Wednesday, July 31, 2013


1. This is only the first degree-stonewall.

Are you really surprised that the IRS doesn't want to come clean to Congress?

The House’s chief investigative committee on Tuesday accused the IRS of stonewalling its probe into the agency's unfair targeting of Tea Party groups and other politically-affiliated organizations, saying Congress has received only a fraction of the documents it requested and many of those are useless.

The House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee letter directly blames acting Commissioner Danny Werfel for the “systematic manner” in which his agency has “attempted to delay, frustrate, impede and obstruct” the committee’s investigation, despite his promising just weeks earlier to fully cooperate.

“The actions of the IRS under your leadership have made clear to the committee that the agency has no intention of complying completely or promptly with the committee’s oversight efforts,” wrote committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The letter also states that obstructing a congressional investigation “is a crime” and that the committee will be forced to use a “compulsory process” should the IRS continue to use its tactics.

A high-ranking committee staffer told that process could include subpoenas.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. The IRS's power within the federal government arises entirely from its ability to conceal its operations. Were it a transparent and evenhanded enforcer of the tax laws, it wouldn't be nearly so greatly feared. That, to be gentle about it, is not the case.

But Representative Issa might not get the results he wants out of Congressional subpoenas. The IRS's second-degree stonewall involves threats to audit whistleblowers within its ranks and investigators outside them. Such audit threats have proved extremely effective in the past, as virtually everyone with something to protect will chisel around the edges of the tax laws. Even Senators and Congressmen have been cowed by such threats in the recent past.

I applaud Congressman Issa's tenacity, but he'll have to display a grip well beyond that of his predecessors to get the results he seeks. We shall see.

2. What? No scandal?

Incredible, but true:

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves wants to make one thing clear: The network didn't let "NCIS" star Cote de Pablo leave the show without putting up a fight. "We offered Cote de Pablo a lot of money, and then we offered her even more money," Moonves told reporters at the Television Critics Association fall TV previews Monday. "We really didn't want to lose her. We love her; we think she was terrific. ... Ultimately she decided she didn't want to do the show."

De Pablo announced her exit earlier this month, one week before the show was scheduled to begin production on its upcoming 11th season. She expressed her gratitude to the show and its cast and crew and said she would return for a few episodes to end her character's story. But how could CBS lose the leading lady of the No. 1 show on television?

"It was purely her decision," Moonves continued. "'NCIS' was the highest-rated show on television last year. We don't like losing anybody, but we did everything humanly possible. We feel like we exhausted every opportunity, and she just decided she didn't want to do the show."

This seems to be the whole story. A highly-compensated TV star has opted out of the gig that brought her fame and fortune, for no reason other than lack of interest. Unbelievable!

I kinda like it. Usually when you read something like that, it's laced with seedy details of some sort, or the star is really being "encouraged" out the door for pecuniary reasons. It would be interesting to know why de Pablo lost interest in her role as Israeli expatriate / NCIS agent Ziva David, but at this point that's entirely between her ears.

3. Fighting uphill.

My favorite Graybeard brings us a clever but misguided scheme for "fixing" Social Security:

The problem with SS in a nutshell is congress. They have made it like welfare and have changed the rules over time to give away more then ever comes in. The fix is really rather simple. First understand that in the early years going back to at least the 50’s the federal government took money from the SS trust fund and today that amount including compounded interest exceeds $4 trillion.

So the fix: First remove anyone from collecting SS who didn’t pay into the system. Sure there are old folks and kids and disabled who really need the money but cut them off if they were not the actual people who paid into SS. Second set the individual monthly payout to be proportional to what the retiree paid in over their lifetime. That is someone who paid $100,000 into SS will get half as much a month as someone who paid in $200,000. Third make the actual payout consistent with general accounting procedures for a annuity. That may mean a particular retiree only gets $100 a month ( or $500 or $750, etc) and not the more generous $1500 or so that SS now pays on average. And the last step is the most important and that is to adjust the total payout each year so that it does not exceed the total paid into the SS system. That means this year you might get $900 a month but next year it drops to $850 (or could go up too) and every retirees SS benefit adjusts accordingly. This way it is impossible for the SS system to go broke. It only pays out to those who paid in and met all requirements and it always pays out no more then it takes in.

The bottom line is a contract was made and the retirees fulfilled their part of the contract. While we may believe it would be easy enough to simply pass laws and end SS the courts will bat last and there is plenty of precedent for deciding that the federal government would have to use it’s power of taxation to meet this contract. So we either fix the system or we face endless litigation and risk an even greater liability in the future.

This sort of mathematical approach would be pure hemlock to any legislator who might endorse it. He and his allies would be:

  • Telling seniors currently receiving benefits that they'd be getting less;
  • Telling Americans within a few years of retirement that they'd be getting less yet;
  • Telling all working Americans that they'll have to keep paying into the system at current rates even as benefits are declining;
  • Saying all this out in front of God and everybody while younger Americans would have to face increasing financial responsibility for their aged, retired parents.

Ain't gonna happen.

The only way Social Security can be "fixed" is by its abolition. There's only one politically navigable path toward that end:

  • Mandatory first step: Abolish the Social Security payroll tax, both on employee and employer. This "ends the contract" that makes Americans believe they have a stake in perpetuating the system.
  • Statutorily recompense anyone who has paid the payroll tax but has not yet collected benefits, on a constant-dollar calculation, over a period not to exceed five years. That compensation would free the federal government from any as-yet-uninvoked claims for Social Security benefits.
  • Now offer cash buyouts to current recipients of Social Security payments, based on actuarial figures and "present-value" calculations. Many will accept, believing they can do better with cash-in-hand than with time payments whose amount and regularity cannot be guaranteed.

At the end of this process, there would still be some seniors collecting regular payments. But at some point, they would all be -- drum roll, please -- dead. No one who had not yet begun receiving payments would be entitled to them. And the Social Security Ponzi scheme would be equally dead, hopefully never to rise again.


Those of you who, after reading this piece and / or this one, have decided that you'd like to help with the WIFWA mission should email me at either:

- at -
- dot -


- dot -
- at -
- dot -

...with contact information, including what genres you like to read and what genres you write in. I'll keep you posted as the thing matures. And by the way, do not email me merely to say "gee, it sounds like a good idea, and I'd love to help out, but I have to perform open-heart surgery every day for the next fifty years," or whatever BS excuse you intend to offer. That's worse than insulting, as it wastes my time into the bargain.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Sanctification Continues

By way of the extremely valuable Common Sense and Wonder comes this gem:

Through their nakedly deceptive public speaking tours, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, parents of Trayvon Martin, are all but ensuring that a high percentage of American black males will continue to end up in the cradle-to-prison pipeline. By glorifying their son's lifestyle, they push young wayward blacks away from the truth and into further trouble....

The couple didn't exactly make family values their top priority when little Trayvon was growing up. Facebook postings showing Trayvon's message logs about concocting "lean," a codeine cocktail abused by rappers and others, and pictures with him flashing cash tell us the boy was headed in the wrong direction. But you'd never know it from his father Tracy Martin's acting job at the first hearing of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys this past Wednesday, or from Sybrina Fulton's response on Thursday to juror B29's admission in various interviews that "George Zimmerman got away with murder."

Martin told lawmakers he wants to start mentoring programs through his Trayvon Martin Foundation so that what happened to his son doesn't happen to other young black males. But get this: it's not about baby-mamas, or womanizing fathers who spread their seed from one female to the next -- so much so that the kids spawned by these relationships have no idea whose house they should go to on any given day. No, it's trying "to educate our communities on the Florida statutes, on the Florida laws ... that really we need to understand how these laws apply to ourselves."

It is the white man's laws that are to blame. Mess around with women as much as you want, and have as many babies as you want outside marriage, or even abort them; taxpayers will foot the bill. Just get rid of that Stand Your Ground nonsense.

Besides the plug for his foundation and the promise to teach black males how to get one over on the rule of law, Martin touted himself as father of the year.

Just to have the life of your son taken away from you, when you've molded him to become an outstanding citizen of this country -- it's heart-wrenching. That's something that you can never get over.

...As one of the lawmakers in attendance, [D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton] articulated exactly what-race hustlers like Martin and his new BFFs are after.

We seek a society that doesn't define black men and boys, but allows African-American males the opportunity to define themselves as individuals....

After the ABC show on Thursday morning, and right on cue, Sybrina Fulton, who hasn't missed a stage direction since February 2012, came out with the following retort:

It is devastating for my family to hear the comments from juror B29, comments which we already knew in our hearts to be true. That George Zimmerman literally got away with murder.

