Monday, March 25, 2019

The Investigation is Over, and There WERE Some Abuses...

...Rather SERIOUSLY improper information leakage, "gifts" received, and it's ALL documented.

So, why are there no calls to indict?

Because it was the FBI employees that were engaging in prohibited actions.

Retrenchment Or Revengement: The Jury Has Returned

     …and the verdict isn’t pretty:

     I'm seeing 2 big examples of how the media are reporting good news for Trump this weekend. It's really embarrassing for them because the 2 stories are very big and very good for Trump and, in both, the same move is made to turn it into something negative and ominous….

     So watch for it. The rule is: When something good for Trump happens, find the nearest bad thing and make that the focus of the news report.

     Miss Althouse provides citations from several sources. If you can control the desire to smash something and scream obscenities out the nearest open window – it’s a bit early to indulge in either of those admittedly rather enjoyable safety valves – read them; they’re worth your time.

     Some news outlets aren’t even doing that much to conceal their desires:

     CNN has a bad case of the sads today. But they still can’t get over the fact that NOTHING that Trump did was illegal during the 2016 campaign. CNN instead is now placing their hopes in the nut job communist Democrats impeaching Trump anyway, even though there is no collusion and no obstruction of justice….
     CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday night reacted to the Mueller Report letdown by wondering if impeachment was still a possibility. Despite the finding of no collusion and a lack of obstruction, Blitzer offered this question to Dana Bash: “And the question is, Dana, very quickly, impeachment. Are they going to do anything or are they going to listen to Nancy Pelosi and say, ‘Forget about it?’”

     Instead of throwing cold water, Bash suggested, “We’re not there yet. I think the most important thing that we’re going to look for next is what Jerry Nadler just said, which is he’s going to have Barr come up, they’re going to grill him on this. Maybe even Mueller. And then they’re going to take the next step.”

     The Democrats’ head lock on the media appears unbreakable. Of course, the media likes having things to “report,” and what could be more “reportable” than the impeachment and trial of a sitting president? Maybe another war? But the Trump Administration is against further American adventurism. Then perhaps a huge natural disaster? Well, maybe if we could have one happen right under Washington, D.C….but I digress.

     If memory serves, when President Clinton was impeached the media’s mantra was “It’s just about sex, it’s just about sex, it’s just about sex…” repeated until Hell wouldn’t have it. Republicans are their preferred targets, and their thirst for blood remains unsated.

     Stay tuned, if you can bear it.

Pearls of expression.

From comments on an article about a distressed cruise ship in heavy seas off the Norwegian coast with video of furniture sliding around the deck and ceiling tile coming down:
Redc1c4:

Being on a ship is like being in jail, with a chance of being drowned.

SamboSaysMoreNow:

Weird things go on in prison but the chances of you being crushed to death by a sliding Grand Piano in Folsom are pretty slim (unless Jerry Lee Lewis opened for Johnny Cash and things got ugly....

"Horrifying Passenger Video Shows Furniture Crashing Into Walls Aboard Stranded Viking Cruise Ship." By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 3/24/19.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A New Grift

     Among my many faults, just now this one is uppermost in my thoughts: Most of my life I’ve been excessively willing to believe in the goodness of other people, and perhaps I still am today. This has occasionally cost me heavily. But at age 67, my skepticism about the motives of others might finally be adequate to protect me against the more transparent scams.

     However, there’s a new scam in town, and it’s important that my male readers know about it. (I don’t think there’s an equivalent one targeting women…yet.) It works through the social media sites, and it goes like this:

  1. A young, attractive woman – typically she’ll represent herself as between the age of 25 and 34 – signs up for your social media site.
  2. She posts one post: a very attractive picture “of herself.”
  3. Shortly thereafter she sends you a “friend request.” You accept, because why not?
  4. She direct-messages you to start a conversation.
  5. The two of you exchange a few pleasantries.
  6. She invites you to join her on WhatsApp or Google Hangouts.
  7. If you join her there, she chats you up a little further, usually with some flattery.
  8. THE SCAM EMERGES: She tells you she needs an Amazon gift card worth $10 or $20.

     I’ve been approached by four such scammers in the past three days. Please, take this seriously:

She’s not sincere.
She wants nothing but your money.
Why else would she chat you up, eh, hero?

     I think the reason they like WhatsApp and Google Hangouts is that those two facilities permit simultaneous conversations with multiple targets. That allows them to copy and paste from one chat window to another, reducing the amount of ingenuity they must exercise in their come-ons.

     Be smart. They’re grifters. In all probability the photos they post are fakes. They don’t need; they want. And what they want isn’t your rugged good looks or your chiseled masculine body.

     You have been warned.

Retrenchment Or Revengement?

     We have entered a significant phase in the political wars. The Main Stream / Legacy / Major Media – if you don’t know which outlets I’m talking about, you probably live in a cave without WiFi, and may God bless and keep you for that — must now make a choice on which their continued existence might well depend. The choice, being rather stark, will undoubtedly cause great pain to many in the “news” industry, from the bottom to the top of their hierarchies.

     The Democrats, their longtime allies in all matters political, have seriously let them down. Schumer, Pelosi, Schiff, et alii virtually promised them insider-supported coverage of the impeachment of President Trump and his ultimate removal from office. The reassurances have never ceased that Robert Mueller and his team of ill-concealed witch hunters would surely turn up enough dirt on Trump that even if the Senate were to decline to convict him, he’d leave the White House out of pure embarrassment. But with the final report in Attorney-General William Barr’s hands and Mueller’s statement that there are no indictments forthcoming, it appears that nothing nearly that dramatic will happen, whether to the president or to any of his relatives, friends, or inner political circle.

     The media must now choose their path forward: will they attempt to separate themselves from their previous, lurid, Democrat-talking-point-laced coverage of the president and the Mueller investigation, or will they perform a major mea maxima culpa before their dwindling audiences and turn savagely on the Democrats who misled them?

     Tough call, eh?

     Considering how difficult it is for ordinary folks to admit to serious errors in judgment, my money is on the former path…but I must say, I shan’t “bet big.” The Democrats’ abuse of their media allies over the past two years goes beyond anything I can remember. Media barons would be entirely within reason to be enraged to the point of vengeance: publicly castigating their abusers for their frauds and permanently disassociating their networks and newspapers from them. An honest man would do so – but how many honest men remain in the major media?

     We might have an answer to that question very soon.

     It’s an old maxim of us freedom weenies that most sins are self-punishing. The sinner learns from the pain and loss attendant upon his misdeed and reforms, or at least tries to. That’s as it should be in a lawful universe. But there are some sins that reward the sinner adequately to compensate for the pain and loss. If it were otherwise, the recidivism rates would be far lower.

     There’s no reason to go much deeper into this. The time has come for us in the Right to do something we generally dislike to do: pay attention to those media that have aligned themselves with the political Left and see what course they elect. They needn’t issue a full-throated endorsement of President Trump and his policies to earn at least a little forgiveness, though considering how good Trump and his policies have been for America, it would surely be appropriate. But forgiveness must be preceded by repentance. Some sort of apology, coupled to some degree of criticism of those who have misled them and (by extension) us, is mandatory. A continuation of the frauds, regardless of the pretext, would be justification for figuratively burning their institutions to the ground and salting the earth where they stood. Liars must not remain in command of the world’s largest megaphones.

     And with that it’s time to prepare for Mass. Enjoy your Sunday.

Could you please just make a decision.

Trump on the “illegal takedown” organized against him:
It's a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest it's a shame that your president had to go through this for - before I even got elected, it began. And it began illegally. And hopefully somebody is gonna look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed, and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at the other side.[1]
Trump has done a lot of good but, on the large questions of his constitutional authority and the coup attempt he has allowed to proceed against him unchallenged, he maddeningly can only come up with positions solidly located in the boundaries laid out for him by his ultra-left opponents and these vague pronouncements:
  • The DOJ documents need to be released in their unredacted state.
  • “Somebody” should look into unlawful efforts to bring down a duly-elected president.
Well, Mr. Trump, guess who’s got an entire Justice Department at his disposal to take some concrete action. Why on earth do you settle on the language “somebody”? And why do you frequently choose the “deer in the headlights” stance on important matters? Are you ignoring the legal advice you’re getting or do you need different counsel?

