otherwise he will be conspicuous when he goes out into the world.”
     “Uh, I don’t think he wants to ‘go out into the world.’ ”
     “I’m going to push him out of the nest as soon as he can fly. I shan’t make it possible for him to live out his life as an arrested infant. For one thing, I can’t . . . Mike will outlive me by many years. But you are correct; Mike is innocent. Nurse, have you seen that sterile laboratory at Notre Dame?”
     “I’ve read about it.”
     “Healthiest animals in the world—but they can’t leave the laboratory. Child, Mike has got to get acquainted with ‘filth’—and get immunized. Someday he’ll meet the gal who wrote this, or her spiritual sisters—he’ll meet her by the hundreds—shucks, with his notoriety and looks he could spend his life skipping from one bed to another. You can’t stop it, I can’t stop it; it’s up to Mike. Furthermore, I wouldn’t want to stop it, although it’s a silly way to spend one’s life—the same exercises over and over again, I mean. What do you think?”
     “I—” Jill blushed.
     “Maybe you don’t find them monotonous—none of my business, either way. But if you don’t want Mike’s feet kicked out from under him by the first five hundred women who get him alone, then don’t intercept his mail. Letters like that may put him on guard. Just pass it along in the stack, answer his questions—and try not to blush.”
     “Boss, you’re infuriating when you’re logical!”
     “A most uncouth way to argue.”
     “I’m going to tear up that picture after Mike has seen it!”
     “Oh, don’t do that!”
     “What? Do you want it?”
     “Heaven forbid! But Duke collects such pictures. If Mike doesn’t want it, give it to Duke.”
     “Duke collects such trash? He seems such a nice person.”
     “He is.”
     “But—I don’t understand.”
     Jubal sighed. “I could explain it all day and you still wouldn’t. My dear, there are aspects of sex on which it is impossible to communicate between the two sexes of our race. They are sometimes grokked by intuition across the gulf that separates us, by exceptionally gifted individuals. But words are useless. Just believe me: Duke is a perfect knight—and he will like that picture.”
     “I won’t hand it to Duke myself—he might get ideas.”
     “Sissy.”

     [Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land]

     That passage has always made me laugh, As I’ve aged, the laughter has grown ever more self-referential.

     Jubal Harshaw, Heinlein’s fictional self-insertion into his most famous novel, is one of his trademarked “older and wiser characters,” used to provide the perspective of age that his younger, more action-oriented characters require for balance. In Heinlein’s oeuvre, the young tend to learn from the old, which is as it should be.

     But Heinlein, many will object, was dismissive of religion. There is some truth in this; he had had his fill of religious authoritarianism well before he wrote Stranger in a Strange Land. But being a sensible man, he didn’t discard the baby with the bathwater. He retained a lively interest in religious and supernatural questions lifelong. Both those things are plainly illustrated in his novel Job: A Comedy of Justice.

     Quasi-religious crusades against pornography – specifically, the visual or written depiction of sexual activity – as a specially threatening variety of evil are doomed to failure. They cannot succeed, for the same reason attempts to ban a religion only make it flourish. Jubal Harshaw’s approach has a better record at immunizing the young against sexual obsession…and getting them to see the humorous side of the matter.


     So we see sex, “the oldest funny subject,” being politicized from the Left and becoming a target (once again) among bluenoses nominally on the Right. That makes it hard to laugh about it. It also makes it treacherous to broach any subject connected to sex, even tangentially, in the company of persons of unknown attitudes.

     But we will laugh about sex, even if only in the company of those we know well. We need to laugh, especially today. And sex is both fertile ground for the incongruities that bring laughter and something nearly everyone knows enough about to see those incongruities. Which is justification enough to close with a joke:

     A weary traveler with time to kill before his flight home stopped into a tavern to waste some of it. He ordered a beer and, as he was hungry for friendly conversation and there were few others in the bar, he tried to strike up a little chat with the bartender.

     “You know,” he said as the bartender brought his beer, “some of the stuff going on in Washington—”

     The bartender stopped him with a glare. “We don’t allow political talk in this establishment. It leads to too many fights.”

     Chastened, the traveler subsided at once. A bit later, as he was finishing his beer, the bartender came over to ask if he wanted a refill. He nodded and said, “Sure. I was just thinking about something the Pope said—” And again the bartender silenced him with a wave and a glare.

