Friday, August 31, 2012


"College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life." - Paul Ryan

The above line, culled from Paul Ryan's stirring acceptance speech of Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention, is both powerful and sobering. Yes, yes, it's imagistic rather than analytical. Yes, yes, it uses the involuntarily idled college grad as a synecdoche for the millions of Americans (many without degrees of any sort) who are having trouble making it in the Obamunist economy. Yes, yes, it contains my favorite word ("should," and we'll get deeper into that in a wee bit). But politicians are given to speaking in images and metaphors, synecdoches and "shoulds," and anyway, it would be difficult to phrase Ryan's message nearly as well without them.

The core question on which the future of this country will turn is whether Americans' preferences have been irrecoverably altered.


Look at me, and tell me what you see.

What's that? What are you supposed to see? I refuse to "suppose" for you. But I'll tell you this much: what you'll say you see will be at least as evaluative as objective. That is: it will be driven at least as much by your life-preferences as by the evidence of your senses.

Some will see an accomplished engineer, who loves his work and applies his whole powers to it at all times.
Some will see a Twenty-First Century Ahab, an obsessive, driven individual who can't seem to relax, no matter how hard he tries.
Some will see a man determined lifelong to capitalize on his gifts and his opportunities, and who strove ceaselessly to do just that.
Some will see a man lucky to have been born American, white, and highly intelligent, into surroundings that encouraged his acquisition of knowledge and skill.
Some will see a badly flawed figure struggling to become better through faith and study, who humbly submits his reflections to the eyes of others for whatever value might repose in them.
Some will see a monster of arrogance, who thinks so much of himself that he prattles endlessly about his opinions on every subject under the Sun to innumerable faceless others via the World Wide Web.

None of those assessments is more correct than any other. All contain a germ of fact...and a gallon of evaluation.

Values make all the difference. What we value is what we act to acquire, preserve, and defend. When we look at others, we measure them principally according to our values, for other sorts of measurement are always less germane to what matters to us.

My image in your eyes will depend mostly on how my decisions, actions, and achievements would have served what you value. Try it on yourself: What do you suppose others see when they look at you?


One's values aren't necessarily static. No doubt there are some who go the whole of their lives never, ever experiencing a change to their values or the order in which they rank and serve them. My guess, however, is that they're fewer in number than those who demote old values and discover new ones as they age, and as they move from one environment to another.

Our values are capable of being shaped by outside influences. In Twenty-First Century America, those influences are likely to be persons: specifically, persons whose thought and insight one respects greatly, or whom one admires and seeks to emulate, or whose good opinion of oneself is ardently desired.

Many terms, some of pejorative character, can be applied to one's susceptibility to such influences. Ultimately, what matters are the influences themselves, and the directions in which they bend us.

The political dimension is what matters most to me today.


Many young Americans have been "taught," mainly by ceaseless repetition from entertainers and "educators," that a comfortable life could be completely workfree and carefree, if only "greed" and/or "war" could somehow be extinguished. More, they've been "taught" that bettering oneself materially is somehow shameful -- in effect, that any effort put toward personal profit is "greedy" and thus morally unacceptable. The indoctrination that results in such a mindset is usually complete by the time a youngster leaves college.

The mindset isn't invulnerable. Among those who have acquired it, conversions back toward good sense are numerous. The conversion is powerfully assisted by the pointlessness of a life without work. We are designed not merely to work but to want to work at something, which is why drug abuse and other self-destructive vices are rampant among persons with "too much time on their hands." But not everyone so afflicted is eventually saved -- and many of those who defend the mindset successfully become political activists, resolved to perpetuate their creed by any and every means.

When Paul Ryan speaks of the involuntarily idled college grad and his fading Obama posters, he's speaking of a subset of our young adults: those who have converted away from the Left's gospel of material comfort at others' expense. Whether that subset is currently the majority is unknowable. Not even the election on November 6 will render an unmistakable verdict. Regardless of how political matters fall out, the complementary subset will go right on propagandizing: against capitalism, against personal wealth, against productive effort, and thus against freedom generally.


It's well established that a compact interest group with a short agenda can be politically effective out of all proportion to its size. When such a group is without moral constraints, its effectiveness is greatly increased.

The American Left, which in recent decades has been dominated by the younger age cohorts, has absorbed along with its anti-capitalist / anti-freedom gospel a message of moral licensure: that anything done in service to the Cause is acceptable, no matter how vile it would be if put toward some other end. The Noam Chomskys, Saul Alinskys, Ezra Kleins, and Rachel Maddows of the Left have made that message more explicit than most of us in the Right are aware. The effects of course, are quite visible: blatantly evil tactics are put to the service of the Left's agenda innumerable times per day, while decent persons wonder how anyone could bring himself to say and do such things. But beyond the visible effects lie the invisible yet crucial differences in values that undergird both conservatives' observance of moral constraints and leftists' determination to shove them aside.

Among the great majority of persons on the Left, the sense of acceptance by others one admires, whether for their political outlook or for any other reason, is the paramount value. In Eric Hoffer's words, it constitutes "a compact and unified church," outside which there can be no salvation, only the weeping and gnashing of teeth at being cast out as unworthy. Avoiding exclusion for dissent is such a person's highest priority. If you've ever wondered why the mouthpieces of the Left are so quick to condemn savagely anyone who dares to diverge from their creed on even one issue (cf. Joseph Lieberman), you have it now: expulsion and ostracism are the Left's principal defense against political heresy and apostasy.

Indeed, Leftist society strongly resembles an enormous high-school girls' clique, to whose members being one of the "in crowd" matters more than just about anything else. It's a fundamentally stunted, juvenile mentality, yet it can persist lifelong.


You haven't wasted your precious reading time. There's a prescription coming out of this.

The emotional antidote for exclusion is, of course, inclusion. The Left doesn't want you any more? We in the Right will gladly take you, if you'll just agree to give your qualified assent to a handful of important principles. We're not nearly as doctrinaire as your former fellows. Agree to the sanctity of human life, the importance of strong protections for private property, and the imperative of keeping governments firmly confined to their delegated powers, and you're one of us. There, wasn't that simple and painless? Yes, by implication you're expected to work for what you want rather than to expect to receive it as a gift from the State, but then, that's in the nature of things, isn't it? Ask Margaret Thatcher.

But there's a proviso: the former leftist became a leftist, in great part, because that was the circle of which he wanted to be part. It wasn't about being accepted by just anyone; he admired the key figures over there and wanted to be near them specifically.

To be attractive to the former leftist, we in the Right must be admirable ourselves -- by his lights.

That's not easy. It requires that:

  1. Our personal conduct...
  2. ...serve his public priorities...
  3. ...without undermining our political principles and stances.

Which is why I've come, ever so slowly, to the conclusion that the Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan ticket might just be the very best candidates for president and vice-president the GOP could put forward at this time.


The nation is fairly evenly divided today among committed Republicans, committed Democrats, and the independent "middle." The folks in the "middle" might not truly stand "between" liberal and conservative positions in any objective sense; they're might just be unconvinced that partisan alignment would serve their priorities. If we in the Right want their votes, then we must understand how they make their political choices.

My focus in this essay has been on those who are freshly "in the middle" because they've abandoned (or have been abandoned by) the Left. If we want them to join with us, we must present an admirable appearance.

"Admirable" in this context doesn't mean law-abiding or church-going, at least not necessarily. It means holding visibly to social priorities the leftist emigre still retains which are not inherently vile or dismissible:

  • An appropriate degree of charity toward the genuinely less fortunate.
  • Willingness to help those who appear to deserve help, whether personally or in a business setting.
  • An avoidance of ostentatious, "potlach"-like flaunting of personal wealth.
  • Tolerance (NB: not approval) for the tolerable deviances of others.

In point of fact, decent conservatives display all these qualities. We have a public-relations problem -- hopefully temporary -- by virtue of the Mainstream Media's hostility. The sole available remedy is for conservatives' personal dealings to be made somewhat more visible.

This does not demand that we set appropriate humility aside. There's no need to talk up one's own qualities. However, we can certainly allow the admirable characters of our spokesmen and leading figures more light. Nor should we be shy about the achievements of private eleemosynary institutions; remember that these compare so favorably with governmental programs that the Left in Europe has been pressing to have all charitable activity funneled through and controlled by the State! (They really do hate competition, you know.)

Marshall Fritz made the point some years ago that for a politics to achieve widespread support, it must be good for people, including people of whose conduct some of us might disapprove. Conservative politics meets that standard, but to convince the leftist emigre, he must see it in action -- the private action of individual conservatives, made visible through whatever conduits we can penetrate.

Mitt Romney: Set aside his record as governor of Massachusetts. Has a kinder, more generous, more decent man ever emerged in national politics? Would you be reluctant to trust him personally with the care of anything of yours?

Paul Ryan: Enough with the math-whiz promotion for a moment. Can you imagine him acting against his expressed principles? Can you see him ever supporting a government program his principles would condemn, because he, his loved ones, or his constituents could profit it by it at the expense of others?

