Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Global Warming" And Rational Analysis

Daniel J. Mitchell makes a surprising, yet illuminating statement in the following headline:

The Radical Environmental Agenda Should Be Rejected, Even If Global Warming Is Real

Mitchell's article is about the use of cost-benefit analysis to determine when "enough is enough." Environmentalists almost unanimously reject that approach. They tend toward the "one molecule is too many" standard for environmental cleanliness, wherein a single disfavored particle in the air, water, or soil constitutes an obligation to remediate, regardless of the costs or benefits.

It's lunacy, of course, but on no subject no more so than on "global warming."

Imagine, for example, that it were objectively verifiable that present trends continuing, the mean surface temperature of the Earth would rise one Centigrade degree (1.8 Fahrenheit degrees) by 2100 A.D. Has anyone asked the following questions?

  1. What would the actual consequences be? Is it possible to determine them beyond a reasonable doubt?
  2. Might the extra ambient energy be a good thing rather than a bad one -- particularly for Mankind?
  3. If we stipulate for argument's sake that the temperature increase would be a bad thing for Mankind, just how bad would it be? Would it be less costly and disruptive to adapt to it than to attempt to prevent it?
  4. Assuming adaptation to be "off the table" for unspecified reasons, just how bad would the impact on Mankind be? Would it be worse than having to turn on the air conditioner two weeks earlier each year? How would we know?
  5. What additional resources might Man in 2100 have with which to cope with the rise in temperature?

Note that my focus in the above is the effect on Mankind. That is the only standard by which to judge the impact of an environmental change, whether it's as subtle as a one-degree turn in the jet streams or as dramatic as an asteroid strike. Any standard that demotes the well-being of humans below some other consideration is inadmissible for moral reasons.

Environmentalists refuse to accept that. Not even the ones who don't secretly worship moss, rocks, and dirt. It pulls their fangs, leaves them with no avenue of advance.

The key question, of course, is why.

Quite a number of "environmentalists" are nothing of the sort. Their true aim is, as Mitchell notes, the elimination of the free market: capitalism. It offends them for reasons that vary from one to the next. In some cases, the reason is that capitalism promotes individualism and political freedom.

One way to separate those unreformables from the rest is to use Michael Cloud's "Isolating The Issue" approach:

"Suppose I could demonstrate to you, by use of objective evidence, that your belief that capitalism is bad for the environment is incorrect -- that in fact it's better for the environment than any other economic system. Would that persuade you to re-evaluate your position?"

If the environmentalist's answer is a sincere yes, he's reachable by evidence and reasoning; there's a reason for the conversation to continue. But if his answer is no, or if he waffles by attempting to change the reason he opposes capitalism, his agenda isn't improving the environment; it's the destruction of capitalism. He regards all other considerations as means to that end.

You cannot reach such a person by rational argument.

The multiply attributed saying that "You cannot reason someone out of a position he did not reason himself into" is one of the most significant insights in political discourse. It's especially pertinent to discussions of environmental concerns. Many an environmentalist is reachable by reason, but many others are not. Indeed, the attempt to do so has purely negative consequences.

Coincidentally, today Doug Ross cites an unusually useful list: 25 ways to avert arguments unfavorable to the Left. You will most frequently see the following ones as responses from unreformables to reasoned argument against environmental radicalism:

2. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the 'How dare you!' gambit.

4. Use a straw man. Find or create a seeming element of your opponent's argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad. Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.

5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary 'attack the messenger' ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as 'kooks', 'right-wing', 'liberal', 'left-wing', 'terrorists', 'conspiracy buffs', 'radicals', 'militia', 'racists', 'religious fanatics', 'sexual deviates', and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.

7. Question motives. Twist or amplify any fact which could be taken to imply that the opponent operates out of a hidden personal agenda or other bias. This avoids discussing issues and forces the accuser on the defensive.

8. Invoke authority. Claim for yourself or associate yourself with authority and present your argument with enough 'jargon' and 'minutia' to illustrate you are 'one who knows', and simply say it isn't so without discussing issues or demonstrating concretely why or citing sources.

18. Emotionalize, Antagonize, and Goad Opponents. If you can't do anything else, chide and taunt your opponents and draw them into emotional responses which will tend to make them look foolish and overly motivated, and generally render their material somewhat less coherent. Not only will you avoid discussing the issues in the first instance, but even if their emotional response addresses the issue, you can further avoid the issues by then focusing on how 'sensitive they are to criticism.'

19. Ignore proof presented, demand impossible proofs. This is perhaps a variant of the 'play dumb' rule. Regardless of what material may be presented by an opponent in public forums, claim the material irrelevant and demand proof that is impossible for the opponent to come by (it may exist, but not be at his disposal, or it may be something which is known to be safely destroyed or withheld, such as a murder weapon.) In order to completely avoid discussing issues, it may be required that you to categorically deny and be critical of media or books as valid sources, deny that witnesses are acceptable, or even deny that statements made by government or other authorities have any meaning or relevance.

24. Silence critics. If the above methods do not prevail, consider removing opponents from circulation by some definitive solution so that the need to address issues is removed entirely. This can be by their death, arrest and detention, blackmail or destruction of their character by release of blackmail information, or merely by destroying them financially, emotionally, or severely damaging their health.

Note how often #24 appears in contemporary political interplay. Environmentalist unreformables have used it more often than most others.

Inasmuch as the above responses to your rational analysis indicate clearly that your approach has achieved nothing, at the very best you've just wasted your time and energy. You might also have evoked a destructive response aimed at you personally as "an enemy of the cause." That suggests that your first duty when entering the fray is to determine whether your opponent is persuadable at all, by the "Isolating The Issue" technique or otherwise.