This new information challenges our nation once again to do everything we can to make sure that this never happens to another child. That's why Tracy and I have launched The Trayvon Martin Foundation to try and take something very painful and negative and turn it into something positive as a legacy to our son....

Fulton is not interested in turning the death of her son into anything but an opportunity to get the focus off herself. Her son's rage-filled, vulgar, sexual meanderings online as well as his anti-social behavior are a reflection of her lousy parenting, and she knows it. But it was a good distraction that this tragedy happened under a half-black Alinskyite who knew just how to politicize the death of a kid and how to put the mother in the spotlight.

That's about as much as I can excerpt without running afoul of "fair use" rules. Please read the whole thing -- and then have a second look at Bill Whittle's video expose.

I continue to maintain that on the night he was killed, Trayvon Martin got exactly what his conduct had earned him. The digging other investigators have done makes it plain that Martin's genetic contributors -- I refuse to call such persons parents -- were both entirely unconcerned with their son's actual course through life, and will accept none of the odium for how he developed.

Yet just the other day, when I expressed those sentiments in another forum, another commenter called me "STUPID" -- yes, caps and all -- said the fact that Zimmerman got out of his truck and asked Martin "what are you doing here?" made Zimmerman a murderer, and that the only reason I saw things differently was that I "hate black people."

Generally speaking, I don't hate anyone. It takes too much energy, and besides, 99.9999% of Mankind falls well below my threshold of personal concern. But I might make an exception for Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, who produced a drug-addled "gangsta" with aggression issues, and who prefer that the blame for their son's death fall on the man he beat half-unconscious and to whom he said, "You're gonna die tonight."

In his written opinion on a case concerning the mandatory sterilization of a retarded woman who had produced children she could not support, Associate Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in justification that "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." When I first encountered that case, the relevant Virginia law, and Holmes's opinion, I was horrified by them. In light of the Zimmerman / Martin encounter and the public posturings of the dead thug's progenitors, today I find myself in agreement...except that for Holmes's "three" I would substitute "one." Yet there are elected officials paying respectful attention to Martin and Fulton. It is to laugh...hollowly, and with many a bitter tear.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Words Fail Me Dept.

I'd bet the rent that some of the signatories thought euthanasia is "health care."

Dissemblings And Detoxifications

Among the functions of a palace guard, perhaps the second most important is this one: preserving the reputation of the royal family against imputations of misconduct and low motives. (The most important is, of course, keeping the monarch alive, well, and on his throne.) That's why guardsmen routinely stood sentry in the hall outside the king's bedchamber, and the bedchambers of his immediate family. The presence of an armed man in such a position guaranteed that only those persons the royals wanted "in the know" about their nocturnal doings would have direct and unimpeachable knowledge thereof.

Now think back to the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Then think forward to the present-day Democrat Party and its modern "palace guard," the Main Stream Media. Doesn't the behavior of the press with regard to the multifarious scandals in which Democrats have embroiled themselves these past two decades become terribly clear?

Much has already been said and written about the press's reflexive obeisances toward the Obama Regime and its various vassals. The current mock-blase attitude mainstream journalists are taking toward the many ongoing scandals, all of which point to severe moral shortcomings in high Democrat officials, is a deliberately cultivated veneer rather than a sincere dismissal of the genuinely trivial. That veneer is, of course, intended to shield an administration, and a party, which the press is desperate to protect from the proper consequences of its many crimes, misbehaviors, defaults.

Yet once in a great while, a sinner will simply have to go "under the bus." As little as the prospect might appeal to the powers of the Democrat Party, they will sacrifice him for the sake of the greater number, and for their continuing hegemony over the halls of power. That appears to be the case with Anthony Weiner, formerly a congressvermin from New York City and currently a candidate for its mayoralty. The worthy Ace of Spades commented on it thus:

New Yorker Begins The Collective's Coordinated Mass-Hate on Anthony Weiner

As I said in the podcast, it's not true that the media-Democratic complex never goes after a Democrat.

It works like this:

For as long as possible, the Media-Democratic Complex attempts to save a Democrat by either not reporting the story at all, and refusing comment on it, or, if forced to comment, by offering vague condemnations (to pretend they're betrayed) with shows of support for the beleaguered leftist (to maintain solidarity within The Collective).

However, at some point, sometimes, this NO ENEMIES TO THE LEFT strategy becomes untenable. At this point, The Collective turns viciously on the one they had been protecting, for two reasons:

1, out of genuine emotional anger at having been forced to protect him so long, and

2, in order to make a Conspicuous Show of their fidelity to the principles they pretend to believe.

They sort of ignore the part where they're actually the last ones to the party and in fact had be pressured/shamed into coming at all.

But to make up for their tardiness, they slather on vehemence.

They will protect you inside the soft, warm, wet Collective, but at some point, if you become a threat to The Collective, they will vomit you out and spit poison at you.

This is the pantomime of the Distancing/Purifying phase.

To which Mike Hendrix at Cold Fury added:

And when they do, notice too that they report the Suddenly, A Story! as if you already knew everything about it, glossing gently over the details, or eliding them altogether, as if everybody had soaked them up through some strange sort of osmosis, a cultural gestalt that they never, EVER acknowledge in any way…because THAT would demonstrate their awareness that if you only get your news from Court media, you wouldn’t have known what in the hell they were talking about–and therefore, a whole hell of a lot of us are in fact looking elsewhere for news. Worked the same way with the John Edwards story, too, and every other one where they’ve been finally forced to admit to the sleazy, slimy malfeasance of one of their erstwhile Saviors of the Nation.

Corrupt to the very marrow, that’s what, in more ways than just the obvious one.

Though this speaks eloquently to the corruption of the political Left, it's even more significant as it concerns the "palace guard:" the Main Stream Media themselves.

The palace guard is, to use a word that seldom appears in political commentary, commensal with the royal family. Should that family be expelled from power, the palace guard will be replaced as well. Both groups are jealous of their positions and prerogatives, and are equally ruthless in defending them.

The media strives not only to protect the Obamunists, their various hangers-on, but also their own place in the scheme of things. They've been hard pressed these past five years. The scandals are multiplying more swiftly than ever before; strategies of concealment and suppression that worked adequately well before the rise of the New Media are no longer viable. Word gets around far too quickly and reliably today for evasion-based techniques to be sufficient.Diversionary tactics -- i.e., striving to concentrate the public's attention on stories other than the ones that blot the Left's escutcheon -- are somewhat more effective, but are limited by the inherent power of the deflective events. More, the alternative news conduits aren't guaranteed to follow the Main Stream Media in concentrating on those diversions.

So when word comes down from On High that some pol must be thrown to the wolves, the press complies with alacrity and energy. Anthony Weiner is merely the best current example.

Weiner is a perfect sacrificial lamb for a simple reason: As far as anyone can tell, his sins are entirely of a personal nature. He cannot be accused of any of the "feasances" for having conducted seedy online trysts with women other than his wife. No one has risen to accuse him of any ex officio crime. Therefore, casting him into the outer darkness to weep and gnash his teeth costs the Democrats no further erosion of their tottering reputations for integrity and competence. More, it costs the Main Stream Media no further erosion of their reputations as trustworthy watchdogs over the official deeds of the powerful.

Manus manum lavat.

Alert watchers have known for some time that the Main Stream Media are untrustworthy as guardians of our public institutions. "Weinergate," despite the media's hope that it will shore up their declining credibility, can be used to accelerate their downfall -- and it should be so used. The key is to emphasize its self-serving nature: the ill-concealed linkage between the health of the Obama Regime and the fortunes of the media themselves. Ace's delineation of the "script" for the amputation of the Weiner-gangrene is a perfect way to go about it.

Spread the word.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Indie Fiction Part 2: The Birth of WIFWA

Enough of this standing around and waiting for someone else to get moving.

I have just registered: the home address of the Worldwide Independent Fiction Writers Association (WIFWA). I'll shortly be building the website, soliciting members and volunteer critics, and generally making as loud a noise as I can in the world of indie fiction.

We shall see whether I can marshal sufficient assistance and resources to do the job.

Indie Fiction And The Garbage Problem : A Non-Political, Non-Outrage Post

I can't do an angry, man-the-battlements post today. I'm wearied out by the developments of the past couple of weeks, so I thought I'd indulge myself a bit and talk about my avocation and its biggest problem.

