Monday, December 31, 2012


Demand a Plan.

A Few Last Words Before The Year Dies

This is mainly a political blog. At least, most of our Gentle Readers come here for the politically focused material, if I can judge by the comments and the emails. So I hope it won't dampen anyone's New Year's Eve spirit to receive a few more politically oriented thoughts before the ball drops.

I don't want to cut into anyone's inebriation schedule, so I'll strive to be brief.

First, we took a body blow in November, but not a knockout punch. Our main political difficulty arises, not from any fault in ourselves, but from a lack of character in our elected representatives. ("Our" meaning Republicans who claim, often falsely, to be attached to the principles of Constitutional government.) The majority of the Republicans we've sent to Washington have proved spineless, faithless, or both. That's the worst of the 2012 political news; nothing else comes close to it.

If there's a remedy for the stupidity and flaccidity of the Stupid and Flaccid Party, it lies in sweeping out the ruling cadre, which has demonstrated a complete disinterest in anything remotely resembling Constitutionally limited government. It's not enough to support sound conservatives for Congress...or for the White House. They must also have a party to back them, which the kingmakers of today's GOP do not.

Concerning the Evil Party, nothing can be done.

Second, it's vital for conservatives to remain connected and engaged. Even those of us who have no interest in running for office or working directly for a political organization should make an effort at this. The effort required will be greater than in previous years, because the Left has increased its own efforts to separate and discourage us.

Disheartening conservatives -- persuading us that there's no hope, and no one we can trust to have our flanks -- is the Left's new grass-roots priority. Their strategists have realized that the successes of 2010 flowed directly from conservatives' grass-roots energy. They have a number of tactics deployed: some through the Mainstream Media; others through the Web. If you're attuned to their objective, you'll recognize them when you encounter them.

Don't let them affect you. Knowing what they're after makes it much easier.

Third and last for 2012, draw strength from the knowledge that, as Margaret Thatcher famously said, "The facts of life are conservative." That's because conservative political stances flow from the laws of nature:

  • No one is entitled to anything but his natural rights.
  • There is one and only one natural right: the right to be left alone.
  • No man is guilty of what another man has done.
  • You will be treated as well or as badly as you treat others.
  • The family is the indispensable building block of all healthy societies.
  • Justice can sometimes be delayed, but no one escapes his deserts forever.
  • You cannot consume what has not been produced.
  • We are more reliably punished by our sins than for them.
  • Debt is always paid: if not by the borrower, then by the lender.
  • Those who criticize most and demand most are the ones doing absolutely nothing.

These things are the bedrock of all conservative belief. The Left seeks to deny each and every one of them. Yet they are written into the fabric of reality...which is why Leftism always brings degradation, deterioration, and despair.

Keep them front and center in all your thinking.
Never compromise on any of them.
Always point out the ways Left-induced disasters flow from policies that deny or disregard them.
And remain positive.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Devaluations: A Sunday Rumination

Just an instructive bit of fiction, the idea of which was suggested by a dear, departed friend:

The Glut

    “Wake up! Wake up!”
    “Huh?” Smith came slowly to consciousness. The clock on his nightstand told him it was 2:00 AM. He turned on the light and peered up at the intruder. “What’s the matter...hey, who are you?”
    The figure at his bedside was plainly no one he knew. At least, he didn’t remember any of his drinking buddies as having horns.
    The intruder scowled. “I’m Satan, of course. Wake up! I’m here to buy your soul.”
    Smith stared up at the Devil in consternation. “Well, that’s...interesting, but I thought the seller had to call on you, and I don’t recall having solicited your attention. Why me?”
    Satan scowled. “Marketing. Don’t ask. Anyway, are you interested?”
    Smith was only just coming to full consciousness of his circumstances. Satan himself, the veritable Prince of Darkness, was in his bedroom. What a time not to have a camera ready! “Well,” he said, “you, uh, haven’t made me an offer yet.”
    Satan scowled again and shook his head. “It’s always the same with you humans. ‘What’s it worth to you? How much can I get for it? What are the terms and conditions? Is there any fine print?’ No appreciation for such direct and intimate customer service! By Hell, one of these days I’m just going to shut up shop and let Him have the rest of you.”
    Smith sat upright and cocked an eyebrow. “‘To buy’ implies a price. Do you expect me to just give you my soul?”
    “Well,” Satan said, “there’s always a chance. But please understand my position. A lot of people are doing just that: giving me their souls for nothing at all! Hell is getting really full. The whole seventh circle is triple-bunked, and the demons have started demanding overtime pay.” He ran an impressively clawed hand over his forehead. Flaming drops of sweat flew to gutter out on the bedroom floor.
    “All the same,” Smith said, “you’re here on Earth looking for more souls.”
     Satan shrugged. “What can I say? It’s what I do. So, yes or no?”
    “You still haven’t made me an offer.”
    Satan threw his hands up in mock surrender. “All right, all right. Here’s what I’ll do. As payment for your soul, the transaction to be in fee simple absolute, no refunds, exchanges, or warranties express or implied...”
    Smith folded his arms across his chest. “Yes?”
    “ get to go back to sleep.”
    “Heh.” Smith snorted and turned off the light.

Devaluations can occur in more venues than just money-mediated trade. Verbum sat sapienti.

The Great Left-Wing Self-Delusion...

is, apparently, not confined to American left-liberals:

Police in Swaziland are cracking down on rape—by putting women in jail. Authorities in Africa's last absolute monarchy have issued a ban on "rape-provoking" clothing, including miniskirts, midriff-revealing tops, and low-rise jeans, the AFP reports. Women caught wearing such clothing will be arrested, and face six months in jail. "The act of the rapist is made easy, because it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by the women," a police spokeswoman explained.

Applause, as is so often the case, to our beloved Instapundit.

Apropos of the above, does anyone else remember “uncovered meat?”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — One of Australia's senior-most Islamic clerics has triggered outrage after comments reported Thursday comparing women who don't wear a headscarf to “uncovered meat” who invite rape.

Sheik Taj Aldin al Hilali denied he was condoning rape when he made the comments in a sermon last month, and apologized to any women he had offended, saying they were free to dress as they wished.

The row comes during a heated debate in Britain about religious freedom centred around whether Muslim women should wear veils. Similar passions raged when France banned head scarves and other religious symbols in public schools two years ago.

In Australia, there was widespread condemnation Thursday the cleric's comments, from other Muslim leaders, civil libertarians and political leaders.

Mr. Hilali was quoted in the Australian newspaper as saying in the sermon: “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside ... without cover, and the cats come to eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat's.”

“The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred,” he was quoted as saying, referring to the headdress worn by some Muslim women.

I have no idea whether Swaziland has been overrun by Muslims, as has been the fate of much of Africa. From the stories above, one might imagine so...but if not, should it happen any time soon, the residents might not notice.

But Islam or left-liberals, it apparently makes no difference. Neither group is willing to allow that human beings are capable of self-control, and should be expected to exercise it even in the presence of a scantily-clad woman...or a gun.

For some left-liberals – hopefully, the majority – that’s because of indoctrination they suffered that they can’t quite throw off. For others, no such excuse is possible:

The pattern should be clear to anyone with three functioning brain cells:

  • Some people misuse guns? Ban guns.
  • Some people rape? Ban porn, or provocative clothing.
  • Some people say “offensive” things? Ban “offensive” speech.
  • Some people use over-the-counter drugs to fabricate banned drugs? Make the over-the-counter drugs harder to purchase.
  • Some people wash their cars every day, or over-water their lawns? Tightly regulate the times and places of outdoor water use, and the amounts that may be legally used.
  • Some people leave half-assembled cars up on blocks in their yards? Pass “eyesore ordinances” that rigidly restrict everything homeowners are allowed to do with their supposedly private property.

The list could, of course, be extended.

It’s been said innumerable times that “hard cases make bad law.” What hasn’t been said nearly often enough is that persons desirous of control over others are happy about that. They actively seek the exceptional misdeed and strive to characterize it as the norm, so that it can be made the basis for a freedom-killing law. In a hefty fraction of such cases, the moral onus is placed on an inanimate object, as is currently being attempted with privately owned firearms.

Quite a few years ago, I wrote that “We have had enough of laws against this because it 'leads to' that.” It appears that I was wrong. The self-deluded will accept any amount of totalitarian control of the citizenry rather than admit that human beings are moral agents, but inanimate objects are not. Our political elite, happy to snatch at any opportunity to increase its power, will perpetuate that attitude – I refuse to call it a “mindset,” as that would require a functioning mind – for as long as the game holds out.

At this time, the Meme Of The Rebellion:

Some Assembly Required.

...should be on everyone’s lips.

Friday, December 28, 2012

As Ye Give So Shall Ye Get Dept. (UPDATED)

Christopher Fountain appears to have turned the world of "journalism" on its head, by reciprocating its actions:

A blogger upset with a New York newspaper’s decision to publish an interactive map of local gun permit holders has returned the favor by posting the names and addresses of nearly every employee at the publication.

Blogger Christopher Fountain on For What It’s Worth published names, home address and email contact information for Journal News editor Cyndee Royle, publisher Janet Hasson and reporter Dwight Worley, who wrote an article on Sunday to accompany the map that led to widespread criticism aimed at the Lower Hudson Valley newspaper.

Fountain's original post disclosing the identities of these bullies with a printing press is here. Needless to say, the Journal-American, which gratuitously printed an interactive map detailing the names and addresses of legal handgun permit holders in Westchester and environs, was not pleased:

The Journal News, meanwhile, has defended publication of the database, which was legally obtained from the County Clerks’ Offices through a Freedom of Information Act request made after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and eight adults dead.

“New York residents have the right to own guns with a permit and they also have a right to access public information,” Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, was quoted as saying in a subsequent story in the newspaper.