Notes
[1] "Trump 'Totally Exonerated', Calls For Investigation Into 'Illegal Takedown That Failed.'" By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 3/24/19 (my emphasis).

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Mueller Report

     This document, only just released to the Attorney-General, is essentially the only item in the national news just now. It will speak for itself soon enough. However, the early reactions from those who believe the investigation has let them down – i.e.., those on the far Left who’ve been hoping it would provide a pretext for removing President Trump from office – suggest that we who support the president will be cheered by its emptiness. In celebration thereof, allow me to present a couple of favorite compilations:

     Enjoy a little Schadenfreude:

     PS: Would anyone care to suggest a good video-editing program? I have a need.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Tales From Ancient Days

     I’m a dinosaur. My Gentle Readers know that already. Other visitors might not, which is why I’m saying so out front. Having said that, allow me to present two videos, both short:

     Love them or hate them, “Stardust” and “Deep Purple” were immensely popular love ballads when my parents were young. I, a child of the Fifties, didn’t hear either one until I was a teen. When I did, I couldn’t figure what all the fuss was about. But this screed isn’t about changes in popular tastes. It’s about communication between the generations.


     One evening when I was about twelve, I was seated on the living room sofa with my father watching television, when a noteworthy exchange took place during the program he’d selected. It was one of the early Sixties comedies, the sort that starred a comedian well known from other venues. If memory serves, this one featured Joey Bishop. The exchange of which I speak concerns a singer that one of them had already heard but the other had not. It ran roughly as follows:

First Character: Is he any good?
Second Character: With his voice, he could destroy “Stardust.”

     Dad laughed uproariously. I was puzzled. I asked what made the line so funny. Dad proceeded to tell me that “Stardust” is one of the immortal ballads, so universally beloved that it couldn’t be ruined even if Phyllis Diller sang it through her nose to kazoo accompaniment. Being unacquainted with the song, I remained puzzled, but kept it to myself.

     That was fifty-five years ago. This morning I found myself wondering what shape such conversations take today…if they occur at all.


     “Time Shards,” a story by the great Gregory Benford, grazes the same subject. It concerns the investigation of a curious phenomenon: the possibility that potters of the First Millennium might unintentionally have managed to record conversations in their fine detailing of their pots. A researcher succeeds in recovering one such conversation. I hope Professor Benford won’t mind if I post a long excerpt from this fine and somewhat sobering story:

     Hart pressed a switch and the turntable began to spin. He watched it for a moment, squinting with concentration. Then he reached down to the side of the turntable housing and swung up the stylus manifold. It came up smoothly and Hart locked it in just above the spinning red surface of the pot.
     “Not a particularly striking item, is it?” Brooks said conversationally.
     “No.”
     “Who made it?”
     “Near as I can determine, somebody in a co-operative of villages, barely Christian. Still used lots of pagan decorations. Got them scrambled up with the cross motif a lot.”
     “You’ve gotten . . . words?”
     “Oh, sure. In early English, even.”
     “I’m surprised crude craftsmen could do such delicate work.”
     “Luck, some of it. They probably used a pointed wire, a new technique that’d been imported around that time from Saxony.”
     The computer board hooted a readiness call. Hart walked over to it, thumbed in instructions, and turned to watch the stylus whir in a millimeter closer to the spinning jug. “Damn,” Hart said, glancing at the board. “Correlator’s giving hash again.”
     Hart stopped the stylus and worked at the board. Brooks turned nervously and paced, unsure of what his attitude should be toward Hart. Apparently the man had discovered something, but did that excuse his surliness? Brooks glanced out the window, where the last crowds were drifting away from the Vault dedication and strolling down the Mall. There was a reception for the Board of Regents in Georgetown in an hour. Brooks would have to be there early, to see that matters were in order—
     “If you’d given me enough money, I could’ve had a Hewlett-Packard. Wouldn’t have to fool with this piece of…” Hart’s voice trailed off.
     Brooks had to keep reminding himself that this foul-tempered, scrawny man was reputed to be a genius. If Hart had not come with the highest of recommendations, Brooks would never have risked valuable Vault funding. Apparently Hart’s new method for finding correlations in a noisy signal was a genuine achievement.
     The basic idea was quite old, of course. In the 1960s a scientist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York had applied a stylus to a rotating urn and played the signal through an audio pickup. Out came the wreeee sound of the original potter’s wheel where the urn was made. It had been a Roman urn, made in the era when hand-turned wheels were the best available. The Natural History “recording” was crude, but even that long ago they could pick out a moment when the potter’s hand slipped and the rhythm of the wreeee faltered.
     Hart had read about that urn and seen the possibilities. He developed his new multiple-correlation analysis—a feat of programming, if nothing else—and began searching for pottery that might have acoustic detail in its surface. The sgraffito technique was the natural choice. Potters sometimes used fine wires to incise their wares. Conceivably, anything that moved the incising wire—passing footfalls, even the tiny acoustic push of sound waves—could leave its trace on the surface of the finished pot. Buried among imperfections and noise, eroded by the random bruises of history . . .
     “Got it,” Hart said, fatigue creeping into his voice.
     “Good. Good.”
     “Yeah. Listen.”
     The stylus whirred forward. It gently nudged into the jug, near the lip. Hart flipped a switch and studied the rippling, dancing yellow lines on the board oscilloscope. Electronic archaeology. “There.”
     A high-pitched whining came from the speaker, punctuated by hollow, deep bass thumps.
     “Hear that? He’s using a foot pump.”
     “A kick wheel?”
     “Right.”
     “I thought they came later.”
     “No, the Arabs had them.”
     There came a clop clop clop, getting louder. It sounded oddly disembodied in the silence of the long room.
     “What…?”
     “Horse. I detected this two weeks ago. Checked it with the equestrian people. They say the horse is unshod, assuming we’re listening to it walk on dirt. Farm animal, probably. Plow puller.”
     “Ah.”
     The hoofbeats faded. The whine of the kick wheel sang on. “Here it comes,” Hart whispered.
     Brooks shuffled slightly. The ranks upon ranks of ancient pottery behind him made him nervous, as though a vast unmoving audience were in the room with them.
     Thin, distant: “Alf?”
     “Aye.” A gruff reply.
     “It slumps, sure.”
     “I be oct, man.” A rasping, impatient voice.
     “T’art—”
     “Busy—mark?”
     “Ah ha’ wearied o’ their laws,” the thin voice persisted.
     “Aye—so all. What mark it?” Restrained impatience.
     “Their Christ. He werkes vengement an the alt spirits.”
     “Hie yer tongue.”
     “They’ll ne hear.”
     “Wi’ ’er Christ ’er’re everywhere.”
     A pause. Then faintly, as though a whisper: “We ha’ lodged th’ alt spirits.”
     “Ah? You? Th’ rash gazer?”
     “I spy stormwrack. A hue an’ grie rises by this somer se’sun.”
     “Fer we?”
     “Aye, unless we spake th’ Ave maris stella ’a theirs.”
     “Elat. Lat fer that. Hie, I’ll do it. Me knees still buckle whon they must.”
     “I kenned that. So shall I.”
     “Aye. So shall we all. But wh’ of the spirits?”
     “They suffer pangs, dark werkes. They are lodged.”
     “Ah. Where?”
     “S’tart.”
     “‘Ere? In me clay?”
     “In yer vessels.”
     “Nay!”
     “I chanted ’em in ’fore sunbreak.”
     “Nay! I fain wad ye not.”
     whir whir whir
     The kick wheel thumps came rhythmically.
     “They sigh’d thruu in-t’wixt yer clay. ’S done.”
     “Fer what?”
     “These pots—they bear a fineness, aye?”
     “Aye.”
     A rumbling, “—will hie home ’er. Live in yer pots.”
     “An?”
     “Whon time werkes a’thwart ’e Christers, yon spirits of leaf an’ bough will, I say, hie an’ grie to yer sons, man. To yer sons sons, man.”
     “Me pots? Carry our kenne?”
     “Aye. I investe’ thy clay wi’ ern’st spirit, so when’s ye causes it ta dance, our law say . . .”
     whir
     A hollow rattle.
     “Even this ’ere, as I spin it?”
     “Aye. Th’ spirits innit. Speak as ye form. The dance, t’will carry yer schop word t’ yer sons, yer sons sons sons.”
     “While it’s spinnin’?”
     Brooks felt his pulse thumping in his throat.
     “Aye.”
     “Than’t—”
     “Speak inta it. To yer sons.”
     “Ah . . .” Suddenly the voice came louder. “Aye, aye! There! If ye hear me, sons! I be from yer past! The ancient dayes!”
     “Tell them wha’ ye must.”
     “Aye. Sons! Blood a’ mine! Mark ye! Hie not ta strags in th’ house of Lutes. They carry the red pox! An’…an’, beware th’ Kinseps—they bugger all they rule! An’, whilst pot-charrin’, mix th’ fair smelt wi’ greeno erst, ’ere ye’ll flux it fair speedy. Ne’er leave sheep near a lean-house, ne, ’ey’ll snuck down ’an it—”
     whir whir thump whir
     “What—what happened?” Brooks gasped.
     “He must have brushed the incising wire a bit. The cut continues, but the fine touch was lost. Vibrations as subtle as a voice couldn’t register.”
     Brooks looked around, dazed, for a place to sit. “In . . . incredible.”
     “I suppose.”

