Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unopened Presents

Quite a lot of us have gotten into the habit of asking those for whom we're getting a gift, "What would you like?" Time was, the only thing more gauche than asking that question was answering it, other than with one of the perennially acceptable evasions: "That you be happy" and "World peace." These days, it's as commonplace as teenage acne. Worse, the asker almost always responds by presenting the item requested. It leads me to wonder why the giver would bother to wrap such a gift.

Some of us still like to receive presents whose nature we won't know until we've unwrapped them. Besides that, there's a certain charm in knowing you're the one who'll open the package.

Why yes, this is about sex. However did you guess?

* * * * * * * * * *
By way of the redoubtable InstaPundit comes this gem of myopia and misandry:
In a recent interview on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” 29-year-old American hurdler Lolo Jones told Mary Carillo that Olympic qualifying is nowhere near as difficult as her struggle to remain a virgin until marriage. Jones said she publicized her vow of chastity because she wants other girls who have made the same decision to know that they are not alone and that it’s not easy.

“I just don’t believe in it.” Jones said. “It’s just a gift I want to give my husband. But please understand this journey has been hard. There’s virgins out there and I want to let them know that it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life; harder than training for the Olympics; harder than graduating from college has been to stay a virgin before marriage. I’ve been tempted, I’ve had plenty of opportunities.”

My personal philosophy in life is to live and let live. So if Jones’ decision is right for her, then not only do I say more power to her, but I am impressed that she has neither succumbed to the pressure nor the temptation.

However, my respect for Jones’ decision has one big “but,” and that is because of one little sentence: “It’s just a gift I want to give my husband.”

Virginity, by definition, is simply the state of a person who has not engaged in sexual intercourse. But we all know that there are many more implications to it than that, especially for women. Most traditional societies, cultures and religions place a high value on a woman’s virginity aka her chastity. So much so that it is tightly bound to her worth and her perceived self-worth.

With this archaic notion of “value” placed on a woman’s virginity comes the belief that exclusive rights to her womb should be saved for the highest bidder; that it is a commodity to be bought (in most cases by her husband) and sold (usually by her father). And if she gives it away or, God forbid, it is taken from her, she loses value as a woman and as a human being.

If Jones had said “I want to share my first experience with a man who loves me and is committed to me; and who I love and am committed to,” I would’ve tipped my hat to her and been on my merrily unchaste way. If she had said, “I’m doing this for myself, because I only want to be with one man,” I would’ve thought, “Do your thing, sister.”

Instead, she perpetuated the vulgar notion that a woman’s virginity is proprietary. And she did it in the spirit of setting a good example.

Had enough? I certainly hope so; the rest is even worse.

Columnist Alexandra Gekas certainly took a lot of words to suffix her opening "live and let live" declaration with "but only if you do it for my preferred reasons."

This is typical of the gender-war feminist in our time. The promotion of the "I am woman, hear me roar, and you scuzzy men have no place in my decision making" pseudo-ethic is the number-one priority on their hate parade. They're becoming a wee bit more adroit about sliding around their contempt for men, and for women who still admire and respect men, but the sentiments among what my friend Duyen calls "the angry ugly-girl annex of the Left" are what they've always been.

I have no problem with a woman who comes to her marital bed having already experienced sex. (Yes, I know that puts me at odds with the teachings of my Church, but the Church has been wrong before. We'll settle it at the Last Judgment.) But I also believe that a woman who seeks a particular sort of mate, and who is sensible of what such a man values, is serving both of them by attempting to meet those values. A suitor who wants a virginal bride has just as much right to his preferences as any woman has to hers -- including a woman who's preserving her virginity to attract such a man.

So what really animates the ranting of columnist Gekas above? Quite simply, an iron determination that no woman shall forgo any kind or degree of self-indulgence for a man's sake. This is the pure quill, the 200-proof self-absorbed misandrist pseudo-feminism that's attempted to displace equity feminism for several decades.

I would cross the street to avoid such a woman, no matter how physically attractive she is.

* * * * * * * * * *

I admire Lolo Jones even more for her "extra" reason for remaining a virgin -- that "other girls who have made the same decision to know that they are not alone and that it’s not easy" -- than for her core reason. The entire edifice of women's publications has striven fanatically to reduce sex to a mere vehicle for pleasure. Yet some of us -- many of us, actually -- still consider the sex act more important for its emotional implications than for its immediate satisfactions. As I wrote long ago, giving yourself physically to another person requires that you lower your defenses completely. You must accept a degree of vulnerability that exists elsewhere only for a soldier under live fire. In doing so, you make a statement to your lover of a uniquely touching kind: "I trust you with everything I am and everything I have."

A woman who presents her husband with her unopened body on their marriage bed couples that statement to another: "I have never trusted anyone else this much. You, and my feelings for you, are unprecedented."

Only a complete churl could fail to be pierced through the heart by such a declaration.

* * * * * * * * * *

The most important lesson any decent man can absorb about the gender-war feminist mindset is that it regards him as unimportant at best, the enemy at worst. A woman in thrall to that mindset cannot commit herself to a man in an unconditional, un-retractable way. Should she ever see him as an impediment to something she wants, his priority in her considerations will be nil; she will address him solely as an obstacle. Columnists such as Alexandra Gekas will be her sources for counsel in getting what she wants, and for solace when she fails to get it.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage Part 2: Why License Marriage?

As my Gentle Readers might have suspected, my in-box has been filled with all manner of invective over the previous essay. (It's always amusing to get so much vituperative correspondence here, seeing that my average daily traffic is so low.) Among the most important rational questions any of them raised was why should government be involved with marriage at all?

At last! A non-trivial question worthy of a thinking mind!


Marriage licensure in the United States is only about 150 years old. It finds some of its roots in the social turmoil that followed the Civil War, when the defeated Southern states were striving to retain as much of their antebellum culture and legal edifice as possible. Licensure in those places and times aimed at the prevention of miscegenation: the marriage of persons of two different races.

We have a different view of such things today, of course, but it must, in all candor, be noted that Nineteenth Century attitudes toward miscegenation were almost uniformly negative, even damning. Nearly everyone in the Western world believed firmly in the immiscibility of the races. That the races did interbreed was a shameful semi-open secret, one whose Caucasian practitioners were careful to conceal.

It wasn't until the famous Loving v. Virginia case reached the Supreme Court in 1967 that any counterstroke to state laws against miscegenation was to occur. The decision struck down Virginia's assertion that its laws against racial intermarriage were a reserved power under the Tenth Amendment, simultaneously nullifying all similar laws that remained on the books in other states. Thus, the original rationale for state licensure of marriage fell roughly a century after the inception of the practice.

But that was the original rationale, not the only one.


In the erection of a polity, those subject to it must necessarily allow that the State will possess a conceded power to coerce them in defined ways. The most important of those ways is in the enforcement of justice: for a State to have any degree of authority at all, "public justice" must replace "private justice."

I don't claim that this is necessarily a positive evolution, just that it's inherent in the nature of government. The sole power universally conceded to a State is the power to defend its subjects and territory against other States. This implies the power to punish treason, which drags behind it a public-justice structure and a corpus of penal law, whatever its actual content might be.

But once a system of public justice has been created, it will automatically subsume contract enforcement. The enforcement of the terms of a contract will always involve the imposition of duties or payments upon an unwilling obligor: the use of coercive force to compel the performance duties or payments which would otherwise not occur. The enforcement of the marriage contract, with its three-millennium-long freight of associated obligations, is a part of what follows.

The most important aspect of the marriage contract today is what attends its dissolution: recognized liberation of the parties; agreements upon the division of property; alimony; child custody and child support. Before State licensure, these were matters to be worked out by the divorcing couple, usually under supervision by their neighbors and their church. Public justice moves that duty of supervision into the State's realm. (Of course, today's unbelievably permissive divorce culture has radically increased State activity in that domain, but that's a subject for another screed.)

The implication of any demand that marriage be privatized -- i.e., that the requirement for a marriage license be repealed -- is that the State should no longer have any role in the enforcement of a marital contract. Should a couple decide to formalize its obligations by a privately-drawn contract, the State's justice system would still have a rationale for involvement, but in the antebellum style of marriage that created no such document, it would have no place:

  • Bigamy laws would become unenforceable.
  • The obligations of marriage would become a matter of opinion.
  • Divorce and its repercussions would need to be settled by private means.
  • Questions of parentage, legitimacy, and inheritance would be similarly reserved to private mechanisms.

Mind you, this is not unthinkable; American society got along quite well in such a fashion before marriage licensure. But convincing Americans generally that returning to such a regime would be workable, much less desirable, would be quite an effort.


To sum up: We expect the State to see to certain duties, on the assumption that "it's better that way" -- that private mechanisms would produce less desirable results. State supervision of the marital contract -- most importantly, the consequences of its dissolution -- is a regular facet of life today. He who argues for the privatization of marriage must expect to confront the objections suggested by this discussion. They aren't insuperable, even given today's much less serious attitudes toward the binding nature of marriage, but the convictions of men are seldom malleable by reason alone.

Indeed, he who argues for the privatization of marriage is within a hair of arguing for the complete elimination of the State -- also not unthinkable, but a very tough row to hoe. So be circumspect about the battles you pick!

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Same-Sex Marriage

A few days ago, the nation was briefly agog over Barack Hussein Obama’s announcement that his position on same-sex marriage had "evolved," and that he now advocates State recognition of such unions as marriages on an equal basis with conventional heterosexual marriages. There was a lot of talk about it at the time: from the Right, which was scornful of this convenient (and financially productive) "evolution;" and from the Left, which did a lot of hand-wringing over what effect this sop to the homosexual-activist community would have on the critical Negro vote. Subsequent events have largely taken the heat off the subject, but discussions of it and expressions of opinion have not, and probably never will.

The most interesting relevant phenomenon since then concerns this brief video, originally posted at YouTube, in which teenager Madeleine McAulay expressed her differences with the president's "evolution," and in a most eloquent manner. The video was an instant sensation, recording over 20,000 playings in a single day...before YouTube banned it as "hate speech."

I exhort all Gentle Readers to watch the video and scrutinize it for the least iota of "hate speech." Then reflect on the sort of fear that animates YouTube's management, and what propels it. For it is well documented that a posted video only attracts YouTube's wrath when the item in question expresses a conservative or traditionalist opinion.

Miss McAulay's opinions are founded on her understanding of the Bible. If I had to take a wild, swinging guess, she might have had this passage from the Gospels in mind:

Now when Jesus finished these sayings, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan River. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Then some Pharisees came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matthew 19:1-6]

For a sincere Christian, certain of the authority of Christ, that settles the matter. But then again, there are Americans who aren't Christians or religionists of any sort, and these have asked for secular reasons why homosexual couples should not be allowed to marry on an equal basis with heterosexual couples. Inasmuch as the United States is Constitutionally a secular polity, and freedom of conscience is guaranteed by the First Amendment, the question is worth exploring.