A retired New York City detective who has been receiving death threats since the Journal News published the map of permit holders wrote to Fountain about a teensy little problem with the legality of the database the paper used:

11 S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

That aspect of the matter has not yet been addressed by the paper or anyone associated with it. (Perhaps the State of New York is looking into the matter, though, given the incestuous bonds that link New York politics and "journalism," your Curmudgeon won't hold his breath awaiting the indictments.) Neither has the suggestion that by revealing who in Westchester is armed and ready to repel an assault or an invasion of his home, the Journal News has rendered an invaluable service to Metro Area thieves, rapists, kidnappers, and murderers.

Needless to say -- though, as you might expect, your Curmudgeon will say it anyway -- the notion that sauce for the goose serves the gander just as nicely does not figure in the ire of the "journalistic community." It's their prerogative to decide what information shall and shall not be made public. For others to question their decisions in this regard amounts to lese majeste. Just ask the editors of the New York Times.

Clearly, this New Media thing isn't terribly popular among all the "best" people. But then, neither is the concept that "journalists" are subject to the same laws that bind the rest of us. Your Curmudgeon can easily see why. "Journalism" is neither as well compensated as political office nor as glamorous as entertainment stardom. So what point would there be in becoming a "journalist" if the practitioners had to abide by the law, or respect the privacy of private citizens, or refrain from endangering innocents?

It's in the nature of an elite that it possesses privileges, de jure or de facto, lacked by persons outside the elite:

A class is defined by its legal and social privileges. The aristocrats of medieval times were not distinguished by their lineages or their deeds, but by the things they were allowed to do, without penalty, that commoners were not. There is reason to believe that the majority of medieval aristocrats were fairly responsible stewards of their lands and of public order within them. That does not justify the creation of a class of men who could wield high, middle, and low justice over others, but who would normally escape all consequences for deeds for which a commoner would be severely punished

...and it's in the nature of a free people to become angry with such elites, to pull them down from their perches and burn them to ash, when their behavior becomes this plainly, self-assuredly, and heedlessly arrogant.

UPDATE: The worthy Ace of Spades contributes his own, typically incisive analysis. The killer conclusion:

David Gregory is precisely as innocent as most people arrested for a gun infraction-- and just as guilty, too.

Now, the idea being put forth by the media -- that you should only be arrested for possessing a gun (or part of a gun, like a magazine) if you have the additional criminal state of intending to commit a crime with that gun (or gun part), is, how can I say this? A radical gun-nut rightwing notion. I think Ted Nugent might very well agree that gun laws should always be limited to situations where guns are used in the commission of the crime or possessed with the future intent of committing a crime.

Does Howard Kurtz embrace that understanding of gun laws? Does Glenn Thrush? Do the various other know-nothings in the media -- who know both nothing about law and nothing about guns, but opine with great force and velocity on gun laws -- embrace this conception of gun laws, that gun laws should never target simple possession but only possession during the commission of a crime or possession with intent to commit a crime?

If not -- if they are less the right-wing gun nut than Ted Nugent (and even the Nuge might find this position too "extremist" for his taste -- then they are duty-bound to demand David Gregory's prosecution, as they would demand that any other Citizen Not On Television would be prosecuted.

They are endeavoring to explicitly create a High Caste with greater privileges than the lower castes, and immunities to the laws the lower castes suffer under, and that is a blood anathema to any real American -- and will be treated as such.

Your Curmudgeon will say only that that High Caste already exists. We are merely watching as its status and privileges are made explicit. For confirmation, ask Dianne Feinstein whether her security detail should be required to turn in its firearms.

UPDATE: A reader has mentioned that the NY State Assembly legislative link no longer works. Try this one, instead, which links to NY State Senate bill S2488 -- the same bill after it passed the Senate.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stoking the fires of optimism.

It is a tough situation to be in. We are approaching a fiscal cliff. We want to give money to everybody, we want to save everybody. But in the end we’re not going to save ourselves. There seems to be no opening, no passage, through which we can escape the consequences of our decadence. As Gustave Le Bon explained over a hundred years ago: “[A person of superior intelligence knows] that those nations which are on the slope of decadence will continue to descend. He knows that institutions cannot be changed at the will of legislators, and seeing that the Socialists desire entirely to overthrow the institutions on which our civilizations repose, he can readily predict the catastrophe which will follow such events.”
"Falling Down." By J.R. Nyquist, Financial Sense Online, 12/10/12.

More optimism here: Charles Hugh Smith.

Organized Rationality Pokes Its Head Above The Trench Line

Any number of Americans capable of rational thought -- perhaps the majority of American adults, sadly -- have no idea how to go about it:

  • They misconceive the goal and / or the constraining conditions;
  • They have no grasp of the process involved;
  • They fail to understand the requirement for measurement and feedback.

Even in our work lives, where we're supposedly trying to achieve a reasonably well-defined goal by the use of a delimited set of tools and techniques, organized, rigorous rationality is frequently absent. I could tell you stories aplenty; unfortunately, most of them are classified and the rest would get me killed.

Therefore, it gives me immense pleasure to encounter an occasion in which an intelligent man has openly applied a plainly rational process to a subject in public policy.

Please watch the video. (Yes, the mandatory lead-in ads can be annoying, but this one only lasts thirty seconds. You can endure that, can't you?) Note that David Katz, the subject of the thing, remains concentrated on his objective -- what measures might prevent another Adam Lanza from shooting up another schoolful of children? -- and never, ever veers off onto a tangential subject or agenda. Note that when one of the other attendees suggests an irrelevant direction, he responds with an unanswerable objection and returns immediately to his focus.

Note also that nothing like what Katz has suggested in that segment would be acceptable to liberals.

The video linked above is an excellent example of the uppermost rules of rational analysis:

  1. Formulate your goal in terms that permit an objective assessment of whether you're approaching it or receding from it;
  2. Stipulate a priori that while many objectives are only asymptotically approachable, constraints are binary -- can you or can't you? -- and therefore absolute.
  3. Recognize and respect the constraints on your actions in pursuit of that goal; never accept the suggestion that the constraints are the problem.
  4. Subject all suggested approaches to your goal to two kinds of scrutiny:
    • Peremptorily reject all suggestions founded on a different goal.
    • Test the surviving suggestions according to causality as it pertains to the goal and the constraints.

Thus, in addressing the question of violence against children gathered into a school setting, the formulation:

How do we prevent all violence against schoolchildren forever more?

...must be rejected at once. It includes an infinite number of scenarios and requires that whatever solution is implemented must be absolutely effective against all of them. This is plainly impossible. To suggest that that should be the goal under discussion indicts the suggester as having another agenda. Utopia -- even one as narrowly conceived as a school environment absolutely protected against all violence -- is simply not available.

By contrast, the formulation:

How might schools be better prepared to resist (and hopefully defeat) attempts, comparable to that of Adam Lanza, on the lives of American schoolchildren? analytically addressable. It allows for assessments in terms of causality; in terms of better and worse; and within a context bounded by external constraints that the analyst can enumerate.

The analyst must be intellectually honest. That is, he must not use his goal for the pursuit of another agenda he might value. That's a precondition to the rejection of others' irrelevant agendas; if he won't enforce it upon himself, he can't expect to enforce it against others.

If the context contains constraining features, they must be acknowledged; their power to invalidate an approach to the goal must be conceded. For example, were anyone to suggest that the Newtown massacre could have been prevented by an obligatory mental-health screening process in childhood leading to the mandatory incarceration, observation, or therapy of the Adam Lanzas of the nation, he would be guilty of violating at least two constraints. When a liberal suggests that mandatory confiscation of all firearms held by private citizens would do the trick, he's violating two others: one legal and Constitutional; the other immensely practical.

Every suggested approach to the goal must be tested against what we know about cause and effect in the relevant context. Prevent Newtown-like atrocities by posting a "Gun-Free Zone" sign at the front door? Absurd. Train otherwise unarmed teachers in hand-to-hand combat techniques? Almost as absurd, and plainly irrelevant against an attacker armed with distance weapons. Mandate that all grammar-school personnel be trained in the defensive use of of firearms, and must carry one each at all times? Not completely absurd, though it defies contextual constraints that would defeat it in the real world.

Finally, one of the constraints that's seldom explicitly articulated is that of time. Finding a perfect solution, even if one exists (and in the realms of human relations and public policy, that's approximately never), would take infinite time, which is more than is usually available. Incremental improvements are more plausible, and more testable: Did the frequency of school massacres decline after this policy was enacted? Conversely, there must be a "sunset clause:" any policy that produces no improvement over a prescribed interval must be acknowledged as a failure and repealed. That's the ultimate defense against both human fallibility and the use of an overt, agreed-upon goal to serve a covert agenda.

Persons aware of the political contretemps taking place in the Newtown aftermath are surely aware that the overt, wholesome goal of better securing defenseless schoolchildren against violence has nothing to do with the demands of many who have addressed it. Indeed, their rhetoric suggests that they welcomed the Newtown atrocity; it gave them a bloody banner to wave in pursuit of their covert goal of total citizen disarmament. There's no point in dwelling on the absence of morality and honor from such persons; it's enough to be aware of it, and to know how their little games can be defeated.

But Newtown is only a single case of a covert agenda being advanced through irrational arguments to exploit a recent tragedy. Consider one other tragedy -- liberals' insistence that Congress's propensity for deficit spending can be corrected by feeding it more money -- and reflect on how far rational thought has receded from the political discourse of these United States.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Short Story


Census has always been an irritant. There are many -- I am one -- who feel it to be intrusive, however necessary it might be. And the costs, both to the government and to the individuals it enumerates, should not be discounted.