These are two of the most admirable public figures in America today. They're the sort of men whose political stances, as much as they matter to us, will be far less potent than their personal qualities in attracting others, especially leftist outcasts, to the conservative fold. We need more of their sort, and we need to push them as hard and as far as we can; their characters are our best outreach tools.


Yes, political postures matter -- when we get to the point of actually governing. But before we reach that point, it will behoove us to think seriously about the promotion, not of political postures -- those matter mainly to the already-aligned -- but of personal quality. It will get us farther faster than any other sort of outreach.

No, this isn't a recantation of my statements about "love." It's about being admirable, and promoting the most admirable among us to the front of our ranks. Admiration, after all, is the stage after respect.

Food for thought.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Quickie

The Republican National Convention appears to be generating genuine excitement, and not just among true-blue partisans. The speeches by Ann Romney, Chris Christie, Artur Davis, Mia Love, Condoleezza Rice, and above all Paul Ryan have lit not one but many fires among the politically engaged. Conservatives of my acquaintance are becoming downright optimistic about the prospects for November.

Which leaves me with a few little questions:

  • What sort of "October surprises" might we confront?
  • Present trends continuing, will the election be allowed to take place?
  • How important will vote fraud and voter intimidation be to the results?
  • When the election is national, just how wide is the "margin of lawyer?" (Mark Steyn)
  • Assuming the Republicans carry the election, what sort of mischief can we expect from Obama and his lieutenants as their time in power draws to a close?
  • Can anyone forecast the scene on Inauguration Day?


Wednesday, August 29, 2012


This humble and oft times laconic blogster is at a loss as to what category to file this gem under. It has to be either "you can't make this s**t up" or at the least, "we have finally arrived".
Ron,[and] Carol [Paul], and one of their granddaughters left the GOP snake pit [convention in Tampa] yesterday afternoon, but the State was not yet through with them. At the little airport in Clearwater, 8 TSA agents descended on them and ordered them not to board their private plane. First, the pilots, the airplane, and the passengers would have to be screened in great detail, because Romney might be nearby. After a long examination of the pilots and their credentials, the agents said they had to check the plane for explosives. One of the pilots noted that the plane, full of gas, was already a bomb. Then Carol Paul, who has a heart pacemaker, refused to be screened, and an aide started taking video of the whole rotten proceeding. At that point, the TSA backed down and let them through.
 Having been a delegate to the local county GOP convention I was able to observe first hand the tactics used by the party establishment in order to maintain control . The chairman routinly violated both party rules and Roberts Rules of Order by ignoring lawful motions from the floor as well as calls for a division on votes while at the same time ruling on motions contrary to obvious voice votes. These tactics have also been in evidence at the Tampa Romneyfest.

Will these tyrants be sent down the path the Whigs took in the 1850s?
This old Greek certainly hopes so.



Well, the Republican National Convention is underway at last, Isaac or no Isaac. To this point, there have been no big surprises. The roll call vote selected Mitt Romney as the party's nominee. The GOP's speakers all spoke as we expected them to speak. The next two days will complete the Romney / Ryan coronation ceremony, after which the delegates will depart, the cleanup crews will set to work, and the presidential campaign will enter its final stretch.

One meme, however, has gained ever greater strength among Americans. It's the one Barack Hussein Obama handed us in a recent speech, the one that he's since writhed and twisted to escape: "You didn't build that!" Some say he got the germ of it from Massachusetts Senatorial candidate (and 1/32nd Cherokee) Elizabeth Warren. If so, by now I'm sure he'd like to return it with thanks for the thought. Given the reactions to it from all across the nation, it's likely to cost him the election.

So, being a kind and generous soul, ever ready to succor the downtrodden in their hour of need, I thought I might toss The Won a stick of dynamite -- conveniently pre-lit -- to clutch to his chest as he mourns the demise of his presidency and the ruination of the coalition that elevated him to the Oval Office.


One of my favorite non-political quotes comes from the man generally accorded the title of the greatest genius ever to grace the sciences, Sir Isaac Newton:

"If I have seen farther than most, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."

This statement displays a degree of humility to which very few of us (and possibly not Sir Isaac himself) can honestly lay claim. Moreover, it expresses a transcendent truth. It is in the nature of things that each of us begins his labors by mounting "the shoulders of giants:" human achievement from the first stirrings of rationality to the present moment. It is right and appropriate to take pride in one's own accomplishments, but it is equally right and appropriate to acknowledge our dependence on the accomplishments of those who preceded us.

But above all, we must keep this in mind: Human accomplishments are the accomplishments of humans. Individuals do it all; collectives achieve nothing. And governments are merely collectives that have been indemnified for their uses of coercion and violence.

No government has ever paved a highway.
No government has ever built a bridge.
No government has ever dredged a waterway.
No government has ever "helped the poor."
No government has ever designed a weapon.
No government has ever defeated an armed enemy.
And no government has ever landed men on the Moon.

All any government has ever done, with regard to those activities or any others you might care to name, is to decree that "this shall be done," and to mulct its longsuffering subjects for the required resources, whether or not they approved of the proposed undertaking. Whether the job was then prosecuted by private contractors or government-salaried employees makes no difference; the actual accomplishments belonged to individual men.

This isn't rocket science. Speaking of which, the vaunted American space program would never have "gotten off the ground" were it not for the insights and expertise of a certain Wernher von Braun -- a German emigre.


Now let's backhand the GOP for its sins.

Last night, several speakers mounted the Tampa dais to extol the virtues of the eventual nominee, and to articulate overarching concepts for the campaign. Chris Christie, in particular, spoke of the imperative of choosing respect over love:

And I am still [my mother's] son today as governor, following the rules she taught me, to speak from the heart, and to fight for your principles. You see, mom never thought you would get extra credit just for speaking the truth.

And the greatest lesson that mom ever taught me though was this one. She told me there would be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected.

Now she said to always pick being respected. She told me that love without respect was always fleeting, but that respect could grow into real and lasting love. Now, of course, she was talking about women.

But I have learned over time that it applies just as much to leadership. In fact, I think that advice applies to America more than ever today.

You see, I believe we have become paralyzed, paralyzed by our desire to be loved. Now our founding fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity were fleeting, and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths greater than the passions and the emotions of the times.

But our leaders of today have decided it's more important to be popular, to say and do what's easy, and say yes rather than to say no, when no is what is required.

Every word is gospel truth. Domestically, our greatest deficit is respect: both for others and for oneself. Internationally, our greatest deficit is, once again, respect: the respect of other nations' governments for our principles, our power, and our resolve. Until those deficits are addressed candidly and soberly, America's downward trajectory will continue unaltered.

But Governor Christie's theme of respect wasn't the only one expressed last night.


Respect cannot be given; it must be earned. But once earned, it becomes the foundation of all achievement, the ingredient without which no chancy enterprise would ever be undertaken. For there are few jobs that require no collaboration with others, and no one will collaborate wholeheartedly, without reservations or venal ulterior motives, with someone he does not respect.

When a man who has earned our respect through creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, and attention to detail presents himself to us and says "I offer myself to you as your president," he gets my full attention. Once I've satisfied myself that he has the ability and principles required by the office, I frankly don't care whether he's "compassionate," or "empathetic," or loves dogs and small children.

But wait! Wasn't there another speaker last night? A certain Ann Romney, who strove to paint her husband in softer colors?

“I want to talk not about what divides us, but what holds us together as an American family,” said [Ann] Romney, whose husband had received the GOP presidential nomination just hours earlier. “Tonight I want to talk to you about love.”

Ann Romney, in a roughly 30-minute speech that ended with Mitt Romney walking on stage and kissing his wife, said it is women who are the unsung heroes of families.

“It’s the moms who work hard to make everything right,” said Romney, countering accusations by Democrats and other critics that Republicans are “waging a war against women.” "You know the fastest routes to the emergency room," she said. "You sit at graduation and wonder how the years went by so quickly."

"I love you, women," Romney said about midday through the speech.

Romney, in her speech at the GOP national convention in Tampa, Fla., also spoke of a marriage that was not exactly the storybook relationship that the Romneys' life is sometimes made out to be in the media.

“Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer,” said Romney, alluding to her own struggles with both illnesses.

Despite my deep sympathy for Ann Romney's personal trials, and my great respect for her accomplishment in nurturing so fine a family, nevertheless I must ask: Was any of that germane to whether Mitt Romney would be a good fit for the most powerful office on Earth? Do the duties of the president of the United States include loving us, or is that canard more appropriate to the flacksters for an autocrat?

"My opponent," Bonforte had said with a rasp in his voice, "would have you believe that the motto of the so-called Humanity Party, 'Government of human beings, by human beings, and for human beings,' is no more than an updating of the immortal words of Lincoln. But while the voice is the voice of Abraham, the hand is the hand of the Ku Klux Klan. The true meaning of that innocent-seeming motto is 'Government of all races everywhere, by human beings alone, for the profit of a privileged few.'

"But, my opponent protests, we have a God-given mandate to spread enlightenment through the stars, dispensing our own brand of Civilization to the savages. This is the Uncle Remus school of sociology -- the good dahkies singin' spirituals and Ole Massa lubbin' every one of dem! It is a beautiful picture but the frame is too small; it fails to show the whip, the slave block -- and the counting house!"