     The probability of that “recording” being comprehensible, much less useful, to generations two or more removed from the makers approaches zero. The significant elements in it – practices, persons, institutions, et cetera – would have vanished from their society. They, of course, couldn’t know that.


     Communication, to be worthwhile, must be bilaterally comprehensible. That is: the hearer must understand what the speaker is saying as the speaker himself understands it. In pre-technological societies, when the number of elements an individual was presumed familiar with was small and travel over long distances was rare and difficult, a common language composed of stable terms and a simple grammar would have sufficed to meet that requirement. Things are different today.

     The old game “Twenty Questions” embedded an important assumption that’s seldom discussed: the person or item the questioner seeks to discover is within a “sociocultural space” that twenty yes-or-no questions can span. That’s only about a million elements. There are far more elements in our sociocultural space today.

     Today “a common language composed of stable terms and a simple grammar” isn’t enough to assure bilaterally comprehensible communication. The number of possible referents, many of them almost as important to John Q. Public as food, clothing, and shelter, is so great that the odds that John and a randomly selected person who speaks the same language will both be familiar with a major subset of them. This has a constricting effect on the social space within which JQP’s communications will be reliable. As long as he stays within that space, he’ll understand and be understood by the others in it. Outside it, things will be a lot more challenging. The size and populations of such spaces can depend on our occupations, educations, pastimes, neighborhoods, tastes, opinions, and other matters. And there is essentially nothing to be done about it.


     Not long ago there was a vogue for creating and burying “time capsules” whose contents were intended to represent our societies to their future discoverers. Pre-technological societies didn’t do such things; they couldn’t conceive of so much change that their present would need to be demonstrated to their future by word, sound, or artifact. Today’s society probably couldn’t agree on what should go into such a capsule. Add to this the rapid transformation of language – every human language of importance – and what are the odds that a communication to Americans a century hence would be comprehensible, meaningful, or useful?

     Even communication between parent and child is becoming strained. Yes, the distortion of the meanings of words is an important factor. But let’s not discount the explosion of the sociocultural space or our selectivity about it. Parents and children need not have largely overlapping subsets. A game of “Twenty Questions” involving different generations of the same family has a significant chance of inducing frustration. Throw in a few players from other parts of the English-speaking world, and what then?

     How conversant are you with Strine idioms or English rhyming slang?


     The above are “Friday morning thoughts,” the sort I indulge on a Friday morning after a relatively strenuous week. Yes, they’re relevant, generally at least, to contemporary concerns. You already know how sensitive I am to the deliberate misuse of words. But Man does not communicate by words alone. The complexity of our societies and the speed with which they’re creating specialized domains of knowledge – some of them useful, some of them trivial – guarantee that facility in communication will be an ever more highly prized skill, requiring both mastery of language and breadth of sociocultural knowledge.

     Now go back and listen to “Stardust” and “Deep Purple,” and reflect. Must have been some atrocious voice if the singer spoken of could “destroy Stardust,” eh what?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Frightening Word

     The great Mike Hendrix posted this morning about a possible secession of upstate New York from the downstate region. It’s a valuable piece largely made up from two other pieces that appeared in the New York Daily News. The first snottily ridicules the idea that upstate New Yorkers would enjoy the results of secession. The second argues the opposite with equal or greater snarkery. Mike’s own pithy contribution:

     As always, arrogant, obnoxious libtards should be very careful what they wish for, lest they get it—good and hard.

     I would be very grateful for such a secession even though I’m stuck on Long Island, which would be joined willy-nilly to the far-Left downstate region. First, it would compel downstaters to pull their heads out of their asses and confront what the political elite of this state has done to us. But second and far more important, it would emphasize to politicians everywhere that subjugation can be resisted – that a sufficient number of freedom-minded persons can and will eventually liberate themselves, regardless of the price.

     Secession is a frightening word to politicians and their hangers-on. The late Joseph Sobran noted that it really means freedom. For the upstate region to separate from the cancer that is New York City would be to free upstaters from the political dominance the Big Apple has exerted over them for many decades. New York City’s many pathologies would no longer burden the upstate region. Neither would the many intrusive and irrational laws the city’s liberal population has forced on the state. And let’s not get started about New York’s taxation, which is driving young Americans out of the state at a record rate.

     I think it as good as guaranteed that the New York political elite will fight any organized drive for a separation into two states. Politicians generally aren’t stupid, regardless of how often they may posture stupidly before a camera. They grasp that power requires subjects, and the more the better. The national political elite will fight a secession drive equally fiercely, as it would provide conservatively inclined Americans with more votes in the Electoral College. Sadly, given the requirements imposed by Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution:

     New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

     The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

     …the elites are almost guaranteed to prevail. Still, it’s a nice thing to contemplate.


     Laws that impose the interests of some upon the backs of others will always germinate resentment. Hearken to the great Frederic Bastiat:

     As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose — that it may violate property instead of protecting it — then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious. To know this, it is hardly necessary to examine what transpires in the French and English legislatures; merely to understand the issue is to know the answer.

     Is there any need to offer proof that this odious perversion of the law is a perpetual source of hatred and discord; that it tends to destroy society itself? If such proof is needed, look at the United States [in 1850]. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation. But even in the United States, there are two issues — and only two — that have always endangered the public peace.

     What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.

     Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.

     It is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crime — a sorrowful inheritance from the Old World — should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States — where the proper purpose of the law has been perverted only in the instances of slavery and tariffs — what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of the law is a principle; a system?

     Bastiat wrote that in 1850: eleven years before the sundering of the Union over the very subjects he cites above. The rebellion of the South occurred to preserve slavery against the North-based abolitionist movement and to escape the protective tariffs that favored Northern manufactured goods over cheaper imports. A state of affairs much like that which bedevils New York brought about the secession of the Confederate states.

     In composing a tract such as this, it’s absurdly necessary to say explicitly that this is not an argument for slavery or the Confederacy’s desire to preserve it. Rather, it’s an illustration of the sectionalist tensions and enmities that result when one region imposes its interests on another through the law. Quite similar tensions and enmities afflict New York State. The only imaginable solution, given the thoroughgoing corruption of the state’s political class and the unbelievable arrogance of the urban liberals who support them, is secession.

     Should that solution be thwarted, the tensions and enmities will grow. I don’t want to find out what the consequences will be by experiencing them. Far better than we part while an amicable parting is still possible. But don’t expect to hear that from Andrew Cuomo or any of the Democrats who dominate the councils in Albany and New York City.


     One final set of considerations before I close: the borders of the various states often came about because of natural features. In New York’s case, the Great Lakes, the Delaware and Saint Lawrence Rivers, and Lake Champlain were the most important such features. In that spirit, perhaps secession should divide the state along the Hudson River. That would preserve the original concept of the state as mostly naturally bounded, though it would unfortunately leave Albany and its pathologies in the upstate region. That a number of good persons ardent to be free of downstate domination would need to haul stakes, cross the river, and find new homes is also unfortunate, but it would be nicely compensated by the water border, the bridges across which could be dynamited should the downstaters ever get the idea that they could “reunify New York” by force.