     “We don’t allow religious talk in here, either,” the bartender said. “No one ever agrees with anyone, and we can’t afford the ill will.”

     “Well, then,” the annoyed traveler said, “do you allow talk about sex?”

     The bartender was mildly surprised, but after a moment he said, “Sure, everyone talks about sex.”

     “In that case,” our hero said as he rose from his stool, “go fuck yourself.”

     And I alone am escaped to tell thee.

Monday, May 13, 2019

I'm Leaving, On a Jet Plane...

At least, I will be, Wednesday evening. The Hubs is staying home.

My son-in-law has an operation on Friday, so I'm going to be staying there for a week or two, to help out with whatever is needed. My mobility is still sub-par, but I should be able to handle the limited amount of driving needed.

I'll be checking in here, but I don't plan on posting as often. My hope is to make some progress with my books - fiction, as well as non-fiction. Well, that, and - I hope - to take in at least ONE Cleveland Indians game. They're at home for the next 2 weeks, so it's likely that I'll be able to manage it. I may spend the cash to get a seat lower down, as I don't want to be trying to manage the cheap seats with a boot and cane.

I was able to get a straight flight, without stops, which will limit my time in transit. If an opportunity to get a better seat, without too much cash spent, comes up, I'm taking it. I'm already on aspirin, to reduce the chances of a blood clot. It's amazing just how many things you have to anticipate going wrong, when you get old.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

For Those Who Have Asked (STICKY Until 05/13/2019)

     It’s here:

     It’s a collection of my essays on the subject, spread over the twenty-two years I’ve been writing for the Web: material many Gentle Readers will already be familiar with. After a bit of prompting from two dear friends, I was moved to compile those essays for this form of distribution. I hope you’ll find this compilation useful. Gil, Linda: Thank you, most sincerely, for your encouragement.

     Only $2.99 at Amazon.

The Divine Right Of Men

     [Christianity is] the most persecuted religion in the world today.” -- Glenn Reynolds

     There are days it all seems just too terribly clear.

     In the late M. Stanton Evans’ remarkable, critically important book The Theme Is Freedom, he develops a brilliant case for the proposition that political freedom depends upon the acknowledgement of an authority higher than any temporal authority: i.e., God. He further argues that of all the belief systems that have ever been followed, Christianity is the only one that emphasizes individual freedom as the rightful condition of men, to be protected from the encroachments of temporal powers. The United States of America, a near to uniformly Christian country for most of its history, is the modern society in which this coupling of religious belief to liberty has been most clearly demonstrated.

     Given that premise, does it not make sense that they who seek to eradicate human freedom should target Christianity first and foremost? Does it not suggest that anyone you hear ridiculing Christians or denigrating Christianity should be viewed with a degree of suspicion?

     That’s for openers, Gentle Reader. Whether you’re Christian or not, I advise you to give it some thought.


     If there should ever be founded a Hall of Fame for Sensible Men, I’d nominate Gilbert Keith Chesterton as its patron saint:

     The curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted; precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.

     Chesterton was famous even in his own lifetime for his hard sense and good nature. The quote above, echoed in spirit by Henry Louis Mencken:

     Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

     …perfectly captures Christianity’s defense of human freedom: What it forbids are things we grasp intuitively to be evil. I have often confounded a militant atheist by asking him “Which of the Commandments do you find objectionable?” And answer comes there none. And this is scarcely odd, because…well, you can work it out for yourselves.

     (A quick digression: Christianity must not be confused with the doctrines propounded by nominally Christian churches or their human clerics. Christianity is entirely expressed by its Founder, Jesus of Nazareth, in the four Gospels that record His life, words, deeds, Passion and Resurrection. All else is an elaboration on those teachings by fallible men. Keep that in mind.)

     It is an irony to pin all the meters against their stops that they who denigrate Christianity cannot argue against it on any rational grounds. They denounce it as “superstition,” “fear of death,” and other irrelevancies. They refuse to treat with its prescriptions…because those prescriptions directly oppose what they seek: power for themselves and their fellow-travelers.