In case you've spent the past two decades in a diabetic coma, I write fiction "on the side." I maintain correspondences with several other independent writers of whom I think highly. All of us are agreed that the indie-fiction world is in desperate need of a solution to this one giant problem...even though the "above-ground" world of publishing is just as badly afflicted by it and has made almost no attempt to solve it.

E-publishing, the channel through which most indie fiction (including mine) flows, is a double-edged sword. Altogether too many persons think they can write who haven't the slenderest sliver of the technical skills required, much less the storytelling skills. I'm not the only one to have noticed. When Flannery O'Connor was asked her opinion about how universities discourage fledgling writers, she replied "In my opinion, they aren't discouraging enough of them."

I had that very much in mind when I set out, with far more fear and trembling than you might imagine, to write my first fictions. What makes you think you have the chops, eh, hero? ran the censorious little voice in my skull that's endlessly willing to discourage me from any new venture. Pushing past that set of retardants was quite a challenge.

Ten years of unbroken rejection of my short stories by the periodical markets didn't exactly fill me with confidence. Perhaps it hardened my resolve. At any rate, in 1996, when I sat down to begin my first novel-length story, I was already certain that no one in the above-ground world of publishing would be interested. No matter how much I or my friendly test readers might think of it, it was doomed to go straight into that dreaded legendary repository of storytellers' shattered dreams, that Sargasso Sea of stories born to blush unseen: "the trunk." And so it was the case with the three novels that followed it.

Fast-forward to 2009. I'd been writing opinion-editorial pieces for the World Wide Web since about 1997, and had acquired a readership of some thousands of like-minded persons. One of them informed me of the existence of SmashWords, of its openness to all comers, and that his novel had already garnered thousands of readers though that conduit. With four novels already in "the trunk," and stories yet to tell about characters who refused to leave me alone, I had a reaction that, just maybe, every man will have at least once in his life, whether over asking his "crush" for a date, marching into his boss's office to negotiate for a raise, or casting his fictional bread upon the waters in hope of a 0.000001% return on his blood, sweat, toil, and tears:

"What the hell, why not?"

Accordingly, and with (approximately) no fear or trembling, I formatted Which Art In Hope to SmashWords's standards and submitted it for electronic publication. It appeared there early in 2010. Chosen One, On Broken Wings, and The Sledgehammer Concerto followed in the weeks after that. I made those first offerings free, as I simply had to know whether anyone would be willing to read the decidedly odd stuff I write even at no cost.

Within three months those four books had garnered over 50,000 downloads. I said a quick Hail Mary and assigned them the prices they bear today. Nine months after that, the total had broken 75,000.

The "legitimate" publishing houses, which I collectively call Pub World, had never shown me the slightest favor. Yet I'd garnered readers -- and revenue! -- through SmashWords. I was getting fan mail! Actual human beings were taking the time to write thank me for my books and plead for more! From all over the world, at that!

Yes, I was but one more swimmer in the sewer of self-publishing, wherein the only qualification required is a word processor and a lot of brass. But people were reading my work. People were paying to read my work.

Fifty-eight years of self-doubt dissolved in those plaudits. I was a new man.

It seems an age ago that I set out on this path, though it's been a mere three and a half years. I was overwhelmed from the first by the approval, the revenue, and the sheer joy of acceptance. I wanted everyone to share in it. So, in my desire to help other would-be writers, many of whom had undoubtedly struggled with their confidence and their technical failings, to experience the rewards I'd enjoyed, I resolved to read and review as many SmashWords stories as I could stand.

That turned out not to be as many stories as I'd originally thought.

The late Theodore Sturgeon, when a snooty journalist said to him that "Ninety percent of science fiction is crud," replied, "Well, ninety percent of everything is crud." If we take Sturgeon's Law to be a statistical average of everything Mankind produces, that 90% figure might be pretty close. But as we know, there are channels through which flows a slurry of much more concentrated crud. Indie publishing, at this time, is one such channel.

To date, I've read about 800 SmashWords publications. The ones I've reviewed are the ones that aren't utterly hopeless: about 10% of the stories I've read from there. Perhaps a fifth of the ones I've reviewed -- about 2% of the overall total -- display real creativity and storytelling power, even in potential. The rest are, to put it as kindly as possible, charity cases: their authors' mothers might love them, but the rest of us would prefer to watch test patterns on the television.

There's a real need for a garbage filter if indie publishing is to garner a modicum of respect.

Now is the time to act. Method is the unsolved problem.

The best hint might lie in the existing writers' associations -- the ones that cater to writers whose works have been published by conventional publishing houses. There are a number of them in America: the Science Fiction Writers of America, the Romance Writers of America, the Horror Writers of America, the Zombie-Apocalypse-and-Interspecies-Orgy Writers of America, and so on. (Yes, yes, I made that last one up.) Such associations provide various forms of assistance to their members, such as critique circles, mutual-editing arrangements, lists of recommended cover artists, referrals to other established writers who might be inclined to provide a laudatory back-cover blurb, and so forth. The major difference between those groups and the sort of group I've contemplated is that their members must already have succeeded in getting through Pub World's high and forbidding gates, whereas we would be the gate: a new applicant would have to be approved by a committee of the existing membership.

The implication is that the members would have to accept an obligation to read at least some of the applicants' fiction and pass judgment on it.

Indie publishing being what it is, such an association would lack any real power. It would be unable to prevent an applicant from publishing his garbage. It could only endorse, or decline to endorse, the works it reviews. So there would still be a no-doubt-copious flow of crud in the indie-publishing channel. But the Worldwide Independent Fiction Writers Association's notoriously picky Seal of Approval:

...would bark joyfully from the covers of the books we endorse. That, plus "networking effects" and whatever mutual-aid services a copious membership could provide, just might be enough inducement to earn some respect for our mutual undertaking.

Inasmuch as there's a perceptible hunger for good fiction of varieties Pub World isn't willing to touch, perhaps the iron is sufficiently hot to strike.

In case you haven't yet noticed, I'm getting old. (They say it can happen to anyone. I'd hoped an exception would be made in my case, but...) That has both positive and negative aspects. For one, in less than two years I'll be retiring from my "day job," and will presumedly have more free time than I do today. For another, I'm getting pretty cranky, I have less energy than I once did, and the C.S.O. has taken to composing ever-longer and more taxing "Honey-Do" lists. So I can't do this alone...and I've yet to encounter anyone willing to share the burdens of getting it off the ground.

Hint, hint.

So? Thoughts? Volunteers? Bronx cheers?

C'mon! Help brighten up a curmudgeon's Sunday. Or do you really want to discuss politics?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

You Can't Make This Stuff Up Dept.

1. Errare Humanum Est.

From the "No commentary required" section:

Women across the nation went into weeping hysterics at that.

2. Remedial education probably won't help.

A certain amount of intelligence is required by any "indoor" occupation... including grand larceny:

22-year-old Derrick Mosley reportedly attempted to rob Discount Gun Sales in Beaverton, Ore., on Thursday. Wielding a baseball bat, Mosley strolled into the store and smashed a display case.

But, according to police, upon attempting to steal a gun from the smashed case, he learned that gun beats bat.

All the store manager… of a gun store… had to do was pull out his own personal firearm. And that he did. Pointing it straight at Mosley, the manager successfully ordered the would-be robber to drop the bat, the unloaded gun he was trying to steal, and a nine-inch knife in his possession.

Upon arrival, the sheriff’s department reportedly found Mosley on the floor, still being held at gunpoint by the furious manager.

Do you think Mr. Mosley has a high-school diploma? I'd bet on it, myself.

3. Having trouble staying awake at night?

Doug Ross has something that will keep you awake:

There are some things you can't un-see, no matter how desperately you might wish to.

4. The "hobgoblin of small minds."

Consistency and the Obama Administration aren't even acquainted:

CONCORD -- Earlier this year, Contra Costa County won the right to run a health care call center, where workers will answer questions to help implement the president's Affordable Care Act. Area politicians called the 200-plus jobs it would bring to the region an economic coup.

Now, with two months to go before the Concord operation opens to serve the public, information has surfaced that about half the jobs are part-time, with no health benefits -- a stinging disappointment to workers and local politicians who believed the positions would be full-time.

The Contra Costa County supervisor whose district includes the call center called the whole hiring process -- which attracted about 7,000 applicants -- a "comedy of errors."

Shall we have a chorus of derisive, braying laughter?