I have the trust of certain highly placed persons. Because of my reputation for thoroughness and integrity, at the outset of the last two censuses, the tetrarch has assigned me the supervision of a district. I took advantage of this to tell him of the grumblings the census causes. On the first occasion he assured me that the complaints I heard were the braying of asses, nothing more. Census had never caused a revolt and would cause none. This last time he was slower to respond.

On my way back to Jerusalem with my tallies, I decided to take lodging at a country inn rather than travel through the night. The proprietors knew me from previous encounters. Well that it was so, for there was only one room left and a goodly throng clamoring for it. I tried to be unobtrusive about securing it for myself, but a few noticed and protested as vigorously as their fatigue would allow. To avert the disturbance, I slipped out of the common room as quickly and quietly as I could. When I'd divested myself of my bags, I descended the back stairs to wander the hills until my mind had quieted enough to allow me to sleep.

A census marshal has absolute authority over the procedures to be used in his district. Knowing the popular sentiment, I took the inconveniences upon myself. I went from town to town, consulting with local magistrates and figures of prominence, and took the count without requiring anything of the people save their names.

The local officials were always glad to see me go. What would be required of them and their neighbors afterward, of course, was money. Census is always about money: how many folk there are, and how prosperous, and what levy can be exacted of them without provoking an insurrection.

By the size and surliness of the throng on the roads that day, and at the inn, I knew I was passing through a district whose marshal was not so kindly disposed. As the law permitted, he'd ordered the people to come to him. He'd imposed enormous discomfort upon every man of that region, rather than burden himself with the dust and expense of my sort of circuit.

It was not a happy place.

In passing through a crowd, I am forever speculating. Which among these, I ask myself, is known to his neighbors as a person of substance? Which is reviled for his indulgences, or held in contempt for his dissolution? Which among them is known outside his village, and why? Which of them will become known? Which of them, by dint of deeds mighty or monstrous, will climb to stand on the shoulders of history? Which will change our world?

Usually it's a way of passing the dreary times, no more.

The day had provided me with copious fodder. There was an old man in a dirty samite robe, stooped nearly double from years of toil, who leaned so heavily upon his staff as he walked that I feared it might break beneath him. Yet when his wife addressed him in a manner he disapproved, he straightened like a spring suddenly unbound and struck her across the face with that same staff, to send her to the ground bleeding and blubbering. There was a merchant, a large, solid man in a rich cloak of gabardine, who intervened uninvited in a loud dispute between a traveler and a street peddler, to counsel them to moderation. They turned their wrath from one another to him, hurling the foulest of epithets into his face until he left them to resume their profitless quarrel. There was a tall youth of perhaps twenty, with a face of chiselled perfection and a body like unto the Greeks' statues of their gods. He strode smiling through the world as if he owned everything in it, and all marveled at his beauty as he passed. Yet when a raddled old harlot beckoned to him in terms too vulgar even to think them onto this page, he did not respond with derision or scorn. He stopped and went to her, spoke to her softly, pressed a coin into her hand, and passed on.

Of which of these would I hear again? Any? None?

Even if it should happen, I would not know. I did not know their names. My acquaintance with names was a professional one, confined to the tallies I carried in my saddlebags.

The Sun had dropped below the horizon, and the hills were growing cold. The traffic on the road to the city had dwindled to nothing. Outside the inn, the stragglers for whom there was no accommodation crouched and huddled against its southern wall, making what provisions they could for a night of unplanned exposure. In the near distance a shepherd surrendered his staff to his son and trudged back to his hovel for an evening meal.

Movers? Shakers? Doers of mighty deeds? Icons of superlative virtue or courage?

Not likely.

Even those acclaimed as such by the world often struck me as persons elevated to their stations by blind chance, rather than merit. One night, deep in his cups, a patrician of my acquaintance admitted as much to me. He called his chamberlain a more able man by far. In a better world, he allowed, their positions would have been reversed. I agreed, though I forebore to say so.

I passed no judgments. I was no mover nor shaker. I was a functionary, an industrious keeper of tablets with a gift for inspiring confidence in those of higher station, nothing more. No deed of mine would disturb the world's slumbers. My name would not be recorded in an annal of greatness nor praised from a tall tower.

There was some comfort in it.

The night grew cold. The clouds receded from the southern sky, and the stars brought their pale glory to that humblest of places. I headed back to the inn, with no thoughts but of a mug of mead and an early bed.

A faint commotion arose as I passed the stables. The doors were closed, of course, but human sounds issued from within. I stopped and laid my ear against the wind-worn wood. A woman was panting with increasing urgency. A male voice murmured repeated exhortations to courage.

It climaxed with a great cry, followed by a lesser one: the unmistakable wail of a newborn child. The tallies for that district would be augmented by one.

One what? Shepherd? Peddler? Laborer? Surely not a rich merchant, whose hands would flow with gold and whose path would be strewn with obsequies lifelong. Surely not a prince of the realm, whose stern gaze and unblinking eye would strike fear into lesser men and command them to instant obedience. Not a mover nor a shaker. Such were not born in stables.

I swung back the stable door and slipped inside. No one noticed.

There were only the three: man, woman, and child. A single frail candle burned against the back wall of the stable, casting their silhouettes at me like inverted shadows. The woman had wrapped the baby in a loose cocoon of white muslin, leaving only its head exposed, and was laying it in the feed-trough that stood between the rows of stalls. She straightened, stepped back, and wordlessly collapsed into the man's arms.

Around the little tableau, the horses were silent.

I stepped forward, started to address the couple, and stopped. He cradled her in his lap, his arms tight about her, his face ablaze with uxorious devotion. Her eyes, large and luminous, were fixed upon her new child.

It took all my strength to produce a voice. "Do you... require anything?"

Her gaze remained locked upon her child. He assessed me with a glance and nodded with a certainty I could not help but envy.

"Some water, perhaps."

I nodded and started for the inn, but something held me. I bent to the feed-trough, pulled the muslin back from the tiny face and looked into it, not knowing why or what I hoped to see.

The baby's eyes were open.

The eyes of the newborn are never open.

They were large, and dark, yet filled with the light of a million stars, and more knowledge than I had seen in the eyes of any man, high or low. They held recognition and regal acceptance.

I know you for what you are, that infant gaze said. Without knowing, you have sought me, and now I have come for you, and for all those like you. The humble and the just. Though you know not my name, though it be the least of the tallies for this census, and not even one of yours, when you hear it you will know it at once. On a day not far off I shall summon you, and instruct you in the ways of truth and righteousness, and together we will awaken this weary world to a dawn of hope.

The eyes closed. I stood and backed away.

"I'll fetch water," I whispered. Neither husband nor wife stirred. I slipped out of the stable and closed the door behind me.

The common room of the inn was crowded and painfully noisy. There were far too many folk there for its size. Servants moved quickly through the room with mugs, plates and coarse blankets, stumbling here and there, receiving muttered thanks or none at all. I stood at the arch to the kitchen and waited to be noticed.

"Is there water?"

A young girl turned away from the pot she was stirring and looked up at a portly man tending a large oven. He nodded. She filled an ewer from a dip well and presented it to me in both hands. I took it and thanked her.

"There's a couple in the stables..."

The man nodded. "We know."

"She's given birth."

"Is she well? And her baby?"

"I think so."

He took a loaf from a high shelf and brought it to me. "We haven't much left. The first harvest won't be soon enough for me. But we do what we can, as little as that may be."

I smiled. "It will serve."

He nodded and returned to his labors.

The family in the stable was as I had left it. The child was asleep. The man accepted the bread and water with grave thanks. He was dividing it with his wife as I left them.

We all do what we can. For some that is more than for others, but no effort is to be shirked. I was far from my place of resource, but that did not excuse me from my portion.

What of the child in the manger? What would his portion be?

I had met a great one at last. A king of kings, one whose proper place would be at the head of every table.

I hoped I might live to see him rise to his estate, but if I did not, it would be of little moment. I had seen him enter the world. That would be enough.

Jerusalem was a day's ride away. The next day I delivered the census rolls, and remarked again to the tetrarch how noisome and costly the census had proved, not for myself but for the least among his subjects. He thanked me with his usual courtesy, well beyond that owed to a lowly recordsmith, and bade me return to my usual duties. But each day since then I have remembered the child, and wondered what his name, the name I would know as I heard it, would prove to be.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Second Opinion

Most of our "leaders" clamoring for more "gun control" in the wake of the recent outrage in Connecticut are doing so for the cynical advancement of a political agenda i.e. the disarmament of the law abiding citizenry.  For those useful idiots who are joining in the blood dance this humble writer would hasten to direct attention to an essay by Carl Denninger excerpted briefly here:
 [W]e have intentionally removed from our consciousness all of the ugly that inherently comes with killing.  And at the same time we have removed our understanding and respect for the fierce desire of that which is alive to remain alive.

We are now so depraved that we have calls in the media and political offices to cower in the corner and die when under lethal assault rather than assert our right to life and do whatever we're able, with whatever tools we can muster, to stop that assault.  We nod our heads instead of erecting the middle finger at all who suggest such rabid stupidity.

We talk about "gun control" as if that will stop killing.  It will not.  It will simply allow more killing to take place. Consider that if deer knew how to use rifles we would probably not hunt them.  They know their piece of forest better than we do.  We go into the forest for a few weeks to scout and then to shoot.  They live there all year.  Who's going to ambush who if they had rifles as well?...The coyote does not attack the lion, no matter how hungry he is, because he knows he will lose.  He instead looks for something without those sharp teeth and claws, even if he is ravenously hungry.

In short, we would not hunt deer if they could use a rifle to defend themselves from us.

And sickos would not hunt us if they believed we were armed -- whether we actually are or not.

Now you have something new to think about.
I suggest you read the whole thing.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Joke countries.