When the specific subject is "global warming / climate change / climate disruption," the stakes are at their highest, for this chimera is being used as a reason to impose totalitarian control, by a world government, over every last one of Man's activities. He who actively desires such an outcome, rather than deploring it as an unfortunate survival necessity, imagines himself as one of its commissars. You could no more persuade him out of his thesis than you could stop the rotation of the Earth.

Here are the strongest rational arguments against the "global warming" chimera. Use them if and only if you have first established that your opponent is potentially persuadable. If he isn't, walk away, swiftly and without regret. His convictions constitute a faith -- a religion -- and there's no point arguing religion with a "true believer."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Threats? Or Action?

Reflect well on this battle cry from Robert P. George:

Last May, one of the most influential conservative and religious intellectual leaders in America gave a somber speech in Washington, declaring it to be “Good Friday in America for Christians.” In this exclusive two part video interview, Princeton’s Robert P. George admitted, “that was a hard speech to give.”

“Christians, and those rejecting the me-generation liberal dogma of ‘if it feels good do it,’ are no longer tolerable by the intellectual and cultural elite,” says George, 59, director of the James Madison program at Princeton University. Citing the political witch hunt that forced Brendan Eich’s departure as CEO of Mozilla for a small contribution to a conservative political cause, George said politically correct mobs “threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good evil, and what is evil, good. They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all.”

Yet instead of accepting this liberal cultural dominance, George offers a call to arms with practical advice for the embattled faithful. Encouraging conservatives to model themselves off the early civil rights leaders who clung to noble bedrock free speech principles liberals claim to embrace today, George says “our first and most effective move is to hold these elites to their principles.”

I have only one quibble with Professor George's assessment: the PC crowd waving torches and pitchforks at us and the political elite that benefit from their madness are no longer threatening; they're acting -- ruthlessly and without remorse -- to chain us down to their dogmas, silenced and unable to escape.

They're acting because we made the fatal mistake of "compromising" with them through self-censorship to avoid "offending" anyone. But note who isn't afraid of "offending" whom, and never has been. Our pusillanimity emboldened them sufficiently to take up legal and political cudgels and have at us.

Ahhh, one-way "tolerance." Ain't it wonderful?

It really doesn't matter what your personal convictions are about sin. Christians and non-Christians differ on such things. Indeed, Christians tend to differ with one another, even intra-denominationally. Inasmuch as religious convictions are and will forever remain a wholly personal matter, it would be as wrong for us to impose our views on those who disagree as is the contemporary reverse. Yet we refrain from standing up for ourselves and one another out of...what? Fear of disapproval by persons whose behavior we deplore?

No. Just as in the post below, the magic word was and remains "compromise." Except in this particular case, the "compromise" went as follows: "You folks agree to accept our deviances in every way, and we'll agree not to prosecute you for 'discrimination.'" Until the Left had command of the nation's legal and regulatory mechanisms and could act against us penally, we could at least speak our minds and follow our consciences in our private actions. "Anti-discrimination" laws and the vicious regulatory bureaucracies that enforce them have made it hazardous even to voice a complaint to one another.

All rights fall dead when the banner of "discrimination" is waved at them, including the right of freedom of expression.

I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes, generally no friend to freedom, who wrote that real freedom of expression must include "freedom for the thought we hate." If that isn't obvious to you, the problem lies with you, not with the concept of freedom. A "freedom" that ceases as soon as someone declares himself "offended" or "discriminated against" is just a cosmetic applied to totalitarianism: "You want to remain free? Just agree with us in all things and do exactly as we say." The Soviets and Red Chinese honor that sort of "freedom."

Freedom -- political freedom, the guarantee against a State-imposed penalty for saying or doing as you please -- must include all the following, without exception:

  • Freedom of thought and conscience;
  • Absolute rights to control one's own body;
  • Freedom of expression, regardless of medium;
  • Freedom to acquire and retain any item of any description;
  • Freedom in economic matters: i.e., in production and commerce;
  • Freedom to choose one's own associates, including for economic purposes;
  • Freedom of travel through both unowned and "public" lands and thoroughfares;

...with the sole limitation that one must not inflict objective damage upon others in the enjoyment of one's freedom. "Offense" is not objective damage; neither is "discrimination." Yet these are the shillelaghs that have been used to browbeat us out of virtually all the freedom our great grandparents enjoyed.

There cannot be a "right" to demand that to which you have no right. That includes any demand that others forgo the exercise of their rights. But this is the regime under which we suffer today.

Professor George has given us our marching orders. Unfortunately, given the current legal and political milieu, those of us who rally to his banner are likely to take casualties: We will be reviled -- and "discriminated" against -- at the very least. But if you genuinely believe in freedom -- the right to do as you damned well please as long as you refrain from harming others -- that's not a sufficient reason not to march.

The marshaling area is freedom of expression. From there, all else won't necessarily follow, but we cannot have any of our other freedoms back until we insist on this one.

Joyously and unabashedly.
Be braced for nasty consequences.
This wont be a bloodless campaign.
Do it anyway.

And pray.

"Reasonable Compromises"

Courtesy of Random Nuclear Strikes:

"Reasonable," "compromise," and "rights" do not belong in the same sentence...the same conversation...or the same lexicon.

Our monetary mavens.

Accordingly, the Fed is pre-occupied with utterly transient and frequently revised-away monthly release data on retail sales, housing starts, auto production, business investment, employment, inflation and the like. But its always about the latest ticks in the data—never about the larger patterns and the deeper longer-term trends.