5. For the ladies... inducement to just a wee bit more exercise?

We are always being told to incorporate more exercise into our daily routines - and cycling to work is an excellent way of doing so.

And if you were reluctant to hit the pedals before, a new gizmo could provide all the incentive you need to get on your bike.

A firm has launched the Happy Ride - a vibrating seat cover that will make journeys by bicycle that bit more exciting.

The inconspicuous gadget slips over the seat of a bike and incorporates 'vibration stimulation’ as you ride.

Manufactured with a padded lining and black nylon fabric outer surface the cover, which houses a powerful vibrator, is designed to fit all seats.

I thought that sort of thing was the exclusive province of the Japanese.

6. To those who wrote to ask about this post:

Yes, she has boobs.
No, she's not really an far as I know.

Have a nice day.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Final Salvoes

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

Do you regard your Internet passwords as among your "effects?" I do. I would regard anyone who tries to compromise one of them as a burglar, to be resisted by any means necessary. I would insist he be prosecuted even for an unsuccessful attempt.

Apparently, the federal government differs with me:

The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users' stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.

If the government is able to determine a person's password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.

"I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We push back."

A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies "really heavily scrutinize" these requests, the person said. "There's a lot of 'over my dead body.'"

Some of the government orders demand not only a user's password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password. Other orders demand the secret question codes often associated with user accounts.

A Microsoft spokesperson would not say whether the company has received such requests from the government. But when asked whether Microsoft would divulge passwords, salts, or algorithms, the spokesperson replied: "No, we don't, and we can't see a circumstance in which we would provide it."

Google also declined to disclose whether it had received requests for those types of data. But a spokesperson said the company has "never" turned over a user's encrypted password, and that it has a legal team that frequently pushes back against requests that are fishing expeditions or are otherwise problematic. "We take the privacy and security of our users very seriously," the spokesperson said.

Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast did not respond to queries about whether they have received requests for users' passwords and how they would respond to them.

If the major Internet service providers are resisting successfully, I applaud, and encourage them to keep up the good fight. But the federal government is relentless. Refuse it once, and it comes back a second time, with incentives in hand. Refuse it again, and it comes back a third time, usually with a fistful of threats.

We are looking at the extinction of all privacy in communications.

This massive invasion of Americans' paltry remaining privacy is, of course, being argued for on the grounds of "national security."

I wrote just a few weeks ago about the pernicious nature of "national security" laws and institutions. In particular:

    For purposes of this subsection, the term "transnational threat" means the following:
    (A) Any transnational activity (including international terrorism, narcotics trafficking, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the delivery systems for such weapons, and organized crime) that threatens the national security of the United States.
    (B) Any individual or group that engages in an activity referred to in subparagraph (A).

[Sections 101.i.5 (A), (B)]

Note that the enumerated "transnational threats" are not all the "transnational threats." More strikingly, though the terms "national security" and "national security interests" occur innumerable times in the text of the Act, the "national security" and "national security interests" of the United States are never defined.

Liberty's Torch not being a terribly popular site, I didn't expect to stimulate a torches-and-pitchforks charge up the hill of our Imperial City. I got far less than that: a bare handful of persons read the piece and only two bothered to comment.

I can't imagine why. Isn't this rather important? Will it become important, now that your online hijinks are threatened by federal snoopery?

The "security state" isn't terribly new. It goes back at least to 1947. In the sixty-six years since then, the encroachments of the federal government on the previously unassailable rights of Americans have advanced steadily, without a single setback.

Hearken to William Pitt, in his heyday known as the Great Commoner:

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

"National security" has been the "necessity" of our era. Spies? Terrorists? Persons making off with our precious bodily fluids? Clearly we must erect a regime of infinite power, authorized to know everything, to go everywhere, and to detain and interrogate anyone, on the merest hint of a threat. No one is above suspicion! Rights? Bah! Don't you know there's a war on?

The irony embedded in the thing is so tremendous that I'm almost embarrassed to note that in no sense, by no one's definition of the critical terms, is our nation "secure:"

  • Enemy agents penetrate our borders with ease.
  • Enemy agents steal our military and technological secrets with impunity.
  • So do the agents of some of our allies.
  • The "security rules" imposed upon most federal contractors are a great help to such agents: They tell them how to identify valuable materials and secrets, where they're stored when not in use, and what sort of job to pursue to gain unrestricted access to them.
  • Several organs of our federal government even collaborate with the nations that dispatch such agents to steal from us.

Pretty bad, eh? But the Ace kicker is this: The men who control the security agencies are aware of all of it, and are essentially untroubled by it.

How do I know? Well, let's say I have my reasons. But for confirmation, you need only reflect on this: despite the massive failure of the security state to achieve even the least of its overt objectives, there have been no changes in its key provisions or methods since it was first established.

Let that sink in for a moment.

"When men fall for some piece of vicious insanity, with no way to make it work and no reason to explain their choice -- it's because they have a reason they do not wish to tell." [Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]

I expect it won't be long before the FBI approaches Google or Microsoft with "an offer you can't refuse." The rationale will be that the feds are absolutely positive that one of the target company's subscribers is a terrorist, but they can't be certain which one without being enabled to monitor every byte of every subscriber's Internet activity. Should the target refuse to comply, it will develop that some obscure provision of the National Security Act empowers the feds to take over the entire company and run it as they please. Alternately, a federal charge of some sort could be leveled against the top officers of the company. Remember, "the process is the punishment:" even a successful defense against such a charge can cost millions of dollars and terminally disrupt one's life.

Will a terrorist be discovered in this manner? Will a destructive act be forestalled? The feds won't be overly concerned with that. Nor will they be much interested in withdrawing their antennae from your online frolics.

Only two days ago, I wrote that:

...the subjugation of a free people -- their conversion from citizens to subjects -- requires that the State assume unchallenged authority over three things: communications, education, and weaponry. The latter two are now firmly in the State's hands; only the first remains largely unfettered.

That exception won't last much longer.

UPDATE: Scott Chaffin offers a technological approach to conserving at least some of our Internet privacy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Power Of Silence

The Fascists cannot argue, so they kill. -- Victor Marguerite

A little tactical musing today, I think.

One of the most striking things I've noticed, in studying the tactics of the Left, is how averse they are to actual argument. Anything but a bald proclamation of their positions is anathema to them. Reasoning? None. Response to objections, counter-contentions, and criticism? Slander, vilification, assaults on motives...whatever the leftist believes will end the exchange then and there.

I've come to believe that leftists generally are aware that:

  • They have no arguments consistent with logic or the evidence of history;
  • We're on to them in any case.

The typical leftist mouthpiece might enjoy slinging epithets at conservatives, but from a tactical point of view, that's a secondary consideration at most. What he wants is for his claims to go unchallenged. When he replies to a conservative in foul-mouthed and calumnious fashion, he's mainly concerned with preemptively silencing further argument. As the Left's claims cannot withstand either reason or evidence, this is his paramount concern.

The tactic has served the Left well. Deploying a counter-tactic has become vital.

In recent years, we have seen an explosion of violent and intimidating public action from leftists; "street politics," if you will, designed to make others fear that opposing them would be deleterious to one's well-being. Surely smashing store windows, menacing the homes of private figures they want to demonize, and issuing death threats and implications thereof constitute no valid argument of the sort Socrates would approve. But this is merely an illustration of the Victor Marguerite quote at the top of this article.

One way or another, the Left is determined to have the political field entirely to itself. We ought to have known that from the phenomenon of the "one-party State" that appears near to inevitable for a nation that's allowed itself to be taken over by the Left. Exceptions to the pattern are quite rare.

When it comes to Leftist violence and intimidation, the only possible response is in kind: fearlessly and aware of the potential consequences for life and limb. As it turns out, when confronted by equal, equally resolute force, the Left tends to strike its tents and slink away, in the time-honored fashion of bullies throughout history. So the response in kind is less risky than it first appears...if it's deployed early enough to forestall the Left's attainment of a dominant position.

As for opposing the Left rhetorically, in somber awareness of its proclivity for slander and vilification, it's time for an entirely new approach.

The only possible responses to personal slanders, demonizations, imputations of low motives, and so forth are denial and reciprocation. Neither of these has proved useful to the Right. We need an alternative that averts that path: an approach that "takes the bat out of their hands."

To achieve that end, we must deny ourselves our traditional response to Leftists' claims and demands. We must refrain from arguing with them.