First, let's be clear about the subject matter. Homosexual couples can "marry" in any state in the Union. They merely have to find a sect which performs such "marriages" and enlist its assistance. There are many such sects, including a few that call themselves Christian despite considerable divergences from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The subject of controversy is whether state governments should "redefine" marriage as the union of any two persons minded to "marry" one another, and treat such "marriages" as equivalent to conventional heterosexual marriages.

The affirmative proposition rests on assumptions that aren't always clearly stated:

  • That governments have the authority to perform such a redefinition;
  • That marriage has no purposes of importance that would be cross-cut by such a redefinition.

(Any talk of a "right to marry" should be snorted away ab initio, contemptuously and with prejudice. There cannot be a "right" to do anything that requires the assent and cooperation of another person. Persons who fail to understand this are in serious need of remedial education. There are many such persons in America today; they call themselves "liberals" or "progressives," in further demonstration of their ignorance.)

My contention is that the assumptions above are both false:

  • Governments cannot redefine marriage: they lack both the authority and the power to do so;
  • Marriage has two purposes of overriding importance, which gave rise to the institution long before governments came to exist. They would not be served, and might be disserved, by the treatment of same-sex unions as "marriages."

Grab a fresh cup of coffee and settle back; this could be a long one.


The written history of Mankind goes back some three to six thousand years, depending on whose reckoning we use. In either case, the institution of marriage predates the emergence of government by at least a millennium. In all records of the pre-government era, marriage is described as a union between one man and one woman. Most notably, marriage was taken very seriously in the pre-government era. Its properties were universally agreed upon; its solemnity was seriously enforced.

(No doubt this will come as a surprise to any leftists reading Liberty's Torch; such persons treat government as the be-all and end-all of goodness, and the ultimate definer thereof. Nevertheless, enforced standards of conduct do predate the State. They gave rise to government, not the other way around.)

A colleague of mine has called marriage a "social institution." This is a neat encapsulation of the institution and its genesis. For until the most recent 150 years, it was never the case that the State proclaims who is married or to whom, except in a handful primitive theocracies that conflated temporal and sacred authority. That evaluation has always been the province of one's neighbors.

To be blunt, you're married if your neighbors deem you married; if not, not.

This "social institution" arose because of the asymmetries in power and capacity among men, women, and minor children. Men of good will have always deemed it evil to abuse those weaker than oneself -- those who have no defense against such abuse. The imbalances among the aforementioned three categories are significant enough that a counterbalancing pressure is required to prevent them from tearing large holes in the fabric of human society:

  1. Men are naturally superior to women in overall economic capacity.
  2. Women are vulnerable to impregnation, whereas men are not.
  3. Women are naturally superior to men at child-rearing, but while occupied by it are largely helpless to support themselves or their kids.
  4. Until very recently, a man who suspected that his wife had conceived a child adulterously had no recourse but to accept the child as his obligation, equally to his other children. Even today, many men are commanded by the family courts to accept full moral and financial responsibility for such a child.

These are well-established facts. They're statistical facts, to be sure, applicable to the sexes as aggregates and capable of being violated by exceptional individuals; at the tail ends of the male and female distributions, the statistical pattern will not always hold. Nevertheless, they are facts. They arise from the laws of nature and five thousand centuries of human evolution. You can only reject them by denying both natural law and the history of the human race as we know it. (That won't stop the committed "progressive," of course.)

Marriage as we know it arose specifically to protect men and women from one another's abuse, and minor children from both. Adultery, which is and has always been understood as the violation of the marital vow of sexual fidelity, was condemned for that reason. The obligation of a man to provide materially for his wife and children -- and only for his wife and children -- is similarly founded. Long before there were governments, stable communities enforced the obligations of marriage rigidly, even ruthlessly; that's whence the term "shotgun marriage" derives. For if the community should fail to enforce those norms, obligations that properly belong to the husband or wife would fall upon unconsenting others: their neighbors, who, as good people, would be unwilling to see women and children starve to death.

If it were not for the facts cited above, marriage would not have arisen. It would have been as pointless as the friendship ring.


It should be clear from the above that same-sex liaisons produce none of the asymmetries that gave rise to marriage:

  • A homosexual couple is nominally composed of two persons of comparable economic capacity.
  • Neither of the partners can impregnate the other in a natural fashion.
  • The acquisition of children by such a couple requires third-party assistance and / or technological means.
  • Were either member of a homosexual couple to engender a child, it would be clear that his same-sex partner had nothing to do with it, and therefore could not, absent deliberate contractual provisions to the contrary, be deemed responsible for that child's support and upbringing.

What could be less relevant to such a couple than marriage? But of course, this compels us to ask why homosexual activists have insisted so stridently upon the redefinition of marriage to include their liaisons. What is it about marriage that makes the term "marriage" itself, shorn of all the institution's rationales, so important to them?

This is where it gets interesting, Gentle Reader. I have no doubt that some persons will derive offense from what follows. That's their problem -- and ours, if we permit it to warp our opinions and our society.

Western societies are founded on the marital bond. A community seldom admits single adults to its ranks on an equal basis with married persons. The married are regarded as being more stably joined to the community; they're deemed to have a stake in the protection of its quality and the defense of its norms. That stake will be larger for couples with minor children, but even childless marrieds are viewed as full partners in the social order. Singletons, in contrast, exhibit a far greater tendency to transience, and therefore less of an interest in the defense of the community, its members, and its ways.

It's no exaggeration to state that conventional families -- husband, wife, and minor children if any -- are the atomic elements of a stable society. I treated with this phenomenon in fictional form in my novel Which Art In Hope. In discussing Twenty-First Century America's plague of abortions and hostility to "large" families, a sociologist in a Stateless society commented thus:

"The structure of that society was far distant from ours. Extended families and clans such as we admire were very few. Even intact nuclear families had become exceptional. Many children never knew their fathers. Many couples consciously averted the possibility of conception their whole lives long. A great many women regarded childbearing and child rearing, not as a fulfillment and an honor to be cherished, but as costs, nuisances, and impediments to commercial achievement, or artistic expression, or social access.

"My Bakunin colleague would say that the typical family was limiting its total economic exposure by having very few children or none, since the expense of child-rearing in a heavily regulated State exceeds any other expense by a considerable margin. Parents wanted their children to 'have it all,' as the saying went, but with such a large State burden, which not only reduced the family's effective earnings but dramatically increased the price of every good for sale, most couples couldn't square that desire with a family of Hope's typical size.

"I see things differently. 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."

I will stand on that assessment of Americans' attitude toward family and children, our youth-and-sex-obsessed popular culture, and the reasons why our society is fragmenting with ever increasing speed. If I am correct, then homosexual activists' demand to be considered "married" is mainly a demand for community inclusion on an equal basis with heterosexual couples; it has nothing to do with "love," or a "right to marry," or hospital visitation rights (a particularly absurd thrust), or any of the other claims made by the promoters of same-sex marriage.

But note: as I said earlier, there are sects, including some that call themselves Christian, that will "marry" same-sex couples. Why is this not good enough for the promoters of homosexual marriage?

Of course! A sect cannot compel acceptance under threat of punishment. A sect cannot prosecute hotels and motels, for example, for refusing to accept a homosexual couple as "married." A sect cannot insist that employers treat a same-sex couple as married for benefits and pension rights. And of course, a sect cannot compel other sects to "marry" same-sex couples, or to treat such couples and their "marriages" as indistinguishable from heterosexual couples and their marriages.

Despite decades of gradual acceptance of homosexuals as being the legal equals of heterosexuals, and a considerable body of anti-discrimination law aimed at employers and "public accommodations," many homosexuals still don't feel they've received their due from the rest of society. The activists regard marriage as the key to whatever social doors are still locked against them.

If that requires that the State usurp authority over an institution that predates the State by at least a millennium, so be it. If it requires that the institution of marriage be stripped of all its objective purposes, so be it. If it requires the imposition of still more coercion upon persons secure in their beliefs who only want to be left alone to choose their own associates, so be it.

But will it be thus? Will any degree of coercion compel heterosexuals to regard homosexuals as validly married? Or will State interference in the oldest known secular institution merely evoke a tide of resentment toward those who have called it down upon us?


Note that in the above arguments I make no mention of religious teachings or principles. Note also that I have eschewed discussion of such tangential subjects as any correlations that might exist between the normalization of homosexual marriage and any social pathology. Though these things are interesting in themselves, they are unnecessary for the construction of reasoning sufficient to invalidate the notion of State-recognized same-sex marriage.

This won't put an end to homosexual activists' screeching over the subject, of course. But I challenge anyone, of whatever political or religious persuasion, to counter the above argument with an equally rational approach to marriage that validates State recognition of "marriages" between persons of the same sex.

Frankly, I don't think it can be done. Consider the gauntlet thrown. To those who choose to pick it up, be advised that I will insist that you identify yourself unambiguously. I will spare no one's feelings in my replies; I've had enough of leftist idiocy and misuse of the English language. The farce of whiny demands for "rights" no one can possibly possess has gone on long enough.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Now that the Republican nomination for president is a foregone conclusion, talk has turned to that most baffling and irritating of America's Constitutional mechanisms: the Electoral College. Pundits have been orating about which states will and which ones won't; about the defense of this and the balance in that; about whether this recall effort or that by-election could serve as a harbinger of November's tidings.

Beware. There are hazards here. Remember 2000.

It cannot be denied that a few thousand votes mistakenly -- supposedly -- cast for Pat Buchanan, and the inability of a larger group of Floridians to cope with the state's butterfly ballot ultimately decided the presidential contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Neither can it be denied that Gore had a substantial margin over Bush in the nationwide popular vote. One state, whose governor was at that time a brother to one of the candidates, decided a presidential contest by a margin of 534 popular votes and two Electoral College votes.

The Democrats have not forgotten this. Neither should we.

The Electoral College remains a better mechanism than a nationwide popular vote, for the same reasons as those articulated by the Framers of the Constitution. However, it's vulnerable to two tactics that get an insufficient amount of attention. Given that one side in the upcoming contest faces the possibility, foretold by the mid-term elections of 2010, of a smashing popular repudiation of its candidates and policies, we may expect that side to exploit those tactics to the hilt.