     Ah, how pleasant it is to dream…

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Singular Perspective on the College Cheating Cases

I'm generally of the mind that most people pushed through college, despite their lack of ability, will find it bites them in the butt, later in life.

They will become the bitter, angry people, who complain that they have UNFAIRLY been passed over for promotion, are not earning the money that someone with their STERLING CREDENTIALS deserves, and generally making a ridiculous spectacle of themselves in front of people who know damn well that they are considerably below average in quality.

Here's the thoughts of a person who has seen truly worthy people succeed by their own efforts, along with the stories of several of them who died too young.

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From Merit To Certification

     It becomes ever more important – nay, critical — that one who wants to grasp the reasons for the deterioration of American society and the American Republic be aware of history, including the history of major institutions.

     Not many persons are aware of the history of American higher education. (Indeed, not many are aware of the history of education period, but that’s a tirade for another day.) The institution we call a university was a rare item before 1900. They began to multiply with the blossoming of large-scale American commerce, as men who had become successful in monetary terms produced sons and sought distinctions for them other than wealth. Colleges and universities were billed as places for intellectual advancement, but on a deeper and arguably more important level they provided sheltered gathering places for the progeny of the commercial elite. They facilitated the formation of the acquaintances and relationships the sons of wealth would exploit in later life.

     A university such as Harvard or Yale served its patrons in several ways, apart from whatever actual learning it could confer upon them. For two, it provided the aforementioned watering hole for the sons of wealth, and it awarded them the distinction of association with its name (i.e., “He’s a Harvard man”). But these things had a superstitious effect upon subsequent generations. Americans of less wealth came to believe that a college degree could somehow lead them to exceptional success. The universities, while they might not have actively encouraged that notion, certainly didn’t do anything to discourage it. The demand for degrees from degree-granting institutions exploded, as did the number of such institutions.

     The postwar G.I. Bill added a huge amount of impetus to the demand. Never before had so many common citizens, persons who possess neither great wealth nor any other special status, flocked into universities seeking degrees. Because the immediate postwar period was also a time of unprecedented advancement in the sciences, much of which lent itself to commercialization through technology, for a while there appeared to be a positive correlation between material success and degreed-ness. But other things were happening as well.

     The degree came to be regarded as a credential: a ticket for admission to a new kind of elite. Whether the degree holder has anything much between his ears became secondary to the degree itself – and, of course, to the name of the institution that had granted it.

     Hearken to Arthur Herzog on this subject:

     Since a good proportion of those in college are dullards (those who weren’t to start with may have become so through education), courses must be invented that are interesting enough to keep the students awake, “relevant” enough to make them feel “involved,” and easy enough to let them pass so that they stay in school. The trivial and the obvious are elevated to the level of course requirements, and the student is taught that faking it and the real world are interchangeable. A great many fellows in fakery of one sort or another emerge.

     Herzog wrote that in 1973, Gentle Reader. It was painfully true then; it’s both tragic and incontrovertible today.


     Via the indispensable Never Yet Melted comes this Yuval Levin observation:

     For much of American history .. [t]he apex of American political, cultural, and economic power was largely the preserve of a fairly narrow white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant near-aristocracy, centered in the Northeast and exercising power across generations. This was never an absolute barrier to others’ rising, of course, but it was a major obstacle.

     The claim to power of this WASP elite, like that of most modern aristocracies, was a mix of heritage and rearing. They possessed their privileges by virtue of their birth, but they were raised and educated in ways intended to prepare them for responsibility and authority. And they were—at least in principle though in many cases also in practice—expected to subject themselves to a code of behavior, a commitment to public service, a degree of personal reticence, a regard for the rules of fair play, and a sense of responsibility that was rooted in the implicit recognition that their power was an inherited privilege, not an earned achievement.

     This is a reasonably fair and accurate characterization of the elites of the early Twentieth Century. The sons of men who had risen strictly through commerce could elect some form of public service to make their own marks on the nation. Not all of them entered government. Many established themselves as what we would now style “public intellectuals:” persons of repute who declaimed, usually through the pages of a newspaper or other print organ, on the issues of the day. It was the case both here and in England, from which most such persons traced their heritage.

     The multiplication of colleges and universities throughout that century naturally gave rise to a stratification into more and less prestigious levels. The “Ivy League” stood at the pinnacle of the pyramid; the mostly young state universities were at the bottom; many other, mostly private institutions stood between them. The distinction attached to graduates from the upper levels of that pyramid greased their paths into the niches they sought, whether in government, opinion journalism, or at the universities themselves. Persons with degrees from less prestigious universities had to make do with the leavings.

     As the universities steadily came under the control of successive generations of their own graduates and the trend Arthur Herzog noted toward educational vapidity advanced, the college degree became commodified: a purchasable credential of a significance no greater than its price. The more prestigious ones, of course, commanded the highest prices. The recent purchased-admissions pseudo-scandal involving a couple of minor actresses should be viewed in that light. The universities, of course, would prefer otherwise.


     Today’s “elite” has little in common with the elite of a century past. A good working definition of the new “elite” would be “those who matter to those who think they matter.” In particular, the ethic of genuine public service, understood as a responsibility to provide others with something of real value to them, is largely absent. But they wave their credentials at every opportunity. This is particularly noteworthy in the American political class.

     Consider in this connection the members of “Conservatism, Inc.:” the bastion of “NeverTrump” pseudo-conservatives such as Bill Kristol and Max Boot. To such persons, the all-important priority is to maintain their status in the “elite.” Regardless of the height of their perches or the bluster with which they orate from them, the majority of them have little of value to offer anyone. But they can brandish all the best credentials: all the right associations and associates. “They matter to those who think they matter.”

     Merit is not a term I would associate with such persons. Certified “elitists,” yes; persons with important knowledge and insights they will share with others, no. The time has come for this recognition to emerge from our national subconscious and be made explicit.

Engineering third-world immigration.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

This Might Work to Stop the TN Teachers Strike

I'm seeing a lot of push for the TN teachers to strike - it would be an illegal strike.

The threat is that the school boards couldn't replace ALL the teachers.

Well, wrong.

They could tap into an existing virtual K12 school, or allow parents to choose either a charter school, a virtual school, or home schooling.

Average teachers salaries - range of $41K to $55K - likely location dependent.

For a taxpaying worker with a high school diploma, that's a LOT more that he makes.

Yes, teachers are important (I'm a retired teacher, and many in my family are teachers). However, those salaries should be proportional to the average income and cost of living in that location. This is not the best time to hit the school boards up for a raise.

A Garland Of Hyperlinks For Your Tuesday

     (With brief yet pithy commentary from Your Curmudgeon.)


1. What Is A Religion, Really?

     Bookworm has some thoughts, and as usual they’re eminently worth your time. As it’s a deeply personal reflection that segues into a philosophical discussion of religion as a category of mentation, I’ll forbear to quote from it. But I will quote from an old essay of mine:

     A religion must have two components:
  • A mythos: The supernatural “backstory” the believer accepts as the higher aspect of existence.
  • An ethos: What the believer must and must not do.

     Each of these aspects of a religion can be found, separately, in other creeds. For example, the Army has a definite ethos, but there’s no mythos behind it, merely the certainty that your platoon sergeant will kick your ass into next week if you should “sin.” Conversely, addicts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer adhere to a mythos about vampirism, demons, and the soul, but without an associated ethos to govern their behavior.

     No creed that lacks either component will qualify.


2. The “Gig” Economy.

     “Diversify your boss!” Scott Adams has exhorted us. He has a point. Job security is mostly a laugh line these days, and the prudent American wage earner does his best to stay braced for unpleasant developments. Many employers prefer this state of affairs as well…until they learn that But one of the consequences is a complete absence of “employee” loyalty:

     For 21st-century Mafia managers, old-country recruits “have what they believe are the old values, because the American-born kids don’t have the right stuff anymore,” that official said.

     The problem in the US may be a lack of loyalty and dearth of talent in a diminished Mafia (paywall), David Shapiro, a distinguished lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former FBI agent, who also spoke to NBC News, suggested.