[From Robert A Heinlein's early Hugo Award winner Double Star]

You cannot love a whole people. It's difficult enough to love one other person. But love is the twaddle at the core of the Democrats' message. Their candidates "love us," unlike those crass, money-grubbing Republicans. They'll do "what's best for us," whether we like it or not. For they not only possess superior insight into the workings of economics, human motivation, and international affairs; they've got "the love that surpasseth all understanding," especially that of you hoi polloi who think you have a right to be left alone.

As in Heinlein's novel, it's merely a seduction tactic: Give us unlimited power over you, and we'll love you as you've never been loved before.

I don't like it that this has become a part of the Republican appeal to the citizenry. I neither need nor want "love" from any politician or party; I want the respect due a self-sufficient, law-abiding citizen.


With very few exceptions, each of us requires certain supports from others among us, principally respect for our rights: freedom to express ourselves; freedom to produce and trade in a trustworthy marketplace; freedom to enjoy the fruits of our labors without interference either from private criminals or from the State. Love? Most of us want love, to be sure. Some theorists claim that we need to love and be loved -- that unless we succeed in loving and winning the love of another, we'll shrivel neurologically and die miserably. But love isn't a commodity for the acquisition of which we should turn to politics.

Ann Romney's disquisition on love, on the love of mothers, and so forth might very well have been necessary to persuade undecided mush-heads that come November 6, her husband should be their choice. But to my mind, that speaks rather poorly of America. It suggests that we've forgotten completely about the imperative of respect and the terrible danger that emanates from any and every form of government. Political "love" is no support to American virtues. It's far more likely to be used as a justification for aggressive intrusions on our rights, in the name of "what's good for you."

Food for thought.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

We're Back And We're Okay

I must be doing something wrong. Vacations are supposed to relax, refresh, and recharge you, right? Right?


1. GPS Follies.

Beware excessive reliance on your GPS-based navigation system. On this trip, we used the C.S.O.'s recently acquired Garmin Nuvi. It's a fine piece of work, generally speaking. However, as with most such devices, before placing full confidence in it, one should learn a bit more about it than just how to turn it on and set a destination.

On our descent from Mount Greylock, we managed to take a wrong turn just before I set a new destination into the Nuvi. The unit cheerfully told us to keep going as we were -- eight and a half miles -- before it directed us into a side street to make a 180-degree course change. We were dumbfounded...until we discovered that the options include a choice to "avoid U-turns," and that the unit arrived with that option turned on.

One of engineering's favorite acronyms is "RTFM." The RT stands for "Read The," and the M stands for "Manual." I don't need to tell you what the F stands for, do I?


2. The Concert.

Our main reason for going to the Berkshires was Sunday evening's concert by Gary Burton and Chick Corea at the Tanglewood Music Center. Had we done nothing else but attend that show, the trip would have been fully justified.

Virtually everyone knows Chick Corea. No contemporary pianist stands in higher esteem. Like the late Nicky Hopkins, his touch seems to turn whatever it falls on to gold. He's distinguished himself not just as a piano virtuoso, but also as a composer, with works of many kinds to his credit. A variety of those works graced the concert we attended.

There's never been a vibraphonist to approach Gary Burton. Burton literally invented modern four-mallet vibraphone technique, and remains its supreme practitioner. He and Corea have been recording and performing together for forty years, starting with their duet album Crystal Silence. Their latest recording, Hothouse, a collection of standards rearranged for their instruments, will be available starting on September 4.

We didn't know before the concert that Corea and Burton would be accompanied by a string quartet -- specifically, The Harlem String Quartet. These four young musicians added a striking new dimension to Corea's and Burton's stylings, one I would not have expected given the instruments involved. It would appear that the bowed instruments are about to re-enter the mainstream of jazz.

One last observation: Corea is 71, and Burton is 69, yet these gentlemen played tirelessly for two solid hours, and never put a note wrong. I know, I know: "There are no mistakes in jazz." (Miles Davis) All the same! Clearly, old age doesn't mandate decrepitude, especially for those who love what they do.


3. Housesitters.

When you have a large in-home menagerie, getting away for more than an afternoon requires that you engage a housesitter. On Long Island, housesitters tend to be young folks, typically college students or graduate students. Our experience with the ones we've engaged has varied, as you might expect. However, the one whose services we've enjoyed most recently, a young lady named Courtney, is a gem.

The rule of reasonable expectations, as applied to housesitters, decrees that you should expect no more than the following when you return from your sojourn:

  • The house will still be standing.
  • None of your animals will have died.
  • Your plants, however, will be a different story.
  • There will be a moderate amount of mess and disorder.
  • At least one phone handset or remote control will have gone AWOL.
  • Don't count on coming home to any particular edible item that you left behind.

Those are not pessimistic statements; the experience of vacationers nationwide testifies eloquently to them. That's what makes Courtney, and her boyfriend Ian, who's inseparable from her, such a treasure:

  • Not only was the house still standing; it was cleaner and neater than we'd left it.
  • Rufus and the cats fell in love with them and were unhappy to see them leave.
  • The plants...well, they were already mostly dead when we left.
  • Everything was exactly where it belonged.
  • Yes, that includes all the phone handsets and remote controls.
  • I don't think they ate anything we hadn't bought specifically for them.

They expressed great pleasure at the opportunity to enjoy our home and look after our animals, and assured us that they'd be available whenever we might need them. Ian particularly enjoyed playing with Rufus -- so much so that Rufus practically slept through our return home, a blessing of sorts for two weary from a long drive.

What's that? You'd like to engage Courtney and Ian for your next housesitting need? Of course, of course! We'd be happy to provide you with their contact information. Just send $100 to my PayPal account.

(Tee hee)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meddlers, Muddlers, and Martyrs

In the same vein as Fran's post on the limits of charity – with which, by the way, I completely agree – I have recently finished a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer which leaves me pondering a related, or perhaps more general question:

What are the limits of moral intervention?


To summarize the story, Bonhoeffer is a somewhat-famous German Lutheran minister involved in several assassination plots against Adolf Hitler. He was from a family of patriotic Germans who disliked Hitler and the Nazis almost from the moment they came onto the scene. This, of course, shows a level of prescience that was sorely lacking in all too many others of the time -- both among Germans and the whole world over.

The various members of the family dealt with the odious regime in different ways. As they were something of an aristocratic family, they were unfortunately drawn into rather close proximity with much that went on at high levels.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer initially dealt with events by remaining a forthright annunciator of the contemporary Protestant position wherever the Nazi movement intersected with the church. He denounced cooperation with Nazi activities aimed at bringing the church into the Nazi program and perverting its doctrine. He brought about a split in the German church which fractured along this line. He also made certain that foreign powers had an accurate idea of events within Germany by serving as a contact with influential members of foreign churches. In all of these actions, he brought unwanted light to bear on Nazi activities and caused them a great deal of embarrassment. He was a tremendous and highly respected thorn in their side.

Then comes a turning point -- he is drafted into the Nazi army. He decides to flee service, not wishing to cooperate, and secures passage to the US. But this decision does not sit well with him as he sees himself fleeing his problems and his troubled nation and church in its time of need.

So...he goes back...and joins the Military Intelligence!

From here, he leads a double-life of intrigue, joining a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, blah, blah, blah...fails several times, gets jailed and eventually executed.


It may seem rather profoundly morally idiotic to question the decision to assassinate Adolf Hitler in this day and age, especially given the benefit of hindsight – something not available to Bonhoeffer – not to mention that he died in the attempt. In my defense, I am not trying to say that the guy is not a hero, and certainly that I believe he was a brave and upstanding man. My question is more philosophical, and I ask the reader to compare Bonhoeffer's actions and attitudes with another famous theologian who wrestled with similar problems – C. S. Lewis.

I hope I might be forgiven for continually bringing up Lewis, however, he is the only such thinker for which I feel I am familiar enough that I can really speak intelligently about him. I can't speak on his behalf, but from my reading of him he seems to have had a very profound and acute sense for exactly where his 'business' began and ended, including his moral obligations, and that he observed them rather absolutely. This makes him come off as a rather 'standoffish-libertarianish' soul in a way that I think many people who claim to find his writings endearing simply do not understand because they haven't read him well enough.  I'm not so sure that they would like him quite as much if they did know.

Consider, for example, his service in WWI. One night he observed that the German defensive positions were not very well secured, and that a night-time raid might be particularly effective against them. He reported this to his officer, who replied something along the lines of “Well, yes, we could do that. But if we did, the Germans might get the idea that they should maybe try something similar, and then where would we be? Fighting eachother all day long, and now all night long, too. Why don't we just leave well-enough alone, and each be a little bit less miserable?”

Lewis seems to have found this an excellent suggestion, and honorably served out the rest of the war without experiencing any more 'pangs of heroism.' Now, this may not seem quite the same as Bonhoeffer's position, and surely it isn't. After all, Lewis was asked to serve on the 'good side,' and could do as he was told in good conscience. But Lewis also knew full well that such 'lack of initiative' could very well prolong the war, and perhaps even more, since as yet the outcome of the war hadn't been decided. How could being such a 'moral slacker' in itself be moral?