The first such tactic, owing to the weakness of our voter-validation scheme, is the relocation of votes -- and possibly voters -- among the states to reach the critical 270-vote threshold. This is far easier than anyone thinks, especially given the Democrats' Secretary of State project, whose rewards to the Left have yet to be fully felt. The coastal states, which regularly and reliably vote Democrat, are oversupplied with voters, many of whom would be willing to "donate" their votes to states less well supplied with Democrat partisans. States with weak voter-verification mechanisms could well find their local tallies determined by out-of-state voters, with the connivance of their own secretaries of state.

The second such tactic, irregularly practiced for decades, is the direct subornation of electors: threats, bribes, and other inducements to vote against the candidate to whom they're pledged. Left-wing commentator Bob Beckel openly admitted to attempting to sway the EC votes of Republican electors in 2000, appealing to the nationwide popular vote as his rationale. What was attempted openly was no doubt reinforced by covert maneuverings, though the evidence has been disputed ever since the millennial contest.

In short: By all means, pay proper attention to the Electoral College calculus. The candidates certainly will! But also pay attention to the ways in which the EC could be used against an honest assessment of the nation's preference, according to the Constitutional design. There are probably several more tactics than the two noted here. The Left, ever jealous of political power and unwilling to surrender it, will use any it thinks are efficacious enough to risk.

Friday, May 25, 2012


One of the saddest moments in recent history -- for me, at least -- came last July, when the Shuttle fleet was retired for good. Granted that it was technologically obsolete and had killed fourteen people with its fragility. From that moment to this one, the United States has had no ability to put astronauts in orbit without assistance from Russia.

We had ceded the high ground to the rest of the world. Should they decide to deny us the use of their facilities, we would have no recourse.

The "high ground" is the trump card in all sorts of conflicts. It's not always obvious what constitutes the "high ground" in a given situation. Whatever it is, it bestows an enduring advantage over all other contestants upon its possessor. Geostrategically, the high ground of today is low Earth orbit. The nation that commands low Earth orbit can impose its will on the rest of the world.

There was a glimmer of light earlier today. SpaceX's Dragon capsule, the first spacecraft to be designed, built, and launched into orbit entirely by a private corporation, mated to the International Space Station in an exemplary display of precision engineering. The capsule was, of course, unmanned; the days when we would put a man into an untested spacecraft and hope for the best are well behind us. However, Elon Musk, SpaceX's CEO and principal visionary, expects that successors to the Dragon will be flying men into space in a few years' time.

Unless an entirely unheralded new spacecraft should make its bow before that, American astronauts will continue riding into orbit in Russian craft launched from the Baikonur astrodrome...and paying exorbitant taxi fees for the privilege.

This must change. Must. If it doesn't, the United States will find itself subordinated to one of the other spacefaring powers sooner or later. As world conditions stand, probably sooner.

Putting men into ballistic capsules and propelling them into space with rockets over which they have essentially no control is a bad idea, as badly obsolete as the Shuttles were. The ballistic capsule as a human transport is simply too limiting for a spacefaring future. We need reusable spacecraft for other reasons, too. I hope someone out there -- preferably someone animated by good wholesome capitalistic profit motives -- is working on a space plane. More, I hope he can resist the pressure that will undoubtedly be put on him to make it into a ramshackle delivery truck -- the sort of crossbred design that ultimately doomed the Shuttles.

America cannot remain pre-eminent among the nations if it remains dependent on other nations to reach the high ground. Let private enterprise do the job, by all means, but keep in mind the military aspects of the need as well. Like it or not, there will eventually be weapons in space. There will be combat in Earth orbit, possibly over those aforementioned weapons. The nation with the better systems for deployment and recovery from Earth orbit, both of men and materiel, will be Terra's top dog.

Americans might not want to impose ourselves and our ways on other nations, but we'd like it even less were other nations to impose themselves and their ways on us. Capabilities of that sort have a habit of being used.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Now I Can Die In Peace Dept.

I showed this headline:

The wait is over: MIT researchers solve the ketchup problem my wife, who immediately shrugged and said, "Well, isn't that why we send our kids to MIT?" But when I told her about this one:

Ass rape leads to multiple homicide

...she guffawed and then asked, "Which Islamic hellhole?"

"That's the news, good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow." -- Jane Curtin, from back when Saturday Night Live was moderately funny.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

King Cash

There are mornings when every columnist must feel he faces an embarrassment of riches. For me, this is one such.

Telling of his recent sailing vacation around the coasts of Italy, Michael Ledeen reports thus:

The spring weather has been unusually unpleasant, which no doubt accounts for at least part of the problem, but this lovely part of the world has long attracted lots of visitors regardless of the temperature. Most of the merchants I talked to blame the Treasury Police, whose numbers have increased as the tourists’ have dropped. The Guardia di Finanza have huge powers to snoop, and they have taken to boarding yachts and asking all manner of questions of those on board: Do you own this? If not, from whom did you rent it? How much are you paying? How are you paying? Which credit card did you use (remember, you cannot pay in cash for anything more than a thousand euros)? And so forth. So when I hear European leaders carry on about stimulating “growth,” I’m not very sympathetic. All over the continent, state organizations like the Guardia di Finanza are showing their citizens that the most important thing is tax collection, not freedom to create new wealth.

You hear stories every day that show how avid our governments are to get their hands on our money. I was talking to an American friend who married an Italian about 40 years ago, stayed married, got dual citizenship, and is now being asked by the Italian government to tell all about what she owns in the U.S., and by the American government to tell all about what she owns in Italy. We all know this is part of the scheme to get her money into the government coffers. Two coffers in this case.

But then, Italy is famous for the adversary relationship between its government and its people. Its "invisible towns," where citizens and companies labor and prosper in artful concealment from government recognition and attention, have been irregularly famous. The citizenry's tolerance of organized crime is part and parcel of the opposition between Italian Man and the Italian State.

In George Will's most recent column, we read of the following:

Russ Caswell, 68, is bewildered: “What country are we in?” He and his wife, Pat, are ensnared in a Kafkaesque nightmare unfolding in Orwellian language. This town’s police department is conniving with the federal government to circumvent Massachusetts law — which is less permissive than federal law — to seize his livelihood and retirement asset. In the lawsuit titled United States of America v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, the government is suing an inanimate object, the motel Caswell’s father built in 1955. The U.S. Department of Justice intends to seize it, sell it for perhaps $1.5 million and give up to 80 percent of that to the Tewksbury Police Department, whose budget is just $5.5 million. The Caswells have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime.

Radley Balko has another tidbit along these lines:

When the Brown County, Wis., Drug Task Force arrested her son Joel last February, Beverly Greer started piecing together his bail. She used part of her disability payment and her tax return. Joel Greer’s wife also chipped in, as did his brother and two sisters. On Feb. 29, a judge set Greer’s bail at $7,500, and his mother called the Brown County jail to see where and how she could get him out. “The police specifically told us to bring cash,” Greer says. “Not a cashier’s check or a credit card. They said cash.” So Greer and her family visited a series of ATMs, and on March 1, she brought the money to the jail, thinking she’d be taking Joel Greer home. But she left without her money, or her son. Instead jail officials called in the same Drug Task Force that arrested Greer. A drug-sniffing dog inspected the Greers’ cash, and about a half-hour later, Beverly Greer said, a police officer told her the dog had alerted to the presence of narcotics on the bills — and that the police department would be confiscating the bail money.

Finally, we have this outrageous report from Tennessee:

"You live in the United States, you think you have rights -- and apparently you don't," said George Reby.

As a professional insurance adjuster, Reby spends a lot of time traveling from state to state. But it was on a trip to a conference in Nashville last January that he got a real education in Tennessee justice.

"I never had any clue that they thought they could take my money legally," Reby added. "I didn't do anything wrong."

Reby was driving down Interstate 40, heading west through Putnam County, when he was stopped for speeding.

A Monterey police officer wanted to know if he was carrying any large amounts of cash. "I said, 'Around $20,000,'" he recalled. "Then, at the point, he said, 'Do you mind if I search your vehicle?' I said, 'No, I don't mind.' I certainly didn't feel I was doing anything wrong. It was my money."

That's when Officer Larry Bates confiscated the cash based on his suspicion that it was drug money.

"Why didn't you arrest him?" we asked Bates.

"Because he hadn't committed a criminal [act]," the officer answered.

Truly, "policing for profit" has made it to the shores of these United States.

* * *

The evidence is more than adequate to conclude firmly that America is in a state of civil war. The combatants are its government(s) and its citizenry -- the State on one side, and the people on the other.

Governments are inherently rapacious entities. Their hunger for power and money knows no natural bounds. That's because they're staffed and operated by people -- the sort of people who like the idea of using State power to seize others' property and deprive them of their freedom.

A naive notion has been making the rounds for quite some time: that if Americans would just wake up to what's being done to us by our own governments, we'd "turn the rascals out" and put honest men in their place. In a sense, that's what we strive to do every two years at the ballot box.

It hasn't worked out terribly well, has it?

The Founding Fathers believed that Americans, aware of their sovereignty and the importance of the franchise, would elevate only men of high principles and good character to public office. To hedge against the possibility that they were wrong about that, they built numerous "checks and balances" into the republican system: organizational and procedural brakes that could reasonably be expected to slow a possible descent into tyranny. But the efficacy of those brakes, tragically, depended on the willingness of the men at the levers to invoke them. Once they'd been corrupted, and a system installed to prevent them from being replaced by anyone not similarly minded, the "checks and balances" scheme failed of its objectives.

When one faces a predatory entity which one cannot deter or reason with, only two alternatives remain: fight and flight. Americans by and large are not prepared, materially or emotionally, to fight the State that oppresses us. Neither do we put much stock in a change of the hegemony from Left to Right. So we seek to elude it...evade it...hide from it. We strive to "go underground:" to conceal our doings to the maximum possible extent. In that undertaking, the critical material commodity, the sine qua non that makes enterprise, commerce, and cooperation possible, is cash. Cash, as they say, is king.

And so the State seeks to eliminate cash.

* * *

Cash, functionally speaking, is any commodity which need not rely upon a government to achieve acceptance as a medium of exchange. There have been many forms of cash throughout history. In America alone, tobacco, buckskins, liquor, seed corn, copper, silver, and gold have been widely used as cash. Note the fundamental similarity among these things: They all have value apart from their acceptance as a medium of exchange.

Today we use the term "cash" loosely, mainly to refer to Federal Reserve Notes bearing the legend "legal tender." But Federal Reserve Notes are not cash functionally. If the legal tender law had never been passed, no one would have accepted irredeemable paper notes on an equal basis with the precious metals. Americans had to be forced by a Federal edict to surrender their gold and accept paper in exchange. (Prying the silver out of our hands took longer, but was easier of accomplishment.)