     “There was always the assumption that there was command and control in the mob families, like our American corporations,” he said. “But I don’t think that applies as much anymore. Today the business units are more fluid. The cells are smaller. There is not that loyalty to the boss and the underboss that there used to be.”

     “You know the gig economy?” he also said. “Well, we’ve got a gig Mafia now.”

     (In the Mr. Spock voice:) Fascinating.


3. Alms-Giving.

     From the Gospel According To Matthew:

     Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. [Matthew 6:1-4]

     But from the Democrats’ own Harold Stassen clone, Joseph Biden:

     Biden claims to be a Catholic. Pull the other one; it’s got bells on.


4. A Detectable Asymmetry.

     Concerning the Christchurch massacre, the lamentably quiet Emperor Misha notes:

     If the brutal mass murder of 50 innocent Muslim men, women and children is newsworthy, and it most certainly IS, then one has to ask oneself why the brutal mass murder of more than 120 innocent Christian men, women and children ISN’T.

     Is it because Christian lives don’t matter? Is it because the US media don’t expect any better from the “filthy wogs?” Is it because it’s not nearly as easy to use mass murder of Christians as a political tool?

     Or is it because there have been so many Islam-powered, Muslim-perpetrated atrocities that they’re no longer considered newsworthy?


5. “They’re All Thieves” Dept.

     And all that matters is whether they think they can get away with it:

     Elizabeth Warren a.k.a. Fauxcahontas is a candidate for the presidency. Remember that as the campaign season progresses.


6. “They’re All Murderers” Dept.

     And they no longer try to hide it:

     America Rising PAC posted a video of presidential candidate Robert O’Rourke responding to a question of whether or not he supported unnecessary third-trimester abortions.

     America Rising seems to think he dodged the question, but he didn’t. He was clear when he said it should be up to the woman. That brought raucous cheers from the Democrat audience.

     Pace Hayek, the worst really do get on top. They strive to, anyway.


7. There Is No Longer A Republican Party As We’ve Been Led To Understand It:

     Here’s the demonstration:

     The GOP is already moving in to curb the President’s emergency powers, The Hill reports. These are the same people who didn’t do it while Barack Obama was President or when George Bush was President.

     The President overrode the Senate and House votes for a bill to stop his emergency powers to build a border wall. They are now looking for a way to make it easier to stop his use of emergency powers.

     The Republican senators believe Congress gave the President too much power in the past. Only Congress should appropriate funds, which is true.

     The thing of it is, they already appropriated money for the wall. It’s been approved. They just didn’t follow through at the time.

     They believe the Act needs to be reformed and that does appear to be true, but couldn’t they support building the wall?

     No, they couldn’t. It would have gone against the wishes of the donor class, and they can’t have that. So much for platform statements in favor of a fortified border and strengthened immigration system.


8. Wisdom Won For Us By The Agonies Of Others.

     Kurt Schlichter is here to tell you. Here’s the Sunday punch:

     The fact is that an armed citizenry is a true backstop to tyranny, an obstacle to total control over society by a small elite that seeks unbridled power. Will we ever have to use it? We hope not, but think of it as a fire extinguisher for fascism – better to have it lying around than not to have it when you need it. This, along with the joy of rubbing your noses in the fact that they can strip you of the dignity that comes with being a citizen and not a subject, is the real reason the urban coastal left is so hellbent on taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding Americans and leaving guns in the hands of people they control. Remember, the left is pro-guns. It’s just anti-you having guns too.

     The existence of murderous creeps, combined with a rising crime rate and the media beaming us scenes of oppression in Venezuela, where those dummies compounded their foolishness in electing socialists by allowing themselves to be disarmed, reinforce the imperative of American citizens remaining armed and unruly.

     Tyrants always disarm their victims-to-be. It’s the first and most reliable sign of a tyrant. Draw your own conclusions.


9. “Learn To Code.”

     Charlie Martin, a software engineer “by trade,” has some thoughts about it:

     [T]here is a whole body of knowledge that isn't necessarily mathematical (even though it is built on mathematics) and that isn't learned through multiple choice exams. It's not what programming is based on, it's what programmers do. It's a skill. It's a craft.

     Like plumbing and welding, it's a trade.

     I don't think a lot of people recognize this. Computer Science departments dare not: why, then they'd stop being an academic topic, they'd be a trade school. Shame too great to be borne.

     I’m of two minds about this. The other occupations normally referred to as “the trades” are essentially matters of learned procedure practiced on a defined domain of problems. In that regard, computer programming is like them. And of course, the software specialist does “trade” his expertise for payment of some sort. (Very few of us are “old money.”) But there’s a significant distinction that remains to be noted and appreciated: the software specialist must learn and comprehend his customer’s needs, even if the customer doesn’t grasp them himself.

     I’ve dealt with innumerable customers who could not articulate what they wanted in a coherent fashion. All they knew was that they wanted “a system” that would somehow improve their operations and reduce their burdens. That’s all very well, but the software specialist has to reduce that to comprehensible requirements that can then become procedures embedded in software – and not just any software, these days, as it must be comfortably usable by cretins workers uninterested in the intricacies behind the pretty screens they confront.

     The utterance I’ve heard most frequently after presenting a customer with what I thought he needed: “That’s not what I need.” And they’ve nearly always been right. I just had to draw their true needs and desires out of them item by painful item, as they’ve struggled to articulate them.

     In that regard, software is a vocation, a bit like the priesthood. A priest must often drag a penitent’s sins out of him one by one, amid much backing, filling, and qualification. At least, I have no better explanation for why they always come out of the confessional looking as if they’ve just moved sixteen tons.


     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. It’s time for me to put what’s left of my nose against what’s left of the grindstone. Enjoy your Tuesday.

On Irishness, and How Those Immigrants Differed

Some say the Irish are different - and, in some respects, they were - and are.

Like most immigrants, the Newcomers to America were clannish (for those younger readers, that refers to the extended family grouping - denoted by the color and plaid of their kilts - known as a Clan). When they first started arriving - around the 1830s - they weren't desperately poor and starving. They did what most immigrants do, working at various jobs, gaining experience, and putting away money. The indentured servitude system was over, apprenticeships were available, and the economy was growing.

Some of the more educated men drifted into better jobs: clerks, railroad workers, cops. The Irish had a leg up on some jobs, as they were relatively fluent in English, had lived under an English system of law, and were culturally more of a fit than other immigrants. They wormed their way into government.

The later arrivals, from 1845-1849, were desperate. They'd had a terrible existence even before the Famine.
The French sociologist, Gustave de Beaumont, visited Ireland in 1835 and wrote: "I have seen the Indian in his forests, and the Negro in his chains, and thought, as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not then know the condition of unfortunate Ireland...In all countries, more or less, paupers may be discovered; but an entire nation of paupers is what was never seen until it was shown in Ireland."
The English despised the Irish. They thought them superstitious, dirty, stupid, given to sloth and debauchery, and generally a lesser form of human being. Despite many centuries of trying, the Irish persisted in remaining Catholic, rather than converting to the English Church. They fought back against armed men, used sneaky means, such as organizing boycotts, to evade the King's laws, and generally refused to cooperate in the pacification of Ireland.

Now, to be fair, the English reformers wanted to "de-Irish" the rebellious land for some worthy reasons. They believed that conversion, use of the English language, change of their schools, and other efforts would actually improve their lives. And, the changes might have, in a purely economic sense.

But, the changed people would no longer be Irish. Their culture would have changed beyond recognition.

In America, the Irish were permitted to be Irish. They generally gave up speaking Gaelic over time, as their familiarity with the dominant language of English enabled them to push ahead of the other immigrants, whose command of English lagged behind. They had few barriers to practicing their faith, living as they wished, and creating little enclaves within the cities where Irish ruled.

Because the earliest arrivals preceded the Famine, the cities had influential people in power postions who helped the newcomers acclimate to the new land. When war broke out - the Mexican-American war - the Irish were there, in large numbers.