And of course that’s the essence of the Keynesian affliction. The denizens of the Eccles Building—-overwhelmingly academics and policy apparatchiks—-rarely venture into the blooming, buzzing messiness of the real economic world. They simplistically believe, therefore, that the US economy is just a giant bathtub that must the filled to the brim with “aggregate demand” and all will be well.[1]

It never ceases to amaze me that people accept that someone like Janet Yellen, or Obama, or Nancy Pelosi can and should make decisions about how to spend their money. Trucking companies know that a new truck might increase their earnings by X amount but the decision that gets made for them is that a solar panel manufacturer should instead get their money or that a bridge over a hiking trail in Yosemite should be repaired.

I only play an economist in the movies but you can’t beat this definition of Keynesian economics: The belief that you can raise the level of water in a swimming pool by taking water out of one end of the pool and dumping it in the other.

The word "maven" in the title of this post is carefully chosen. One definition of maven is your pal who goes to the stereo store to advise you on what stereo to buy. Your friend knows he doesn’t know anything about stereos and the salesman also knows that your "expert" knows nothing. The only person who doesn’t know that your maven is clueless is you.

Keep this in mind next time you contemplate that "12 members of the FOMC can tweak the performance of a $17 trillion economy on virtually a month to month basis—using the crude tools of interest rate pegging and word cloud emissions (i.e. ‘verbal guidance’)."[2]

[1]  "The Fed’s Credit Channel Is Broken And Its Bathtub Economics Has Failed." By David Stockman, Contra Corner, 9/28/14.
[2]  Id.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scattered Thoughts

I have a huge list of chores to address and only today to get through them, so please allow me the following scattershot post in lieu of a “traditional” essay.

We talk about “natural law” quite a lot in tones of excessive confidence that we really know what it is. In point of fact, we mostly believe we know what it is: a level of confidence based on experiments that have yet to produce a perverse result. The touchstone of scientific knowledge is successful, repeatable prediction, so our confidence in some bit of scientific knowledge grows as predictions based on it are made and confirmed. Yet that doesn’t mean we can ever close our minds to the possibility that objective reality might be more complex than our current understanding. Science disallows the very possibility of final, unchallengeable answers.

While we’re on the subject of scientific knowledge, the warmistas have been going a little crazy lately, as it’s now been eighteen years since the last measurable increase in the mean surface temperature of the Earth. That contradicts every last one of their theses and utterly invalidates the applicability of their simulations. But they’re fanatics – persons whose belief doesn't flag in the face of adverse evidence – and fanatics don’t quit. They win or they die. So expect the fusillades to continue for some time to come.

The resignation of Eric Holder from his post as Attorney General of the U.S. has been variably interpreted. Perhaps it really is the “sop to Cerberus” required to mitigate the expected adverse consequences from the midterm elections, or perhaps it was a way to dampen the pressure to investigate the Justice Department's numerous scandals, or perhaps Holder was just tired of functioning as Obama’s loyal lightning rod and Hessian hired gun. Whatever the case, the next phase of the drama must be carefully watched. Remember how many Republican Senators voted to confirm Holder, despite his checkered past. Will they view the nominee for his replacement equally uncritically?

The Israeli-HAMAS quarrel seems to have quieted down a mite in recent weeks, and I’d like to know why. Is it an artifact of preferential reportage on ISIS, the result of pressure by other Palestinians on HAMAS to “stop this shit” (George W. Bush), or the result of Israeli success at destroying HAMAS’s warmaking resources? Is anyone covering the matter well that doesn’t have a Main Stream Media censor hovering over him as he writes?

Lately I’ve been hearing quite a lot of sad commentary about the mediocrity of many of the Congressional and Senatorial candidates the GOP has presented us this year. Though it might fall short of being the consensus, a great many persons are saying things along the line of “Why vote for Tweedledumb over Tweedledumber?” It’s a sentiment that resonates with me. One alternative is to agitate for a strong “None Of The Above Is Acceptable” provision in your state’s constitution: i.e., one which decrees that, should NOTA gain a plurality in an election for some office, that office shall remain vacant and its powers unexercised until the next general election. No more of this “special election” or “implicit powers” BS, please!

Commander M at Ace of Spades this morning cites an article about our “part-time” Congress. To me, that’s a good thing rather than a bad one. Imagine the horrors that institution could inflict on us if it worked a conventional 2000-hour year! So why not intensify the effect: have Congress sit for no more than six weeks per year, perhaps with strengthened quorum rules, to further reduce its inflictions? They don’t meet to repeal legislation, do they?

The New York Yankees’ season has finally come to an end, taking Derek Jeter’s storied career with it. On the one hand, it’s always a sad thing to see a star player retire, especially one who’s brought as much credit to the game as Jeter. On the other, the Yanks are a badly decimated team replete with players who are at or near the end of their useful playing years. They need the winter to rebuild. Let’s hope the front office has its eyes on some burgeoning talent – and the good sense not to try to “buy” a World Championship by trading rising young players for aging veterans with monstrous salaries, as it’s often done in the past.

Speaking of sports, what are the odds that the New York Rangers can improve on last season’s spectacular playoff run? Yes, they lost the Stanley Cup finals, but three of their losses in the finals were in overtime. That suggests that the team is still sound, and might very well contend strongly this coming season...once again, assuming the front office doesn’t, in Robert C. Townsend’s pithy phrase, “pull up the flowers to see how the roots are growing.”

Would anyone care to make a few recommendations for fresh, high quality popular music? I don’t listen to the radio, and just yesterday one of my favorite CDs literally crumbled in the player. I used to dismiss such little hints from time, but no longer.

If you program computers, what are your favorite:

  • Languages?
  • Development suites?
  • Debugging and analysis tools?
  • Source code and version control systems?
  • Ways to “decompress” from an arduous session at the keyboard?

And is there anyone out there who’d like to recommend a suite for developing applications for Android platforms?