Simply because, I think, Lewis had a very different understanding of his own moral obligations. He did not operate at the same 'moral specific heat' as one like Bonhoeffer. In fact, I think he would have recoiled at the idea that such a weight was upon his shoulders at all, as Bonhoeffer appears to have felt. That would not have set well with his understanding of God, His creation, and his expectations of man, I think.  One can find evidence of this 'stand-offishness' very consistently throughout his writings, almost regardless of topic.

His contemporary and friend J.R.R. Tolkien expressed similar sentiments:

What a pity Bilbo did not stab the vile creature, when he had a chance!

Pity? It was pity that stayed his hand. Pity and Mercy: not to strike without need.

I do not feel any pity for Gollum. He deserves death.

Deserves death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.

'Very well,' he answered aloud, lowering his sword. 'But still I am afraid. And yet, as you see, I will not touch the creature. For now that I see him, I do pity him.

Again, not an exact parallel. Hitler was hardly a Gollum (to most people's understanding, anyway...) and the situations are different. But the argument does turn on what exactly it is one's business to be up to – and both 'self-elected final arbiter of justice' and the argument from 'eventual ends' are specifically excluded.


Speaking of which, would Bonhoeffer's 'ends' have realistically been achieved by such actions? I cannot help but think that this is a naïve perspective -- that had the conspirators succeeded in their assassination attempt, all would have been well, more or less. Somehow, I doubt that their optimistic expectations would have been realized. There seems to be a sort of romantic notion of 'heroes of history' somehow deflecting history from its course, averting mass horrific events and with acts of dash and daring or self-sacrifice. As if the Nazis hadn't been popularly elected, did not have widespread support, no intrinsic sympathy for their propaganda and programs for society existed, and Hitler did all the bad stuff himself. Do they really think that if they had deposed the leader, the 'sheep' would have dispersed?

Or perhaps the attitude is not quite that straightforward. Perhaps it is more a rather severe and dramatic sense of personal responsibility – in keeping with the sense of urgent moral interventionism.

I can't help but think that perhaps this attitude of urgent moral interventionism is/was actually a part of the problem. Hitler, after all, was a man of and for the volk. If any government was ever activist and interventionist, his was. Despite its horrific outcomes, the whole totalitarian movement was originally motivated by intense instincts of compassionate intervention – for the 'common man' – into every corner of life. It attained power by appealing to this apparently very widespread instinct in the populace.

Why is it that so many modern leaders seem to have this feeling that they need to do so much for everyone else – even when they are elected explicitly on promises that they won't! Was it always this way? Is it really mostly because they are craven manipulators and conspirators? Maybe sometimes, yes. Maybe most of the time.

But politicians are almost of necessity incurable 'people persons' – especially the type that tends to get elected nowadays. One almost has to be to go through the rigmarole and to get the votes. How many of them actually have gone off to govern with the right intentions, only to be swept away by their sympathies when it came down to actually making the choice?

But it is not as if these people are space aliens – 'they' are 'us.' In other words, its not just them, its almost everybody else, too. I think it is embedded in the modern way of thinking. Most 'good' people can't help but be 'motherly' about everyone and everything – liberal and conservative alike. They see this as doing what is right. Probably the most telling observation of how deeply this idea is embedded can be seen in popular Christian notions of God – everything 'according to His plan,' even the death and suffering of the innocent. Yes, God planned for innocent little children to starve to death.  It's actually all for the best, if we could only understand; it has to be.

No, that position is not theologically elementary and obvious. But it is very common.

If you saw evil, and had the power to act, would you decline? Could you stay your hand, 'on principle,' especially when surrounded by others who will condemn you for it? If you could, what percentage of your fellows do you think could?

There is, at least, some dignity in being violently oppressed by a thuggish, manly dictator. But to be coddled to death by people intent on being overbearing nursemaids and finger-waggers? The Cubans at least get to smoke.

Bonhoeffer was adamantly opposed to the Nazis, fought them bravely, and is a hero for it. But I can't help but thinking that the very attitudes which animated him, which he shared with so many of his fellows, which are almost universal today, and which caused me to be rather repulsed by this book, are not precisely the kinds of attitudes which set the stage for groups like the Nazis to attain power in the first place.

Hence, I think perhaps, the modern popularity of Mr. Bonhoeffer.


A lot of people probably wonder why I tend to post odd things that seem to have little to do with – or sometimes seem at odds with – the theme of Liberty's Torch. The reason is thoughts like these. With all the bad things one sees going on, what is a guy really to do?

Not vain fantasies of somehow showing the bad guys what for, king-for-a-day castle-building, &c. What if pretty much everybody is a bad guy, the whole world is evil? How do you solve that?

How can I posit answers to these things – call others to arms, even – if I don't even know what is going on? I may not like the direction the ship is sailing, but do I know where to take it? Not just which general direction it should go, but an actual, real course and destination? What should I be willing to do to get it there?  That is the job of a captain. Further, is it my place to wrest the helm away from others, or realistic to think that I could? Or is it only given to me to mind my own affairs, and to take care of the things which have legitimately fallen to me as best I can?

Isn't the whole problem that so many people aren't doing just that? Or have even I fallen into this same thinking, and inadvertently created a false analogy – there is no 'big ship,' only a fleet of little ones, and by default, whether I like it or not, I stand at the helm of my own little dinghy? If so, perhaps there is really nothing else to do than remain indifferent to what the cruisers and tankers are up to. Perhaps Captain Bonhoeffer was deluded, and was never the mutineer aboard the USS Nazi Germany that he thought he was, but only imagined himself to be and was plowed under and drowned before his time because he refused to mind her wake and steer his little john-boat clear of her. Perhaps he shared the very delusions of the crew whose efforts he set out to torpedo.

I don't think that ideology is enough. I'm beginning to think it is positively bad – part of the problem. Ideology is pretend certainty, and if I know anything it's that I'm not certain. I've spent a lot of time with free-market economics – well, more than most people, anyway. I've read the views of many experts, and I can find holes. There is no concrete 'answer' there, only abstraction and insight and suggestion. These are wonderful things – perhaps more important than the answers themselves – but brass-tacks in the physical here-and-now they are not. The brass-tacks are concrete things – actual laws, customs, traditions, attitudes.

Of these, I find that I cannot say so easily what should be and what should not. I can see them in the light of the abstraction, but they are of two different worlds, and can never bear directly on one another – only indirectly, through our own eyes and thoughts and minds. It seems that maybe many such systems could fit under the umbrella of 'free' more or less well, but that they can't all necessarily fit there together, nor necessarily persist there for long. 'And yet, it moves.' Reality bears upon reality, tomorrow is never today which is never yesterday. Neither history nor society are state-functions, to be held in idyllic motionlessness, except in the dreams of the central planners and hardened ideologues.

What is my place? It seems a question more central to the world of medieval hierarchy than to modern politics, especially of the libertarian variety. In fact, it seems almost irrelevant today, and maybe that's a shame. As for me, I'm not entirely sure how to answer it, but in lieu of positive certainty, I've settled on a more modest goal – developing ideas, as opposed to fighting battles. As to the concrete, I shall try to hew to the path of the muddlers like Lewis.


Neil Armstrong died yesterday, owing to surgical complications. He was 82 years of age.

Neil Armstrong set foot upon the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969: 43 years, 1 month, and 6 days ago as I write this. On that day, the United States of America was the world's pre-eminent power, and more. We were the first and only interplanetary power. We could do anything. Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin, and NASA had just proved it.

I was seventeen years old and barely begun upon the adventure of adulthood. I'd grown up in an era that celebrated American brawn, brains, and beneficence. The literature of my youth, science fiction from such titans as Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, simply assumed that the exponential curve of American advancement would sweep us into space, past the Moon, out to the farthest reaches of the Solar System, and ultimately to the stars. Free men would conquer the universe, with the Stars and Stripes for their banner.

On July 20, 1969, those optimistic visions appeared to be on the verge of fulfillment.

Where are they today?


I drag a lot of ghosts behind me. My entire family and many of my friends have pre-deceased me. I've suffered a great many maladies, setbacks, and disappointments. I've entered the seventh decade of my life aware that my best days are long behind me...that I have little left to contribute to the world, and probably nothing that will outlive me. But none of those specters glooms over me quite as deeply today as this one: the grandest dream of my youth has been stamped EXPIRED.

I will never stand upon another world.

I didn't expect to get into space by my own efforts, of course. But forty-three years ago, it seemed certain that the Apollo program was only the beginning -- that manned space travel would swiftly be made safe, economical, and commercially viable. We'd established that we could put men upon the Moon and bring them home again; all else would be merely a matter of scale and careful implementation.

I didn't reckon with the political developments of the time. I hadn't yet begun to pay attention to the rising forces of safety-first-fanaticism, of enviro-fascism, of identity politics, of political venality, of unrestrained envy and willed weakness and hatred of freedom. I was too caught up in the glories of the moment...too concentrated upon readying myself to contribute to America's thrust toward the stars.

