Tuesday, August 7, 2012


1. A Disclaimer.

Just in case you haven't yet noticed, I'm not a "politically correct" sort, and neither are my Co-Contributors. However, we aren't of a single mind about everything under the sun. I doubt anyone in the world shares my opinion of what ought to be done with the front office of the New York Rangers for having traded away Brandon Dubinsky.

Our newest brother-in-pixels, Mark Butterworth, has been making waves with his essay-series "The Next American Revolution...will be stillborn." Beyond all question, his opinions on various matters are off-axis and provocative. That's why I invited him to contribute here. But the usual disclaimers all apply:

  • Mark's opinions are Mark's opinions; it would be a grievous error to assume that the rest of us share them in all particulars.
  • The "management" of Liberty's Torch -- hey, that's me! -- is not responsible for those opinions, nor for your reactions to them.
  • Arguments that proceed from defensible postulates and employ facts and logic alone are always welcome; vituperation and defamation are not.
  • If Mark or any of his IM force are caught or killed, the Secretary will deny all knowledge of their actions.

He who can't abide a difference of opinion about something fundamental and substantive must encyst himself within a "guard" of the like-minded. That's the only way he can guarantee himself against being "disturbed." However, it also guarantees that he'll never learn anything he doesn't already "know."


2. "Put me in charge..."

One of the more common varieties of fantasy is the "If I were King" type, in which one imagines the reordering of the world under his all-knowing guidance (and absolute power). Most of us are aware that such fantasies cannot be acted out in reality; human beings are just too bloody ornery and contrary. Unfortunately, a fellow with incomprehensibly persistent delusions about his omnipotence sits in the Oval Office at this time, from which circumstance quite a bit of the political Sturm und Drang we currently endure has flowed.

Fantasies they might be, but every now and then we get a "damn right!" example of the genre:

Waco Tribune-Herald, Nov. 18, 2010
Put me in charge

Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho’s, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine and document all tattoos and piercings. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, smoke or get tats and piercings, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your “home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good.”

Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules.. Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin their “self esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

AND while you are on Gov’t subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov’t welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.

Alfred W. Evans
Gatesville, TX

Quite a lot of Americans would agree enthusiastically with the sentiments expressed above. Not a "bleeding heart liberal," of course; Mr. Evans refuses to make allowances for good intentions, the state of the economy, or any other factor extrinsic to the welfare-supplicant's actual, personal efforts in his own interest. But what the BHL fails (or refuses) to realize is that our luxuriant welfare state is one of the two principal reasons for our economic stagnation.

No? Think about it.


3. "Torment"

In commenting at this recent post, longtime reader Goober broadens our considerations about suffering in an insightful way:

Another thing that I've noticed the pain scale is missing is a lack of a "torment" scale.

Torment, to me, is not pain. Pain is the shooting, physical stimulus that you get when your body tells you that something is wrong. Torment is the inexact measurement of how much that pain and discomfort associated with it is effecting the individual, and to me, this is more often than not much more important than actual measurements of pain.

Anyone can endure one minute of level 10 pain. It will suck, but it goes away, and your torment scale will be relatively low as a result of it.

Almost all of us wouldn't even notice a level 4 pain that lasts for one minute. What about 4 years? That level 4 pain, after 4 years, becomes the most intolerable, horrible thing in your life, and awareness of it encompasses your every action every single day.

Torment, in this formulation, is the integral of pain over duration. Protraction doesn't increase the instantaneous amplitude of a pain, but it does increase the aggregate torment.

Pain cannot kill; torment most certainly can.

Would anyone care to apply Goober's insight to America's political torment, these past four years?


4. Judgment calls.

Concerning yesterday's reprise of my old "The Most Awful Day" post from Eternity Road, a few readers have written to ask whether I consider the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a well-justified decision -- that is, whether I concur with Harry Truman's assessment of the A-bombing as the most humane way to bring the War in the Pacific to an end. Inasmuch as that decision is one of the most frequently and ardently Monday-morning-quarterbacked calls in human history, a Gentle Reader might expect that I have a few thoughts of my own on the subject.

Well, I don't.

War, and the decisions made within a war, cannot legitimately be second-guessed. The fundamental issue is the decision maker's degree of knowledge about the conditions before him. It's never complete, and his confidence in what he thinks he knows is never absolute. The old phrase "the fog of war" applies to high commanders even more poignantly than it does to troops on the field of battle.

When I was younger and not quite as weary, I indulged in more than a few doubts about Truman's decision...and about Roosevelt's approval of the bombing campaigns against German civilians, the pinnacle of which was the destruction of Dresden. I'd like to think I've learned a few things since then, among them the terrible weight that rests on the shoulders of a man responsible for the lives of others. Every decision a commander makes in wartime involves a blood price. The only thing an uninvolved party can justly say about such decisions is "I hope you got it right."

The United States is currently trending away from warmaking against civilians and other noncombatants. Morally, that's beyond question a good thing...if every other potential factor in a wartime context is deliberately excluded. The Ace of trumps in all such deliberations -- Will this increase or reduce the total of horrors this war will cost Mankind? -- is a question for which a commander never has enough knowledge to be immovably certain. Which is among the biggest reasons every man who bears the responsibility for inflicting death on others, or for sending men under his command into potentially mortal danger, should be on our prayer lists at all times.

Please, let's spare such men the barbs of our second-guessing. We have not walked in their shoes...for which we should be supremely grateful.


lelnet said...

Meh. If I were made king, I'd devote my reign to the abolition of every government position not demonstrably and critically necessary to the prevention of aggression against citizens either by other citizens or by foreign governments. I'd begin the abolition of offices at the bottom of the hierarchy, and conclude at the top -- the top, of course, being the king, that is, myself.

It might take as much as a week...there are so very many such offices, after all, and even just signing royal decrees, my hand would get tired periodically.

On the other hand, I was pretty much with the Waco dude until he got to the bit where he enslaves everyone who doesn't have a W2 employer. I'm fine with requiring welfare recipients to do work for the government in exchange, but as long as I'm only spending MY money and not HIS money, it's none of his business where it came from.

pdwalker said...

Even second guessing those wartime decisions, I can only conclude they made the best decisions they could at the time.

I find it difficult to fathom how someone could conclude differently.

Anonymous said...

Goober's torment index applies really nicely, not just to the sick, but to caregivers for the sick and disabled. I'm in no physical pain, but I'm sole caregiver to a partially paralyzed 53yo stroke patient who formerly completed multiple Ironman triathlons ... torment is the right word for my daily life, though pain isn't part of it. Thanks, Goober, this means a lot to me.

JC said...

Having $200 monthly food budget on my Lone Star card, I bought some whole boneless pork loins on sale at my local grocer's for $1.99/lb and froze them. Hamburger is now nearly $3.00/lb, and top loin steak is on sale for $2.99/lb.

Quality ingredients, quality food. Frozen veg - YES. Cheaper and better tasting than canned. And the three pepper and onion frozen mix is cheaper than buying the peppers.

What I don't buy is pre-packaged food, prepared foods, TV dinners, &c. I buy canned beans because cost benefit analysis tells me that I'm wasting energy cooking them myself, plus the cans don't go bad from rot and mildew.

Actually, I don't so much buy food as I buy ingredients, and turn them into food.

Please don't begrudge me the cheap "luxuries" I indulge, they're cheaper than you think.

I do think the less of myself for sucking at the public teat. It breaks my little chrome vanadium drop forged in Taiwan heart every time I use it, but needs must.