Why argue with one who's unable to argue? Why dignify his representations by answering them seriously, if all that would do is give him the opportunity to call you a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, an oppressor, a tool of the moneyed interests, or any other insult his shriveled brain can produce? You may be quite sure of his inclination to do so; honest leftists willing to confront evidence and logic are as rare as blizzards at the Equator. So why identify yourself to him as a target for abuse?

If the leftist's contentions are ridiculous, why not allow them to stand unanswered, exposed to the scrutiny of whoever might attend to him? In other words, why not trust your fellow citizens' intelligence and hard sense?

After all, if your fellow citizens are unintelligent and hard-sense-deprived, your arguments, no matter how well-turned or eloquent, will have no positive effect on them. But if they possess the capacity to see through the Left's obfuscations and appeals to envy, they can and will do so. They'll go looking for a sensible alternative...and they'll find you.

Atop that, Americans tend to be respectful of those who respect them. Leftism is a single, centuries-long confidence game that uses the appeal of envy and devil theories to attract allegiants. Once an American realizes he's being conned, he develops a resistance to it against which further attempts to deceive him will shatter.

In that view, the Right's weapon of choice, already at hand, is silence.

Barack Hussein Obama and his lieutenants have made many claims about "obstructionism" and "attempts to return to the failed policies of the past." An unfortunate number of persons have attempted to answer those charges, to approximately no avail. Why answer them, when the sole reply would be more of the same, with additional slanders and imputations of evil motives?

In the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial, race-hustlers such as Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous, and Julian Bond have made extravagant claims about "open season on young black men." Once again, to reply merely invites more vilification. Why answer them, when their statements are so plainly nonsense, both as matters of law and as assessments of the state of American race relations?

In the most laughable of the easily identified cases, various gender-war feminists have accused the Right of a "war on women," because of our desire to limit their "reproductive rights" -- i.e., their "rights" to kill viable-but-unborn children and to have their slutteries financed from the public till. Any response other than a derisive chuckle and a shake of the head imbues such charges with a dignity they don't deserve. Why answer them, when anyone with three functioning brain cells would dismiss them without a second thought?

We have feared to allow the Left's accusations and representations to go unanswered. That fear was based on the assumption that our fellow citizens would infer that an unanswered attack must be true. It's time to jettison that assumption, especially as it implies a lack of respect for the very persons we hope to win to our way of thinking.

I once asked the brilliant cartoonist Chris Muir, who delights us daily at Day By Day, how he deals with attacks from the Left. He answered at once that he ignores them and continues on. "A response is what they want," he said in amplification. "Why give it to them?"

Why, indeed?


You do not want to know how this one started.

FWP: Why did you give up the ballet?
CSO: The boobs.

FWP: Oh. Ballerinas aren't allowed to have boobs, are they?
CSO: Nope.

FWP: But why become an assassin?
CSO: Well, it's much more lucrative, and you can do the work a lot longer. And you're allowed to have boobs.

FWP: Ah. Plus, they look great in a skin-tight leather outfit.
CSO: Well, yeah.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From Citizen To Subject

[This thoughtful and eloquent post got me thinking about the transition described in the above title. In particular, this snippet:
History shows that when government interventions in free trade become oppressive, they are ignored or broken. That is part of what started the American Revolution, colonists ignoring English trade constraints and taxes, and smuggling, and local juries, knowing their historical right to judge both the facts AND the law, refusing to convict smugglers who were caught red-handed. That led the King to revoke trial by jury and ship the offenders to England for secret trials. Today, the man who would be King declares that he can unilaterally declare you an enemy combatant and imprison or kill you without a trial and sends agents to foment racial hatred, among dozens of other outrages.

Why do you consent to such outrageous violations of your freedoms?

The parallels are alarming; already in this country there is widespread disdain for Federal regulation in all sorts of fields. In colonial times, agents of the King who meddled in colonial business were often tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail (ruining their expensive high status clothes), and tax collectors often had their windows ( glass being an expensive status symbol) smashed. I don't know what the modern equivalent is going to be, but I suspect that Federal agents who attempt to enforce these unConstitutional 'laws' are soon going to find out.

What are you doing to stand up for your rights?

Those who would rule us had better pay close attention to the lessons of history; my guess is that they won't like the rhymes that I hear on the wind. Nobody in authority saw the reorganization of the Soviet Union coming, either. The Fourth Branch may indeed be too big to prune, but it is certain that without significant pruning, it WILL destroy the Tree. What will grow from that, nobody knows. It is up to you, gentle reader, to decide what will happen.

Do you consent to being a subject, or not?

...caused me to wonder how close we are to "voluntarily" surrendering our weapons -- our last-ditch provisions against the encroachments of tyrants -- for some unimaginable consideration. With that ugly possibility ringing in my head, I decided to reprint the following, which first appeared at Eternity Road on September 15, 2004. -- FWP]

Under The Yoke

Call a Briton a "citizen" of the United Kingdom, and he'll correct you at once. He's not a "citizen" but a "British subject." I've made this "mistake" about two dozen times and have always been hauled up sharply for it. The folks to whom I've done it were unaware that I was probing for something, rather than exhibiting "typical American ignorance."

Apparently government-run schooling has fallen to as low an estate in Britain as it has in America. None of the two dozen Britons whom I've "subjected" to this little test were aware of what makes a man a citizen or a subject. A few were baffled by the suggestion that there was a difference -- even though they had just upbraided me for having used the "wrong" term.

A subject is one whose rights are a grant from some prior and superior source. A citizen is one whose rights are inborn.

In the days of absolute monarchy and the "divine right of kings," this was explicit and well understood. The King owned the country and everything in it. His authority was unlimited in principle. What latitude any "lesser" man possessed was by royal permission, whether explicit or implicit. The King could extend or retract men's "rights" according to his own notions, without let or hindrance from any other man or institution.

Under those conditions, even the breath of life was the King's to grant or withhold. Nor could he be held to account for a mistake, for one of the corollaries of divine-right absolute monarchy was that "the King can do no wrong." He could make or unmake any law, on any subject, entirely at his pleasure.

The word "subject" means "under the yoke." As a concept of authority, it's a yoke around the necks of those who accept it. Far more persons accept it than you might expect. Too many of them are Americans.

Weapons control was an important feature of divine-right monarchies. As the King was the dispenser of all rights, the right to keep and bear arms was also at his whim. Kings being as desirous of long life and unchallenged power as any modern officeholder, they tried their best to keep weapons out of the hands of anyone who might be a threat to them. In class terms, that excluded the peasantry and the bourgeois class from the ownership of weapons, as they were the groups most likely to want to pull the monarchy down. Only nobles who had sworn fealty to the King were permitted to bear arms and to arm their retainers. The King would often make assurance doubly sure by taking a member from each noble family as a ward of the Court -- in plainer terms, a hostage for the family's good behavior.

The citizens of a republic don't have to trouble themselves over such they?

The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired just this past Monday, as a result of the operation of its sunset clause. Gun enthusiasts are celebrating, but various pundits from the Left are screaming about "the return of machine guns to our streets." It's nonsense, of course; "assault weapons" as defined by the ban were semi-automatic long arms; that is, one pull of the trigger would fire one shot. They were characterized almost entirely by accessories and furniture: bayonet lugs, folding stocks, flash suppressors, and so forth. Fully automatic long arms were banned from private acquisition, with the exception of dealers specially licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, by the Volkmer-McClure Act of 1986.

So if "machine guns" of the sort leftists are exercised about remain illegal, just what is their concern?

Those of us who are sensitive to infringements on the right to keep and bear arms maintain that every gun control bill of any sort is just "one slice of the salami": that is, the goal is the elimination of all private firearms, and any particular gun control law is just a step in that direction. Indeed, some of the less cagey among the gun-control types have admitted that that's what they'd really like to see.

The controllers' overt argument is that "guns kill people." Yes, some ten thousand or so homicides are committed with firearms each year. But when one looks at specifics, it develops that:

  1. A healthy majority of those homicides are committed "in support" of some other illegal activity, for example armed robbery or a turf war between drug gangs;
  2. Many of the rest are suicides or killings committed in self-defense;
  3. The controllers often target gun types that are uninvolved in homicides to any significant extent. For example, "assault weapons" as defined by the ban have been responsible for a vanishingly small number of deaths over the years before 1994;
  4. The controllers give no consideration to the number of crimes prevented each year by the use of privately owned guns -- crimes which, if they were permitted to occur, would have occasioned an unknown, but probably substantial, number of homicides.