All the same, say "cash" to a hundred persons and ninety or more of them will assume you mean Federal Reserve Notes. Most people who demand cash for their wares are perfectly happy to accept those notes. Therefore, please include them in the enveloping category of cash while reading what follows.

* * *

You're probably aware that cash deposits and withdrawals at the bank, over a certain threshold, are reported to the Internal Revenue Service. The original threshold was $10,000. Recently it was lowered to $5,000. The rationale, of course, is the War on Terror. You're probably aware that the civil asset forfeiture laws, under which three of the horror stories in the first segment were perpetrated, once required that the person whose assets were seized had to be (at minimum) accused of a drug-related crime. No longer: now all that's required is "suspicion." And you're probably aware that over 90% of the Federal Reserve Notes in circulation today test positive for traces of cocaine. Not too hard to derive "suspicion" from a $20 with a trace of coke on it, eh?

It's getting ever harder, less private, and more hazardous to deal in Federal Reserve Notes. We're being unsubtly nudged toward the use of noncash techniques -- mainly bank instruments and Electronic Funds Transfers -- for our routine dealings. Inasmuch as that concentrates the State's targets for snooping and predation, it suits our political masters very well.

But cash alternatives remain. Many barter clubs have moved toward the use of privately coined (i.e., non-U.S. Mint) silver rounds as a medium of exchange. Very large transactions are sometimes conducted in gold. And of course, "traditional" barter, in which goods or services are exchanged directly for one another, remains a viable technique.

Don't think our political masters are unaware of this. Don't think they're not planning a counterstroke. Cash is their enemy. The rapid replacement of older Federal Reserve Notes with notes bearing magnetically encoded strips -- strips that can be re-encoded as they pass through a metering instrument, thus recording their histories internally for later perusal -- should make clear how badly they want to eliminate cash.

I have yet to hear of a motorist being stopped and deprived of his gold or silver rounds, but I don't expect to have to wait much longer.

* * *

Under current circumstances, the advantage of the free citizen, if he has one, lies in his mobility and maneuverability. Governments cannot act as swiftly as individuals and small associations thereof. But they can sense a threat to their agendas and act against it; therefore, the free citizen determined to remain free must always be flexed to move in a direction the State has not anticipated.

The peril of cash is a paramount subject for such flexibility.

Do not expect that much more time will pass before Washington writes "laws" constraining the possession and sale of the precious metals. Indeed, should Obama hold the White House in November, that time could be upon us quite soon. Those of us who hold significant portions of our savings in those media must be flexed and ready to elude any tightening of the State's grip.

Today cash is king...and forever uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. But there's another saying of some importance, particularly to a society of well-armed men whose patience with the State's voracity is almost gone:

"So you plan to shoot at the King? A word of advice: Don't miss." -- Author unknown.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Then and Now Updated

This is probably one of the earliest recorded "Oath Keepers" from 71 years ago

A young German soldier (pictured center left, without helmet) refuses to participate in the execution of 16 Yugoslav civilians. He positioned himself within the group and was executed for disobeying his NCO. He choose death instead of killing hopeless civilians. Josef Schulz, 1941

Do you Understand Yet?


Uncivil Disturbance

"People ask me where I get my jokes. I just watch Congress and report the facts." - Will Rogers

A perspective slightly broader than Congress is good for a few laughs, too. And just now we have one unfolding before our eyes.

Barack Hussein Obama recently decided to assail his putative opponent in November by making disparaging references and ads about Mitt Romney’s years at Bain Capital, a private-equity firm at which Romney was a principal for some years. Those thrusts have backfired on Obama; indeed, dramatically so. The extent of the self-inflicted damage has caused The Won to backpedal in a uniquely humiliating way. Now he's insisting that his beef with Romney and Bain is that the claim that they created jobs is deceitful – that they’re solely about profit.

It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to see through that fallacy. In a capitalist economy, you can’t make a profit without selling a product that people find valuable and want to buy -- and that's impossible unless you first contrive to make that product. But who will make it? Either you, or others you employ for the purpose. Ergo: jobs!

Obama's Ubergaffe calls to mind an anecdote from the career of the late, great Milton Friedman. He was in China, observing some State-mandated project, and noted that hundreds of workers were laboring away with shovels when there was a powered backhoe available. The official supervising him replied that the workers had been instructed to use shovels to "maximize the number of jobs." In that case, Friedman replied, "why not have them use spoons?"

It gets worse: Two modestly prominent black Democrats -- unusually sensible for black Democrats -- have castigated Obama for his ads! Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, and Harold Ford Jr., formerly a Congressman from Tennessee, have both defended private capital and its role in our economy, in direct rebukes to Obama. GAHH! Rebellion in the ranks! Democrats differing with The Won -- and black Democrats at that! Sound the general alarm!

It's not unusual for persons within the same party to differ on something like this...but it is unusual for two black Democrats of modest stature to court the wrath of the Obamunist machine. Chicago tactics didn't get their reputation for being conciliatory, you know.

"I never met a man I didn't like," said Will Rogers. I wonder what he'd think of Barack Hussein Obama.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has been demonstrating impressive campaign chops. It appears that he's managed to placate a substantial fraction of the "conservative base" of the GOP, which for a long time was cool or worse toward him. He's also rising in general polling about personal likability, which, though it might not have a direct influence on the balloting, can't be a bad thing. The contest in November won't be a runaway for either contender.

But the truly interesting developments are taking place on the Left. Obama and his lieutenants are struggling to distance themselves from the Occupy crowd. They're having their own troubles with the party's far-left "base," which is unhappy that the regime hasn't pressed for even more nationalizations and redistributive programs. There's some contention over Joseph Biden as the VP candidate for November; his many verbal missteps have a few prominent Democrats openly talking about bumping him from the ticket. And now there are rumbles from American Negroes, who are overwhelmingly Christian and serious about it, and who are baffled by The Won's embrace of same-sex marriage. That's 13% of the voting public -- a bloc which has gone 90% or further for the Democrats in recent elections.

Heh, heh, heh!

"I belong to no organized political party...I'm a Democrat." -- Will Rogers

Monday, May 21, 2012

What It Means To Be At War

To those who have written to ask why it's not a good time for an armed uprising:

    "What is combat, Christine?"
    "What is combat? How does it differ from other kinds of human interaction?"
    "Well, you're trying to hurt somebody."
    Louis cocked an eyebrow. "You're never trying to hurt somebody under other circumstances?"
    She thought it over. "Well, yeah."
    "So what's the difference?"
    "Well, you have to have an opponent."
    He waited in silence.
    "And he has to be trying to stop you."
    "From doing what?"
    "Whatever you're trying to do!" She was growing impatient.
    "And what are the rules?"
    "Um, do there have to be any?"
    He shook his head. "There have to be none."
    "You heard me. If it's combat, it has no rules, only objectives. That's really the defining characteristic."
    He went to a wooden rack across from his punching bag and lifted a large, gently curved sword from it. She had never seen him handle the thing before, and had wondered why he had it.
    "This is a medieval saber. A thousand years ago, it was one of the most potent weapons a man could carry. Moreover, possession was restricted by law. You had to be a member of the ruling class to own one legally."
    He swung the sword in a complex pattern that defeated her attempt to track it.
    "You can kill with one of these, if you have enough strength and skill. Of course, it's a little conspicuous, and it takes a lot more effort to use than most people would guess. Would you want to have to tote one around?"
    "And why is that?" He laid the tip of the saber in his left hand and held out the sword as if offering it to her.
    "Because there's better available. We have guns now."
    He nodded. "Yes, we do. And for quite a wide range of combat situations, a gun is a better weapon than a sword. In fact, there are a number of cases where bare hands are better than a sword, but that's beside the point for now. If you were in a combat situation, where you had this and your opponent had a gun, what could you do about it?"
    She looked hard at the old weapon. It had a certain antique beauty and simplicity, but she couldn't imagine ever wanting to wield it.
    "Not a lot. Try to take the gun away from him, maybe?"
    Louis snorted. "I hope you never have to do that, Chris. The odds are going to be on his side. But one thing you wouldn't do is to shout, 'Hey, that's not fair.' Right?"
    She laughed. "Silly man!"
    His face went dark. "I'm trying to make a very important point here, Chris. Combat means no rules. What he has is what you have to deal with, period. If you can't face his size, his skills, or his armament, you'd better be prepared to run."
    "Well, you know I can do that."
    He glowered. "I said prepared to run." His voice had acquired an edge she hadn't heard before. "Emotionally. You don't ever duke it out with someone who's got the edge. A lot of guys have been killed by pride and unwillingness to admit they're facing superior force. Chris, this might be the most important thing anyone will ever tell you. Do you understand?"

(From On Broken Wings)

If you think you're ready for that, you're almost certainly mistaken.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Naked Face Of The Enemy

I've considered long and hard. I've agonized. I've cast about for alternatives until all the skin has worn off my fingers. I've repeatedly refused to accept the implications of what my senses repeatedly told me. I simply can't do it any longer. The evidence is overwhelming.

America is currently in a state of civil war, and has been for some time.

It's not a conventional, easily recognized, flying-lead sort of war. That's what makes it so deadly. That's why the Right must win it. Should we lose, the carnage will be unimaginable.

I can practically hear what you're thinking: "Porretto has finally flipped his wig." Perhaps I have. That's always a possibility. As the saying goes, there's a fine line between genius and madness. But perhaps I'm right...and perhaps you've inhabited the same State of Denial in which I hid from reality for so very long.

We shall see.

* * *

I have several citations this morning. They don't stand alone. Indeed, none of them, in the absence of much other evidence would be significant at all. That's part of what makes the ongoing hostilities so lethal: it takes a perspective both wide and deep to grasp the pattern.

The first is from the esteemed Mark Alger:

...Police and Fire are the primary fiduciary responsibilities of government. They should be budgeted first and cut last.

An official was quoted as saying that the citizens he'd talked to didn't want to raise taxes to "pay for the fire department." How much you wanna bet he never heard any of them say, "... until you quit wasting taxpayer money on massage parlors and sweetheart deals for your brother-in-law."


Step into my office. I've just heard about this bridge...

Here lately, Teh Won has been on the stump (How is it proper for a government official to campaign for particular policies?) trying to persuade us that, if Congress doesn't raise the debt limit (How does that make sense?), we're going to lose [insert laundry list of sacred cows]. Bridges, roads, armies -- the latter day version of teachers, cops, firemen.

Saying nothing about bank bailouts, green energy boondoggles, union payoffs, CAGW scams, ACORN, and the rest of the treasury-looting going on...


No. What we want to do is bit-flip the selected duties of government which we are going to fund. We're going to start with your charter, fiduciary responsibilities, like protect the borders, run the courts, maintain the roads, deliver the mail. The rest of that crap can hold a bake sale.