That’s it for today, Gentle Reader. Duty calls. Fresh meat tomorrow, I hope!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Assorted Fiction Natterings

1. The Death Of The Masculine Hero.

Quite a lot of the science fiction and fantasy currently emerging from conventional publishers strikes me as androphobic. That is, the writers – nearly all women – are either unwilling or unable to write a believably masculine protagonist. Neither will their protagonists be at all feminine: she’ll be a “tough chick” of the sort currently in vogue, who will display contempt for both conventional masculine and conventional feminine tastes, pastimes, and attitudes. If there’s a male co-protagonist, he’ll either be markedly subordinate to her or will factor into the plot principally as a love interest.

I have no problems with female-centered stories. I’ve written a few myself. But when a writer establishes a pattern of avoiding masculine – not merely “male” – protagonists, I start to wonder if there might be a disability involved...if not something worse.

“Worse” would be a dislike of masculinity that demands its subordination under all circumstances. It seems to me that there’s a lot of that in contemporary genre fiction coming from Pub World these days. That says some unfortunate things about that industry and its prospects for the years to come. When your market is confined to women, you’d better remain appealing to double-X tastes...and there are no guarantees about that sort of thing.

Ironically, successful male writers in the speculative genres display equal facility at crafting both masculine and feminine protagonists, and no reluctance to craft stories around either sort. That, too, says something unfortunate...but I’ll leave the inference thereof to you.

2. Series Writing.

The series protagonist has become a dominant feature of contemporary fiction. When done well, a series protagonist can give a series of novels a sense of growth and thematic continuity; when done poorly, it can make the product banal or worse. There’s also a side effect on the writer of locking himself into a series character: he can deaden his ability to innovate characterologically, and sometimes with regard to plot as well.

If you really like writing series of novels that feature a common protagonist, one way to avert the negative effects while positioning yourself to reap the benefits is to write two or more series concurrently...each with a distinct protagonist, of course. Several writers I’ve recently encountered have adopted that tactic, and to my eyes it’s served them well.

There is a downside, of course: the writer must learn to “keep it all straight.” Events in one of his fictional realms must not bleed over into the others. Characters and settings must be forbidden to cross over. This implies that the temptation to go for a “grand unified” scheme of the sort that successfully seduced Isaac Asimov in his final novels must be resisted. Nothing else is as likely to draw “Oh, come ons” or jeers of disapproval.

So far, the writers I’ve seen attempt this have done reasonably well by it...but that “grand unified” temptation is lurking in the shadows along each of their paths. We shall see.

3. Undying Characters.

While we’re on the subject of series characters, I must include that I’m afflicted by one that I tried (Lord knows I tried) to kill off. Conclusively. Never to rise again. I even wrote about his soul detaching from his body and flying toward God’s arms. It was, of course, Louis Redmond of Chosen One and On Broken Wings.

Louis is by far my most popular character. Yet I created him with a very specific end in mind, and when I say “end” I mean end. His death in On Broken Wings was foreordained by the role for which I created him. But he refuses to stay decently buried, mainly because readers who’ve loved him keep telling me how angry they are at me about my murdering him and demanding that I bring him back for a few dozen encores.

So the novel in progress, working title Polymath, will include a role for Louis. However, Louis won’t be the protagonist; he’ll be a critical Supporting Cast character who (I hope) will help to tie Polymath properly into the developing “Onteora Canon” while simultaneously placating the screaming hordes of readers protesting his death.

I’m between two weeks and a month from finishing this thing. I’ve already contacted my favorite cover artist, and she’s locked, loaded, and peering over the trench lip. Watch this space.

4. Another Popular Character Whose Return Has Been Demanded...

...isn’t coming back just yet...but soon!

Among readers of my dreck, just after Louis Redmond in popularity stands presidential candidate Stephen Graham Sumner, lineal descendant of the great William Graham Sumner, ardent Constitutionalist, and generally good guy. The demands for more about Sumner, his quest for the presidency, and his tenure in office – of course he’s going to win – have been almost as strident as those clamoring for the return of Louis.

Yes, there have been a few scattered stories about President Sumner. I could write a few more, release them as a modest collection, and hope that his admirers would let me off the hook, but that feels like a cop-out. He deserves to be the protagonist of a novel of his own, or at least co-protagonist to a figure of comparable stature. The latter approach is what I have in mind: currently contemplated title Statesman. I expect that will be the next effort after Polymath is off my desk.

No, don’t hold your breath while you wait. It takes me a year, on average, to turn out a novel. But there will be one, so hang in there. Momentous events will soon come from – and upon – the world-shakers from the Shire-like realm of Onteora County, New York. Will the nation survive? Will the forces of Transnationalist Progressivism and Moral Relativism finally meet their match? Will wrongs be righted, villains reap their just deserts, and Christine D’Alessandro finally find a sweetie who isn’t doomed to an early death? And what about Naomi?

Stay tuned.

Front-Runners And Front-Running

Have a gander at this Matthew Continetti piece about Hillary Clinton’s Designated Restroom Escorts:

Amy Chozick covers Hillary Clinton for the New York Times. She is an enterprising and dedicated reporter, and many of her stories have annoyed the 2016 presidential frontrunner. This week Chozick covered a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. It was her turn to be annoyed.

Chozick’s most revealing article about the event had nothing to do with the scheduled agenda, or with the opaque, labyrinthine, and seedy finances of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, or with the tsunami of clich├ęs from the stage about global warming, gender equality, wellness, empowerment, polarization, Mohammed Yunus, sustainable development, globalization, Palm Oil alternatives, uplift, board diversity, education access, green energy, Malala, information technology, organic farming, public-private partnerships, and #YesAllWomen. The article had to do with Chozick’s bathroom habits.