Same with the Civil War - the Irish joined up in numbers large enough to justify their own units. After the war, the pressure in the cities was relieved by the Westward Expansion.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Love, Dating, And Romance, 2019 Edition

     No, I don’t “date.” The C.S.O. would take it amiss. But I do keep a finger on the pulse of the dating-and-mating scene. I know a fair number of unmated persons who, for whatever reason, like to lament their singlehood and its persistence to me. It helps me to emit the appropriate “Uh-huh” and “Mmm” sounds if I know broadly what they’re talking about.

     My sense of the romantic rodeo is that it’s tougher than ever just now, both for reasons that have obtained for several decades and for certain new ones. Here’s the essence of Aaron “Captain Capitalism” Clarey’s take on it:

     I roughly estimate less than 5% of the female population are conditioned AND CAPABLE of being a wife and mother, which falls incredibly short of the 82% of men who wish to marry. Ergo, you can have your Ford in any color you want, as long as it's black. And most men today can have a wife as long as she's an NPC leftist.

     But did you ever wonder how women became so standardized, common, democrat, and (ultimately) boring? Did you ever wonder why there's truly NO diversity in thought, life-goals, and life-philosophy among young women? Did you ever wonder why ALL of them want a career, an education, a party-lifestyle, shoes, handbags, and none of them want a husband or children? Well, allow me to ask you a question:

     How many trillions did you spend training and programming women to be good wives and mothers?

     The reason I ask this question is because while it seems absurd (why would you spend any resources programming women to be anything?), trillions have, in fact, been spent on programming, training, and ultimately indoctrinating women into becoming NPC leftists….if you look at the feminist indoctrination young girls received in K-College to put their careers above all else, you can in an accounting-like-sense attribute at least a couple trillion towards a clear and obvious intent to make women want to be wage-slaves, while belittling, even criminalizing being a wife and a mother.

     This is devastating, but it’s also perfectly accurate. The media that are principally consumed by women have been denigrating the womanly virtues with such ferocity that a young woman can hardly escape from the educational mill capable of enumerating them.

     I’ve just indulged in a bit of crimespeak here, as I’m sure you’re aware. To suggest that there are specific virtues appropriate to a woman because she’s a woman is near to a hangin’ offense these days. Yet it is so. Just as the sexes have different strengths and weaknesses, they have different virtues. The virtues are a consequence of those strengths and weaknesses.

     My gentle Readers can review the manly virtues at leisure. Today I’ve set aside for the ones a marriage-and-family-minded man must seek: the womanly ones.

     There follow three reprints from the late, lamented Eternity Road.


Love in The Time of Combat, Part 1:

     The typical American woman, of whatever age, height, weight, race, color, creed, or walk of life, is a profoundly confused creature. This is inescapable; most women don't have the intellectual horsepower or the strength of character to deal with the barrage of conflicting dictates and desiderata to which being an American woman in the year of Our Lord 2005 subjects her. Therefore, the typical American woman lives a life marked most plainly by incoherence and bafflement. In short, she's out at sea, with no buoys nor moorings in sight.

     Women would like to blame this on men, but it's at least as much their own fault.

     When a creature rebels against that which has been pre-programmed into it by genetics and reinforced by natural selection, it will be badly stressed. If the rebellion is conscious, some of the stress will be intellectual and emotional. Here is the foundation for American female malaise, and for its low-grade hostility toward American manhood.

     The syndrome manifests itself most visibly in single women, whether never married or divorced. Married women, if they're to make a go of married life, learn to thrust it out of their conscious minds, to bury it as deeply in their subconsciouses as possible. Those whose marriages succeed have done an adequate job of interring it; it's a necessary condition. Those whose marriages fail have often allowed it to rise again. Like the South, this is a cause lost well in advance.

#

     Our typical case should have a name; let's call her Mary Smith. For starters, let's imagine her to be single, self-supporting, and living on her own rather than with a husband, lover, or any other variation on that theme. Let's have a run-through of typical Mary's typical day.

     She rises early, as do most working Americans, and heads for the shower to bathe and groom herself. What to wear? Well, dress codes, except for a very few customer-contact-intensive businesses, are all but extinct, so she has her choice. But here's where her conflicts begin.

     Glamorous clothes tend to be less comfortable than not-so-glamorous ones, but there's that nice Ben over in Marketing, whose eye she thinks she might have caught. She'd like to explore that possibility further, and dressing attractively might help. But it might also bring more of the attentions of Larry, her pantingly overeager coworker in Accounting, and that she definitely doesn't want. Also, her work involves some to-and-fro in a largish building, so form-flattering clothes and high heels have some practical negatives attached.

     But she's thirty-two, unmarried and childless. Her job, her fitness regimen, maintaining her apartment, and practicing her pastimes have sharply limited her social opportunities. If she doesn't snag a mate at work, what's she supposed to do? Sleep alone forever? The bars are no help, and don't even think about the lonelyhearts' ads.

     She decides one way or the other, agonizes in the same fashion over makeup and perfume, and heads out to her car to drive to work.

     Oh damn, the car won't start. It won't even crank; she's left the driver's door slightly ajar, and the cabin lights have drained the battery. Well, at least it isn't raining.

     She unearths the battery charger her most recent boyfriend urged her to buy, and pops the hood on her car. There's the battery, those are the terminals: red for positive, black for negative, just like the color codings on the charger leads. Just clip red to red and black to black, plug the charger into the extension cord, and plug the extension cord into the wall. What could be simpler?

     In prying the protective cover back from the red terminal, her grip slips and her hand flies into the propped-open hood. She bruises her hand and breaks a nail.

     Crap! That manicure was only five days old. Money is tight; she hasn't the thirty bucks she'd need to get her nails redone. To say nothing of the swelling, which looks as if it might blossom into an impressive bruise. She'll just have to hope no one notices. She certainly hopes Ben and Larry don't notice, albeit for different reasons. Unfortunately, some of her cattier coworkers are odds-on to spot it and mention it in public. Competition never ends in the single career woman's world.

     Thirty minutes later, the car starts, and she's off to the Place of Little Appreciation where she earns her daily bread. Traffic is no worse than usual, but the usual is quite bad enough. Unfortunately, the alternative is moving into the city, or the quasi-urban belt around it, and that's something she just can't afford. The combination of traffic delays and her automotive mishaps puts her forty-five minutes late in getting to her desk. Heads come up as her coworkers note her tardy arrival. She doesn't see The Boss, but he'll know as well. He has his ways.

     Work is, well, work. There's too much of it, and little of it is rewarding apart from the salary she gets for it. She keeps to her desk, straining to maintain her concentration as the life of the office swirls around her. Some of the girls are sporting flattering new outfits and hairdos. Suzie, that transparent trollop, came to work in a tight silk blouse, skin-tight leather toreador pants and five-inch sling-back stilettos. All morning she parades around as if demanding admiration -- and she gets it. Mary can't help but notice the comments: barely polite lust from the men, unconcealed resentment from the women. Suzie bathes in it. Mary wonders about her own relatively conservative habits of dress, and whether she'll have to modify them to have a chance with Ben, or with any of the office's other single men. Whatever else she might say about Suzie, at least the girl is never alone.

     To avoid having to stay too late, Mary declines an invitation to join her coworkers for lunch and works through her lunch hour, munching a vending-machine sandwich as she ages trial balances and projects exposure ratios.

     The afternoon is just more of the same. Ben doesn't stop by to chat her up, but then, neither does Larry. At least no one comments on her bruised hand or her broken nail...in her hearing.

     By the time Mary's ready to leave, it's dark out, and there's no one else on her floor. She's moderately frightened of the dark, as most women are, but she'll be damned rather than ask the male security guard to escort her through the parking garage. However, she makes it to her car without incident, gets in, and heads off.

     Let's see: is this a Yoga night? No, not on Wednesday. But she's low on several staples, so she can't go directly home. Damn. A stop at the supermarket means she'll miss tonight's episode of Survivor: Buried Alive In A Manila Landfill. Well, it's that or not eat.

     At home, she discovers that her cat has knocked over her amaryllis plants and peed into the soil. Damn cat. She ponders yet again whether having something to love is worth all this trouble.