Those forces have had their way with us. They've long since neutered NASA; today they're doing their best to emasculate America's military. Deep budget cuts are only the first step. If you haven't kept up with the news, there's a faction in the State Department that's arguing for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United States, on the grounds that our possession of nuclear weapons is the only reason any other nation would want them. Meanwhile, the I.R.S. is hiring thousands of new agents and the Fish and Wildlife Service is buying guns and ammunition in truckload quantities. What's wrong with this picture?

What are we doing with our incomparable resources and talents? Putting ever greater fractions of our land and our subsurface assets out of bounds! Making it illegal to drain swamps! Making it unaffordable to fuel your car or heat your home with fossil fuels! Writing welfare checks to idlers in payment for the strenuous work of registering for a yoga class! Organizing "sex education" curricula in the government-run schools that encourage pre-teens to experiment with homosex!

Is there a single sensible American -- i.e., one who loves life, freedom, and achievement -- who regards these developments as sane and constructive? What would Neil Armstrong say about them, were he not too private a person to share his views with the rest of us?

Oh, excuse me: I forgot for a moment. R.I.P., Mr. Armstrong.


I suppose it's a bit inconsistent of me to remember Apollo so fondly. It was a government program, after all. At the time quite a lot of conservatives doubted that space exploration was a proper undertaking of government. But its value as an emblem for the American spirit in those years is unequaled.

There's been a lot of loose chatter about how "we" no longer do "big things." I suppose that depends on your frame of reference. Reducing the richest, most powerful nation in history to penury and impotence is a pretty big thing. I'm glad I had no hand in that, but no doubt there are persons proud of their contributions to the enterprise.

I want my country back: the United States of 1969, when the stars seems destined to be ours, sooner or later. I want to see the safety drones, the enviro-Nazis, the PC crowd, the multiculturalists, the purveyors of identity politics, the exploiters of envy, and the apostles of national impotence put out of this nation. Ideally, I'd like to see them all swinging from gibbets, but one must take what one can get. I want us to flip the bird to our international detractors and whip our enemies yelping back into their kennels. I want us to rev our engines again, unabashedly, and drive for the horizons, grinning like madmen.

I want the ghost of Neil Armstrong to look down on America from heaven and be pleased by what he sees.

Just now, I doubt that that's the case.


[The following essay first appeared at Eternity Road on September 29, 2006. Inasmuch as the Left's principal remaining weapon in the current campaign is their attempt to cause the Right to self-censor with charges of "racism" and such, it feels quite relevant to the moment. Decide for yourself, as always.]

Fran here. Those who know me personally are aware that, when goosed right, I can spin a skein of profanities that would make a longshoreman blush. It's in the genes; Dad was a Navy veteran, and both the skill and the proclivity have "bred true." Those who know me only through Eternity Road might find this surprising, as I neither use nor permit profanity here.

Under normal circumstances.

The essay you've begun features what we may euphemistically call "rough language," and plenty of it. Oh my, yes. As rough as it gets, friends. I'm not kidding, and I'm not being coy or facetious about it, either. After the recent fracas over Virginia Senator George Allen's alleged use of the word "nigger" thirty years ago, I started pondering the whole subject of linguistic taboos and their uses. I've come to some rather ugly conclusions, which, unfortunately, will require the use of some ugly words.

I repeat: I AM NOT KIDDING. The language will be ugly because the topic is ugly. The topic is ugly because ugly persons have been doing ugly things, in service to ugly objectives and ideals. Pace Ayn Rand, the ugliness won't go away simply because we refuse to speak of it -- especially if we accept the new shamans' assertions of linguistic privilege.

To give you every chance to back away cleanly, I'm going to waste a few pixels on a blank barrier. If, rather than surfing away to some more genteel URL, you choose to press the Page Down key and read on, it will be entirely your decision.






















Ah, here we are at last. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, linguistic taboos.

Among primitive tribes, a taboo was a mystical prohibition against a word or deed thought to anger the gods. The definition, rationalization, and enforcement of taboos were the province of the tribe's shamans, to whom the propitiation of the gods was entrusted. Oftentimes, if a primitive society caught one of its members violating a taboo, its shamans would immediately offer him as a sacrifice to the gods, in the hope of averting an explosion of divine wrath.

In our modern lexicon, a taboo is a legally or socially enforced prohibition against speaking openly of certain things: usually, particular topics considered offensive by a politically privileged group. (Note the adverb "openly." Many a taboo honored scrupulously in conduct open to general scrutiny is violated freely among intimates.) Today's shamans, the definers and enforcers of taboos, are those politically privileged groups, often in collaboration with non-members who feel some sympathy with their aims or complaints.

What are the taboos du jour? I'm sure you can name a few:

  • Differences between the sexes, particularly with regard to specific mental competences and the capacity for aggression or initiative;
  • Differences between the races, particularly with regard to general intelligence, proclivity for violent, illegal, or antisocial behavior, and family feeling;
  • The origins, nature, and consequences of homosexuality, particularly with regard to its potential mutability, its association with certain diseases, and its tendency to "proselytize" to the unformed young.
  • The inheritability of general intelligence, and the extent to which post-natal factors can elicit it, stunt it, or compensate for genetic factors.
  • The objective nature of limitations incurred because of handicaps, birth defects, and other irreparable physical conditions.

These are the premier taboo subjects of our day. Indeed, the taboos that cover them are so strong that even to mention that one has an interest in one of these subjects is to draw glares of disapproval and mutterings about one's character and good sense.

Charles Murray, one of the titans of sociology in our time, said in an interview with Jason de Parle of the New York Times that when Richard Herrnstein approached him about collaborating in an investigation of the inheritability of general intelligence, he got the immediate feeling of having been invited to violate a taboo. (Notably, the article de Parle wrote about Murray was titled "The Most Dangerous Conservative In America." Good old Times, always willing to let us decide things for ourselves.) The resulting book, The Bell Curve, was a marvel of careful scholarship and restrained reasoning...yet for daring to assert in public that a significant fraction of human intelligence is determined by genetic factors, the two were vilified roundly by every politically correct commentator in America. Indeed, quite a few un-PC persons disposed to agree with Herrnstein and Murray expressed a wistful regret that they'd kept their study and their conclusions to themselves.

Clearly, challenging a taboo is not something to be done lightly. Even here in America, it can have consequences that can be socially, occupationally, or politically devastating. Though no group has yet succeeded in winning a legal ban on what it considers offensive speech, efforts by several groups to suppress statements they find repugnant are unstinting.

One must ask why some subjects are tabooed. The answer is simple, but enormously daunting: to speak of it is to invite inquiry, which threatens the perquisites of the group behind the taboo. Since the American system enshrines freedom of speech as a sacred principle, we can see why taboos must be enforced by social means. Yet the operation of taboos has served to elevate the groups that promulgate them to a position of legal and political advantage over the rest of us, even though equality of all before the law, and a willful blindness toward group membership, are also fundamentals of the American creed.

The mechanism is equally simple: Smith, a member of a taboo-owning group, can always accuse an adversary -- Jones, for instance -- of violating the taboo out of the public eye. If the taboo-owning group has already been conceded some special status as a victim, and if it's willing to exploit that status with adequate vigor, it will frequently be conceded guilty-until-proven-innocent powers of accusation. Jones is burdened with having to prove that he never said what Smith has accused him of saying -- and it's well established that one cannot prove a negative of this sort.

This is why accusations about the use of racial, sexual, or other taboo epithets have such force. Even if completely unsubstantiated, they can ruin Jones for life. Persons who fear to be tarred with the taboo-breaker brush will draw away from him reflexively. No one wants to be put in the position of having to prove that he never said this or that, nor did he ever allow a taboo statement to pass unchastized, no matter how simon-pure his motives, how spotless his character, and how well-attested his general benevolence might be.

The damage is done upon the instant a group is accorded enduring victim status, and the privilege of defining taboos. It's a trump card that can be played over and over again, until society finally rears up on its hind legs and smashes the edifice of guilt built from it. Unfortunately, when that sort of house of cards collapses, it crushes quite a few lives beneath it.

Before we proceed, allow me to state a few things very, very plainly.

  1. I am a Caucasian of Irish and Italian descent, whose parents were immigrants from those lands.
  2. My loyalties are to my family and the United States of America. I would defend either or both to the death. Apart from a mortgage and a car loan, I owe nothing else to anyone.
  3. What matters most to me about others is their character: their willingness to respect the rights of others and to discharge their proper responsibilities, without whining about any of it.
  4. I believe that there is an American culture, and that it is infinitely superior to all the other cultures of the world, past or present. More, I believe that Americans are the finest people in the world -- that no other land produces anything remotely comparable to our general standard of decency, justice, generosity, or good humor.
  5. I believe that the races, as conventionally defined, differ in various ways. The importance of those differences is topical and contextual.
  6. I believe that the sexes differ in various ways. As with racial differences, the importance of those differences is topical and contextual.
  7. I believe that homosexual sodomy is self-destructive, but that, at least in certain cases, sexual orientation can be changed.
  8. I believe that there is such a thing as general intelligence, that it is at least partly inherited, and that it varies widely.
  9. I believe that the handicapped should receive our sympathy and compassion as individuals to other individuals, but that they are not entitled to more as a matter of right.
  10. I believe that laws that mandate preferred treatment for the members of any group, however defined, are both unConstitutional and destructive.
  11. I hold these convictions not because anyone else holds them, but because the evidence of my senses and my own powers of reasoning have led me to them.