The tactic employed by the unnamed official (and by Barack Hussein Obama) has a long and dishonorable history. It's called the Washington Monument Defense. It hearkens back to an incident in which, when Congress dared to reduce the rate of increase of the budget for the operation of the District of Columbia, the city's lower levels of government immediately retaliated by closing down Washington's most popular tourist attractions -- that is, by denying non-residents access to the only features of the city they really enjoy and value. The outcry was so sharp that Congress immediately restored the full amount the bureaucracy had demanded.

Like other items with the WMD acronym, the Washington Monument Defense can bring an opponent to heel with no more than a suggestion. Consider, if you will, this passage from William E. Simon's A Time For Truth, about the 1975-1976 New York City budget crisis:

When informed that cuts in jobs and in pay were inevitable, the municipal unions ran amok. It is only fair to say that Mayor Beame's cuts in the summer of 1975, under the supervision of the Municipal Assistance Corporation (MAC), were deliberately inflammatory. They were calculated for the purpose of "proving" that the city needed state and federal aid. Beame dismissed nearly 5000 policemen and more than 2000 firemen (closing twenty-six firehouses) and fired nearly 3000 of the city's 10,000 sanitation workers. The unions understood that this was an act of political blackmail. In June 1975 the firemen's and policemen's unions published a four page leaflet which they distributed to tourists. Titled "Welcome to Fear City," with a lurid skeleton's head on the cover, the pamphlet advised visitors to New York to stay indoors after 6 P.M., avoid public transportation, and, "until things change, stay away from New York if you possibly can." In July the sanitation workers went on strike. They threatened to turn "Fear City" into "Stink City" and shouted from picket lines, "Wait till the rats come!"

Anyone familiar with New York City's monstrously bloated government -- no less so in the Seventies than today -- will realize at once that Beame and the aforementioned unions were playing the Washington Monument Defense. It worked, by the way.

* * *

The thrust of the Washington Monument Defense is obvious: Punish the citizenry for not conceding what the government has demanded. The original incident merely angered tourists to Washington, D.C. More recent invocations of the Defense have struck directly at the legitimate and proper functions of a government: defending the citizen against predation and maintaining peace and order in public places. Mark Alger's piece above describes the dynamics of such incidents beautifully.

The attitude that gives rise to the Defense is one that divides the nation into "us" and "them." The inside or "us" group is composed of those who regard their positions in government, or as beneficiaries of government, as theirs by right and not to be challenged or questioned. The outside or "them" group, against whom the Defense is wielded, is composed of everyone else -- i.e., those of us who are compelled by threat of punishment to pay for the State's activities. The Defense itself actuates the threat, albeit not in the conventional manner of indictment, trial, and imprisonment or expropriation.

Before I press onward, ask yourself: What makes the Defense possible? That is: what combination of circumstances and cessions produces a state of affairs in which the insiders -- government functionaries (elected, appointed, or hired) -- can deprive us on the outside -- private citizens under a nominal regime of self-sufficiency -- of the protections of life and property?

I'll return to this.

* * *

The Washington Monument Defense isn't the one and only weapon in the State's arsenal, but it does outline the mindset of those inside the "us" group:

If you're not one of us, you're the enemy. Any promises we might have made to you are not binding upon us. Our aim is to bring you to heel.

Of course, the candor of that implication doesn't entirely serve the "us" group. Insiders would generally prefer to maintain the facade of "service" -- i.e., that they're merely dedicated public servants straining to do their duties despite the obstinacy of the "them" group about providing what they "need." Toward that end they'll lie so baldfacedly as to create new low-watermarks in the annals of public deceit.

But there are lies and lies. Some lies are easier than others to establish and perpetuate. Take as an example the lie that labor laws, by which Washington can descend on a firm for not having hired enough Negroes, or cripples, or brain-damaged welders of Moldovian descent, actually serve the interests of those of us who work for a living. Or the lie that the many "affirmative action" (i.e., preferential treatment by race, sex, and ethnicity) laws truly improve the prospects of minorities and the character of the American workplace.

Let it be said at once that such intrusions into properly private relationships do nothing to help their supposed beneficiaries, but rather do them a great deal of harm. The statistics speak unequivocally on this point. Indeed, the apartheid regime of pre-Mandela South Africa was brought into existence in part by the imposition of minimum-wage laws; high-ranking members of the National Party admitted that they knew what result would come of them, and steered deliberately toward it. But for a member of the "them" group to speak openly about such effects is to court counterfire of the most devastating sort.

Which brings me to my second citation: a thirty-year-old essay by the great Thomas Sowell:

In the movie, Absence of Malice, lives are damaged and even destroyed by irresponsible reporting -- and the law offers no real protection. In real life as well, the most damaging, unsupported, and inaccurate statements about an individual can be written and broadcast coast to coast, without the law's offering any meaningful recourse. Judges have so watered down the laws on slander and libel that only in special cases can you nail those who are being irresponsible, vindictive, or even outright liars.

I know. As one who has taken controversial stands on various issues, I have been the target of a smear campaign for more than a year. Demonstrably false statements have been made about me in the media and positions attributed to me that are the direct opposite of what I have said for years in my own published writings. And yet a lawsuit would probably do nothing but waste months of my time, at the end of which the smear artists could slip out through one of the many loopholes -- and proclaim themselves vindicated and their charges substantiated.

[Applause to Mike Hendrix of Cold Fury for digging up this stunning piece.]

The entire essay is invaluable. It should be read and digested by every American with an interest in the consequences of supposedly well-intentioned public policies. Nor is Dr. Sowell, one of the nation's strongest and clearest voices for limited government, the only target the "us" group has attacked.

(An aside: In For The Defense, the second of F. Lee Bailey's legal autobiographies, he narrates the legal ordeal of Captain Ernest Medina, one of the officers accused of perpetrating the My Lai butchery. A telling passage in that tale concerns Time magazine's slanders against Captain Medina as he awaited trial, for which Bailey and Medina sued under the libel statutes. Time escaped the judgment by claiming, successfully, that Medina was a "public figure," and thus fair game for anything, by virtue of Time's own efforts to that effect. Enjoy the irony.)

To give the lie to an "us" group's representations is, in the minds of the "us" group, a declaration of war -- and they believe in total war, in which no weapon and no tactic are off limits. Their entire cadre of hangers-on in the communications trades will mobilize at once to destroy the target. The truth or falsity of their chosen shafts is never under consideration. Victory -- the silencing of the dangerous "them" voice -- is all that matters.

Compare that behavior to what totalitarian regimes have done to dissenters. Americans of the "them" persuasion aren't yet in fear for our lives, but it needn't remain so forever.

* * *

Some years ago, back at Eternity Road of late, lamented memory, I posted the following:

Just a few days ago was the first anniversary of the judicially sanctioned torture-murder of Terri Schindler-Schiavo by her soi-disant husband, Michael Schiavo. During that gruesome process, your Curmudgeon penned a cri de coeur that, had he had his druthers, would have been read by every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth.

To cut to the chase: it wasn't. At least, it wasn't taken to heart.

On March 2, 3, and 4 of this year, the Texas Academy of Sciences held its annual conclave, at which it awarded a certain Eric Pianka, a biologist at the University of Texas, with its Distinguished Texas Scientist Award. Whatever Dr. Pianka's achievements as a researcher or educator might be, they were overshadowed, for the moment at least, by his proposition that 90% of the human race must die:

"Every one of you who gets to survive has to bury nine," Eric Pianka cautioned students and guests at St. Edward's University on Friday. Pianka's words are part of what he calls his "doomsday talk" -- a 45-minute presentation outlining humanity's ecological misdeeds and Pianka's predictions about how nature, or perhaps humans themselves, will exterminate all but a fraction of civilization.

Though his statements are admittedly bold, he's not without abundant advocates. But what may set this revered biologist apart from other doomsday soothsayers is this: Humanity's collapse is a notion he embraces.

Indeed, his words deal, very literally, on a life-and-death scale, yet he smiles and jokes candidly throughout the lecture. Disseminating a message many would call morbid, Pianka's warnings are centered upon awareness rather than fear.

"This is really an exciting time," he said Friday amid warnings of apocalypse, destruction and disease. Only minutes earlier he declared, "Death. This is what awaits us all. Death." Reflecting on the so-called Ancient Chinese Curse, "May you live in interesting times," he wore, surprisingly, a smile.

So what's at the heart of Pianka's claim?

6.5 billion humans is too many.

In his estimation, "We've grown fat, apathetic and miserable," all the while leaving the planet parched.

The solution?

A 90 percent reduction.

That's 5.8 billion lives -- lives he says are turning the planet into "fat, human biomass." He points to an 85 percent swell in the population during the last 25 years and insists civilization is on the brink of its downfall -- likely at the hand of widespread disease.

"[Disease] will control the scourge of humanity," Pianka said. "We're looking forward to a huge collapse."

Let's get one thing straight before we proceed: Anyone who agrees with Dr. Pianka had better keep his hands where your Curmudgeon can see them.

An attitude like Pianka's can only come from an ivory tower. One must be utterly isolated from real life and real people to contemplate their extinction with such cheerful equanimity. Yet according to the linked story, Pianka is well supplied with admirers and acolytes:

Most of Pianka's former students are bursting with praise. Their in-class evaluations celebrate his ideas with words like "the most incredible class I ever had" and "Pianka is a GOD!"

Mims counters their ovation with the story of a Texas Lutheran University student who attended the Academy of Science lecture. Brenna McConnell, a biology senior, said she and others in the audience "had not thought seriously about overpopulation issues and a feasible solution prior to the meeting." But though McConnell arrived at the event with little to say on the issue, she returned to Seguin with a whole new outlook.

An entry to her online blog captures her initial response to what's become a new conviction:

"[Pianka is] a radical thinker, that one!" she wrote. "I mean, he's basically advocating for the death for all but 10 percent of the current population. And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he's right."

Today, she maintains the Earth is in dire straits. And though she's decided Ebola isn't the answer, she's still considering other deadly viruses that might take its place in the equation.

"Maybe I just see the virus as inevitable because it's the easiest answer to this problem of overpopulation," she said.

Of course, "this problem of overpopulation" is a completely impersonal matter. It has no bearing on the identities or futures of identifiable individuals. Were Miss McConnell asked if she expected to be among the doomed 90% or the fortunate 10%, what do you suppose she would say? Is it not likely that in her unspoken thoughts, she assumes herself to be among the architects of the annihilation, rather than an honoree?

Your Curmudgeon calls this the Commissar Complex. It puts him in mind of an anecdote from the 1848 French Revolution, when a coal-carrier scoffed at a lady of the upper classes: "Yes, madam, everything's going to be equal now. I'll go in silks and you'll carry coal." They who imagine the remaking of the world after their own preferences are like that.