Today, violent racial paramilitaries occupy every major city in America and much of Europe. Their pastimes include: doing drugs, selling drugs, cashing welfare checks, voting Democrat, beating up random white people and stealing their shoes, stealing their cars, stealing their phones, stealing everything else that isn’t nailed down, rape, obesity, having lots of babies and outsourcing their education, care and feeding to well-intentioned white people, being loud, crying "racist,” hating white people, and throwing trash all over the place.

* * * *

A real country would send in the army to wipe [these urban "no go" zones] out and clean it up. But America is a joke country. So are Britain, France, Germany, and Sweden, of course. A funny joke, I admit, but a practical joke. Played on the white majority.

Yes, I said “the army.” This is not a job for police. Police are supposed to deal with the occasional citizen who commits a crime, not put down insurgencies and stop foreign invasions. The army is supposed to do those things, not “bring democracy” to shithole sandpiles in the Middle East.

But, we do have a thing about reforming the pre-Cambrian mind and spending blood and treasure like tomorrow is Mayan double Green Stamps day on the task of squaring the Middle East circle. Violent, misogynistic, anti-Christian, irrational, backward, corrupt countries with not one Piggly Wiggly grocery store stimulate the Obamaniacal yearning to invade them to unbearable levels. The Pope moving the Vatican to Salt Lake City would make more sense to me than that, but that's just me.

Billions will be sent to patrol the vital sandways of Yemen and Afghanistan but not a simoleon for having our boys patrol the Mexican border or the battlefields of s. Chicago.

Like the man says. A joke country.

"Unamusement Park’s Official Position on the 'Inner City.'" By Unamused, 11/13/12.

Been there, done that.

The experts have had their chance. Their "maximum security, zero tolerance, gun-free zone" notion stands revealed as no security at all.
~ Remus.

Pearls of expression – XXXII.

It is worth pointing out that nine years ago, on the basis of racist white supremacist Nazi trickery, also known as statistics, a law professor, Lloyd Cohen, “filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging racial discrimination in admissions” . . . .
Whiny Minorities Offer Stupid Theories About Smart Kids." By Dec 14th, 2012 by Unamused, 12/14/12.

True colors.

Reginald Denny (on ground)
The most overrated hero of liberals, Mahatma Gandhi, believed the Jews should have not resisted the nazis as a way to show the world hitler’s true colors. Ha! The world saw the true colors [of] those that beat Reginald Denny and liberals still made excuses for them.
~ Johnny commenting on Jew Without a Gun." By Robert J. Avrech, Seraphic Secret, 12/18/12.

Wherein political power and citizen responsibility are considered.

Just as Obamacare has nothing to do with health, and cap and trade has nothing to do with so-called global warming, anti-gun laws have nothing to do with saving children’s lives.

It’s just another opportunity for the left to centralize power.[1]

There is no empirical evidence that totalitarian systems do anything but cause misery and actual slaughter of human beings. There is no evidence that the left can cite that proves that small amounts of power ceded to government are ever returned to the people. Power is being centralized. There is no institutional check on this centralization. A majority of the American electorate is corrupt.

Power never comes back to the people once it is lost. Leftists know this and knowingly and willingly desire the control over others of which Mr. Avrech warns. Our pleasant, caring, generous, highly-educated, decent neighbors hide behind the belief that caring about others justifies anything done under that banner and they deny their catastrophic actions. But it's willful blindness, a concept well established in U.S. criminal law that doesn't permit criminal defendants to avoid criminal responsibility by pretending – in the face of dead-cow-in-the-living-room evidence – that they know nothing.

A related doctrine of the law is that people intend the natural consequences of their acts. It can cut a little harshly at times but it allows prosecutors to prosecute speeding tickets without having to prove specific intent to speed. It's hard to do when, for example, there's no passenger in the car willing to testify that their wife, the driver, announced that she was now going to exceed the speed limit. Millions of people have gotten traffic tickets and I'm guessing 98% of the drivers intended to speed.

Millions of moronic Americans voted for Obama and the radical leftist Democrat Party despite clear, photographic evidence even, of Obama's contempt for the United States, his willing association with communists and terrorists, and desire to create an unconstitutional domestic police force with more funding than that provided to the Defense Department.

Americans have freely and willingly voted for unlimited government, replete with an explicit affirmation of an unconstitutional police state, and spat on the graves of all those who perished in the last century in the Soviet, Chinese communist, North Korean, Khmer Rouge, Cuban, and German National Socialist holocausts.

Outraged denial or "I had no idea" just don't cut it.

[1] "Jew Without a Gun." By Robert J. Avrech, Seraphic Secret, 12/18/12.

Some Christmas Thoughts: “Communicating With Ants”

Aha! So you thought you’d be free of me until the New Year, eh? Faked you out again!

Actually, in sober truth, I hadn’t planned on posting anything here at Liberty’s Torch until after the Christmas Octave. I’m going hot and heavy on Freedom’s Scion, and I’d intended to give it 100% of my time. However, that nasty habit of mine of reading everything within reach and visiting several dozen other sites every day has tripped me up again.

Take heart. At least this piece won’t be about politics.

First, please view the following short video.

Mato Jelic, the creator of that short and highly praiseworthy piece, is a chess master who lives in Adelaide, Australia. For some time now, he’s posted instructional chess videos on YouTube, from which I’ve taken considerable edification and pleasure. His thoughts in the above video are both cogent and penetrating.

However, they’re not quite complete.

As it happens, there is a way for a man to communicate, albeit crudely, with ants. To do so, you must exploit their nature.

Ants are naturally attracted by certain substances and repelled by others. So if a train of ants is heading in some direction from which you’d like to deflect them without otherwise harming them, you could use an attractive substance – sugar is good; sugar dampened with melted beef or chicken fat is even better – to lure them in a direction you’d prefer. Alternately, you could lay down a thin barrier of a repellent – vinegar works, as would any other weak acid – in their path. If wide enough, such a barrier would turn them aside, though in that case you would only communicate the direction in which you want them not to go.

In a similar fashion, God uses Man’s nature, and the inexorable effects of Natural Law, to communicate with men. Man is a pleasure-seeking / pain-avoiding creature. Those things which God wants us to do, He’s made pleasurable to our natures. Those things He wants us not to do, He’s made into occasions of pain, sorrow, or death, through the laws of nature. The mechanisms involved are subtler than in the case of Man communicating with ants, but they’re there all the same. More, He has equipped us with an ability to learn from our mistakes, and even more important, from the mistakes of others. The rest is up to us, through the exercise of our intellects, our memories, and our free wills.

My favorite quote from Robert Bolt’s immortal play A Man For All Seasons is relevant here:

THOMAS MORE: Listen, Meg. God made the angels to show him splendour, as he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind.

We are equipped with the ability to grasp sequences of events, to see some as causes and others as their effects, to infer the laws of Nature from them, and to generalize our deductions to other contexts. But our wills being free, whether we use that ability at all, much less to best effect, is up to us.

The history of Mankind before the coming of Christ suggests that up to then, we hadn’t used it very much or very well.

Among the more risible things I hear whenever the subject of faith arises around me is “How can a smart guy like you believe in that crap? Were you beaten into it or some such?”

In the usual case, the speaker has no idea just how smart I am. He thinks he’s at least as smart -- probably smarter, because he doesn’t “believe in that crap” – and he’s usually wrong by two or three standard deviations at the very least. It’s an interesting illustration of human arrogance, inasmuch as the acceptance that there are propositions beyond Man’s ability to prove or disprove is among the foundation stones of wisdom. Most of Man’s genuinely useful knowledge rests on a thin cushion of experience laid over a bedrock of faith.

Recorded history indicates that before Christ, Man learned only grudgingly from his temporal experiences. The workings of Natural Law were often put down to supernatural intervention – exactly the opposite of what God intended – which in its turn gave rise to the propitiation of fictional deities, rather than more attention to the patterns of Nature. Man’s own nature was accorded little respect until two great pre-Christian cultures – classical Greece and classical Judea – began Mankind’s ascent from savagery to rationality.

As I wrote long ago:

About five centuries before Christ, bursts of abstraction struck simultaneously in Mediterranean Europe, the Middle East, and in coastal Asia. The first proto-science, philosophy, took its first halting steps toward refining Man's cognitive tools. A handful of philosophers laid down the basis for organized rational thought. Despite considerable opposition, often violent, they pulled the classical world into their wake. The adventure of rationality had begun.

What made those advances possible? What developments had tilled Man's mental garden and made it fertile for new growth?

One cannot be certain, but conspicuous among the conditions of those times and places was that written records of all kinds had been kept for centuries previous. Those societies had begun to accumulate data from which to generalize. Perhaps the flowering of philosophy -- and philosophy's supernatural adjunct, religion -- depended mainly on an adequate supply of such data. In all three locales, further advances came rapidly.

Particularly notable among those developments was that of Judaic society. For some centuries, the Jews had lived according to the Mosaic Law, as recorded in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus in the Old Testament. With the classical proto-Enlightenment came questions about whether those laws, which Moses had presented as the commands of God to His Chosen People, might imply still other laws of equal force. Large sectors of Judaic society set to work on the extended meaning and implications of the Mosaic tradition. The Jews' penchant for recording their history guaranteed that those debaters would have a lot to work on.

But the Essenes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the other intellectual communities of classical Judea tended to move in a single direction: a restrictive direction. As Moses had been the Jews' spiritual leader and political ruler, his laws rationalized the pervasive exercise of State power over both the bodies and souls of men. Though in many respects the elaboration of the Mosaic tradition was wholesome as well as intellectually fulfilling, among its consequences, it largely disarmed the Jews in the face of the Roman conquest and the subsequent centuries of foreign domination of Judea.

Another path was available to them, of course, but it took the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, and the continuation of that ministry by His Apostles, to set Man upon it.

In summary, God’s communications with Man through the laws of Nature went largely unheeded. As Mato put it, He is just too much bigger than we are. An intervention was required that would erase our differences in size, leaving the Divine message clear and unambiguous: the Nativity, Ministry, Passion and Resurrection of the Son of God.