According to the major taboos of our time, this makes me a racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic chauvinist abuser of the physically challenged. By copping to all this, I've violated all the major, politically correct taboos of our time: about race, gender, sexual orientation, the handicapped, and multiculturalism. Needless to say, the enforcers of those taboos would like to see me boiled in oil.

They can dip their outrage in beaten eggs, roll it in crushed walnuts, and shove it up their asses.

Perhaps the second-greatest crime to spring from preferential treatment for "victim" groups is this: it's a powerful inducement to members of those groups to see themselves not as individuals, but as instances of the group first and foremost, perhaps even exclusively. Thus, many young black men who could achieve substantially on their own merits are seduced into victimist beliefs about the hostility and power of "the man," and slide into permanent attitudes of envy, frustration, and resentment. Many young women quite capable of happiness and fulfillment, whether as careerists or as homemakers, are seduced into victimist beliefs about "glass ceilings" and "patriarchal oppression," surrender their innocence and delight in the dance of the sexes, and live forever in a blend of resentment and fear. Many handicapped persons take to feeling they're "owed;" many homosexuals take to feeling they're "hated;" and so on throughout the universe of victim-status groups.

But the essence of Man is that each of us is individual and unique. We are individually motivated; individually pleased or displeased; individually able or unable; and individually responsible for our decisions and deeds. I cannot believe that anyone with the mental horsepower required by self-awareness is wholly unconscious of that. Yet many persons, apparently prizing group affiliation and its privileges more highly than self-respect, adopt total immersion in a group, and the renunciation of the privileges and responsibilities of individuality, as their modus vivendi.

My contempt for such persons is boundless. I was about to say that the English language lacks words adequate to express it, but in fact it doesn't. Bide a while and you'll see.

Nor is it only persons of inferior intelligence or abilities that sink to such depths. No one could accuse race-hustlers such as Cornell West or Jesse Jackson of stupidity. These are men of demonstrable talent. Yet they've given themselves to a racialist agenda. Similarly, no one could accuse Andrea Dworkin or Catharine MacKinnon of inferior ability. One might quarrel with the uses to which they put their gifts, but the power of them is easily sensed. Yet they've given themselves to a gender-war agenda. In doing so, these persons have persuaded lesser souls, of lesser powers, to follow them and their agenda. And so it goes, among homosexuals...the handicapped...the "homeless"...and similarly with every category of humanity that has striven to be seen as victimized by anyone or any thing in any way.

The essence of the taboo in American society is linguistic: not to speak the forbidden thought or attitude. So one such as I, who holds many taboo beliefs, is supposed to remain silent about them all. That would reduce me to prayers, requests to pass the condiments, and the occasional statement of approbation for the New York Rangers. Needless to say, I've chosen to express myself rather more broadly than that.

But even those of us who defy the taboos ideologically are expected to obey their constraints on our vocabulary. Certain words are forbidden to us with a firmness that hints at a mouthful of soap to come.

Some of those words have an ugly cast. But equally ugly words have passed into common parlance:

  • shit
  • fuck
  • motherfucker
  • cocksucker
  • frig

...and no doubt, our language being a constantly evolving and expanding thing, there are new vulgarities related to sex acts, body parts, elimination, and the like that I haven't yet learned.

The difference between those common vulgarities and the taboo words claimed by the victim-status groups is this: each of the taboo words is used freely within an owner-group that strives to deny it to outsiders with the force of the taboo:

  • Victimist blacks often call one another "nigger," often as an expression of fellowship or approbation. Indeed, a rap act of some notoriety named itself Niggers With Attitude, apparently without embarrassment.
  • Homosexuals feel no constraint about calling one another "queers," "dykes," "queens," or "faggots," even if the rest of us are not licensed to do so. Indeed, one of its activist groups is named "Queer Nation."
  • Women who ascribe to a particular shade of feminism make free and frequent reference to their "cunts," which is a hangin' offense for any possessor of a Y chromosome. A professor of Women's Studies at a relatively well-known university has been known to discourse on "cuntal dialectics."

It's one of my beliefs that, just as to every thing there is a season, to every word there is a proper application. This holds with special force for those words that have acquired their meaning through vulgarization. Perhaps the above uses, unconsciously self-damning as they are, have proved my point. The persons who employ them in such fashion deserve no better.

I could go on, but I believe the point has been made. The shamans of contemporary linguistic taboos have adopted nigger, faggot, cunt, and the other forbidden words as passwords, emblems of group membership -- and membership, as American Express has been at pains to remind us, has its privileges. No one outside the shamans' circle is permitted to speak the password; it's an arrogation of a jealously guarded status. He who dares must be cut down, ground into the dust, and forbidden ever to speak at all, to any effect, in any context. For as in all systems of nymic magic, the word is deemed congruent with the thing: the taboo words are at the root of the shamans' power. Failure to enforce the taboo would risk the loss of the group's privileges and immunities, laboriously amassed over the decades of exploitation of others' guilt.

Every circle of shamans must have a private language. Better that it be secret, but private above all. The taboo words and their use are all that distinguish the privileged from the hoi polloi. They must be guarded to the death.

Adele: Rolling In The Deep.

H/t: American Digest.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pretty woman.

H/t: Reflecting Light.

Some Saturday Quickies

Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter; this is about news.

1. "Undecided"

Apparently, inexplicable numbers of Americans are still "undecided" about the presidential candidate they prefer:

Two months out from Election Day, nearly a quarter of all registered voters are either undecided about the presidential race or iffy in their support for a candidate, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows.

These voters could well prove decisive in a close contest. And they will be tough nuts for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to crack.

Just 29 percent of them have a strong interest in the campaign, compared with 51 percent of those who've made up their minds. So no, they won't be hanging on every word coming out of the national political conventions in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., over the next two weeks.

A fine example of mindlessly uncritical journalism. The critical question here is not why so many voters are "undecided," but why the reporter accepted such representations at face value. Virtually no one is truly "undecided" this year, but nearly all of us are sick of pollsters, telephone calls from pollsters, and the unconcealed biases of so-called "journalists." So we claim to be "undecided," in the hope that these folks will leave us alone.

Sadly, it doesn't appear to be working. The "journalists" need something to write about, so we get articles such as this one. Say, how about an article on the rising panic among "journalists" as regular people withdraw their interest in the Old Media?


2. Oh, For The Days Of "The Family That Prays Together" PSAs.

You'd have to be a modern-day Rip Van Winkle not to know that organized hostility toward Christianity and Christians is at a millennial high:

A new report by the Family Research Council and the Liberty Institute claims that there's been a rising pattern of hostility toward Christians in America over the past decade.

The 140-page "Survey of Religious Hostility in America," prepared by the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council, highlighted more than 600 examples illustrating what it characterized as religious animosity shown by judges, government bureaucrats, schools and secular groups. From ObamaCare mandates that force religious entities to pay for contraception, to children being punished for uttering prayers in school, the report's findings shocked even those who commissioned it.

“It’s a conflict of world views," Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, told "These groups want people to check their faith at the door of the public square.”

It's actually worse than that. Militant atheism is at an all-time high. Christian believers are verbally attacked in innumerable situations -- by persons who can no more prove the veracity of their own creeds than any Christian! As a specimen of intellectual arrogance and overweening pretension to superiority, it's unequaled in my experience.

But note! The militant atheists never, ever challenge Islam or Muslims. Might that be because Christians don't react to derision with violence? Hmmm....


3. Evidence? We Don't Need No Stinking Evidence!

Lance Armstrong has decided to throw up his hands over the utterly baseless assaults on his cycling victories:

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles Friday, erasing one of the most incredible achievements in sports after deciding he had used performance-enhancing drugs to do it.

Armstrong, who retired a year ago, was also hit with a lifetime ban from cycling. An athlete who became a hero to thousands for overcoming cancer and for his foundation's fight against the disease is now officially a drug cheat in the eyes of his nation's doping agency.

However, the organizers of the Tour de France say they will wait to see what happens before commenting on Lance Armstrong's case.

In a news release, USADA said Armstrong's decision not to take the charges against him to arbitration triggers the lifetime ineligibility and forfeiture of all results from Aug. 1, 1998, through the present, which would include the Tour de France titles he won from 1999 through 2005.

Armstrong has strongly denied doping and contends USADA was on a "witch hunt" without any physical evidence against him.

Mind you, Armstrong has never, ever failed a drug test or a doping test. Apparently, his success alone, at a sport in which Americans had not previously been prominent, was enough to trigger the assaults on his name and achievements.

Just who is this "U.S. Anti-Doping Agency?" Who sits on its boards? Who wrote its criteria for action? And why, given the utter absence of any physical evidence against Lance Armstrong, did it decide to embark on a campaign of defamation against him?