Never imagine that they aren't serious. Consider the following:

"The ending of the human epoch on Earth would most likely be greeted with a hearty 'Good riddance!'" -- philosopher Paul Taylor in Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics
"Human happiness [is] not as important as a wild and healthy planet....Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along." -- biologist David M. Graber, in review of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, in the Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1989.

But in keeping with the "death cults" motif, your Curmudgeon must emphasize the underlying attitude: Superior individuals, disdainful of the common herd and disinclined to rub elbows with them, theorize about the management of the hoi polloi while sipping Cointreau. Such management connotes a shepherd-to-sheep relation. Certainly it would include a willingness to "thin the herd" at need -- with need determined solely by the self-nominated master intellects in the closed circle.

"Kill five-billion-plus people because their continued existence offends us? Why not? Haven't we acceded to the deaths of millions of unborn children in the name of convenience? Haven't we argued that to let a child be born with a birth defect, or against its mother's will, is an act of 'wrongful life?' Don't we have such luminaries as Peter Singer to justify infanticide as a form of retroactive abortion? Haven't we condemned a president and his administration specifically for liberating two nations from monsters who were slaughtering tens of thousands each year? Haven't we argued in the highest chambers of power that 'a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,' and that rocks and moss and tundra are more precious than the human lives the oil beneath them could sustain? When we argued for those things, did anyone rise to stop us? Who could stop us now?"

Gentle Reader, I wish I had preserved for your edification the batch of hate mail I received after posting that piece. It was an undifferentiated mass of viciousness. You would have thought I'd come out in favor of executing homosexuals, or discriminating against rhythm-challenged Negroes, or the designated hitter rule. But if memory serves, not one of my correspondents dared to address the central thread of Pianka's lectures -- that the death of 90% of the human race would be a good thing -- even though Pianka himself has openly said so.

Why would a hate-mailer address that thesis? It's so clearly anti-human that only someone who actively hates other people and desires their destruction would adopt it. So anyone determined to defend Pianka, but equally resolved to represent himself as a "good guy," must treat Pianka's thesis as "off the table." He must assail the one who dares to express shock and horror that anyone could espouse such an idea as somehow evil.

Doesn't that suggest that the hate-mailer finds the thesis worthy? Doesn't it bring to mind the faux-equality of the Parisian coal-carrier -- the "Commissar Complex" mindset I alluded to in the above piece?

Which brings me to my third citation: a look at one of Pianka's more overtly genocidal fellow-travelers:

This is Finnish writer Pentti Linkola — a man who demands that the human population reduce its size to around 500 million and abandon modern technology and the pursuit of economic growth — in his own words.

He likens Earth today to an overflowing lifeboat:

What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and there is only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides.

He sees America as the root of the problem:

The United States symbolises the worst ideologies in the world: growth and freedom.

He unapologetically advocates bloodthirsty dictatorship:

Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent a dictator that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. The best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and where government would prevent any economical growth.

We will have to learn from the history of revolutionary movements — the national socialists, the Finnish Stalinists, from the many stages of the Russian revolution, from the methods of the Red Brigades — and forget our narcissistic selves. A fundamental, devastating error is to set up a political system based on desire. Society and life have been organized on the basis of what an individual wants, not on what is good for him or her.

As is often the way with extremist central planners Linkola believes he knows what is best for each and every individual, as well as society as a whole:

Just as only one out of 100,000 has the talent to be an engineer or an acrobat, only a few are those truly capable of managing the matters of a nation or mankind as a whole. In this time and this part of the World we are headlessly hanging on democracy and the parliamentary system, even though these are the most mindless and desperate experiments of mankind. In democratic countries the destruction of nature and sum of ecological disasters has accumulated most. Our only hope lies in strong central government and uncompromising control of the individual citizen.

Linkola's ground assumption is that the current penetration of environmental alarmism is an adequate popular basis for his recommendations. He's wrong, of course; most Americans, at least, would not consent to having nine-tenths of their number liquidated and the survivors subjected to rigid totalitarian rule for any reason, much less to "save the planet." But his aim isn't truly to bring about mass death and totalitarian rule for the sake of the environment; it's to use "the environment" as the rationale for mass death and totalitarian rule. Indeed, he hardly bothers to disguise it.

The disturbing things about this vile notion are:

  • That there are many, including many in the United States, who would call Linkola's unsubstantiated assumptions of ecological crisis, like those of the aforementioned Eric Pianka, rational and defensible;
  • That the "us" group now promulgates those assumptions as dogmas beyond question;
  • That those dogmas are now the overt basis of public policies at all levels of government;
  • That anyone who gives these obscenities true coloration -- i.e., as expressions of hatred and contempt for Mankind -- will come in for the full vituperative, calumnious force of the "us" group, most particularly via their mouthpieces in the media.

Do you disagree? Read this, and tell me if you still do.

* * *

I hope my central point hasn't been lost among all the atrocities covered in the above. My tiny participation in the incidents I related is insignificant; I'm so far down the list of English-language political commentators that I don't deserve personal mention. The pattern beneath these incidents is what matters.

We are at war. Not by our decision -- that is, the wills of those of us in the "them" group -- but by those in the "us" group. The "us" group aims at our complete, unquestioning subjugation, a campaign in which effort no weapon is to be held in reserve, and no tactic deemed beyond the pale.

Bu really, that's only one of the major points I'd like to make today. The other concerns this snippet from an earlier segment:

Before I press onward, ask yourself: What makes the Defense possible? That is: what combination of circumstances and cessions produces a state of affairs in which the insiders -- government functionaries (elected, appointed, or hired) can deprive us on the outside -- private citizens under a nominal regime of self-sufficiency -- of the protections of life and property?

Like most of the genuinely basic questions about social and political affairs, to ask the question -- sincerely, determined to know the answer regardless of what it might tell us about ourselves -- is to answer it.

We are no longer self-sufficient.
We have ceded all responsibility for the protection of our lives, our property, and peace in the streets to The State.
The State has taken advantage of that cession to reduce us ever more completely to helplessness before it -- in some regions, mainly psychological helplessness, but in others objective helplessness as well.
The State has compounded our subjugation by creating numerous mascot groups, some of which are merely strident, others of which are ready and eager to use violence, in support of the State's overall agenda.
Our response to these developments has mostly been to shrug.

Please, please, please: Interpret "the State" broadly, not narrowly. Anyone who, for any reason, wields coercive force or the threat thereof to compel obedience to some external dictum is at that time and in that place an agent of the State. Ask Massachusetts ice cream vendor Mark Duffy whether it mattered to his livelihood whether the "armed environmental police" were hirelings of Washington, or Massachusetts, or the town of Carlisle, or claimed to be "private citizens" solely interested in "the public good." Ask him whether he would have regarded an equal or greater force that dared to stand in his defense against those "armed environmental police" as enemies, or as courageous and infinitely praiseworthy American patriots.

Then ask yourself whether, should you ever be in a position comparable to Duffy's, such a force is at all likely to appear in your defense.

* * *

Political salvation has become extremely unlikely. Yes, I meant what I said in this essay about the desirability of buying time. We need time for the general recognition of the war between "us" and "them" to burgeon and mature. But I can't see a reversal of the trend through political mechanisms alone as plausible.

If that's the case, we can go in only two directions from here:

  • Acceptance of de jure subjugation, coupled with as much "underground resistance" as is possible to us;
  • Open armed revolt.

We are not ready to revolt. Not only do far too many Americans still believe in "the system;" there aren't enough of us ready, willing and able to put "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" at risk for a chance at a Constitutional restoration. Among the Constitutional movement's weaknesses is that too many of us are in our "declining years." Though we recognize the rumble of Juggernaut's carriage, we're far more inclined toward "riding it out" than taking up arms against it.

Far more Americans must grasp the enormity of our common plight before an overt uprising would have a significant chance of success.

* * *

One cannot recognize a state of war yet deny that an enemy exists; the latter posture makes the former impossible. My overriding purpose in the above was to make it more difficult to deny the existence of the enemy -- to some extent, to give us of the "them" group "a face to hate."

I wish I could think of a way to end that last sentence with some other phrase. Hatred is always destructive. Indeed, it's the engine of willed destruction itself: the conscious desire to do harm to someone else. Christians are enjoined against hatred...with one exception:

Then an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over (Ransom) – a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful hatred came over him. The energy of hating, never before felt without some guilt, without some dim knowledge that he was failing to distinguish the sinner from the sin, rose into his arms and legs till he felt they were pillars of burning blood. What was before him appeared no longer a creature of corrupted will. It was corruption itself to which will was attached only as an instrument. Ages ago it had been a Person: but the ruins of personality now survived in it only at the disposal of a furious self-exiled negation. It is perhaps difficult to understand why this filled Ransom not with horror but with a kind of joy. The joy came from finding at last what hatred was made for. As a boy with an axe rejoices on finding a tree, or a boy with a box of coloured chalks rejoices on finding a pile of perfectly white paper, so he rejoiced in the perfect congruity between his emotion and its object.

Elwin Ransom's Adversary was already damned. We cannot wish for -- certainly not labor for -- the damnation of the "us" group; that's theological hatred, hatred unto eternity, which is the worst of all kinds. But we can ardently desire their downfall and disgrace. We must look upon their faces, not merely as a group but as individuals, dispel the notion that they're simply "misguided," acknowledge the enmity between us, and respond to their ill-concealed desire for our subjugation with a confident, justified desire for their ruin. More, until we allow ourselves to do so, we will make no headway at restoring liberty and justice to these United States.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A New York Fascist's State Of Mind

According to Wikipedia, the Dishonorable Charles Schumer was born in Brooklyn, lives in Brooklyn today, and is Jewish ("Reform Judaism," to be precise). A New York Jew would be expected to know something about the oppressions endured by the Jews of Germany during the Hitler years, wouldn't you think? However, the evidence runs in the opposite direction:

"While serving in the House of Representatives, Schumer authored the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 with California Senator Dianne Feinstein, which expired in 2004. The National Rifle Association and other gun groups (see gun politics) have criticized him for allegedly not knowing much about guns, pointing to various errors regarding the subject. Supporters of gun control legislation, however, give him much of the credit for passage of both the Assault Weapons Ban and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act despite intense lobbying from opponents. The Assault Weapons Ban, which banned semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and handguns possessing certain cosmetic features, expired in September 2004 despite attempts by Schumer to extend it.... In a statement from Brian Fallon, a Schumer aide, he "insisted that except for winning an NRA marksmanship award at age 14, the senator does not own a gun or have a license to carry one."
And we have this more recent emission, as well:
Two top senators went after Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin Thursday over his decision to renounce U.S. citizenship, unveiling a proposal they claim would bar him -- or anyone -- from de-friending the United States in order to avoid taxes.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who unveiled the proposal alongside Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said their so-called "Ex-Patriot Act" would subject high-earning ex-Americans to a steep capital gains tax.