I’ve sometimes wondered whether faith is available to all men. Perhaps it isn’t; perhaps some of us are made so that we’ll always reject faith, no matter the inducements. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter; God is just and will deny eternal bliss in His nearness to no man who lives according to the Noachite Commandments, whether or not he acknowledges their Source.

For those to whom faith is accessible, Christmas is one ingress to the experience. We of the West celebrate it both in secular and religious terms. Though it was located where it is on the calendar to replace the celebration of Saturnalia, its joys are far distant from that pagan revel. The peoples of Christendom embraced it for its spiritual import long before the secular custom of gift-giving was layered onto it.

Don’t be shy about celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, no matter by whom you’re surrounded. This holy day is one of the brightest jewels of the Western calendar precisely because of its religious nature. Let its glories shine from you, upon all and sundry without discrimination. Perhaps you’ll help some of the unbelievers along the road to a deeper life: life in company with the Son of God and Redeemer of Mankind, whose words, though He disdained to write them down after the fashion of His people, will never pass away.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May God bless and keep you all.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rounding Up 2012

Sigh. Every year I do this. Well, almost every year. I survey the worst of the atrocities, review the foulest of the political developments, and catalog the least forgivable of the “personalities” who dominate our news cycles. I hold nothing back. I unleash my evil twin, my Steppenwulf, my inner Westbrook Pegler. I spread the opprobrium with a BLEEP!ing trowel! the And does anyone care? Do things change noticeably? Of cuss not! People go on being people, instead of magically transforming themselves into angels. Governments go on being engines of oppression, yet most folks think they’re “inevitable,” or “deplorable, but what choice do we have?” And silly little pop princesses go on singing diabetes-inducing ditties about love while having group sex with manatees.

No. No more. Not this year! This year, it’s about me.

Wait...what am I saying? I’m the single most boring individual who’s ever lived! The details of my existence are the strongest soporific known to Man! Better to give comparative statistics on the drying speeds of various brands of indoor paint!


It was a bad year for America. I can think of only one development of note that put a smile on my puss, and it’s one in which my delight wasn’t universally shared: The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl yet again.

The hell with the eagle’s-eye news survey. What did you enjoy this year that’s almost completely behind us? Yes, you. What developments in your own existential niche brought you pleasure or personal profit? As things were going to Hell around us all, what events improved your existence: physically, intellectually, or spiritually?

I ask because when things are generally going to Hell – and don’t kid yourself; they most certainly are – a sensible man pulls back from the world. He closes off the sources of noise and disorder and creates a fortress for himself and his family. He does what he can to provide against the future, but he lives in the present, enjoying what there is to enjoy and cherishing the lives and affections of those whom he loves. He doesn’t wallow in misery, nor in the miseries of others.

That’s the meat of a conversation I had with a friend not long ago. That friend, an extremely bright and astute man, was – probably still is – in utter agony over political developments. Make no mistake: I agreed with him about all of them, and still do. Politically, things really, truly are going downhill at toboggan speed. We who are alive today might be the last crop of Americans who know any freedom at all. My friend wanted my opinion about what we can and should be doing about all of that.

I averted the “should” and focused on the “can.” Politically, in the near term there’s nothing we can do. The answer didn’t please him; he has an active mentality and wants to pitch into the battle for freedom in whatever way he can. My assessment turns on a simple partition of human attitudes toward political subjects:

  • There are persons who are open to reason and evidence, whatever their current opinions.
  • There are persons whose opinions are impervious to reason and evidence, being based entirely on emotion or indoctrination.
  • There are persons whose opinions are merely cover for an agenda of which they will not speak.

The persuasibles are a minority. Worse, the overwhelming majority of them have already enlisted in the pro-freedom cadre. The other two groups are a heavy majority – and they include just about every politician and public figure in the country. Persuading such persons to change their stances is comparable to sweeping back the tide. Ask King Knut how well that went.

A time of darkness is upon us. The re-election of Barack Hussein Obama makes it inevitable.

There will be several sorts of deterioration in the immediate future:

  • Economic: The nation’s production of goods and services that free men want and are willing to pay for will decline as the disincentives to production accumulate.
  • Fiscal: The American dollar will continue to devalue; the evidence in the general price level will become ever plainer.
  • Cultural: The pollution of our cultural space will continue apace, as aspiring “entertainers” turn ever more definitely in the direction of such vomitous examples as PSY, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and so on. Assaults on Christianity and the Christian ethos will spread and intensify.
  • Social: There will be an increase in violent crimes and crimes against property in America’s coastal states. That will evoke a tide of emigrants from those states to the states of the “inner” country...which will respond by erecting barriers against them.
  • Political: What remains of politically recognized individual rights will be salami-sliced over and over in response to fake “crises,” some of which will have been brought about by previous incursions on our rights, and some of which will have been manufactured outright. The phrases to watch in this connection are “We’ve got to act now” and “compelling government interest.”

All of this is so foreseeable that it’s like predicting that a raw egg will break if you hurl it against a wall. You, Gentle Reader, can affect exactly none of it by individual action. Neither can you retard it by sending Republicans to Washington; the Grand Old Party has made it plain that it lacks any interest in freedom...that it merely wants to remain a “player” in the political charades of our time.

You can shield yourself from some of it. You can shield your family from some of it. You can help your neighbors to buttress themselves against some of it. But you can’t prevent it; the developments of 2012 have made that impossible.

Yes, I could be wrong. But I wouldn’t bet against me.

Mark Butterworth’s “Tales of New America” strike me as a plausible possible future direction for these United States. There are parts of the country, mostly well away from the ocean coasts, whose people retain the American virtues and the belief in freedom. The gulf between them and the “blue states” has become very wide. We’ll know when it’s become unbridgeable: secessionist movements will gain enough affiliates and respectable spokesmen to become a credible political force.

Don’t like the idea of secession? Neither do I. But these past sixty years, the universe has rarely consulted me for my likes or dislikes before rolling along in obedience to its inherent laws. At any rate, effective secession, by a state or a bloc of states, remains less than likely in the near term. It could happen, but for the next few years at least, the odds will be against it.

However, if the current political trends are permitted to continue for four or five years more, the emergence of a powerful secessionist movement will become ever more likely, perhaps more likely than not. Washington will not fail to react. Blood will flow even if the secessionist-dominated regions never explicitly declare their independence from the Union of 1787.

If you’d like to avert that outcome, and others equally as unpleasant, now is the time to set to work. It’s all we can do. Indeed, it’s what we should do. Just keep in mind that the salutary effects won’t be perceptible in the immediate future.

The path into an improved future must begin at the individual level. It takes free men – determinedly free; ready, willing, and able to accept all the responsibilities freedom implies – to create a free nation. For starters:

  1. Free men must be self-reliant.
  2. Free men must be morally aware and upright.
  3. Free men must be equal to the consequences of their decisions and actions.

The self-reliant man doesn’t necessarily have to be able to build his own starship. (It would be nice, but let’s stay within the bounds of present-day reality.) But he does have to allow that nothing he needs or wants is his by right; all good things are the fruits of preparation, labor, and trade. Therefore, he must become one who has something of value to offer to others, at the very least. Education is his paramount obligation to himself. If he has children, it’s one of his three principal obligations to them.

A morally aware man is one who has learned, through whatever fashion, that all actions have consequences, and the nature of the action determines the nature of the consequence. He who flouts the moral law – do not murder; do not steal or defraud; do not break one’s given word; do not bear false witness; do not covet – can sometimes evade the impact of the consequences for a while, but not indefinitely. Others will take note of him and prepare defenses against him. He will be ostracized, will descend into poverty, and will die alone.

A man equal to the consequences of his decisions and actions will be properly prepared to face them. If he has obligations to others, he won’t shirk them when they become weighty. He doesn’t disdain help in times of crisis – indeed, he welcomes it and is grateful for it – but he doesn’t demand it nor expect that it will come to him like manna from heaven.

Such men are worthy of being free, because they can league together to build free communities.

Political freedom – the right to do as you please with what is properly yours, as long as you refrain from infringing on others’ right to do the same – is always an attribute of a geographically demarcated group. Such a group can be as small as a neighborhood or as large as a planet. The point here is that political freedom inheres in the acceptance of one’s rights by others. The lone “free man” asserting his rights can die in their defense, but in no other way do they possess practical significance. We are only as politically free as those around us permit us to be.

Practical freedom, on the other hand, is to a large extent achievable even in the midst of tyranny. It relies on the gap between the demands of the political “authority” and its ability to enforce them.

The best example of what I mean comes from the underground economy. America has a substantial one. Many, many Americans conceal some portion of their economic activities from prying political eyes in some fashion. Recent estimates of the size of the underground economy range as high as 30% of all economic activity in the United States. Those engaged with that economic sector are exercising a degree of practical freedom that political “authority” hates and would act to quench...if it were able to do so.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s humorous vignette illustrates why and how it works. A British subject is goggling over the bill from his surgeon:

"Your fee of £4000," the patient said, "represents the proportion I retain from the last £44,500 of my income. To pay you without being worse off would mean earning another £44,500 more than last year, no easy task."

"Well," replied the surgeon, "you know how it is. It is only by charging you that much that I can afford to charge others little or nothing."

"No doubt," said the patient. "But the fee will absorb £44,500 of my theoretical income -- no inconsiderable sum. Might I ask what proportion of the £4000 you will manage to retain?"

It was the surgeon's turn to scribble calculations, as a result of which he concluded that his actual gain, after tax had been paid, would amount to £800.

"Allow me to observe," said the patient, that I must therefore earn £44,500 in order to give you £800 of spendable income; the entire balance going to the government. Does that strike you as a transaction profitable to either of us?"