4. Another Lawyers' Field Day.

Samsung has been hit with the largest-ever verdict in a patent-infringement case -- over the look and feel of its products:

After a year of scorched-earth litigation, a jury decided Friday that Samsung ripped off the innovative technology used by Apple to create its revolutionary iPhone and iPad.

The jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion. An appeal is expected. Apple Inc. filed its patent infringement lawsuit in April 2011 and engaged legions of the country's highest-paid patent lawyers to demand $2.5 billion from its top smartphone competitor. Samsung Electronics Co. fired back with its own lawsuit seeking $399 million.

But verdict, however, belonged to Apple, as the jury rejected all Samsung's claim against Apple. Jurors also decided against some of Apple's claims involving the two dozen Samsung devices at issue, declining to award the full $2.5 billion Apple demanded. However, the jury found that several Samsung products illegally used such Apple creations as the "bounce-back" feature when a user scrolls to an end image, and the ability to zoom text with a finger tap.

"Look and feel." Who on Earth came up with the idea that such things could be patented? What's that you say? Lawyers? It figures.

Two jokes:

  • A new test for determining your ideal occupation involves a safari: You are sent to Africa to hunt elephants. Your behavior there is matched against that of the major occupational groups. Whichever group you most resemble is your occupation of choice.

    Lawyers don't actually hunt elephants, but they do argue with one another over who owns the elephants', ah, "droppings." A software lawyer will claim to own an entire herd based on the "look and feel" of a single dropping.

  • There was once a peaceable small town, somewhere in Middle America, whose population included a lawyer. That's right: the town was home to just one lawyer. That poor soul barely managed to survive, year after year, in that peaceable small town.

    However, the story has a happy (?) ending, for by and by a second lawyer moved to that peaceable small town...and now the two of them have all the work they can handle.


5. What Was That About Civility, Mr. Obama?

Do you recall something about bringing a "new tone" to national politics, if only we'd install a Marxist Mulatto in the White House?

Democrats are planning to break from the tradition of keeping a low profile during the rival party’s convention, dispatching Vice President Biden to the host city and putting other A-list surrogates on the campaign trail to perhaps steal some of the spotlight...

The move marks a concerted effort to make sure the Democratic message is not drowned out, not even for a week, in what is shaping up to be a tightening presidential race.

“Decorum has broken down,” said Christopher Arterton, former dean of the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. “It’s accepted practice now. We may well see each party make news during the other’s convention.”

Arterton points out that Obama being president makes whatever he says newsworthy. “So it’s easier to intrude,” particularly after a news event “like a hurricane, just suppose,” he said.

Obama is desperate. He knows as well as any conservative that the polls that show a neck-and-neck race are based on samples heavily weighted toward Democrats. He also knows that a defeat would damage both his personal escutcheon and the entire left-liberal europeanization-of-America project for decades to come. Given that the University of Colorado's fabled electoral college simulation predicts a landslide Romney victory, he, his campaign, and his many cat's paws in the media and the entertainment world are pulling out all the stops. No tactic will be deemed beneath consideration; effectiveness will be the sole criterion.

Fortunately, the masks have been off for a while now. Reince Priebus has stated that the GOP will counter Obamunist tactics with moves of equal ferocity. The nation will have a clear choice before it...and hopefully, will remember all the empty promises Obama made during the 2008 campaign, including the one about a "new tone."


6. Yes, It's True...

After forty years -- dear God, am I really that old? -- of playing acoustic guitar, I've decided to take up the electric version of the instrument. And yes, I really did order a Gibson Les Paul from Amazon yesterday evening, in a fit of unprecedented euphoria about...well, a lot of things.

Unfortunately, an electric guitar of any sort is a "gateway" purchase. Next come the special-effects pedals. Then the wall of Marshall amps. Then the MIDI boxes and mix-down equipment. Then the Korg synthesizer. Then the wild hairstyles, the piercings, and the odd clothes. Then the massive drug habits and hob-nobbing with equally deranged celebrities. Then...

Hm, this could be fun. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sudden, Inexplicable Madness

Well, here we are in the Berkshires.
The sun is shining.
It's cool and pleasantly breezy.
We have dinner reservations at five.
My arm and shoulder hardly hurt at all.
I'm enjoying my second glass of Tawny Port.
The C.S.O. is relaxed, smiling, and possibly amenable to sex later.
So I went to Amazon and ordered a Gibson Les Paul and a small amplifier to go with it.

What's that you say? "Knock it off, Fran" -- ? Hey, I haven't felt this good in three months.

And a month from now, I'll be hailed as the rightful successor to Alvin Lee.

(Well, maybe it will seem more plausible after my third glass of Tawny Port.)

Let's Try This Again

Posting might be somewhat lighter for the next few days, as the C.S.O. and I are heading off to the Berkshires for a long weekend and the climax of the Tanglewood Jazz Festival: pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton in concert together. (Incidentally, if you've never heard their joint album Crystal Silence, you have no idea what a treat it is.)

Our last attempt at a getaway was spoiled by this shoulder ailment of mine. As the pain has been reduced somewhat through physical therapy, and severe spikes are markedly less frequent than they were, we're taking another shot at it. However, there is a price: I have to let the C.S.O. do the driving. Her convictions about highway safety diverge greatly from mine. Pray for us!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Moral Wrongs Part 2: The Secular Imperative

Yesterday's essay was stimulated primarily by the most contentious of all quasi-political topics: abortion. However, the overarching subject -- the proper subjects of legislation -- is far larger. Among the battlegrounds it dominates is one characterized by a two-sentence exchange:

Speaker 1: You can't legislate morality!
Speaker 2: You can hardly legislate anything else!

Ironically, both statements above are about equally true. What matters most is the definition of morality used to justify legislation.


Regular readers will already know that I'm a devout Catholic. Historically erudite readers will know that from about 400 AD to about 1800 AD, much of Europe was governed by states whose law codes were deeply and powerfully informed by Christian doctrine. Quite a number of persons use that aspect of history as a premise for asserting that if we Catholics had our druthers, we'd transform the United States into a Catholic theocracy, with a regime indirectly controlled by the Vatican. Indeed, accusations of that sort were frequent during the 1960 presidential campaign.

Solly, Cholly. We're smarter than that. There are other creeds whose allegiants aren't as smart as we are, but that's another subject altogether.

One of the things Catholics have learned from history is that you cannot use power without being used by power. During the era of Throne and Altar, ruling regimes exploited the backing of the Church specifically to quell resistance among their subjects. The threat of eternal damnation was often as effective a deterrent to resistance as the threat of being chopped in half with a broadsword. The Church, which feared to lose the special privileges that accrued to it from its political alliances, had no choice but to go along.

Indeed, the reciprocal manipulation of the Church by political power frequently determined clerical appointments and elevations in rank. Sometimes it extended all the way to the selection of a pope. Read the history of the Papacy at Avignon, and the Time of Three Popes, and form your own conclusions. That Christian clerics did their best to temper the behavior of the regimes they supported does not completely exonerate them for agreeing to such unholy alliances.

We're done with that, thanks. It didn't do the world a lot of good, and it's tarnished the image of the Church ever since. If you want a legitimate modern specimen of a creed that aspires to political hegemony, talk to the Muslims.


The acceptance of a religious creed is inherently a matter of individual conscience. It cannot be compelled. Equally so, the acceptance of a creed's ethos -- its behavioral code -- must be voluntary to be meaningful. (Just one more thing Muslims fail to understand. Well, they aren't terribly bright.) By implication, for a State to employ temporal power to enforce a religion's ethos is antithetical to the voluntary nature of religious belief. Quod erat demonstrandum.


  • American law doesn't attempt to compel religious affiliation of any sort;
  • American law doesn't attempt to punish atheism, blasphemy, idolatry, playing golf on Sunday, dishonoring one's parents, deceits that have no material consequence, adultery, or envy;
  • The laws against murder, theft, fraud, and perjury have nothing at all to do with the Ten Commandments.

If religious affiliation must be voluntary, it can be no other way. Only in a land where Throne and Altar are united in hegemony will you find such notions in the saddle. Nations derived from the Enlightenment don't qualify.


So why do we have laws against murder, theft, fraud, and perjury, if not because God Himself forbids them?

(You know, I never expected I'd have to explain this. Then again, I never expected to write an essay such as this one. It's a bit like supervising the reading of Fun With Dick And Jane. But recent events, and the tenor of recent email, have made it mandatory, if only to discourage the lamebrains that have recently attempted to monopolize my attention. And yes, before you ask, I'm feeling rather irritated this morning. No, the shoulder thing isn't the reason, though it certainly doesn't help.)

Simple: We have laws against those things because they involve objectively demonstrable harms to individuals: invasions of their rights to their lives, their liberty, and their property. Good laws address nothing but such harms, and prescribe unvarying punishments for them.

Secular government -- the only sort the United States can have, given the "no religious test" clause in the Constitution -- must be based entirely on objective matters. To contend, for example, that abortion must be outlawed because "God forbids it" simply doesn't fly. To contend that abortion must be outlawed because it constitutes the murder of an innocent child has some legs, though the matter will still be fought over long after I'm safely and cozily dead.