The bill was their answer to the move by Saverin last year to renounce his citizenship and move to Singapore. The decision, made public in a recently released IRS list, came ahead of Facebook's initial public offering, and fueled speculation that Saverin cut ties with America in order to cut down his tax bill. Singapore does not impose capital gains taxes.

"Saverin has turned his back on the country that welcomed and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire," Schumer said. "This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong."

Saverin, though, staunchly defended himself in a written statement Thursday. In a reference to the so-called "exit tax" those who renounce their citizenship pay, he said "I am obligated to and will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government."

He added: "I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen. It is unfortunate that my personal choice has led to a public debate, based not on the facts, but entirely on speculation and misinformation."

So a United States Senator, born and raised in New York, who claims to be a Jew, is an enthusiastic promoter of two of Hitler's vilest decrees:

  • First, that Germans should be completely disarmed, lest they foolishly resist his Brown Shirts;
  • Second, that German Jews, compelled by Nazi-era persecutions to flee the country, should be punished by the confiscation of what was rightfully theirs.

But remember: According to the Left, for wanting to own firearms and keep what you've rightfully earned, YOU'RE the "fascist."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Poisonous Personnel Postures

A few days ago, I encountered an article that stated that roughly
one-third of all the occupations Americans are known to practice now
require a government license. Licensure, as most conservatives and
libertarians are aware, privileges those already inside a particular
occupation at the expense of those outside it who'd like to practice it.
It's the equivalent of a labor union, except for being directly
administered by a government.

(Note that "government workers" -- a highly ironic phrase -- aren't
licensed; once they've passed a Civil Service entrance test and have
been admitted to the mysteries, they're locked in for life. More, they
out-earn private-sector workers by about 2 to 1. Something about this
strikes me as wrong. What might it be, I wonder?)

There's only one thing to do, of course: CREATE MORE OCCUPATIONS! In
witness whereof, I submit the following fictional dialogue.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"What is it you do, Mr. Smith?"
"I'm a consulting psychophagist."
"Excuse me? A 'psychophagist?'"
"Yes, exactly. It's an absorbing trade."
"But what does a psychophagist do, exactly?"
"Well, I can't speak for all psychophagists -- we have quite an array of
specialties, you know -- but for myself, I treat persons afflicted with
noxious polyvalent sub-memes that interfere with their concentration,
reduce their productivity, and contribute to their tinnitus."
"Er, yes, I see. And what is a sub-meme, please?"
"Hm! Obviously, it's a meme that functions somewhere below the threshold
of consciousness."
"Ah, yes, of course. And what makes a sub-meme...polyvalent?"
"Oh, that's a matter of some controversy. The current consensus -- not a
strong one -- is that the polyvalent sub-meme differs from the univalent
sort in that it bonds to two or more memetotropic loci."
"Ah...what's a memetotropic loci?"
"Memetotropic locus, actually. Loci is the plural."
"Well, what is it?"
"It's a subconscious maintenance function that assists in the perception
and recognition of patterns and the automatic production of the
appropriate response. Have you ever found it difficult to get a catchy
tune out of your head?"
"Yes, of course, we all have that problem now and then."
"The tune is a sub-meme that's bonded to the rhythm-sensing function of
the afflicted person's subconscious. Until he presents the proper
response, it will remain there, slowly driving him to distraction. It's
an excellent illustration, but there are many other kinds. They can be
particularly nasty when aromas are involved."
"So the poor guy find the proper response, then?"
"Sometimes. Not always. Psychophagy doesn't have all the answers yet.
It's a developing field."
"Well, what do you do when you can't determine the patient's proper
"I tell him to eat something. It might not dispel the sub-meme, but it
will make him feel better."
"Fascinating. Is psychophagy a very remunerative field?"
"Not really. I'm usually paid with leftovers."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

How long do you think it would take Washington to come up with licensing
criteria for that trade?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reflections on Inbreeding, Homophobia and Dixie

Robert Murphy makes an interesting observation about the newest leftist quip circulating about -- in case you hadn't heard it, the saying goes something to the effect that 'In North Carolina, you can marry your first cousin, just not your gay first cousin.'

Bob notes that the reason the joke is 'funny' rests on a bit of irony -- that it requires that one believe it eminently proper to hold a prejudice against one type of 'loving relationship,' while claiming it prejudicial and outrageous that the state should be interfering in another. It would seem more intellectually consistent to claim that people ought to be free to love whomever they like, supposing you're a proponent of the acceptance of gay marriage.

Well, we all know where this argument leads. I thought the most insightful remarks were along the lines that the 'hipsters' spreading this quip aren't attempting to be intellectually coherent but to simply take a cheap shot against bigoted redneck Southerners. It is ideological coherence which is the object here, supporting and mocking the right sets of people. But the part I found interesting was the attempted rationalizing against cousin marrying on the basis of 'science,' and the bizarre directions which the whole notion of 'consistency' on this topic would seem to take things.

I happen to know a thing or two about genetics, so I'll attempt to provide a bit of a crash course on some interesting points of population genetics. But be forewarned, I learned it some ten years ago and haven't done any of this since, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't get everything just exactly right.


There is actually only a fairly feeble scientific case to make against cousin marrying. In fact, cousin marrying is quite successful and common among various cultures, especially among what we would call Eastern. I won't go into the genetic 'benefits' of prolonged inbreeding -- suffice it to say that once a stable and healthy gene set has been established, it pays to keep them 'in the family' as this keeps out defective variants which the generations of inbreeding have removed -- but the actual observed risks are interesting, and not necessarily what one would expect. Franklin Roosevelt, former president of the United States, even, married one of his cousins, and Albert Einstein was the product of a cousin marriage, to no serious ill-effects so far as I know.

There are two genetic approaches to the calculation of the effects of inbreeding. The first is what the layman might expect -- the use of family trees and probability to determine the risk of 'homozygosity at a given locus by descent from a common ancestor,' which is a fancy way of saying 'the chance of getting two copies of the exact same gene because it was duplicated and passed along from the same person,' which is inbreeding defined genetically. This occurs because of 'circles' in the family tree, and is described mathematically in terms of 'inbreeding coefficients' or 'coefficients of relationship.' In the case of cousin marrying, the 'consanguinity,' or 'relatedness,' of this relationship is 0.125, or 1/8th, corresponding to a probability of about 0.0625, or 1/16th, that offspring from this marriage will display two identical copies of the same gene at any given locus because of inbreeding. Remember that number.

That kind of straightforward inbreeding can be thought of as a sort of 'short range' inbreeding. But there is another type which forms a sort of background inbreeding. This kind of inbreeding can be thought of as 'long range.' It arises out of a problem that should be familiar to fans of creation mythology.


Creation myths always runs into a problem with inbreeding. If Adam and Eve have kids, that's great, but what are their kids to 'do,' if not one another? Some myths introduce people from out of nowhere and neglect to mention where they came from. That is the case with the Christian myth. Others just go with it, and brothers and sisters and cousins and uncles hit it off and populate the world.

But it should be easy to see that introducing new people does not actually solve the problem, it just pushes it back a generation. If Adam and Eve's kids marry Jane and Steve's, well, who will their kids marry? Their cousins?

Any non-infinite population runs into this 'problem,' even if it isn't conscious of it, as ours mostly isn't. The inbreeding is still actually there, if very distant and undetectable with family trees.

You can also think about it in a sort of Darwinian way of thinking. If the generation of a new allele is a unique event (which probably isn't 100% true, but is a good approximation of things) any individual possessing two exact copies is evidence of inbreeding. So, all you blue-eyed people out there know how you got that way.

This effect is exacerbated by the existence of population substructure. Individuals typically do not actually pair up at random. There tend to be barriers -- geographic, social, cultural, etc. -- that create 'mating biases.'  By significantly limiting the pool of people which individuals of a group will tend to draw a mate from -- in a stable pattern that persists for many generations -- these behaviors tend to reduce the total 'genetic mixing' even below what could be achieved under the larger population size by breaking any large population down into smaller substructures. Even some intermingling will not be sufficient to produce a single statistical population, and these population subgroups will produce statistically measurable genetic effects over time due to their semi-isolation, even if they do not knowingly practice 'inbreeding.'

Statistics which look at the prevalence of homozygosity -- the condition of having two copies of the same gene -- versus heterozygosity can be used to detect these effects. If mating were truly random, one would expect a binomial distribution of the possible variations of genes at a given locus. This is called Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. What one actually observes is almost always an excess of homozygotes and a deficit of heterozygotes. The degree of departure can be expressed with what are called F-statistics, which are comparable to the inbreeding coefficients discussed earlier, in that they also express 'the probability of homozygosity at a given locus by descent from a common ancestor,' just by a more roundabout method.

As it turns out, human beings depart considerably from the zero number that most people who consider a topic like this to be 'icky' would hope to see. But that is really only to be expected; if people were truly independently choosing mates, there could hardly be any racial minorities here for very long, and probably no local dialects, culture patterns, etc. They would disappear within a few generations. Most people marry someone of their own race, from their own geographic area, and from their own social standing.

Every culture is a little different, but most produce an F-statistic on the order of 0.10, which is more or less comparable to the 0.125 for cousin marriages. So, just by doing what they do in choosing a marriage partner, most people tend to pick other people who are about as related to them as their cousins, give or take about 25%. Actually, you also have to factor in the background F-statistic with the cousin marrying, so it would be a bit higher, but that's the ballpark idea. By the time you get to second cousins, the inbreeding thing is pretty much irrelevant.

I suppose some of you may need to take a vomit break.


This being a new idea to most people, it's interesting to take a moment and think about what it all means.

Firstly, most tend to take the whole mate selection thing fairly seriously. The idea of choosing a husband or wife totally at random -- or even more 'rationally,' from a totally different people group -- sounds absolutely insane, especially given what everybody knows about the difficulty of making marriage work. And yet, the notion of deliberate inbreeding is enough to send many people rushing to the bathroom. They would like to justify their behaviors and beliefs on the basis of 'science,' but science is here clearly telling them something that their common sense does not want to hear.

What this is is a clash of values.

I personally think it is easy to sort out. I think most people's common sense instinct is right, the important thing is for the marriage to work, 10% be damned. Whether the reader is willing to venture 12.5% is up to him. Anyway, I'm not changing my behavior or beliefs. The fact that I happened to marry a Chinese woman is simply a matter of chance. I thought she was the best, so I married her. End of story.