Every time she felt the urge, a representative of the Clintons would accompany her to the ladies’ room. Every time. And not only would the “friendly 20-something press aide” stroll with Chozick to the entrance of the john. She also “waited outside the stall.” As though Chozick were a little girl.

If it was not embarrassing enough to be chaperoned to the water closet by a recent college graduate no doubt beaming with righteousness and an entirely undeserved and illusory sense of self-importance, some earnest and vacant and desperate-to-be-hip Millennial whose affiliation with the Clintons, whose involvement in their various schemes, consists of nothing more than her uniform of white shirt and silk scarf—if this was not on its own an indignity and an insult for a correspondent of the New York Times, when Chozick asked for comment on the bathroom police, she received the following response:

Craig Minassian, a spokesman for the initiative, directed me to a press release about American Standard’s Flush for Good campaign to improve sanitation for three million people in the developing world. ‘Since you are so interested in bathrooms and CGI,’ Mr. Minassian said.

Please read it all. It’s worth your time.

Hillary Rodham Clinton surely considers herself the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Front-runners tend to adopt a primarily defensive posture; it stems from their conviction that the prize is “theirs to lose.” That results in predictable behavior of the sort Continetti comments on above, at least from the sort of politician to whom winning is everything, and justifies any tactic whatsoever – and the Clintons are politicians of exactly that sort.

I’ve written about the devolution of the political class several times in the past. The most salient aspect of that process has been the displacement – sometimes forcible – of honorable persons sincerely interested in serving the nation by persons who are merely interested in gaining the power, prestige, and perquisites of office and enlarging them to the greatest possible extent. This follows a law of human nature: other things being equal, selfish motivations will triumph over selfless ones. He who wants power for its own sake will naturally pursue it more ardently, and with greater determination, than will he who seeks it for “the greater good.” (For today, let’s pass in silence over the infinitesimal percentage of power-seekers who grasp what would really conduce to “the greater good.”)

But decent persons, at least here in America, understand how pernicious is the love of power. If we omit for the moment Milton Friedman’s aphorism about the imperative of creating incentives that will move bad men to do the right thing, this must be considered a prime civic virtue, for character will always tell. But the decent persons, whose understanding of what would conduce to “the greater good” is quite as flawed as any politician’s, are fatally fragmented along ideological lines, which gives election-deciding voting power to others – and those others are quite as self-serving as the most amoral power-seeker.

An example: At this time, the Congressional seat for New York State’s 1st Congressional District is being contested by incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop and moderate Republican Lee Zeldin. (We don’t often see conservative Republicans here in New York; the state might have placed an import restriction on them.) Zeldin, heretofore not an office holder, attacks Bishop as corrupt, while Bishop touts his efforts in “preserving Long Island jobs.” Zeldin’s allegations are well substantiated; the FBI is investigating them at this time. Bishop’s claims are essentially about having put pressure on the state legislature and other Congressmen through vote trading offers. But the edge goes to Bishop:

  • Bishop has succeeded in mobilizing Long Island’s organized labor in his favor;
  • Long Island voters are ideologically not heavily weighted to either Republicans or Democrats;
  • The local Board of Elections has already stolen one election for Bishop (i.e., from Randy Altschuler) and would surely be willing to repeat the favor.

Zeldin, in contrast, has no powerfully motivated constituency to counterweight Bishop’s edges in organized labor and local government. It would therefore require an unlikely energizing of Republican-leaning voters to oust Bishop from his seat. Mind you, it could happen; it’s just not likely.

State and local races tend to draw less journalistic attention than federal ones, for obvious reasons. Journalists are the easiest people in the world to bribe; all it takes is a promise of “access.” That stirs the emotions of the typical reporter even more energetically than would a large cash payment, again for reasons of motivation:

  • A journalist’s greatest desire, overwhelming all others, is to be read;
  • His altitude at a prestigious media organ is the key to increasing his readership;
  • His facility for getting close to the subjects of his reportage is essential to increasing that altitude.

Alongside those selfish motives, there’s the nominally “unselfish” one of possibly being consulted by the power-wielder for his opinions on various aspects of public policy, and thereby having the opportunity to shape it in his preferred direction. As most journalists are emotion-oriented, the trade is predisposed to government activism in “good causes,” with predictable consequences.

Yet once in a while, a career journalist will maintain his integrity against the importunings of politicians. Amy Chozick, with whose work I’m unfamiliar, might be such a case. If she’s willing to write articles that occasionally mention an unfavorable detail or two about the Clintons and their wholly unscrupulous political machine, it would surely prejudice them against her. The business about tailing her even to the ladies’ room would be entirely credible.

This is front-running without disguise. Hillary Clinton’s entire life has been dedicated to the pursuit, maintenance, and enlargement of political power. It’s the only reason she remained with her tomcatting husband after the infamous “bimbo eruptions” of the 1992 Presidential campaign and stuck with him through the subsequent Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals. What we know of her, from her famous, sporadically violent rages to her involvement in the suspicious demise of Vince Foster, suggests a sociopathy that would place her at the pinnacle of the power uber alles sub-race of political climbers.

For such a person, no tactic that might deflect or blunt an enemy’s thrusts is too foul to employ...and a journalist who places objective service to his trade above self-serving or ideological considerations is automatically an enemy.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-- William Butler Yeats, 1919

I forgive Yeats his misuse of anarchy in the above for the starkly terrifying imagery and relentless cadence of his immortal poem. Note that he wrote it just after the conclusion of World War I, during the catastrophic influenza epidemic that threatened to lay a second Black Death upon war-ravaged, utterly exhausted Europe. There were many in those days who believed that the end of the world was at hand. The spiritual malaise that followed fell barely short of becoming a worldwide collapse, and for one reason only: the United States of America.