The insubstantial nature of the controllers' arguments reveals them to be merely a smokescreen for deeper causes -- "a reason they do not wish to tell." In some cases, it's an unarticulated fear of weapons (hoplophobia). This is a potentially curable condition. However, the other major reason for hostility toward private firearms ownership is less benign: statism.

The sole difference between monarchic statism and our modern, democratic-bureaucratic variety is in the rationale: we no longer speak of rulers possessing "divine right." Yet now that the Supreme Court has essentially nullified the Constitution with its notion of "compelling government interest," what our rulers may do to us in principle is no less extensive than the power of an absolute divine-right monarch. To move that infinite power from de jure theory to de facto practicality requires that the means of resistance be denied to the State's subjects.

As I've written before, the subjugation of a free people -- their conversion from citizens to subjects -- requires that the State assume unchallenged authority over three things: communications, education, and weaponry. The latter two are now firmly in the State's hands; only the first remains largely unfettered.

Every slightest rescission of the government's stranglehold over weaponry is resisted by the statists with the frenzy of a crusading evangelist. In every state that has recently enacted "shall issue" laws for private, concealed carriage of handguns, the gun controllers have mounted unrestrained attacks against both the suggestion and the motives of the suggesters. When they've lost, and the doomsday scenarios they've predicted have not come to pass, they haven't altered their stances, but only changed their tactics. This is a dead giveaway of a hidden motive.

The controllers will not rest until they've banished the private ownership of all means of resistance to the State's decrees. Only then can their social engineering efforts proceed in confidence.

To those rejoicing at the expiration of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, I would say only this: Stay focused. Enjoy the victory, but don't be satisfied by it. There is more work to be done. The National Firearms Acts of 1934 and 1968, and the Volkmer-McClure act of 1986, must also be repealed, as must all state-level infringements on the right to keep and bear arms. Government in these United States would never have grown to its current size and arrogance had ordinary citizens retained the means to restrain it by threatening revolution. If we are to remain citizens, whose rights are no one else's to grant or deny, rather than being made willy-nilly into subjects whose "rights" are whatever our political masters fancy might dictate, we must become a people in arms once again.

UPDATE: Kevin Baker, whose The Smallest Minority website concentrates heavily on weapons-related matters, has noted the following corrections:

Full-auto long arms were not banned by the ‘86 McClure-Volkmer act. That act just prohibited the manufacture of any NEW full-auto weapons for purchase by average citizens. The result of this law was that gun manufacturers cranked out as many “pre-ban” licensed receivers as they could prior to the deadline, and essentially doubled the number of full-auto weapons in private hands in this country as of 1986. Of course, short of repealing that law, there will be no more, but currently there’s something like 200,000 machine guns in private hands throughout the country.

Second, the majority of firearm homicides are suicides, followed by criminal homicide. Accidental death is quite low. Legal intervention deaths are barely recorded in the statistics, (for instance, the CDC reports 323 legal intervention in 2001 vs. 802 accidental deaths.) I suspect that there are a number of legal intervention deaths that enter the statistics as criminal homicide, but I doubt the number exceeds 1,000 per annum.

Well, Kevin would know. (That's what happens when I write without my reference books near to hand.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


1. "Great Men."

The most enduringly popular theory of history -- always assuming we're not being total lunatics to imagine that history could possibly have a "theory" -- is the Great Man theory, in which extraordinary individuals rise from the general population to change the courses of nations. What makes this theory popular is that historians can't seem to write history in any other fashion. Yes, they focus on political figures, but that too appears to be a built-in bias of their trade.

This morning, in a departure from the usual breakfast banter, I asked my wife whom she would nominate as the greatest figure of the Twentieth Century. After we agreed that "great" does not mean "good" but rather "doer of widely and deeply influential deeds," we immediately discarded the great majority of the persons historians would write about. Politicians so seldom actually do anything that to consider them "great" seems wrong.

Over the past hours, I've winnowed my list of candidates down to the following:

  • Thomas Edison
  • Nikola Tesla
  • William Shockley
  • Charles Drew

That's right: three engineers and a physician. All of them can lay claim to personal achievements that have directly affected many millions of lives. No politician who comes to mind can say anything comparable.

Whom would you nominate?

2. Idiots.

Many an idiot is treated as a great figure by those who share his idiocy. I have a particular one in mind at the moment:

This particular idiot has a mass audience and is regularly hailed as being highly intelligent. But what sort of idiot would wear tampon earrings in protest against a law that bans the murder of viable unborn children?

Clearly, the privilege of committing pre-indemnified infanticide has warped quite a lot of female minds. Of course, some come warped right out of the box, so to speak, but few of those get their own television shows.

3. "Futures."

I've received a number of comments and emails effusively thanking me for this recent post. My thanks in return, Gentle Readers. I can seldom say what touches off a cri de coeur such as that one, and I'm always a wee bit anxious about the response it will get, if any. But what becomes plain in the aftermath is just how many readers are hungry for that sort of material. Indeed, one correspondent begged me to go on in that vein every day.

I'm afraid I can't do that. Some sorts of pieces can only emerge when the Spirit is upon me. That's not often the case...and that's probably a good thing. I must live most of my life in this world, attentive to its immediacies and focused on the challenges it throws at me. I'm not the sort of otherworldly mystic who can utterly disregard the mundane in favor of a full-time focus on things of the spirit.

However, I promise I won't suppress the urge when it arises.

4. Book Notes.

No one who attempts creative work can ever be certain where he gets the ideas or the energy that make it possible. Were it otherwise, there would be a standard remedy for writer's block. (Probably a controlled substance sold only under doctor's prescription.) The range of sources of progress are forever surprising me.

One of those is another writer's statement that reading my fiction has made her writing more fluid and productive. I received a note to that effect recently. Not only did it warm the cockles of my spiny little heart, it also propelled me forward in my work on Freedom's Fury, the conclusion to the "Spooner Federation" trilogy begun with Which Art In Hope and continued in Freedom's Scion.

Fiction writers' viewpoints on political, social, and cultural matters vary greatly. Many of us attempt to embed our convictions in our stories. Sometimes the result is an unreadable polemic screed. Other times -- rarely -- it ignites a fire that illuminates or incinerates the world. But there can be nothing but good in assisting other writers, individually or severally, in finding their own stories and the energy with which to tell them. And what the hell, eh? If one produces another Mein Kampf or Protocols of the Elders of Zion we can always hunt him down and kill him, right? Right?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Metastasis

From Gerard Vanderleun's KA-CHING! site comes this pictorial gem:

This illustration is a whole education in political economy in a few thousand pixels.

The annotations are significant, but even more so is the geometry through which they're depicted: an expanding sphere of State control, first over our necessities, then over our discretionary activities, and ultimately over the whole of human existence. At each stage, the State's coercive powers are amplified by the importance and scope of the resources it appropriated in the previous stage, such that individuals and voluntary organizations steadily lose all power to resist its further expansion. The Blob wouldn't have had a chance against the State.

I can add only a single observation to this depiction: As the State swells, it ceases to perform any of its functions even marginally well. Indeed, the first functions it will slough are the ones for which we originally agreed to tolerate a pre-indemnified coercive authority: national defense, police protection, and the administration of impartial justice. In the terminal stage of its expansion, when it lays claim to all things and no one outside its corridors may do anything without first asking its permission and paying its price, the State's sole concern becomes the maintenance of its power and the perquisites of its nomenklatura.

This is likely to be a rather hectic day for me, so I doubt I'll be posting anything further until tomorrow. Therefore I urge you one and all, Gentle Readers, to reflect upon the above, and to ask yourselves:

This "anarchy" the State's boosters are always warning me against: Just how bad would it be?

That might be the most important of all political questions. I've been asking it of myself with increasing frequency. The answer is by no means clear.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Futures: A Sunday Rumination

Back at Eternity Road, I used to do these faith-oriented Sunday Ruminations fairly regularly, usually every Sunday. Somehow the steam ran out of them; I'm not sure why, but they sputtered out. When I migrated over here, a few readers asked if I planned to revive the series, and I declined to speculate.

Maybe it won't be a series. Maybe they'll just emerge as the Spirit moves me. We'll just have to see.

For a long time now, I've maintained that all human beliefs, convictions, and "knowledge" fall into three categories:

  • Mathematics: That which can be proved or disproved.
  • Science: That which can be disproved, but never proved.
  • Religion: That which can neither be proved nor disproved.

In my estimation, this partition is the key to human amity. We can't have peace -- of any sort -- without it. For only when it's been accepted does it become possible to mount a rational campaign against religiously animated violence and oppression.