"Well, frankly, no," admitted the surgeon. "Put like that the whole thing is absurd. But what else can we do?"

"First, we can make certain that no one is listening. No one at the keyhole? No federal agent under the bed? No tape recorder in the -- ? Are you quite sure we can keep this strictly to ourselves?"

"Quite sure," said the surgeon after opening the door and glancing up and down the corridor. "What do you suggest?"

"Come closer so that I can whisper. Why don't I give you a case of scotch and call it quits?"

"Not enough," hissed the surgeon. "But if you made it two cases -- "


"-- and lent me your cabin cruiser for three weeks in September -- "


"-- We might call it a deal!"

"That's fine. And do you know what gave me the idea? I studied Parkinson's Second Law and realized that excessive taxation has made nonsense of everything!"

[C. Northcote Parkinson, The Law And The Profits]

Most persons are able to understand this, though only some – probably less than half the total – are both willing and able to act on it. Nevertheless, such minorities constitute the most vibrant part of the American economy: the part that isn’t hobbled by government interference.

Would Washington – and the states, counties, cities, villages, and school boards – act to stop this if possible? Yes, of course. That’s what they do; it’s inherent in the nature of political power. But they can’t. There are 330 million of us. Policing us all in every aspect of life and at every instant of every day is simply impossible. That’s why they rely upon paid informants – and why among the most important things you can do is to learn who, of those around you, is utterly, reliably trustworthy.

(A big warning here: That might not include all the members of your family. Indeed, family having suffered the denigrations and degradations we’ve all seen, it might not include any of them.)

Practical freedom, whether in economic affairs or in any other venue, depends upon practical privacy: the maintenance of strong barriers against intrusion by persons minded to interfere. The rest follows.

By now you must have realized that what you’ve been reading isn’t a news roundup of 2012 but a manifesto for 2013. It’s not a political manifesto, in the usual sense. The earlier essays:

...are all I can contribute in that connection at this time. Today’s essay is a personal manifesto: a program for individuals to follow. He who follows it will be equipped, mentally, morally, and in other ways, to endure and flourish in the near and intermediate future, despite adverse political developments and the ever-increasing rapacity of the political class.

I hope that’s enough, from me at any rate, to close out 2012. For the moment, I have no more to give. Practical matters press upon me rather powerfully at this time: I have obligations of which I must not speak, to which I must give my immediate and absolute attention. Yes, they’re that serious. If you live long enough and involve yourself deeply enough with others, you, too, will someday feel their weight.

But all things start with individuals. “Society” is composed of nothing else. And though the thought has always pained me, it is nevertheless the case that most of us are more concerned with reforming or re-educating others than with making as much as we can of ourselves.

Let 2013 be the start of a different and better path:

There’s only one way to improve society. Present it with a single improved unit: yourself. -- Albert Jay Nock

Merry Christmas. May the joy of Christ’s Nativity be yours throughout this blessed season and the New Year to come. I’ll be back with fresh tirades in January.

All my best,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The "u" words . . .

. . . must not be spoken.
The European Project is not in Britain’s interests – nor is it in America’s. It is time the Obama administration woke up to this reality, and stood on the side of freedom and sovereignty in Europe, instead of backing a fundamentally undemocratic and unaccountable European Project.[1]
Centralization regardless of the cost! Once in, never out. Hmmm . . . . Did anyone think to provide for secession just in case things went wrong with the nickel and dime E.U. experiment based on, um, certain historical events? Or does "logic" support movement to world government that's one-way traffic only?

WWII was fought for freedom from fascism (though not communism) and German control of Europe. Now, Europe has the latter, whether anyone wants to admit it, and rushes to embrace the former. Not the same Germany by a long shot, it goes without saying, and congrats to Germans who are reaping the rewards of being a generally serious people apart from their decision to import millions of Muslims.

And the fascist part wasn't their idea. It's just the natural result of larger and larger government and the concomitant dilution of popular sovereignty. U.S. variant alive, well, and on steroids.

Cue sound effect of ratchet on gear wheel. Tink. Tink.

You just have to appreciate the not-so-delicious irony of Europe ending up where it is. Over 100 millions dead at the hands of totalitarians in the last century (not even counting war dead) and good luck finding all but a tiny majority of Europeans or Brits with any kind of antibodies to assaults on their liberty or on their centuries-old cultures.

Or to foreign domination. Europe, the abattoir of the 20th century, consumed the flower of its youth in slaughter that beggars the imagination. And the result has been that the loved ones and descendants of the dead have been condemned to live out their lives in crime-ridden, dysfunctional, disintegrating, third-world slums where citizens who speak the truth about what happened are hounded by the government and terrorist scum are set for life on the dole.

Is this what they envisioned in those desperate years when they and all the world heard that voice of hope on the radio, "Ici Londres!" or "This is London calling"? Craven surrender of the home country?

Cue BBC Beethoven theme, fade to crappy Arab music, and cut to video of gigantic London mosque and in-your-face, gypsy squatter invasions.

Most of our European cousins lurched forward into the arms of a smug authoritarianism that became practiced in fleecing and betraying its subjects. Whatever was on the telly after VE day must have been pretty God damn amazing stuff for people not to notice the hijacking under way.

Good luck to Britain and, hopefully, its abandonment of the E.U. foolishness. Subsidiarity is a concept that needs to be looked into more. 65 years of global government bullshit is enough. That's a fine Anglo-Saxon term, or close enough, that sometimes just gets the job done right. I don't know how to say it in Swahili or Arabic.


[1] "Barack Obama lectures Britain on EU membership: the US president looks arrogant as well as clueless." By Nile Gardiner, The Telegraph, 12/19/12.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shamans Yet Again

Sometimes ground covered in a previous essay demands to be covered again, and yet again, and again, and again. Apparently, censorship in the guise of politesse is one such subject.

Courtesy of our beloved InstaPundit, we have this charming bit of news from Da Tech Guy:

Been on the road today and when I came home I found that an idiot had acted like an idiot and had received an idiots reward.

Here’s the despicable racist tweet that got University of North Alabama player, Bradley Patterson, kicked off his team:

The tweet was brought to the University’s attention after it was highlighted by Deadspin.

Within the past several hours, Patterson deleted his Twitter account.

Goodbye and good riddance...

The post goes on to note that far worse behavior -- not at all confined to mere words -- has been and is being completely excused by the Left, because its targets were (gasp!) conservatives, or at least suspected of being such.

Is there even one Gentle Reader who fails to see the asymmetry here?
You who see it: How does one correct an asymmetry?
Don't all rush at once, now.

Linguistic taboos, bad enough in themselves, are an entering wedge for other sorts of controls. When the taboo crosses from being cause for castigation to being a justification for punishment, genuine censorship has arrived.

The University of North Alabama is a state university. Its operations are subsidized by federal and Alabama state monies. If it claims the power to punish "unacceptable" speech, what government-subsidized or wholly governmental institution would lack that power?

Let's go a daring step further: Inasmuch as "the nigger" in question was Barack Hussein Obama, vendor of more racialist rhetoric than any public figure since the Civil War, the university has punished its student for daring to speak ill of a public official. If that's not political censorship -- and of the very sort any newspaper editor would condemn most fiercely were his organ in the crosshairs -- then what is?

Of course, the asymmetric aspect remains. I'm sure Negro students at the University of North Alabama freely call one another "nigger" when and as it suits them. Possibly Negro faculty members there, if there are any, do so as well. Would you venture to guess how often they're punished for the use of that "unacceptable, deplorable, despicable" word?

"Don't make me get mad, and act like a nigger!" -- Stevie Wonder, "Sweet Little Girl," from the album Music Of My Mind

The only way to deal with a thrust toward censorship or an asymmetry of this sort is a campaign of desensitization. The "taboo words:"

  • nigger
  • faggot
  • queer
  • cunt
  • dyke

...and any others over which some identity group attempts to assert ownership must be ripped out of their grasp -- not by punishing them for their use, but by using them, and confronting their use, equally freely and equally fearlessly. Niggers With Attitude, Queer Nation, and that charming university professor who lectures on -- I kid you not -- "cuntal dialectics" must be put on notice that their taboos don't bind the rest of us. In particular, any governmental or government-allied institution that attempts to punish anyone for such speech must be subjected to a chorus of denunciation, hopefully to economically detrimental effect.

Be not afraid. After all, what's the worst that can happen: some pantywaist will disapprove of you. Think you can stand that?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Ultimate Reason Why We Need Guns

"There is innocent ignorance and there is invincible, dogmatic and self-righteous ignorance. Every tragic mass shooting seems to bring out examples of both among gun control advocates." Thomas Sowell

The Ultimate Reason Why We Need Guns

Monday, December 17, 2012

The News Is Worse Than All Bad

You've probably already heard that John Boehner, currently the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has discarded the no-tax-rate-increases stance of the GOP in an attempt to negotiate a budgetary path forward with Barack Hussein Obama. You've probably also heard that Obama dismissed Boehner's offer out of hand, because it demanded reductions in spending. And you've probably been wondering what Boehner was angling for, or how he could have expected any other outcome.

There aren't many possible explanations that fit the facts. I can only come up with two. The first is that Boehner is so determined to present an appearance of cooperation with The Won in "avoiding the fiscal cliff" that he felt he had to offer something, as long as he got something back that could be rationalized as acceptable compensation. That would testify to a desire to "remain a player" that has unmoored him from any attachment to responsible policy stances. The second is that Boehner naively believes that Obama really, truly is open to negotiations and takes the federal deficit crisis as seriously as he says he does. That would suggest that he's committed an error of the sort about which I wrote below:

The human psyche is structured in a fashion that impels us to caution if our intentions toward our neighbors are dark ones. That's an aspect of our survival engineering, nothing more. After all, how likely is it that we would have survived our earliest, most predatory stages if we didn't trouble to conceal our less praiseworthy inclinations from those who were to be their next targets? Therefore, Smith, to whom morality is a stranger, since it would be obvious that he regards everyone as a potential target, will do his best to conceal his amorality if he's smart. "Smart" and "amoral" are not mutually exclusive.