     There's a message on her answering machine. Her mother wants her to come home for dinner on Sunday. Except when the invitation is for a holiday, that's a sign of trouble. Trouble meaning a set-up with one of her friends' unmarried relatives. They're all so dull, so earnest, and so conventional. Granted, they're all employed, they all make decent livings, and she can't imagine any of them being actively dangerous, but where's the thrill in that? They'd all want her to give up her job and stay at home with the kids, and what's a woman without a job? Just a homemaker. Mom is much too ardent for grandkids. She's being a Thirties throwback with these introductions. Mary can do her own penis-hunting. She decides not to return the call.

     Half an hour later, the groceries are away, the mess has been cleaned up, and Mary is perched on her sofa before the television, her Caesar salad made from packaged, pre-shredded lettuce and packaged, pre-cooked chicken strips, dressed with bottled raspberry vinaigrette from a socially conscious maker, nestled in her lap. There she'll while away the two hours she has available for leisure and personal maintenance.

     The shows are all about glamorous single people with glamorous lives, pursuing and being pursued by other glamorous single people with glamorous lives. They seem to spend all their money, time, and energy on sex and clothing. It's unrealistic, two-dimensional, even bizarre to imagine that these are representations of real lives she's seeing...but the faces, bodies and clothes are so beautiful, the settings are so appealing, and the lifestyle so magnetic...

     That's what you want, whispers a tiny voice in her backbrain. She's heard that voice many times over the years. Indeed, what she sees on the screen is a refined, upscale version of the life she lives...set out to live. Maybe she hasn't gotten anywhere lately, but there's still time.

     At ten o'clock, she shuts off the TV, undresses, removes her makeup, and slides into bed. She has no alternatives: she has to get up at six to make it to work on time, after all. She notices on her nightstand the book she'd been reading, but that she'd neglected for three nights running: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. Lots of good stuff in there about men's oppression of women through fashion and popular standards of attractiveness. It has to go back to the library by the weekend, so she'd better get cracking.

     Mary's too tired to read with attention. A page or two is all she can manage. But the book stirs her thoughts and pulls her away from the threshold of sleep. Even after she's masturbated, she can't relax enough. Men are exploitative, dictatorial thugs. Why should a woman have to primp and preen and decorate herself to catch a man's eye? Why should she have to strain to be attractive and desirable to fit into the happenin' world? Why should it make a difference whether she looks young, fit, and vital, or like a puddle of dissolving flesh? Doesn't she have a right to a passionate, exciting marriage, children, and relief from all this pressure? Doesn't she have a right to be happy?

     Where are her answers to come from?

     Mary marks her place, puts down her book, and turns out the light. She falls asleep with tears leaking from the corners of her eyes.

#

     Mary Smith might be a composite, but she's important nonetheless. She's an American Everywoman: determined to Have It All, clueless as to what that really means, bombarded with conflicting desires and enticements, and seriously underequipped for the life she's set out to live. All women are.

     The array of opportunities and enticements offered by the Official Portrait of the Glamorous Life contains a number of important contradictions. Mary simply cannot Have It All. The parts conflict. Until consciously admitted, the conflicts seriously strain a woman's psyche. In particular, she becomes incapable of a relaxed relationship with the opposite sex.

     That's bad enough, but there's worse. Much worse. The emphasis on sexual desirability trumpeted by the entertainment media and our popular tastemakers applies almost solely to women's presentation of themselves to men. Men's appearances, within a relatively generous envelope, don't matter that much to women. Women sense that men are far more relaxed about their dress and grooming than they, and they resent it. Why us? seems the most common reaction, as they do all they can to stoke the mostly-visually-triggered fires of men's lust.

     The ongoing myth about male oppression of women and the continuing insistence that a woman must maximize her sexual allure to get and keep a man's love are mutually immiscible. These things require that a woman simultaneously believe that a man is an elusive prize to be won only by daunting, unceasing effort and self-discipline, and an enemy, sworn to break his woman to his will, who should be fought with every weapon to hand.

     Torn by these conflicting dictates, many American women -- millions, if not tens of millions -- go quietly, undetectably insane. They simply haven't got either the intelligence or the emotional fortitude to work their way through to the truth. Worse yet, their strongest traditional bastions in times of trial, family and faith, have been excoriated by the very taste-and-opinion-formers who promote the conflict from which they suffer. The family is a source of traditional wisdom about a life well lived. It's so five minutes ago! And you'll never see our Mary at church on Sunday. It's unfashionable. The characters on television don't go to church! Besides, one of her coworkers might see her. She wouldn't want that. She might get a reputation as...as...as one of those Christians.

     We're creating a womenfolk peppered with lunatics and child murderesses.


Love in the Time of Combat, Part 2:

     It is possible to possess a huge number of great gifts -- good looks, high intelligence, affluence, social grace, the ability to put 9 out of 10 rounds through the X-ring at 100 yards -- and still be unable to mate happily and securely. There are factors in the mix that no individual, male or female, can control. Moreover, they dwarf the things one can control, utterly and irrevocably. Therefore, it's-just-not-fair plaints about one's romantic difficulties or defeats are pointless; indeed, they indicate an inability to grasp the essential nature of reality.

     What are these uncontrollable factors before which even the most gifted of us are powerless? Other individuals.

#

     If you want to guarantee yourself a life of helpless frustration in everything you do, here's the shortest route:

When other people's desires clash with yours, simply declare them to be wrong.

     If we omit the special case of hatred -- the desire that harm come to an innocent person -- there's no such thing as a "wrong" desire. In the nature of things, there cannot be. There are wrong actions, of course, but simply to want is above all judgments but God's -- and lately He's been silent on the subject.

     Inasmuch as courtship is a two-person pursuit, which can be ended by either party with no need for the other's consent, it should be obvious that to keep the thing going requires each participant to accommodate the other's desires. Partnerships of any sort require some of this, of course, but on the field of romance it's the sole, indispensable glue that holds two people together.

     To love is to risk. To love is to drop one's general defenses and let another inside, and to extend the borders of self to enfold that other person, despite any flaws or maladies he might carry. To love is to incorporate the well-being of another into one's own highest priorities, even though one can never protect another half as well as oneself.

     To love is to grow.

     The emotional crescendo of love involves the dissolution of "I" and "thou" into "we." Your priorities gradually merge into hers, and hers into yours. At its completion, on essential matters at least, neither of you could fail to want what the other wants, nor could either of you fail to detest what the other detests. Each ego is not submerged but enlarged by the incorporation of the other.

     This approach to love has some important corollaries. First, when love fails, it's because that merger has come undone. The egos begin to see themselves as distinct from one another once more. When clashes of desire arise, the partners can't quite remember how they melded them long before. Drivers that propelled the original coalescence appear no longer to function. Which is why one should practice well the habits of love -- the "doing," apart from the "feeling" -- to sustain him through his rough patches. We all have them, even the strongest, wisest, and most passionate of us.

     But second, and more important to the unmated, there are persons with whom we are irremediably incompatible. It doesn't matter how strong the sexual attraction is, if one or more of her essential desires strikes you as loathsome. And of course the converse is true as well.

     Many persons will split hairs over this, will claim that "you can get used to almost anything," and that a sufficiently strong willed commitment will trump even the deepest revulsions. To which, if I may borrow a page from the oeuvre of my colleague the Curmudgeon Emeritus, I must reply:

BALDERDASH!

     An essential desire is one that is "of the essence;" that is, it's a value integral to the nature and identity of the person who holds it. If you're to merge with her, it must become one of your essential desires as well -- and if it really, truly repels you, how on Earth will you manage that?

     There might be exceptions. For example, you might harbor strong but irrational prejudices against the sorts of persons she prefers as friends. Perhaps you could unlearn them. Alternatively, if they really are lowlife scum, perhaps, in the light of your company, she'll come to see them for what they are. But if she's a militant atheist and you're a devout Catholic, or she's unalterably averse to having children and they're your fondest wish, or she's a passionate socialist and you're a passionate libertarian, forget it! You have no practical chance of making it work.

     Compatibility of essential desires is not sufficient, but it is necessary. I speak from experience.

#

     Over the millennia, men have remained more or less constant in what we require from a generic mate:

  • Sex,
  • A calm and stable home,
  • A modicum of emotional support in our times of trial,
  • Space and time for our autonomous pursuits.