The sting in the tail is that the category of religious conviction encompasses far more than the creeds that openly call themselves religions.

One of the least pleasant and most frequently averted objections to a demand for this or that is "Prove it:"
Prove that what you demand is yours by right.
Prove that the changes you advocate will do more good than harm.
Prove that history offers us any evidence whatsoever in support of your theories.

Virtually no one raises that objection in its simplest, purest form. The losses have been staggering.

"You say your convictions are absolute? A clear matter of right and justice?" the counter-proselyte says to the proselyte. "But you can't prove them, can you? No, I can't disprove them, but neither am I inclined to allow you power over others on your representation. Go back where you came from and keep company with others of like mind. We'll have no truck with you here."

This is practically the American credo...which we persist in setting aside with distressing frequency, usually in the hope of mollifying some noisy pressure group. Indeed, it's been off the socio-economic-legal-political playing field since about 1913. And in consequence, the promoters of nostrums crazier than any Napoleon-wannabe have had their way with us as we've stood by goggle-eyed.

Yet a healthy majority of those promoters sneer at the New Covenant of Christ. It is to laugh...hollowly, and with many a regretful tear.

I am a Catholic. Though I have differences with the Church on a few doctrinal matters, I regard Christian theology as brilliant and beautiful, and Catholic ethical teaching as the closest anyone can come to a perfect scheme for living. I regard those teachings as categorical imperatives, and I strive to cleave to them as best I can.

I make no secret of it, for I believe that the promulgation of the Christian faith is the key to human advancement. Christ would not have told the Apostles to "Go, teach all nations" had it been otherwise. Beyond that, there is substantial historical evidence for the proposition that only the sincere embrace of Christian ethics can support a peaceful and prosperous society...and that only the acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God and Redeemer of Mankind will sustain the ethical code He proclaimed:

Now a man came up to him and said, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?" He said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." "Which ones?" he asked. Jesus replied, "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false witness, honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself." [Matthew, 19:16-19.]

And also:

Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [Matthew 22:37-40]

The emphasized sentence might be the most important string of words ever uttered. Small wonder that it took the Son of God to utter them.

Among latter-day proselytes of the Christian ethic, the name of Clive Staples Lewis shines brightest: not because he penetrated theological mysteries no one else had solved, but because he insisted on a few simple principles of logic, without which even Christian ideals would hang unsupported in the ether. Here's one such sally, which I regard as one of his most important:

From propositions about fact alone no practical conclusion can ever be drawn. This will preserve society cannot lead to do this except by the mediation of society ought to be preserved. This will cost you your life cannot lead directly to do not do this: it can lead to it only through a felt desire or an acknowledged duty of self-preservation. The Innovator is trying to get a conclusion in the imperative mood out of premisses in the indicative mood: and though he continues trying to all eternity he cannot succeed, for the thing is impossible. We must therefore either extend the word Reason to include what our ancestors called Practical Reason and confess that judgements such as society ought to be preserved (though they can support themselves by no reason of the sort that Gaius and Titius demand) are not mere sentiments but are rationality itself; or else we must give up at once, and for ever, the attempt to find a core of 'rational' value behind all the sentiments we have debunked. [From The Abolition Of Man]

What Lewis said in the above is an absolute refutation of the figure he calls "the Innovator:" his term of derision for one who insists that traditional ways and norms are entirely arbitrary and can be set aside without further consideration. For Lewis understood that there are things we "know," in the religious, neither-provable-nor-disprovable sense, that we "learned" from centuries of experience and socioevolutionary winnowing. It is impossible to construct a rigorous proof of any of the tenets of Practical Reason -- Lewis's Anglicized term for the Tao. That doesn't mean they're incorrect; ask Kurt Godel about that one. And it certainly doesn't mean they're unimportant.

So much of what is critical to the future flourishing of Mankind belongs in the category of religion. So little of what we claim to "know" is even disprovable, much less provable. Yet polities worldwide repeatedly bend to Innovators peddling snake-oil nostrums they claim will reopen the Garden of Eden to suffering Man. Those nostrums share a single common feature: the dismissal, whether explicit or implicit, of Christ's dicta to the "rich young man:"

"You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false witness, honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself."

Usually the dismissal is implicit, by allowing the State an exemption from those laws, especially in the matter of stealing. All the same, the Innovator cannot proceed on that basis without also rejecting Christ's Authority, as the Son of God, to proclaim the Law. He must dismiss the Christian faith and its ethic to have his way, whether he or anyone else realizes it.

If that's never occurred to you before, Gentle Reader, take my word for it: You're not alone.

In 1996, when I first sat down to write Which Art In Hope, I was near the beginning of a painful and difficult process. Ironically, it was a process initiated by the novel I'd just previously completed, On Broken Wings. When that process worked itself out all the way, I was once more a convinced, practicing Catholic, which, despite a Catholic upbringing, I hadn't been for the thirty years previous.

Which Art In Hope is a "hopeful" novel. It depicts an anarchic society that works infinitely better than the ones we endure today. Yet I knew, even then, that anarchy is inherently no stabler over the long term than any form of government. As I wrote, I searched for the principles that might stabilize it or any other social order.

And I found them. They were the ones taught to me as a child, by a series of priests and nuns whose grasp of human realities I'd never properly appreciated. When I accepted them consciously, fully, and humbly, I became something I'd never expected to be: a Christian fantasist, whose stories are animated by the Christian faith and propelled by the writer's consciousness of its importance to the welfare of Mankind.

That journey has continued through several other novels, and is currently shaping Freedom's Fury, the conclusion to the "Spooner Federation" trilogy begun in Which Art In Hope.

Maybe that's more information than you need. Maybe it will prejudice you against my books. I can't afford to care. This is too important to Mankind's future, both in this life and the life to come.

Every good person wants others to be well and happy. Most persons are essentially good persons, despite their individual flaws, the gaps in their knowledge, and their missteps in reasoning. But far too few of us -- even the best of us -- have grasped that only Christ's dicta make possible the hope of a positive future.

Yet there are those who insist that America is not "a Christian nation," or more exactly, that it shouldn't be. I have no doubt that such Innovators think themselves not merely smarter than the rest of us, but more moral as well. I've known too many of them.

To whom would you prefer to entrust the human future -- and on what Authority?

May God bless and keep you all.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Lynching

No one does this sort of thing better than Bill Whittle:

Watch, and learn.


It appears I've been given the unenviable position of saying the things others are unwilling to say. That's all right. We all have our tasks in this world; if this is to be mine, I'll discharge it as best I can.

America is in the throes of a national wailing session over the death of a thug.

Millions of people are bemoaning a single, unremarkable event, in which:

  • A teenaged thug...
  • Who was trespassing on others' properties in the dark...
  • Was spotted and challenged by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer...
  • Whom he (i.e., the thug) then attacked viciously and with stated intent to kill...
  • But was himself killed by the volunteer in a clear case of self-defense.

They're calling it a "tragedy."

Check me on this, please: Isn't a "tragedy" when someone dies who deserved to live?

Had the survivals and deaths been inverted -- had Trayvon Martin succeeded in killing George Zimmerman -- that would have been a tragedy. A decent man would have died and a thug would have lived. The reality is far different.

Another potential tragedy was averted when George Zimmerman was acquitted of all the charges against him. No other outcome that would have been in accord with the evidence, the testimony, and the basic right of self-defense. As it was, that Zimmerman had to stand trial at all was an offense against all norms of right and justice.

If there's a tragedy in all this, it's in the behavior of America's cadre of professional race-hustlers, egged on by a political elite that profits from racial animosity. We can see from national embarrassment Barack Hussein Obama's recent emissions on the subject that they haven't yet conceded the point.

But then, given the encouragement they get from white left-liberals and the Main Stream Media, why would they?

To call the death of Trayvon Martin a "tragedy" is to commit a grievous offense against both the integrity of our language and our conception of justice. If Martin's death was a "tragedy," someone needs to explain why the series of events that brought it about diverges so radically from other events we routinely call "tragic." For example:

  • On their way to their honeymoon, a bride and groom are torpedoed in their taxi by another driver, killing him and permanently brain-damaging her.
  • A beloved mother in her thirties is taken from her husband and children by cancer.
  • A dedicated lineman responding to an emergency is struck by a falling power line and electrocuted.
  • A highway overpass collapses, dropping huge chunks of concrete onto the heads of drivers below.
  • A troopship succumbs to a waterspout -- an ocean tornado -- sinking the ship and killing hundreds of young servicemen.