Smith will also assume that you're doing exactly the same.

Let that sink in for a moment. Smith will never accept that your motives are what you say they are. Nor could anything you might do or refrain from doing, great or small, fleeting or protracted, persuade him that you can be trusted. He will map his own moral structure onto you, regardless of all your efforts to persuade him otherwise.

Psychologists call it projection. In its most extreme form, they call it paranoia.

...except that in this case, Boehner, a more-or-less honest man, has assumed honesty from a person entirely uncontaminated by that virtue.

That's a common mistake among conservatives. We hold to a standard that demands honesty and fair dealing; therefore we assume that everyone else, including our political adversaries, must hold to a comparable standard. But we're wrong. Indeed, we're not merely wrong; we're engaged in willful dismissal of the relevant evidence. The Left, of which Barack Hussein Obama is the day's Maximum Leader, has demonstrated repeatedly that only winning matters to it:

  • That facts and reasoning are important only when they can be made to serve the Left's agenda;
  • That "the end justifies the means" -- that there are no unbreakable rules in political combat;
  • That the adversary's rulebook is a tool to be used against the adversary;
  • That no consequence, foreseeable or otherwise, could be significant enough to vitiate any of the above rules of political interplay.

Victory in the struggle for power is all that matters to the Left. The history of postwar American politics speaks to that in a voice of thunder. Yet we in the Right continue to treat with the Left as if with the right approach it could be made into an ally in service to the nation.

In short, we're acting like fools.

The GOP's leadership has demonstrated something, too: a willingness to retreat from conservative positions whenever the Main Stream Media begin to blast it. The chorus of denunciation the press can produce causes far too many Republicans in high places to stop thinking about the good of the nation and focus on redeeming its image as portrayed by the press. This is more than a loss of nerve on their part; it's a complete abandonment of their posts, to which their constituents elected them with the expectation that they would stand their ground.

Note that the same cannot be said about any prominent Democrat. They have the press on their side. More important, they know what sort of voter raised them to their offices.

The Evil Party continues as it has done for about a century now. Present trends continuing, the Stupid Party will soon exchange that cognomen for another: The Blind, Stupid, and Gutless Party. Shortly after that, it will descend to fringe status, and we who love and understand freedom will be reduced, in Ronald Reagan's words, to "telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Are we there yet?

When the majority cannot protect themselves from their own depravities, democracy is no longer viable.

. . . And when national factions abound, and every citizen's eyes are turned upon his neighbor's wealth, and the anonymity of a large state obscures the confiscatory hand, then there exists no justice even amongst citizen-pirates. And it may truly be said that in those days, when any may be made a victim by the mob, the fear of neighbors surpasses that of the despot, and a nominal liberty takes the official form of tyranny.

"The Failures of Democracy (an Ode to Aristides)." By Jeremy Egerer, American Thinker, 12/15/12.

Perfect. High-tech sniper scopes to Pakistanis.

That would be to the Pakistanis, those "allies" of ours who hid Osama Bin Laden and who help out the Taliban. The ones who are ambushing our troops in Afghanistan:
[Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer's] lawsuit claims that [his then-employer,] defense contractor BAE Systems retaliated against him for objecting to the company's sale of high-tech sniper scopes to the Pakistani military. Meyer claims a manager at the British company said he was "mentally unstable" and had a "problem related to drinking in a social setting," according to the lawsuit.
"Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer recovering after teen allegedly attacked him.", 12/13/12 (link omitted).

H/t: Daily Kenn.

Fallen Angels

[The following essay first appeared at Eternity Road on February 16, 2007. It seems approriate in the wake of the Newtown atrocity and the fevered responses to it. – FWP]

Time was, the great mass of Westerners were Christians -- believing Christians, not the let's-go-to-the-midnight-Christmas-Mass-so-I-can-show-off-my-new-mink-coat kind. As such, they accepted as a premise that there is a world beyond this one, and that some of the denizens of that world were capable of influencing men's thoughts to some extent. Back then, it was not uncommon to hear someone say that so-and-so had "yielded to his demons," or that the "better angels" had prevailed over him just in time. No one was embarrassed about saying such things; indeed, no one would have dared to doubt that he meant it.

But we're so much more sophisticated these days, we can't even say such things with a straight face. No, everything has to have a worldly explanation: secular, material, and rationalistic. Suggestions of spiritual influence are right out; far from being simply naive or credulous, they're passe. They don't even occur to the fashionable people, and as for the rest, well, what about them?

This abjuration of otherworldly considerations created a new impetus away from the "other-directed" conscience of earlier Christendom, toward the "inner-directed" conscience, or lack thereof, that predominates today. Moral constraints were once buttressed by the belief that God sees all and forgets nothing; without God, one's moral constraints had to arise from entirely secular, rationalistic sources. As I've written before, that takes a very powerful mind, one which is absolutely proof against taking opinions for facts or being misled by wishful thinking.

Needless to say, minds that powerful are not commonplace. Nor are they necessarily capable of transferring their grasp of moral fundamentals to persons of lesser abilities.

It was predictable that the removal of that constraint, in tandem with the rise of the cult of moral relativism, would bring about a significant degree of defection from the earlier, Christian norms for decency and public order. But alongside that, we suffered a parallel wound to our civility whose genesis, if less obvious than that of our mounting public disarray, was just as direct: we ceased to allow for the possibility that a man's words or deeds might have been propelled, in part or in whole, by forces beyond his control.

That might sound absurd, given how readily some will excuse a vicious mass murderer on the grounds that he was abused as a child:

As a child, my heart bleeds for him. Someone took a little boy and turned him into a monster. But as an adult... as an adult, he's irredeemable. He butchers whole families to fulfill some sick fantasy. As an adult, I think someone should blow the sick **** out of his socks. [from the movie Manhunter]

The thought path is there to be traced; exculpations are always on the grounds that some secular, temporal, material influence overpowered the miscreant, not that he was tempted beyond his strength.

Consider how that change in premises interacts with the modern tendency in political discourse to regard one's adversary not as merely wrong but as willfully wrong. A man who strays under temptation is still redeemable as long as he lives; indeed, that's a bedrock tenet of Christian belief. But if his wrongness is conscious and willful, rather than a misstep made under the influence of an unseen dark power, what then?

In combination with the absolutism advancing among persons of every known conviction, many among us have become prone to characterizing our adversaries as evil, never as weak or misinformed. We cannot excuse them for differing with us; to do so would be to open the possibility that we, not they, are the evil ones. For once the unseen world is excluded, no other alternatives would exist.

We've lost more than just the willingness to allow that our enemies are forgivable. Far too many persons, stripped of the support for moral conduct provided by the premise of an all-seeing God, have lost their grip on morals, or have failed to acquire them. They can't or won't understand the importance of moral categorical imperatives; without the threat of retribution, they can't see an affirmative reason to behave properly toward others. Their "morality" reduces to this: "If I can get away with it, then it must be quite all right."

Since each of us is locked into the solitary vault of his own skull, inherently unable to divine the thoughts or emotions of others, our tendency is to map our motivations and constraints onto those around us. They who hold to a Judeo-Christian moral standard tend to assume that others do as well; they who hold to an amoral it's-okay-if-I-get-away-with-it standard tend to assume that others hold it too. In a way, it's the ultimate demonstration of the Golden Rule, even though the moral and the amoral apply it to breathtakingly different effects.

The human psyche is structured in a fashion that impels us to caution if our intentions toward our neighbors are dark ones. That's an aspect of our survival engineering, nothing more. After all, how likely is it that we would have survived our earliest, most predatory stages if we didn't trouble to conceal our less praiseworthy inclinations from those who were to be their next targets? Therefore, Smith, to whom morality is a stranger, since it would be obvious that he regards everyone as a potential target, will do his best to conceal his amorality if he's smart. "Smart" and "amoral" are not mutually exclusive.

Smith will also assume that you're doing exactly the same.

Let that sink in for a moment. Smith will never accept that your motives are what you say they are. Nor could anything you might do or refrain from doing, great or small, fleeting or protracted, persuade him that you can be trusted. He will map his own moral structure onto you, regardless of all your efforts to persuade him otherwise.

Psychologists call it projection. In its most extreme form, they call it paranoia.

It follows from the foregoing that the loss of civility in politics is a resultant, not a primary. The most uncivil are the least trustworthy and the least capable of disguising it. It's they whose pieties are likeliest to conceal darker agendas. And indeed, the political family most given to the vilification of its adversaries, the American left, has also provided by far the greater number of saboteurs, defrauders, and exploiters of their official positions for personal gain.

The violent, fraudulent, and grasping ones are their ideology's more consistent adherents. Their self-righteous brethren, who are often equally venomous toward conservatives, are tragically unwilling to see the connection between the moral altitude they award themselves and the behavior of their naughtier confreres. But this, too, is consistent with the syndrome. To entertain even for a moment that their self-sanctifying ideology of statism and redistributionism might be causally connected to the indulgences of those others is to indict their entire moral framework, putting them, not on a par with us their conservative opponents, but below us. That cannot be, by the most fundamental tenets of left-liberalism:

Despite Hamlet's warning against self-flattery, the vision of the anointed [i.e., American left-liberals] is not simply a vision of the world and its functioning in a causal sense, but is also a vision of themselves and of their moral role in that world. It is a vision of differential rectitude. It is not a vision of the tragedy of the human condition. Problems exist because others are not as wise or as virtuous as the anointed. [From Thomas Sowell's The Vision Of The Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy.]