Yeats had tapped the Spiritus Mundi, which Germans term the Zeitgeist. His observation that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity” was in full and garish view in those years, with the rise of totalitarian socialism in the East and the unconcealed efforts of the victorious Allies at stripping every asset of any economic value from their defeated opponents. There was no longer any denying that those at the top of the political food chain would have their fill despite any objections and all obstacles.

So it is today in America. Nor can we deny that the malady has infected nominally conservative ranks, as witness the relentless campaigning of the credible presidential contenders in the GOP’s ranks. Governors, senators, and former holders of those offices are all behaving as if the 2016 nomination is the most important thing in the world. Few of the positions they espouse can be taken as carved into stone. All are subject to revision for electoral advantage, as we shall see when the midterm elections are behind us and the campaigning for the Republican presidential nod gets really serious.

Front-runners will front-run, with consequences similar to Hillary Clinton’s restroom policing of Amy Chozick. Those who aspire to be front-runners will emulate such behavior as they think will serve them, and that they can get away with. Absent a great and barely precedented rebirth of the American conscience, the rest of us will merely look on in bewilderment.

Keep your powder dry.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Day Off From Blogging

Forgive me, Gentle Reader. I haven’t got anything particularly interesting to rant or rave about this morning, and I’ve been neglecting my novel-in-progress...a particularly sore point when it occurs to me, as I’m within about 15% of completing it. So I plan to spend today on fiction.

I hope to have fresh blood-pressure-elevating material for you on the morrow.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sucker Puncher Sucker Punched

Courtesy of Maetenloch at Ace of Spades HQ comes this link to a 2009 piece by Quin Hillyer that lays bare the true aims of the Main Stream Media:

The year was 1993. I was working as a press secretary for U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, of Louisiana, a strongly pro-military but carefully budget-cutting veteran of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Our top legislative aide, Paul Cambon, told me that 60 Minutes had been snooping around a small medical-research project back in Louisiana funded through a military grant....

Meanwhile, this particular research was drawing protests because—get this—the doctor’s method involved repeatedly shooting cats in the head with BB pellets. The cats would be placed in a head vise so the doctor could precisely aim the pellets, and then…Boom! Then he’d study the results....

Again, this was shooting cats, on the taxpayer dime. Oddly enough, though, 60 Minutes wasn’t interested in blasting Livingston for allowing the cat shooting. The TV show wasn’t outraged that the goal of this cat shooting reportedly was to prove something already understood for 95 years. Instead, 60 Minutes wanted to know why Livingston was not supporting the cat-shooting experiments. The news magazine’s staff seemed to assume that soldiers’ lives would be dependent on this one scientist’s experiments.

What Livingston had done, as a careful appropriator, was pretty standard stuff. In the most recent military funding bill, he had inserted language suspending that project’s grant until the research could be scientifically peer-reviewed. He didn’t kill the project entirely. He just caused a pause so he could learn if the experiments actually had real military / medical usefulness. If not, then it was both a waste of taxpayer money and outrageous cruelty.

For whatever reason, 60 Minutes was lining up with the cat shooter. (We never nailed down rumors that a CBS News producer was related to somebody close to the scientist.) All we knew was that the show’s snoopers seemed intent on a morality play in which a purportedly pro-military congressman was blocking research that could save soldiers’ lives. Bizarre.

Please, please read the whole thing. I'll wait here until you've finished.

Back so soon? Now where was I? Oh, yes...

Mike Wallace carefully cultivated a reputation for being a fearlessly honest investigative reporter but nevertheless a courtly, gentlemanly individual, whereas in fact he was nothing of either sort. This duplicitous baron of pseudo-journalism cared about only two things in this world: his reputation, and damaging Republicans, especially conservative Republicans. That becomes pellucidly clear in this segment of Hillyer's piece:

I produced a 27-page, footnoted, single-spaced refutation of the entire 60 Minutes report. Fact after fact, citation after citation (including the misleading protester footage), I laid out the blatant dishonesty. I sent it to 60 Minutes demanding a retraction. I sent it out to a bunch of reporters. And I noted (without mentioning our audiotapes) that Wallace had lied when he said we had refused to cooperate. But no public apology came to match the apology in the private phone call.

Amazingly enough, 60 Minutes re-ran the segment in July. With no corrections. Not one.

THIS TIME, we called the president of CBS News. Bob played our audiotape for him. And then played it again. There was Wallace apologizing and admitting to having been “dishonest” and “stupid.” And yet the show had run again, without correction. It was clear we had a slam-dunk legal case if we wanted to press it.

The CBS president was irate at his own team. He made that clear. The tape did the trick. Apparently the news president then came down hard on Wallace. Really hard. Wallace soon called back. His voice was shaky. “Well, um, you know something? You’re a better man than I am, Congressman.” He promised to go on the air and apologize to the entire country. Then, after more of what can only be described as groveling, Wallace said this:

“You can get this on your tape recorder—I wish you told me you had a tape recorder going; that would have been the gentlemanly thing to do, the first time….”

Livingston interrupted, lowering the boom: “It would have been, but then I didn’t think that I was necessarily dealing with a gentleman.”

Wallace: “Well, in any case…”

Livingston: “And frankly, you’ve proven me right.”

Bingo. You could almost hear the phone line sizzle. Wallace had no answer. There was no good answer. Livingston was correct.

It's clear from the above that Wallace wasn't concerned about anything but salvaging his reputation. He was desperate to counter the revelation of his deceit. His complaint about Livingston recording the earlier call without saying so was all too clearly aimed at mitigating the damage he'd taken...though why it would in any way reduce Wallace's odium from his deceit is entirely lost on me.

Conscience, as H. L. Mencken has told us, is "the still, small voice that warns us that someone might be watching." In our era, perhaps we should add "or recording."