In different circumstances, the 'making it work factor' might take on even more importance. I mentioned before that other cultures actively encourage cousin marrying. The example of the Chinese is instructive, I think.

Imagine that you are a man living in a culture that is rather indifferent to the welfare of women on the whole, but that you in particular very much care for your daughters and sisters. Actually, you know that most men do, but like to put on a show of bluff and bluster, you know, to keep things in line. On the other hand, most people will tend to view other people's daughters and sisters rather coldly, especially if she has no male relatives around to defend her.

You know that once your daughters marry a man and leave your house, they'll be considered the property of the other family and cut off from your own, as lineage is traced through males only and you are no longer 'related' to a woman who has joined another family.

What would you do to help your daughters?

The Chinese solution was to 'keep them in the family.' You would try to marry them into your wife's family, especially to the sons of your wife's brothers, as you were holding their sister 'hostage,' so to speak. You implicitly held an axe over your brother-in-law's head, and the repeated 'swapping' of daughters between the two families also helped to solidify relations between them to keep their interests aligned.

As for your sons, you probably wouldn't care as much, since they were staying in your family and could look after themselves. But you would probably be receiving a constant stream of petitions from your sisters' husbands propositioning marriage of their daughters to your son, as your in-laws attempted to curry favor with you and place their daughters with a trusted family. You would probably be inclined to accept, as this gave you increased influence with your sister's family.

In this case, the uncertainty about the welfare of one's weaker members is a rather more intense concern than in our own culture. The values shift further in the direction of good placement, and the behavior shifts accordingly. This seems perfectly rational to me, and I have a difficult time condemning such 'inbreeding,' though I do think it would be a better solution for people simply to treat one another a bit more respectfully.

But one cannot control the behavior of others; he must play the hand he is dealt.


What about the issue of 'diversity?' This question poses some interesting head-scratchers.

It might be suggested by left-leaning types that 'random mating' would be preferable, as it would appear on first glance to lead to 'more diversity.' Aside from the value questions posed above, and the value question posed by the notion of 'diversity,' well, would it?

That actually depends on what one means by 'diversity.' Changing mate selection patterns will have no effect on either the total number and variety of alleles,  (i.e., different kinds of genes) or even on their frequencies, assuming of course that there is no change in fertilities or other extraneous factors induced by this change. That is probably a bad assumption, but at any rate, if one is going to be discounting obviously more important values anyway, it is probably best to consider the effects in isolation. Anyway, this is hypothetical, and such effects (outside of a very likely rampant divorce rate) are not easily predictable.

The only thing that will really change in this hypothetical example will be the combinations of genes which are observed together. Basically, they will be thoroughly scrambled, until a Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium is established across all genetic loci. But whether or not this situation constitutes and increase of 'diversity' is still questionable.

For example, the fraction of people expected to show a skin tone as dark as an average black person I should think would decline dramatically, with a corresponding but probably less dramatic drop in the number with a skin tone as white as the average white. Blue eyes and blonde hair (except the artificial varieties) would disappear more or less completely, as would most characteristics which result from the possession of the homozygous recessive gene types.

Basically, dominant genes would have the run of the place, with the population moving towards a more or less 'average' appearance. This 'average' physique would span a somewhat broader distribution than the distributions presently observed for any particular racial group, but nothing close to the span observed between existing racial groups today. Thus, the not-so-unique more 'extreme' characteristics of today would become exceedingly rare, as the probability of the necessary genes coming together would greatly diminish, and human tendencies being what they are, such individuals who would today only be called normal members of various racial groups would probably be in for at least a bit of treatment as a genetic 'freak.'

I suppose this could be considered an increase of diversity from a certain point of view, but most people would consider it to be the opposite -- the destruction of diversity. It would seem to me that the behavior that produced more of what people would recognize as 'diversity' would be attempts at actually increasing genetic barriers in order to 'preserve' the races as they are, and maybe even create some new ones. Probably the best tools to accomplish that would be new 'social codes' to encourage social segregation.

But that really isn't a very progressive idea.


Indeed, if one were to assess the degree to which 'inbreeding' is actually occurring, I would suggest that the South would probably not score very highly. It might beat out, say, the West Coast, but if I were a betting man, and could send Sewall Wright (apparently yet another genius who is the product of a cousin marriage) out to measure America's inbreeding statistics, I suggest that the places he would find the most would probably skew to the political left and would be located in the Northeast.

The reason I say this is that I simply don't see too much of the kinds of attitudes in the South that would lead to strongly selective mating patterns as I see in the Northeast, though I suppose that that, too, could be construed as an insult by the kinds of people who came up with the first inbreeding-homophobia salvo. But then, I suppose they aren't exactly concerned with intellectual rigor, anyway.

Certainly, there are social divisions here, but over the course of time I have learned that they pale in comparison to the divisions which exist in the North. Which I'm not saying is bad, but nevertheless appears to be fact.

Gene Callahan linked to an interesting/revealing map compiled with census data that showed (or at least claimed to show) the primary 'ancestry' of the populations of each county in the US. 'Ancestry' being, for example, Italian, German, African, etc. What was 'revealed' was that huge swaths of the South claimed their 'ancestry' as 'American.'

Northerners often don't know this, but in the South we don't give two flips about this European descent stuff, and it actually makes some people angry, which is what that map really says. It also reveals the level of insularity and social detachment of the eggheads at the Census Bureau not to know that something like that would happen if they asked such a stupid question. It would be as if bureaucrats in Alabama had made the questionnaire instead, and included a question about the man-of-the-house's preferred caliber of handgun, then were surprised when they got nonsensical responses from 'large swaths' of the coastal and Great Lakes regions. What appears 'relevant' information depends very much on who is asking the questions.

In the South prevails a much more practical attitude toward the matter of race than in the North, if far less sophisticated. Basically, there is a sort of two-track categorization of things. The first is more biological, and the second more social.

Southerners mostly bother to recognize no more than about four races -- 'white,' 'black,' 'Mexican,' and 'Asian/Other.' It is not that they do not know of the finer gradations, it is only that they are not really obsessed with the topic and do not have (or want) time and attention for it. This is all that they will spare, and that often grudgingly. The best approach for a non-Southerner unused to such coarse categorization is to accept your category and go with it. After all, it will pretty much not come up and be of little to no significance anyway. But if you choose to make yourself annoying by pressing the issue, you will find yourself re-categorized at the social level of categorization, which is the more important level, and far more differentiated.

If, for example, you decide that it is very important to be recognized as Irish/Italian and not just 'white' because it is a critical component of your identity, you will be summarily reclassified as 'not white' socially. More specifically, despite whatever protestations you make, you will be categorized as 'annoying Yankee twit,' which falls in the second main social category of 'troublemakers who piss me off.' It will be very difficult to get yourself uncategorized out of this particular bin. I would suggest moving.

In the social category, the broadest two categories are 'white,' and the 'troublemaker' category. But here, 'white' does not mean racially 'white.' It means 'I want to be a part of mainstream society and basically get along with others, not foment divisiveness.' I call it 'white' only because it refers to the historically dominant culture, which is descended from biologically 'white' culture, and that is basically how people think about it, even though actual race has little to do with it. It is, after all, a social categorization, and not a biological one.

At the social level, anybody can become 'white,' even if he is not biologically 'white.' 'Race,' again, whatever that means under this odd system, does not much matter beyond the biological. Other 'white' people are almost all perfectly willing to accept anyone who wants to be 'white,' even if neither the 'acceptor' nor the 'acceptee' are actually 'white' in the biological sense. 'White' people in general actively want others to join them, and I would say that, in general, most people of the South belong in this category, despite what one hears about the volumes of illegal immigration and whatnot. But, in general, if you insist on being a troublemaker, there will be no trouble about tossing you into the other categories and about you suffering the social consequences for your rejection of social norms.

But -- to return to the question of inbreeding.  There are some Southerners who treat their lineages as something of a hobby, I will admit, but this is far less a matter of their identities than I have observed among Northerners. Most people have only a vague idea of their ancestry. Within the 'white' biological category, it poses essentially nothing of a barrier as far as mate choice is concerned.  It might as well not exist.

The biological categories do pose a moderate barrier, but not as much as one would guess. In the South, the 'races' tend to exist in much closer associations with one another and tend to treat the situation more practically rather than intellectually, as the attitudes I have just described would suggest. Kids, being kids, tend to 'fall in love' rather indiscriminately with the people around them, and since almost all attend unsegregated public schools through these years, there tends to be a fair amount of crossing over between categories. Private schools and universities attract a far smaller share of students, and even so, tend to reflect the broader public attitudes in their makeup.

The social categorization appears to matter most. Parents and families, especially of the 'white' social categorization, do not want their young ones marrying 'troublemakers.' Wealth also tends to matter, as might be expected. But both of these categorizations tend to be rather volatile, so I would doubt that the ways in which they skew things would be expected to prevail in a systematic fashion over the long run as far as genetics are concerned.

Mostly, it boils down to a very basic scenario such that in the struggle to find someone 'like me,' the rather broader notions of 'like me' that tend to prevail in the South would suggest that population substructure and genetic barriers are lower here than in a place like the Northeast, where such identities seem to be much stronger. We have, for example, neighborhoods differentially populated with individuals corresponding to the broad racial categorizations I have described, but absolutely nothing approaching the ethnic individuation one might find in the boroughs of New York City. I would therefore expect the North to show somewhat higher inbreeding coefficients in the form of f-statistics.

I guess that's what 'sophistication' gets you, supposing that one cares about these kinds of things. But anyway, I'm not judging, just reporting the facts and speculating a bit about them.


As to the homophobia, it falls as might be expected into the social category of things. Most people understand that a person is not necessarily in much control of his impulses. Some pine after booze, some bite their nails. Some really peculiar people find Kim Kardashian to be interesting.

The important thing is not so much the impulse, but what one does with it. Troublemakers are those people who allow their impulses to screw up their lives and cause aggravation and trouble for others.

So, if you have the homosexual impulse, but you are respectful and responsible in your conduct, which means not inflicting yourself on people in ways which they find to be aggravating, you'll probably do okay, even in the South. A Southerner's idea of what is 'aggravating' may be different from what you are used to or think ought to be the case, but really, that isn't for you to decide. You're here, not someplace else; fair is fair. Don't stir up trouble, and you can still be 'white,' if you want to. Hang around long enough, and maybe we'll listen to you. But my bet is we'll be making the dent in you, and not the other way around.

The same goes for alcoholics, nail-biters, and, yes, even Northerners. Pretty much everyone.

But probably not for Kim Kardashian. I don't think that's possible. It's a fairly evenhanded system, but there has to be some sanity.