Those are pure-quill tragedies, in which the deaths were of innocents who -- nominally, at least -- had done nothing to earn their fates. They're the sort of events that prompt the publication of books with titles such as "Why Bad Things Happen To Good People."

How does the death of a felon killed in the process of committing aggravated assault and battery compare to those? Does it matter how old he was at the time? How about the color of his skin?

To me, these are events that speak for themselves, just as would the death of a burglar from police gunfire. We wouldn't call that death a "tragedy," would we?

In the immediate aftermath of Zimmerman's acquittal, someone said that "not every tragedy means a crime was committed." True enough, but insufficient.

Not every death is a tragedy. Some deaths are quite well deserved.

There's an explanation, of course. The race-hustlers are straining to establish as a default assumption that whenever a white man kills a black man, an injustice -- a crime -- has been committed. They can't do that when the facts are beyond dispute, as, for example, in cases of police intervention in a felony in progress. But an incident like the death of Trayvon Martin is exactly the sort upon which they've founded their "careers." So they blow their racial horns at maximum volume, from the instant it's reported.

When a jury's verdict strips those horns from their lips, they fall back on a "smaller" instrument: they trumpet about the "tragedy" involved, and pontificate about measures to reduce "gun violence," or "racial tension." Such attempts to blur the distinctions between a righteous act of self-defense and a lethal occurrence that was clearly no one's fault are both cynical and exceedingly clever. Like it or not, we do want someone to blame for such events. That's why we're so susceptible to conspiracy theories and other devil theories.

Ten years ago, I wrote:

Devil theories are becoming more important every day. Apparently, the failed cultures and ideologies of the world -- Islam; Marxian socialism; social-welfare fascism -- need to see their failure as someone else's fault, just as inter-war Germans did. There's no hiding their failures. No exertion of wishful thinking could convince Middle Eastern Muslims that they've seized the brass ring of human progress. Socialists cannot abide the suggestion that there was some error in their theories about state control of the means of production; the theory was too appealing, too elaborate, too perfect. American social-welfare fascists -- a.k.a. left-liberals -- cannot be dissuaded that, once the government has made everything either compulsory or forbidden and bludgeoned everyone into accepting their definition of "tolerance," there'll be full employment, wide-screen HDTV, and copious disease-free orgasms for everyone.

So all these groups are looking for someone to blame.

The socialists, especially in Europe, have decided to blame America. America makes an appealing devil: distant, powerful, and radically at odds with socialist doctrines. If they can persuade themselves that American cultural, economic and military "imperialism" is the cause of their failures -- and they really want to -- they can evade the blame for the horrors socialism has inflicted on its victims.

American left-liberals want equally desperately to believe in the corrupting power of the "vast right-wing conspiracy." Considering the mountains of ridicule they've heaped upon right-wing conspiratorialists, you'd think they'd be alive to the dangers of such a position, but never mind. Thoroughgoing government regulation of everything from interracial and inter-gender relations to the smallest details of the national marketplace simply had to succeed. Evil forces must have been at work.

Of Islam, there's not much new to say. The world's 1.3 billion Muslims are the most squalid, backward, unfree peoples in the world. How could this be? They've been perfectly faithful to the dictates of the Prophet. They were promised dominion in this world and Paradise in the next. What went wrong? Allah's enemies must have plotted against them! The Jews! The Christians! Wipe them out, institute universal shari'a, and surely all will thereafter be well!

Seldom has so much human folly been available for inspection all at once.

It would appear that little has changed...and that American race-hustlers and the power-mongers that encourage them are fully aware of it.

How do you like being a devil, White America?

We don't have much time left. The fractionation of the American people is approaching a state from which no recovery would be possible. If we're to save the United States as the United States, we can tolerate no further steps toward the abyss.

The race-hustlers must be sternly rebuffed.
Peaceable, law-abiding Americans must stand openly for justice.
Separatists and particularists must be quelled or compelled to "get the hell out."
All sallies toward exemptions from the law, regardless of their bases, must be rejected with prejudice.
Attempts to infringe on our rights by characterizing fully justifiable acts as "tragedies" must be rejected with equal force.

Am I doomed to be the only one saying such things?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Unexpectedly Roosting Chickens Part 1: Are Young Women Abandoning Romance?

Regard well the following article:

A recent article in The New York Times Magazine about the "hookup culture" running rampant on college campuses (and beyond) has tongues wagging, especially because, by and large, the people featured were young women. And none of these young women had the desire or inclination to "date" or be "in a relationship." They are too busy. They just want to have sex and move on. The horror!...

Casual sex is now the name of the game. One junior at Penn (all the girls were anonymous) said:

I positioned myself in college in such a way that I can’t have a meaningful romantic relationship, because I’m always busy and the people that I am interested in are always busy, too.

This makes sense. But casual sex isn't always simple. It has its place, by all means, it can be fun. But the reasons these girls are doing it is disturbing. They are saying there is no room for love or emotion in their lives. They are saying it's all pointless in the face of ambition and drive....

It's not about money or prestige or any other kind of thing. It's about love. No matter how successful we are, no matter how much money we make, without love, none of it really means anything. And that is what is getting lost here....

We make the time for the things we value, and valuing success and money over love and relationships is a mistake. Ten years from now, I would love to hear how these young women fare.

The author, Sasha Brown-Worsham, probably isn't stupid -- she writes decently, at least -- but her article reads as if she'd spent the past forty years in a glass bubble at the top of Mount Everest. Could any American adult possibly not be aware of the context within which the attitude that so disturbs Miss Brown-Worsham has developed?

Is it a mistake to prioritize success and money over love and family? Yes, indisputably. Equally so, some decisions about priorities can be difficult to change: because the passage of time reduces our options, and because admitting to a really serious mistake is inherently humbling. Even so, sometimes people -- yes, even women! -- do change their ways later in life...if the incentives are correct.

It's not merely the "hookup culture." Indeed, the "hookup culture" is itself on the wane, for reasons to be discussed.

Young people's time horizons are shorter than those of two and three generations ago. An unmated young man of 1960 was all but certain to put forming a family at the very top of his priorities, He was aware, from his parents' and grandparents' experiences and tutelage, that one's family is the only support that can be counted upon to persist through the decades. More, he had been reared in a cultural context that venerated older adults and taught young persons that it's their sacred duty to respect, support, and cherish them. Incredibly to the young of our day, he looked forward to becoming a husband and father, with the social status that accrued to such men. All that was blown away in the decades that followed.

Atop that, the enveloping socioeconomic context has instilled a lot of fear into our young women, especially those who've been taught that they must "make something of themselves." The connection to the instability of the marital bond could hardly be clearer. After all, if you can't trust your husband / breadwinner to remain faithful and keep "bringing home the bacon," you have to be ready to do so yourself, especially if you're planning to produce a papoose or two who'll need to be fed, clothed, and sheltered. Under current economic conditions, the urgency of becoming financially self-sufficient has risen very high. That alone might seem sufficient to explain the loss of interest in husband-seeking.

As if that weren't enough, the principal reason for the institution of marriage -- the rearing of children -- has morphed from an anticipated pleasure, albeit one freighted with responsibility, to a major hazard in and of itself. Child-rearing is now so heavily encrusted with expectations, restrictions, and new risks that a modern parent-to-be is well advised to get into serious shape -- and perhaps to have a family-law attorney on retainer -- before procreating. But wait: there's more!

Along with the considerations above, young women are beginning to react against the trend away from serious romantic involvement among young men. The last three generations of young American men have watched their fathers suffer unconscionably from the culture of militant gender-war feminism, women's use of sex as a lure, a goad, and a weapon, unilateral no-fault divorce, and our woman-centered / always-blame-the-man legal environment. (Cf. Stephen Baskerville, Taken Into Custody and Helen Smith, Men On Strike.) Indeed, many young men, especially those intelligent enough to benefit from higher education, have become so fearful of young women's self-centered, mercurial, vindictive ways that they're even turning away from casual sex, a development that has shocked no small number of observers of cultural matters. They are the leaders in the disaffiliation from traditional patterns of love, marriage, and family. Young women are following a "rejectee rejects the rejectors" strategy, in part as salve to their pride and in part out of simple realism.

These are consequences of fifty years' devolution of our social, economic, legal, and political context. They cannot be countervailed with dark forebodings of the you'll-regret-this variety. The disincentives to serious romantic involvement must be reversed -- and that will be a job for more than one generation.