But wait: there's more! You'd expect that Wallace's colleagues in the hyper-competitive journalism business would pounce on this bit of scandal like the pack of ravenous jackals they are. You'd want to believe it, at least. Here's what happened instead:

[Colman McCarthy's piece in the Washington Post] was the only one that really covered all the other dishonesties in the 60 Minutes report. It was the only one that made real use of my 27-page manifesto. A number of journalists defended Livingston, but only McCarthy really explained the underlying dispute. The one thing that drew the attention of the rest of them was the simple, straight apology, based on the original simple, straightforward demand that a TV show not splice an interview out of context.

I, the press aide, had forgotten the nature of the press. But Livingston remembered: Keep it simple. Keep it straight. Keep it absolutely clear. And play it smart by collecting evidence that cannot possibly be denied.

The journalistic fraternity behaved the way fraternity brothers always do: Keep it in-house as far as possible. They couldn't deny that Wallace had apologized on-air for his earlier on-air deceit. But they could efface the meat of the story, plus all the historical evidence of 60 Minutes' fraudulent reportage over the decades. That helped Wallace to preserve what remained of his carefully cultivated reputation -- a reputation that remains one of the worst of all the deceits he used his position at the "Tiffany network," whose news division was for many years the brightest jewel in its crown, to perpetrate against his partisan enemies. It helped him to remain the doyen of 60 Minutes for another thirteen years...years during which the program would add heaps more duplicitous "journalism" to an already shameful record.

Glenn Reynolds constantly calls such "journalists" "Democrat operatives with bylines." Sadly, he's dead on target.

If there's anything that a conservative or libertarian must keep constantly in mind, it's that whatever their enticements and cajolery, the Main Stream Media are not his friend. They're not interested in his positions or his arguments for them. They're not interested in presenting his ideas, or him, objectively to their audiences. They're interested solely in making him look bad, if possible like a hypocritical monster. There are evolutionary reasons for this which I'll delve into at another time. For practical purposes, the imperative of remaining constantly on guard against MSM reporters and allies is the critical item of wisdom.

For some, it's about feathering the nest: making oneself ever more valuable a mouthpiece to one's "sources" and the political community one has cultivated. For others, it's about loyalty to The Cause: keeping faith with the convictions to which one has surreptitiously pledged absolute fidelity. For still others, it's just their preferred way of expressing low character, their penchants for spite in the guise of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable."

Whatever their justifications, they do it willingly. They have already decided as an unchallenged and unchallengeable moral precept that "conservatives deserve it." It's part of their "assumption of differential rectitude" (Thomas Sowell), by which they have rationalized that there is no tactic morally disallowed against enemies so foul.

Never, ever trust them.

Stuff Dubya Didn’t Do

So! You’re entranced by Obama’s “firsts,” are you, you prog tranzi relativist, you?

Add your contributions below.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Problems In The Liberty Movement Part 2: The Absolutists

"Freedom is a tenable objective for responsible adults only. We do not believe in freedom for children or madmen." -- Milton Friedman, in Capitalism and Freedom.

Among the worst aspects of any sort of ideology is its penchant for "mission creep." An ideology -- that is, a coherent system of ideas aimed at explaining some aspect of reality -- is inherently a partial thing. No idea born in the mind of Man can explain everything. All ideas have a proper domain of application, outside which they produce perverse results.

Libertarian ideology is no exception.

I wrote some time ago:

Where would the libertarian postulates of individual rights and individual responsibilities fail to apply? Three generic places:

  1. Where the atoms that interact are not individuals, but collectivities;
  2. Where the "individual" under discussion is incapable, either from innate incapacity or from injury, of understanding rights and responsibilities;
  3. Where rights clash in an absolute and irreconcilable way.

Important specific topics that fall within these categories are:

  1. National defense and foreign dealings;
  2. The protection and restraint of the immature and the mentally diseased;
  3. Abortion.

It is noteworthy that clashes between libertarians and ordinary conservatives have tended to concentrate on those three specific topics. The argument is never over what produces the best possible outcome, but over premises. It's equally noteworthy that the phrase "Check your premises" is the emission of one of the most absolute absolutists associated with the liberty movement, the late Ayn Rand.

When the application of a particular premise produces consequences clearly less desirable than the starting conditions, it's time to examine the premise for consistency with the metaphysically given facts of reality. Many a hardcore libertarian cheered for Barack Hussein Obama's weakening of the American military. After all, he might have reasoned, war is horrible, it's an activity of governments, and it's conducted by military institutions; therefore, winnowing down the military will reduce the frequency and horror of wars. That, to be gentle about it, has not been the case.

Similarly, quite a number of libertarians wholeheartedly cheered for the evisceration of the laws that permitted states and localities to confine those who are visibly, self-destructively irrational. While the laws had problems -- they made involuntary commitment far too easy to effect -- some of the individuals thus confined were genuinely dangerous to themselves, and in some cases to others as well. No one gains from allowing them to roam freely.

A premise released from its proper domain can kill. What else is a partial-birth abortion -- defended not just by liberals but by many libertarians as merely the exercise of "a woman's right to choose" -- but murder committed with legal sanction?

Persons sensitive to the consequences of ideological overextension would shy back from doing so. But ideological absolutists will not. Their embrace of their ideas is akin to religious commitment. Considering what proportion of such persons are avowed atheists, that has a particularly ironic cast.

Certainty is attractive. Persons certain of their beliefs can marshal great passion to their proselytizing. As many persons less certain of their convictions will happily delegate the responsibility for "getting it right" to one whose faith is absolute, they often become leaders.