     God Himself has only ten rules for us. He asks nothing more. How dare any temporal authority suggest, explicitly or implicitly, that His rules don’t bind us? And how dare any temporal authority demand more than does He?

     Yet they all do.


     Allow me to revive one of my favorite Tom Kratman quotes:

     [I]t has been said more than once that you should choose enemies wisely, because you are going to become just, or at least, much like them. The corollary to this is that your enemies are also going to become very like you....

     If I could speak now to our enemies, I would say: Do you kill innocent civilians for shock value? So will we learn to do, in time. Do you torture and murder prisoners? So will we. Are you composed of religious fanatics? Well, since humanistic secularism seems ill-suited to deal with you, don't be surprised if we turn to our churches and temples for the strength to defeat and destroy you. Do you randomly kill our loved ones to send us a message? Don't be surprised, then, when we begin to target your families, specifically, to send the message that our loved ones are not stationery.

     The enemies of Christianity, one and all, are totalitarian in ambition. That is: they seek the power to decide what is compulsory and what is forbidden, without any boundaries to the scope of their authority. Christians know that this is wrong. We decry it. We protest against it. In reply, our enemies ridicule us, drive us out of the public square, criminalize living by our beliefs, and ultimately exterminate us.

     They are not wise. Tom Kratman has delineated the inevitable response from the world’s Christians: the rebirth of the Church Militant.

     It’s coming. I sense it massing: quietly for the moment, but the moment will arrive when it will make a mighty noise. It will defend the ultimate Authority and the divine right He has granted to us, His highest earthly creatures: the right to be left alone, also known as freedom.

     Be part of it.

     May God bless and keep you all!

Sunday Randomness - Mother's Day Edition

In an unintended twist on the day, I noticed this piece from Conservative Review, that has a judge ruling that non-doctors can perform abortions. I'm truly tired of the "Progressive" judges of this country making law out of their own a$$. There is a branch of government whose job it is to MAKE the laws - or NOT.

These guys need to stay in their own lane.

I wonder how this statistic has changed since cell phones introduced unlimited minutes?
In 1992, AT&T reported 83 million calls were made on Father’s Day, compared to 106 million for Mother’s Day. But 27% more of the Dad’s Day calls were collect.
Yes, call your mother this Sunday (and consider calling those who were not fortunate enough to have children, just to say you love them). But, on some other day, NOT Father's Day, give the old man a call. They might not say it, but it will thrill them.

But, watch what you write/post on social media! Wouldn't want to offend the wrong people! Many businesses providing services to the public are targeting conservatives - or, more fairly, non-Leftists - to be refused service. Reason Magazine has more here.

The question is, just how far do your rights to Free Speech extend? The Supreme Court sided with the NAACP in their landmark decision to shield the membership from public exposure, at a time when that information could have facilitated effective shutdown of their organization.

The bans - whether public and permanent, or temporary and sub-rosa - have hit even relatively mainstream bloggers/content providers, like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, or Dennis Prager. And, the tsunami of banning is growing.

Communications law is quite clear - you may pass on content of any political persuasion without being sued, as long as your platform is neutral. That was the standard of the telephone company, and still is. They may pass on information about actual crimes, IF the government requests it in a properly-served warrant.

But, if they interfere in suppressing SOME communication, without an underlying crime, they lose that protection from lawsuit. Which appears to be where they are now - and, as far as I'm concerned, Let The Games Begin!

ARE the big social media companies unfairly biased? The answer is clear.

Have foreign countries helped Trump on social media? Possibly, but far more likely that they have engaged in massive efforts to push the Leftist agenda. And, to influence votes/opinion in other countries, as well.

The term "Hate Speech" has chiseled away at the 1st Amendment - and you should be concerned about that.

Yet Another Leftist Fake News Story - YALFNS. This time, using the tragic aftermath of the Puerto Rican hurricane to bash Trump.

Too often, we focus on how viewpoint suppression affect national figures. This story shows how the actions of social media are causing more problems for the local resistance to the Leftist juggernaut. I urge you to read it, as it clearly details the way that Twitter, YouTube, and other social media are protecting local Democratic control.

And, last - the cluelessness of this Hollywood Twit is staggering. Why, it's almost as though she had no understanding of the connection between sex and pregnancy!

Fight the Power!