Consider a much less contentious subject, upon which American governments once attempted to impose law but on which they've grown passive in more recent decades: gambling. Yes, there are still laws against commercialized gambling (e.g., casinos) in most states. However, when it comes to "less organized" forms of gambling, whatever laws remain on the books that forbid them are no longer enforced. Why?

There are two reasons. First, to attempt to impose a law on a populace willing and able to resist that law effectively is self-defeating: it creates disrespect for law in general, and weakens the State's ability to enforce its other laws. Second, and arguably even more important, laws against gambling were holdovers of the era of Throne and Altar. Christian clerics in pre-Enlightenment Europe forbade gambling for pecuniary reasons; their inheritors in the New World dragged the precedent along with them.

The Western world is still unlearning the attitudes and legal missteps of that time. The Middle East, apart from Israel, has never unlearned them, which accounts for nearly all its self-imposed troubles.


There are many religious and quasi-religious creeds at large in the world; possibly more than ever before in history. Each one promulgates a code of right conduct and a catalog of moral wrongs. When individuals are free to choose among them according to the dictates of their consciences, no harm can issue from them -- assuming the religions don't exhort their allegiants to do harm to others, of course. But when one sect rises to political power, and thus becomes capable of marginalizing the others and of imposing itself on individuals by force, matters change, and not for the better.

Frank Herbert wrote in Dune that when Church and State ride in the same chariot, the individual is dramatically diminished -- to "something less than a man." We have ample evidence to this effect. May we never forget the lessons it has taught us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Moral Wrongs And Legal Tolerance

The piece immediately below this one is my argument that an embryo or fetus in the womb is inseparable, in terms of identity, from the child it becomes -- and that therefore, abortion at any stage of gestation is the execution of an innocent human being, a clear moral wrong.

As the movie critics like to say: Buy the premise, buy the flick. If you disagree with my premise that continuity is identity, the remainder of this article will be irrelevant to you. But if you find it persuasive, what follows constitutes an important proviso that the pro-life movement will ultimately find that it must respect.

Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The Fourth and Fifth Amendments, taken together, constitute the private citizen's protection against many potential abuses of the criminal justice system. Were their defenses of privacy to be removed from the Constitution, apologists for the Omnipotent State could then argue for such things as compulsory contributions to a national DNA database, or compulsory testimony by the defendant in a criminal trial. After all, if "justice" is the end in view, then individuals' prerogatives that fall short of the status of rights must give way, for "justice" is the redress of violations of others' rights!

Happily -- though perhaps less happily among certain totalitarian-minded sectors of the populace -- the Fourth and Fifth Amendments stand. God willing and the electorate smart enough not to allow Barack Hussein Obama a second term in the White House, they will continue to stand. However, their protections do constrain what Americans can do to oppose moral wrongs with the justice system. Indeed, we would not want it otherwise.

Imagine the following scenario: Miss Smith, for reasons known solely to her, goes to her local pharmacy and purchases a home pregnancy test kit. She uses it in the privacy of her home, reads the verdict, and destroys the test strip. The next day, she calls her physician and asks him to schedule a dilation and curettage, which takes place a few days later. All these actions and transactions are conducted between Miss Smith and other private parties.

Add that recent Supreme Court decisions have overturned Roe v. Wade. Miss Smith lives in a state that has recently criminalized abortion at all stages of gestation. Can the state make a case against her for having solicited and received an abortion?

Under the strict terms of the Constitution of the United States, particularly the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the answer is no:

  • Miss Smith cannot be compelled to testify against herself.
  • In the absence of probable cause, no warrant may be issued for any of the items that would constitute evidence against her.
  • As the D&C procedure is often administered for reasons other than an abortion, neither her physician nor her pharmacist can produce substantiation for an "oath or affirmation" that would pass Constitutional muster.

Mind you, Miss Smith may have received a first-trimester abortion. Many persons would link the purchase of the pregnancy test to the D&C and declare with personal (albeit unjustified) certainty that she had done so. If she did, then by the metaphysical standards presented below, she has extinguished the life of an innocent child -- a moral wrong. But nothing can be legally done about it without breaching her Constitutionally acknowledged and protected rights: a far worse measure that in time would bring about far more than one death.

America must extend legal tolerance to this moral wrong because the consequences of not doing so would be unimaginably worse.


There are other deeds which huge majorities regard as moral wrongs that we must treat similarly: some for similar reasons; others because no State could ever have enough power to enforce laws against them. It's not that our moral judgment is necessarily incorrect, though there have been cases where huge majorities have eventually been proved wrong about such a conviction. Indeed, there are several such issues before us today. Perhaps you can name one or two yourself.

Despite the notions of the Left, the Omnipotent State, capable of arranging reality in all dimensions and to any degree, is a fantasy. In this libertarian-conservative's opinion, it had better remain so; the alternative would be horrifying beyond all contemplation. But more specifically toward the eternally contentious subject of abortion, even a clear moral wrong, condemned by everyone on Earth but the one man who wants to do it, isn't necessarily a proper subject for action by the State. The imperatives of justice include the protection of our postulated, pre-existent individual rights against the zeal of the Cause People: those folks to whom individuals' rights are tolerable only as long as they don't obstruct their notions of "progress."

Don't be a Cause Person. Be an American.

"The Good Ship NEWF"

[This essay first appeared at Eternity Road, on July 1, 2006. I claim that one cannot have a defensible position on either abortion or cloning until he has satisfactorily answered the questions here.]

Who are you? I mean, really? And how do you know?

That phrase "identity theft:" what does it mean? Is the thief really stealing his victim's identity? Perhaps one could assert that in a small number of cases -- Jack Nicholson's old movie The Passenger comes to mind -- but far more often, he's stealing some group of the rights or privileges associated with that identity, isn't he? He doesn't want to be you; he simply wants to be able to do a few of the things you're entitled to do.

But let's get back to basics. Who are you? How do you know? And how do others know you for who you claim to be?

Most of us, thank God, never have to grapple with the question to any serious degree. That doesn't mean it isn't a serious question. Just ask Jeff Medcalf.

The question is hard to answer even when applied to inanimate objects. For example, let's imagine that I own a sailboat -- I don't, having no interest in water recreations -- and that I've named it the NEWF, after my late, beloved, exceedingly moist Newfoundland Bruno. The good ship NEWF can be viewed:

  • Holistically, as a unitary entity with a clearly designed-in function and an associated identity, or:
  • Reductionistically, as an assemblage of anonymous (I hope) wooden, steel, rope, and canvas parts.

When its function as a sailboat is being exercised, its holistic, functional identity is clearly the one of immediate interest. Yet if I were to shipwreck myself upon some lonely island -- perhaps Staten, with its forbidding landfills, or Fire, with its natives'...disturbing fleshly practices -- NEWF's reductionistic characteristics would come to the fore, as I made use of its planks for firewood and its sails for blankets. Many would claim that in that second case, there no longer is a good ship NEWF, merely a pile of useful, unnamed items.

Here's the ultimate poser about identity: Imagine that, in the quite ordinary course of maintenance, I were to remove one of NEWF's deck planks and replace it with another -- but instead of discarding the removed plank, I laid it aside. Imagine further that, over the years, I pulled up and replaced (but did not discard) still more planks, until a decade hence, I had replaced every component built into the original boat with an identical substitute. Would it still be the good ship NEWF?

I'll take you a step further: Imagine that I'd saved all the replaced components, and out of sheer philosophical whimsy built a boat from them that was identical to the original. The replaced components, torn one by one from the original structure, have now been reassembled into...the original structure! But...but...the "original" -- the one that now contains no component built into the NEWF at its moment of christening -- is sitting over there, at that dock! Which one is the good ship NEWF?

In practical terms, the problem is unimportant, as anyone who were to do such a thing would swiftly be certified and packed off to some pleasant institution with soft walls. But metaphysically, it spotlights the nature of identity as men understand it.

The undefined abstraction we call identity is inseparable from continuity.

The boat with "all new" components would have been continuously the NEWF, in service as the NEWF gives service, from the moment of its christening to the moment of the question, regardless of how many of its parts had been replaced. Its identity as a holistically, functionally viewed item was never interrupted. The components torn from it had no identity of their own; their "participation" in the NEWF's identity was strictly as "supporting cast." Their removal could not undermine the NEWF's "NEWFness," any more than the receipt of a transplanted kidney from Smith could lessen Jones's identity as Jones.

So who are you? Don't you owe your identity as yourself to having been continuously "in residence" in your body and mind from the moment of your birth? How much of that assemblage could be replaced without undermining your claim to your identity? What about the possibility of an "interruption in service?" That is, if you were to die tomorrow, and some time later were revived exactly as you are today, would you still be legitimately the person you are today? Would the length of the interruption matter to the argument? And what about the regular, refreshing interruptions of consciousness we call sleep?

For the really strong of stomach: were you who you are today -- in essence, not in acquired capabilities nor extrinsic possessions -- before you were released from your mother's womb? If so, what intervening events or changes, had they occurred, would have negated your fetus's claim to be you? If not, why not?