They who are proudest, and quickest to condemn us their adversaries, are the lowest of us fallen ones.

Conservatives will frequently dismiss liberals as wrong, misinformed, or even stupid for not seeing the obvious, but it's rare for a conservative to classify liberals as evil. The converse is most emphatically not true. We have innumerable examples before us, both on the Web and in the non-digital reaches of the world.

Who could forget Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean's cry that "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for" -- ? The Democratic Party did not repudiate Dean's brazenness by one iota. His candor might have made some prominent Democrats uncomfortable, but they shared enough of his premises, and his emotions, not to dissent from them in substance. The venomous statements of the various Air America personages, some of which included unsubtle exhortations to violence against conservatives, were paler echoes of Dean's manifesto. Vilenesses of similar character can be heard in any gathering of left-liberals, sometimes even when a few avowed conservatives are present to hear them.

We might be moved to dismiss this as "rhetorical excess," "campaign propaganda," "rallying the troops," or some such. That's our tendency to project in operation: our desire to see our adversaries' premises and motives as congruent with our own, despite all the evidence to the contrary. One of the less worthy developments on the Right has been a sort of rhetorical Stockholm Syndrome: a burgeoning tendency to try to placate those who abuse us in direct proportion to the violence and frequency of their abuses. In pondering it, one might easily draw parallels between the innumerable outrages of Muslims in Europe and the ever more obsequious behavior of European governments and non-Muslim private citizens toward them. It's not a response to be proud of.

He who has anointed himself as indisputably good has awarded himself a license to destroy that which is evil. He'll interpret conciliation as a sign of weakness and intensify his efforts. As with Islam, so also with the anointed of left-liberalism. It's only mildly ironic that left-liberals are so eager to placate aggressive Islamic regimes, whose scimitars would fall on their necks in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself. But perhaps to him who has convinced himself that he knows the face of evil, wishfulness renders other faces less distinct.

But one must not neglect the "fringes of anointment," where the holy oil is thinnest or the impulse to connect is least affected. Consider the following blockbuster post from Wizbang's Jay Tea:

The other day, while discussing the hike in the minimum wage, one critic posed a fairly heavy question to me....

Jay, you are a very smart man. That is obvious. What I don't understand is WHY people like you are so willing to advocate for a political system that works against your best interests. What's so attractive about conservative ideology? Why do people in your position cheer when Rush says "Roosevelt is dead. His policies live on, but we are doing something about that." Why is that attractive?

You've got health issues. A smart guy like you should be making more than mid 20K's. Are you stuck because you don't want to risk a move and lose insurance? So, why fight democratic healthcare reform? If you had a severe problem and were unable to work, wouldn't you go bankrupt? Most people go bankrupt because of health reasons, not wild credit spending, like the meme. Why do conservatives cheer when bankruptcy laws are changed so if anything medical happened to them, they'd have no protection?

If you're making in the mid 20Ks, and you have an apartment, you've got to be spending perhaps half of your net income on housing. Add to that insurance, food, utilities... Can't be much left. Are you socking away what you need for retirement? If you have investments, it's been a great couple of years, but you don't have dividend income. Or probably much in the way of stocks that you've purchased. Don't you want to be able to depend on Social Security for your retirement? Why don't "conservatives" complain about the constant borrowing from the Social Security fund to make the budget numbers look more positive? There would not be a "Social Security crisis" in your lifetime if we were not removing surplus from the fund.

I don't get it... I just don't get it. Why does a smart guy like you, in your position, argue for a political ideology that works against your best interests in almost every way?

Could you please explain that to me?

John, it's quite simple. Although I have repeatedly espoused my agnosticism, but that doesn't mean I don't have my own ethos that I try to adhere to. And I don't have an overarching name or theme for it; it's just something I can live with.

One part of it is that I abide by what I judge to be "right" or "wrong," regardless of how it will affect me personally. You're quite right, John, a lot of the things I oppose would benefit me greatly....

It's because I decided, very coldly and logically, that the best way I could leave my "mark" on the world would to find certain issues where I could make a strong moral and ethical stand, and fight those causes. And in each and every case, I would weigh both sides of the issue, see which one would be the more honest, the more fair, the one more likely to promote individual rights, and freedoms, and responsibilities, and take that stand. Even if it meant screwing myself over, in some way....

When I was in college, I took a course in ethics. One thing that has stuck with me is how the professor said that for any ethical system to be legitimate, it had to be universal. The rules had to apply evenly to everyone, or it was not a truly ethical system. In that spirit, I've tried to discount my own personal self-interest when deciding where I stand on an issue.

So yeah, John, sometimes my own philosophical beliefs directly conflict with my own self-interest. That's OK with me. Hell, in some ways, it's reassuring. It tells me that I am not simply taking the most expedient, selfish, easiest way out of a situation.

So sometimes it gets a bit uncomfortable. But it helps me sleep a bit better at night.

Well! Consider:

  • Commenter John simply assumed that Jay had overlooked or irrationally dismissed how left-liberal public policies would benefit him personally.
  • The odds are six-five and pick 'em that John, if he read Jay's response excerpted above, would dismiss it as "for public consumption."
  • Yet had Jay replied to John, "Is that why you vote Democrat? Because it's in your self-interest? Or is that just the sort of pitch you think will work on a grubby, heartless conservative?" John would have been mortally offended.

Jay, an avowed agnostic, exhibits an admirable conformity to a fundamental tenet of Christian moral thought: what's wrong is wrong for everyone, regardless of any personal justifications one might proffer. John, whose religious affiliation is unknown, hews to the opposite pole: it's not wrong if it's right "for me." But John's ideological compatriots readily call Jay and his ideological compatriots "evil."

The well-known book What's The Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Frank is replete with John's sort of reasoning. It's practically a tour guide to liberals' attitudes toward conservatives and conservative thought. Can you imagine the ocean of outrage and hurricanes of denunciation liberals would indulge over a book that explores why they perennially supported policies specifically in their self-interest?

Actually, you don't have to imagine. Go to Amazon and look up any of Ann Coulter's books. You'll know which reviews are by liberals without having to read more than two lines of any of them.

Politics is a substitute for bloodshed. It's the way a society settles matters over which agreement is elusive. But it only works if all the parties to a controversy concede that the ultimate goal of social amity is more important than the outcome of a contest over any specific issue. When one side decides that its condition of moral superiority has freed it from all constraints, politics rapidly ceases to work, and violence, fraud, and subterfuge creep in. We had a number of examples of this during the 2004 and 2006 campaign seasons.

At this time, liberals and conservatives cannot talk to one another about anything, even to set the terms under which an issue might be settled. What else does the prevalence of the filibuster tactic signify? The minority is unwilling to allow the majority to have its way, so it uses a procedural tactic to prevent the resolution of the issue. All we hear from the Left are denunciations of us on the Right. All we hear from the Right are equivocations intended to avert escalation. Workable middle ground on an issue, if it exists, is seldom reachable.

Conservatives are not entirely free from odium, but at this time we must be judged to have much cleaner hands and better manners than our liberal assailants. In the main, it's liberals who stand indicted for the attempted destruction of the American political discourse. The correlations to their assumptions:

  • That human nature is sufficiently flexible to be bent to a state-socialist Utopia by the force of law;
  • That "the common good" is a higher standard than any antiquated notion of absolute right and wrong;
  • That men can be trusted with absolute power over others if their hearts are in the right place;

...are too strong to be ignored.

It's even possible that some of America's liberal figures might be consciously trying to destroy our political system. A liberal sufficiently convinced of his moral elevation and the correctness of his policy prescriptions might reach the conclusion that there's no need for any further dialogue; let's eliminate the other guys, erect a one-party state, outlaw all opposition, and get to work. I've heard statements like that from liberals on specific issues; usually they include the telltale word "inevitable," as in "socialized medicine is inevitable, so let's get on with it."

Yes, you may well shudder.

The situation cannot be reversed quickly; in the near term, matters will remain more or less as they stand. Political correctness is a major obstacle, as is liberals' use of "shield icons" -- mascot groups, sigil issues, and historical events such as slavery -- that are good for foreclosing discussion when it turns against them. Worse, conservatives are excessively prone to self-criticism, and suffer willy-nilly from the assaults of both liberal mouthpieces and their Old Media annex. In William Simon's phrase, when the newspapers and the liberal mouthpieces start to blast us, it's been our pattern to experience "an acute failure of nerve."

Worse yet, conservatives are not sufficiently well united on core principles to stand together properly when the going gets tough, which is why political correctness has had such an effect on us. One never compromises a principle except at a loss...yet in their desire to conciliate the Left, and to curry the elusive favor of the heavily leftist Old Media, conservative statesmen and spokesmen have repeatedly made self-destructive compromises and agreed to many foolish things. President Bush's prescription drug benefit for Medicare clients is only one recent example.

But these matters, as large as they are, are small before what follows. Any significant improvement in the nation's political discourse will require the Left to concede things it's been unwilling to admit for some time:

  • The moral equality of all men, regardless of their intentions;
  • The superiority of facts to opinions, theories, hopes, and expectations;
  • The sacredness of objective evidence and the public meanings of words.

To accept that those who disagree with them either on principles or on specifics are nevertheless presumed innocent of malice; to admit that many, if not all, of their pet initiatives have been wrongly conceived and have done harm rather than good; to agree to respect both evidence and rhetoric as tools to be used only in the service of truth -- in other words, to climb down off the pedestals they've built for themselves -- will be a humiliation most persons could hardly bear. The present generation of liberals might have to die off before the process can begin.

The fatal syllogism runs thus:

  1. We are good and they are evil.
  2. Therefore, we must win at any cost.
  3. Therefore, there are no rules; all that matters is "getting away with it."

What the Left has forgotten is that there's one more step yet to take.

  1. He who sets himself above all rules is evil.