Quickies: A Truism With A Nasty Laugh Embedded In It

     “The biggest voter suppression mechanism in American politics is Hillary Clinton’s personality.” -- David Forsmark

     Kick ‘em when they’re up; kick ‘em when they’re down.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Metrics

     Allow me to begin this tirade begin on a personal note: I’m overweight and have been for years. Not grotesquely, mind you; just about fifteen pounds. However, they’re inconvenient pounds, located in an inconvenient place that makes bending difficult. So I’m trying to lose them. As part of the effort, each morning upon rising I mount the bathroom scale and watch as it measures my current weight.

     In recent weeks that number has been trending downward, albeit slowly. That’s all right; a slow loss arising from a lifestyle change is more likely to result in an enduring improvement. So when I see a number lower than the one I saw the day before, I’m pleased. When the number is the same as the day before or higher, I frown.

     Does that behavior seem logical to you, Gentle Reader, now that you know of my aims? It should. But does it seem a complete measure of whether I’m progressing or regressing? If it does, you’re not thinking the problem all the way through.

     Why measure a particular thing? Indeed, why measure anything?

     A measure is normally tied to a goal. Imagine that there’s some goal you want to reach. If you can express that goal in measurable terms, subsequent measurements will tell you whether you’re getting nearer to that goal or farther from it.

     Any goal can be characterized in two ways:

  1. Intermediate;
  2. End-state.

     An intermediate goal is one we seek in advancing toward some other goal. An end-state goal is one we seek for its own sake. In the business world, intermediate goals are often called milestones, probably because we tend to trip over them for focusing on the end-state goal. The end-state goal will normally have direct relevance to the production of revenue: e.g., the release of a product for sale.

     The above might seem like “of course” material. In a sense, that what it is: the subconscious stratum of considerations everyone’s conscious decision-making is founded on. But now and then it should be hauled out of the shadows and examined in the light. Doing so can keep us from doing some silly, counterproductive, and outrightly destructive things.


     Many years ago, I formulated a schematic for all human action. I called it The Algorithm:

  1. Select a technique that you think will get you what you think you want.
  2. Will this technique cause you to lose body parts, go to jail, or burn in Hell?
    • If so, return to step 1.
    • If not, proceed to step 3.
  3. Do a little of it.
  4. Are you at your goal, approaching it, or receding from it?
    • If at your goal, stop.
    • If receding, return to step 1.
    • If approaching, return to step 3.

     That is how we do everything. There are no exceptions. But have a close look at step 4. It asks a question without propounding a method for answering it. What method should apply?

     In short, there must be a metric that will allow us to answer the question. The metrics best suited to some goals are more easily found than those that apply to others. Indeed, there are some goals for which the quest for the right metric is ongoing. But until the correct metric is chosen, whether we are progressing toward our goal or receding from it will be indeterminable.

     The critical word in the paragraph above is correct, as in “the correct metric.” Monitoring an irrelevancy won’t help. Indeed, by distracting us from what really matters it will likely conduce to failure.

     The central question in all of public policy has always been:

Given the goal we pursue,
What is the correct metric?

     In our time, that question is almost never answered correctly.


     Libertarian theorist and activist Kevin Cullinane once proposed a definition of progress:

     “Progress is the improved satisfaction of human desires, morally, with less effort.”

     Like “The Algorithm” of the previous segment, Cullinane’s statement implies a question: What is the proper metric for determining whether human desires are being satisfied in an improved degree? The answer is elusive for one giant reason: “our leaders” don’t want us to think about it.

     I know when my desires are being better satisfied than they were yesterday. I’d bet the mortgage money that you could say the same. But consider, as a trivial case (in the mathematical sense), the problem of marriage. How can Smith determine whether Mrs. Smith’s desires are being better satisfied today than yesterday?

     Any married man can tell you that the problem is stiff, as the married man will surely be before the answer comes to him.

     As the question is ramified by further collectivization – i.e.:

From individuals;
   to couples;
     to families;
       to neighborhoods;
         to towns;
           to counties;
             to states;
               to the nation;

     …all metrics become murky and indistinct, and all answers to the question in Step 4 of “The Algorithm” become indeterminate.