     Because our essential desires are few, and because some of them don't demand that others share them or participate in them, as a rule we're fairly easy to please. We have a few "thou shalt nots" -- keep your cotton-pickin' hands off the remote control, babe -- but apart from the desires enumerated above, we have virtually no "thou shalts." You want your own friends, ladies? Your own involvements? A career outside the home? Fine, as long as none of it compromises the home itself.

     Because we're so easy to please, and because ours is the sex upon which the romantic / sexual initiative has been bestowed by Nature, most of the human race eventually marries. Granted, a lot of modern marriages don't last, but at least men still set forth to get mated, and we almost all succeed at that much.

     At this point, I'd like to digress a bit to cover a contentious topic that badly needs elucidation: sexual allure.

     Do men prefer certain female somatotypes? Yes, we do. So do women. Moreover, they're the same ones. They're not the ones sported by supermodels. Women that fragile, that dependent on clothing and makeup to attain desirability, and whose bodies are that likely to be ravaged by the passage of years into something stooped and desiccated are not appealing as long-term partners. The mind boggles at the image of one of those praying-mantis figures sporting the bulge of a full-term pregnancy. How could such a woman survive, unless she did what Victoria's Secret icon Tyra Banks did: cast off the emaciated look demanded by the fashion photographers and allow her body to develop?

     With regard to glamor and its appurtenances, these have their place. A woman who knows how to use them, and uses them when appropriate, can add sparkle to her life, and to her husband's eyes as well. But a sensible man knows better than to expect the missus to make dinner in movie-star makeup, a Givenchy gown, and five-inch heels. At least, not every night.

     The bottom line is simple:

  1. One must have a basic, if unarticulated, understanding of love to love successfully.
  2. One must somehow find a mate whose essential desires are compatible with one's own.
  3. One must learn to do love as well as feel love.

     Everything else is peripheral, marginal, or superficial. Great loves and enduring families do not form around couples united mainly by their fanaticism for Toad the Wet Sprocket, the New York Rangers, or pepperoni pizza. They don't form between persons who badly want to get laid and find one another sufficiently un-repulsive to do it with. They don't form between persons obsessed with themselves and their extrinsic goals in business or commerce. They form when a man and a woman with compatible values allow each other's desires to become equal in importance to their own, and commit themselves to the sort of life and the sort of self-discipline that implies.

     There's a word I've been hesitating to use, in part because it's so seldom mentioned in connection with love and romance, and in part because I use it so often. But I can resist it no longer; it's too critical to this whole matter of allowing one's beloved's desires to enter the space where he keeps his own, and to blend with them inseparably.

     The word is humility.

     The humble man accepts that certain things are beyond his control. Among other things, it requires that he accept what he is by virtue of being a man -- or a woman. Among the many things over which we have no control, our natures as men and women must surely be numbered. Were we to accept ourselves as what God made us, and our opposites in their turn, a tremendous fraction of the romantic / sexual malaise that stifles and hampers relations between the sexes would be dissipated at once.

     Apparently this is easier said than done.


Love in the time of Combat, Part 3:

     Single Americans, of either sex, have never before in history been as free to do as they please with their bodies and their leisure time. Relations between the sexes have never before admitted so many alternative arrangements. The broadening of the mores has applied to both sexes equally: where it was once commonplace for men to "get away cleanly with behavior for which women would be roundly denounced, today's sexual ethos no longer discriminates between them. What has happened to the old notion that, were women as "free" as men to do as they please, all the courtship and mating differences between the sexes would attenuate to nothing? Why are they exchanging patterns instead?

     It's possible that no such exchange is actually in progress: that to generalize from the cited article, plus conformant anecdotal evidence from one's personal knowledge, would lead one astray. But it's also possible that the article has identified a genuine trend. How can we know?

     For the moment, I would posit that we can't. The reported excesses of a segment of American women might or might not be representative of the whole; similarly the seeming "stodgification" of American men. Far more data, more broadly gathered and over a longer span of time, would be required to reach any firm conclusions. Given only what's been reported in articles such as the above, we can't know.

     But that is precisely what makes this the time in which to contemplate what sort of results we'd prefer, and what sort of changes we should make in the instruction we give our children.

     For some thirty-plus years, American children have been bathed in suggestions, intimations, and proclamations that there's no downside to commitment-free physical indulgences of any sort. The mantra of the prevailing gospel has been "If it feels good, do it." It would take an unusual degree of credulity to maintain that all those exhortations can have no relation to the changes that followed them:

  • 1,500,000 abortions every year;
  • Three out of every ten babies born out of wedlock;
  • A divorce rate nearly half of the marriage rate;
  • Surveys that put the percent of adulterous spouses at over 30%;
  • An unprecedented number of "blended families" ("lumpy families," in Maggie Gallagher's phrase) composed of children from two or more sundered marriages;
  • A rising degree of marital unhappiness, as evidenced not merely by the divorce rate, but also by the great popularity of marital counselors and institutions that vend services for the relief of marital distress.
  • Last but not least, the steady advance of the average age at first marriage:
    • Median age of bride in 1970: 20.8 years.
    • Median age of bride in 2003: 25.3 years.
    • Median age of groom in 1970: 23.2 years.
    • Median age of groom in 2003: 27.1 years.

     (NOTE: It's usually the case that one who presents statistics such as these will then cry for government action of some sort. I have no such intention.)

     The case could be made that the above trends demonstrate a widening rift between the sexes: increasing distrust, increasing unease about the risks of long-term bonding, decreasing effort going to the maintenance of the marital bond, and decreasing interest in progeny. What interests me most particularly is the possibility that changes in female behavior arising from the new, heavily promoted sexual hedonism, have stimulated the changes in men's attitudes toward women, matrimony, and family-making.

     Correlation is not cause. Correlations merely suggest an avenue for further investigation. But the correlations presented here, coupled to the sociological trends suggested by the cited article, are food for thought, particularly to him who wonders at fiftyish divorcees who grocery-shop in tube tops and Daisy Dukes, while single men in their forties seek lesbians to be host mothers to their as-yet-unconceived children.


     Here endeth the reprints. The essays cited were first posted in the Year of Our Lord 2005. Things are worse today.

     Could it be any clearer that, as Aaron Clarey has said, the educational system and other cultural messages have warped American women away from the virtues American men seek in a wife-to-be – the womanly virtues? And is there anyone who would dispute that the attitude expressed below:

When other people's desires clash with yours, simply declare them to be wrong.

     …is a shortcut to romantic failure?

     Despite the campaign against them – no less vicious or sustained than the campaign against the womanly virtues – the manly virtues have succeeded in resisting extinction. The womanly virtues totter at the edge of the abyss. It’s rare even to hear them spoken of, other than in terms of condemnation. Instead what we get are “Girls, you can have it all” exhortations, when anyone even superficially conversant with the trends of the last fifty years must know that that’s a lie. The consequences have been dire…and the worst of them might not be here yet.

     The worst of them, I fear, will be the ones that stem from political differences.

     There’s already been a lot of chatter about the agonies involved in dating someone whose politics one finds to be toxic. What makes it worse than ever is the success of the Left, once again through its media annices, at promoting the notion that everything is political. This has seeped into romantic undertakings as well.

     Sharp political differences are difficult enough to bear when they occur between friends of the same sex. Romantic matches of the James Carville / Mary Matalin variety are as rare as snow in the Sahara. Most of us are unable to bear up under constant political assault. We retreat; we pull into our shells; we say “fuck off” to the haranguers and give our attention to matters we can address in peace and privacy. And the Left’s greatest successes have been among women. By contradiction this points at the opposed womanly virtue: devotion to (and skill at) the maintenance of a calm, peaceful home. Such a home is the reverse of politicized.


     We’re more than five thousand words from where we’ve begun. There might be more to say, but this probably isn’t the place for it. The womanly virtues:

  • Domestic skills;
  • Skill at community relations;
  • Nurturance of husband and children;
  • The maintenance of a calm and peaceful home;

     …are seriously endangered. Not just in these United States, as many men whose careers compel them to roam the globe have reported.

     Whether the First World will retreat from the abyss by recovering and reasserting them, or disappear into it for the abandonment of them, remains to be seen. Several nations have already passed a demographic point of no return. Consider Japan.

     Have a nice day.