     That’s what “our leaders” don’t want us to think about. It’s also my major reason for writing, whether fiction or op-eds to appear here at Liberty’s Torch.


     On January 2, 2019, Tucker Carlson vented a subtly impassioned Jeremiad against the indifference of the “ruling class.” I didn’t see that segment of Tucker Carlson Tonight; I’m almost always in bed before 9:00 PM. Anyway, I seldom watch television other than a Yankees baseball game or a Rangers hockey game. My attention was drawn to it by a pair of opinion pieces:

  1. This one of a couple of weeks ago;
  2. This one of just this morning.

     Carlson’s soliloquy and the two articles it inspired put me in mind of the old poem about the blind men and the elephant:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me!—but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried: "Ho!—what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 't is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake: "I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'T is clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

[John Godfrey Saxe]

     Saxe might have been amused at the passionate disputes of theologians, but the point is relevant to public policy as well. Numbers of many sorts are available to the policy-maker. Many a “policy wonk” will trumpet such numbers loudly, implying that they measure something “the government” should regard as important. But do they really? Indeed, do they measure anything of importance?


     It’s become clear that no purely economic metric – take the Dow-Jones Industrial Average as an example – really measures the health of our nation. Indeed, it might mislead us regardless of the purpose to which we put it. The DJIA is a composite based on thirty stocks. There are far more equities than that being traded. But even if they were all factored into the DJIA, what could it possibly tell us?

     Tucker Carlson’s focus is on families. It’s arguably a better focus, but one to which no imaginable metric could be applied. Rate of family formation? Interesting information, but what kinds of families are being formed? Reproduction rates? Again, very interesting, especially to demographers, but there are some pretty squalid, miserably unhappy nations with high reproduction rates. These numbers are of the sort some wag once compared to a bikini on a beautiful girl: “What it reveals is interesting, but what it conceals is vital.”

     A public policy supremely concerned with families would be no more likely than a purely econometric one to bring about a “happy, prosperous, stable nation.” There are no metrics that would reliably lead us to the goal we seek…because collective goals are always illusory:

     There is no half-baked ecclesiastic, bawling in his galvanized-iron temple on a suburban lot, who doesn’t know precisely how it ought to be dealt with. There is no fantoddish old suffragette, sworn to get her revenge on man, who hasn’t a sovereign remedy for it. There is not a shyster of a district attorney, ambitious for higher office, who doesn’t offer to dispose of it in a few weeks, given only enough help from the city editors. And yet, by the same token, there is not a man who has honestly studied it and pondered it, bringing sound information to the business, and understanding of its inner difficulties and a clean and analytical mind, who doesn’t believe and hasn’t stated publicly that it is intrinsically and eternally insoluble. For example, Havelock Ellis. His remedy is simply a denial of all remedies. He admits that the disease is bad, but he shows that the medicine is infinitely worse, and so he proposes going back to the plain disease, and advocates bearing it with philosophy, as we bear colds in the head, marriage, the noises of the city, bad cooking and the certainty of death. Man is inherently vile—but he is never so vile as when he is trying to disguise and deny his vileness. No prostitute was ever so costly to a community as a prowling and obscene vice crusader, or as the dubious legislator or prosecuting officer who jumps at such swine pipe. [H. L. Mencken]

     That’s what “our leaders” don’t want us to think about. Were we to embrace the truth in it, they would no longer be “our leaders.” Indeed, we would have no “leaders.”


     When we institute political conditions that embed specific incentives and constraints – and every political system does this – behavior emerges that exploits those incentives and constraints. This is, if you like, Political Ecology 101: the metaphysical law that no legislature can repeal or modify. Ayn Rand understood it well:

     [Dagny] knew that no train schedules could be maintained any longer, no promises kept, no contracts observed, that regular trains were cancelled at a moment’s notice and transformed into emergency specials sent by unexplained orders to unexpected destinations—and that the orders came from Cuffy Meigs, sole judge of emergencies and of the public welfare. She knew that factories were closing, some with their machinery stilled for lack of supplies that had not been received, others with their warehouses full of goods that could not be delivered. She knew that the old industries—the giants who had built their power by a purposeful course projected over a span of time—were left to exist at the whim of the moment, a moment they could not foresee or control. She knew that the best among them, those of the longest range and most complex function, had long since gone—and those still struggling to produce, struggling savagely to preserve the code of an age when production had been possible, were now inserting into their contracts a line shameful to a descendant of Nat Taggart: “Transportation permitting.”

     And yet there were men—and she knew it—who were able to obtain transportation whenever they wished, as by a mystic secret, as by the grace of some power which one was not to question or explain. They were the men whose dealings with Cuffy Meigs were regarded by people as that unknowable of mystic creeds which smites the observer for the sin of looking, so people kept their eyes closed, dreading, not ignorance, but knowledge. She knew that deals were made whereby those men sold a commodity known as “transportation pull”—a term which all understood, but none would dare define. She knew that these were the men of the emergency specials, the men who could cancel her scheduled trains and send them to any random spot of the continent which they chose to strike with their voodoo stamp, the stamp superseding contract, property, justice, reason and lives, the stamp stating that “the public welfare” required the immediate salvation of that spot. These were the men who sent trains to the relief of the Smather Brothers and their grapefruit in Arizona—to the relief of a factory in Florida engaged in the production of pin-ball machines—to the relief of a horse farm in Kentucky—to the relief of Orren Boyle’s Associated Steel.

     These were the men who made deals with desperate industrialists to provide transportation for the goods stalled in their warehouses—or, failing to obtain the percentage demanded, made deals to purchase the goods, when the factory closed, at the bankruptcy sale, at ten cents on the dollar, and to speed the goods away in freight cars suddenly available, away to markets where dealers of the same kind were ready for the kill. There were the men who hovered over factories, waiting for the last breath of a furnace, to pounce upon the equipment—and over desolate sidings, to pounce upon the freight cars of undelivered goods—these were a new biological species, the hit-and-run businessmen, who did not stay in any line of business longer than the span of one deal, who had no payrolls to meet, no overhead to carry, no real estate to own, no equipment to build, whose only asset and sole investment consisted of an item known as “friendship.” These were the men whom official speeches described as “the progressive businessmen of our dynamic age,” but whom people called “the pull peddlers”—the species included many breeds, those of “transportation pull,” and of “steel pull” and “oil pull” and “wage-raise pull” and “suspended sentence pull”—men who were dynamic, who kept darting all over the country while no one else could move, men who were active and mindless, active, not like animals, but like that which breeds, feeds and moves upon the stillness of a corpse.

     Rand said it so well in the above snippet that I can add nothing to it except this, from “humorist” P. J. O’Rourke:

     “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”


     If what I write here is useful to anyone, it’s because I strive to see widely and to reason inclusively. Yes, I have a value of supreme political importance: individual freedom, as if you needed to be reminded. Yes, I have my own desires and a priority scale for them. But I would not imagine that many other persons would have values, desires, and priorities exactly identical to mine.

     No one has values, desires, and priorities exactly identical to yours. He who seeks to persuade you of the opposite is your enemy. Indeed, he might be a monster.

     Believe it or not, there are persons whose highest aim is the eradication of the overwhelmingly greater part of Mankind. Many of them are considered “respectable,” even purveyors of “wisdom.” They pass the streets in safety by not saying explicitly what they seek.

     Believe it or not, there are persons whose highest aim is the enslavement of the overwhelmingly greater part of Mankind. Many of them are considered “respectable,” even “statesmen” of importance. They pass the streets in safety by not saying explicitly what they seek.

     Believe it or not, there are persons whose highest aim is the impoverishment of the overwhelmingly greater part of Mankind. Many of them are considered “respectable,” even important “humanitarians.” They pass the streets in safety by not saying explicitly what they seek.

     All of these persons can be found in the corridors of power, or straining for admission to them. They greatly outnumber those of a genuinely benevolent nature. Yet all of them claim to have your well-being as their supreme value. And all of them are villains at best, monsters at worst.

     The simplest, the clearest, and the most direct route to assessing them, to knowing them for what they are rather than what they pretend to be, is to get them to state their metrics. If their metrics are collective in nature – and nearly all metrics offered in a political context are collective in nature – they are the enemy, to be feared and fought.

     “Do not say “Trust me; rely on my word.” Only politicians say that.” – C. Northcote Parkinson

     Trust no one. Think for yourself, always.