But quasi-religious certainty makes it very difficult to admit to error. Absolute certainty can render one incapable of even seeing the evidence of error. There's too close a coupling between the ideas and the holder's identity. If you need a practical example, consider how assiduously Barack Hussein Obama refuses to accept responsibility for any of his errors. He even blamed the 2010 electoral setbacks his party suffered on inadequate messaging -- in other words, failure to make us benighted ones understand how good his policies were for us.

No, Obama is not a libertarian; very far from it. But his absolute certainty that he knows what's best -- "the right thing to do," in his phrasing -- illustrates the hazards of absolute certainty better than any other sitting politician.

Contrast Obama with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul is willing to change his mind and say he's done so. For example, he recently admitted that he had incorrectly evaluated the threat from ISIS, and would now endorse American military action against it. This, too, is an attractive characteristic, especially in a man who is forthright about his principles. One of Paul's stances is that American military power must be reserved to those theaters in which its use is in the American national interest. He didn't see that interest in the rise of ISIS, until the beheadings showed him otherwise.

That is the happy medium between having no principles whatsoever and having principles supposedly applicable to problems of any sort. Constitutionalism as expressed in the United States Constitution embeds that stance: the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Constitution are quite explicit, but it also contains provisions for amendment. Those provisions were the Founders' admission that as proud as they were of their creation, they made no pretense to infallibility, and that conditions they could not foresee might arise long after they were gone.

Absolutist libertarians often denigrate politicians for "flip-flopping." While announcing a change of mind can indicate a lack of principles and a willingness to say whatever the speaker thinks will win him votes, it can also be a simple admission of having erred, especially if accompanied by a clear, cogent explanation for the change.

Liberty-loving politicians are few today. Should they proliferate, they will only make headway if they possess the degree of humility required to admit to error, and to "not having all the answers," if we're ever to mount a serious drive at restoring Constitutionally limited government to these United States. This applies with equal force to other libertarian activists.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When A Man Shows You Who He Is...

...your wisest and best course is to believe him:

As you can see, the intrepid Michelle Fields isn't bashful about bearding a lion in his den:

(My word! Challenging a useless, over-privileged sprat from a politically connected family on his totalitarian views, and a know-nothing movie star on the inconsistency between his stated convictions and his behavior! What cheek! She could be stripped of her White House Press Pass for that...if she, an honest investigative reporter, were ever to be granted one.)

In a grand reversal of the usual guideline, if this were truly exceptional stuff, it wouldn't be worth discussing. It's because it's become the modus operandi of the Left that it's important and worthy of reflection. His Supreme Mightiness the Emperor Misha tells us why:

Name us one, just one example of a leftist, any leftist, at any point in recorded history, who wasn’t a full on authoritarian. Just one. Go ahead. Take as much time as you need. We’ll be here until we croak, and you’ll need at least that long and then some. OK, so here’s a tip to save you some time: There wasn’t one. Not ever. Do you even know what leftism IS, you blinkered Pollyanna? No, you don’t. Because then you’d know that leftism IS totalitarianism. It’s right there at the core of it. It couldn’t exist without totalitarianism, anymore than water could exist without being wet.

So tell us, then: How can adherents to an ideology that is founded on authoritarianism (a nicer word for what it really is, we guess, because let’s don’t be beastly to the totalitarian Prozi thugs) ever drift towards a point that they already not only inhabit, but pretty much own?

It may seem like we’re splitting hairs here and picking on semantics, but it really IS important, you know. If you can’t call the enemy by its real name, if you can’t even adequately describe the suspect, then what hope do you ever have of apprehending him, much less defeating him?


Some points cannot be overemphasized. Some truths cannot be repeated too often. And some human failings, despite the dangers that accompany them, nevertheless retain an indisputable patina of goodness. One of these is best expressed in an old phrase that was once heard fairly frequently in the old South:

"Aw, he don't mean nothin' by it."

He didn't? You mean he tackled you around the knees, ripped off your blouse and brassiere, and fondled your bosom while yelling Woo-hoo! by sheer random chance? Or was it a longstanding habit, perhaps?

There are bad people out there, Gentle Reader. When one of them allows his viciousness to slip its bonds and reveal itself in word or deed, you mustn't reflexively assure yourself (or others) that "he don't mean nothin' by it." His behavior proceeds from one of the following assumptions:

  1. You're exceedingly stupid and need to be taught a harsh, public lesson; or:
  2. You're evil and must be put down like the unmitigated villain you are; or:
  3. You're an obstacle to what he seeks: power over others.

This flows from two well established facts about those who bind themselves to a cause that would require oppressive government action to fulfill:

  1. The great majority of such persons pledge themselves to their cause not out of intelligent conviction or moral insight, but because of a profound anomie and a concomitant, overwhelming need to belong. Such persons have no need to comprehend what they're agitating for; indeed, they're highly unlikely to possess the intellect and information required to do so.
  2. Those who possess the necessary facts and cognitive power to know and understand better have another agenda: the acquisition of power, prestige, and the perquisites of high status. They are the vanguard of such causes; they regard their dimmer followers as voting-booth fodder at best, shock troops at worst.

Those in category 1 are likely to be ineducable and thus, unpersuadable. Those in category 2 are exactly what they accuse us of being: villains of the blackest stripe. In short, they do "mean somethin' by it," and should not be given the benefit of the smallest imaginable doubt.

Left and Right are locked in a battle for the future of this country. If we are, as Abraham Lincoln said, "the last, best hope of Mankind," there can be no retreat and no surrender. But beyond that, we must never ever shy back from calling the enemy what he is, for a refusal to label is indistinguishable from the refusal to see...and to judge.

The enemy's motives are not good ones. He's either a congregant in "a compact and unified church" (Eric Hoffer), or he's one of the prelates thereof. What he seeks is evil and must not be accommodated to the least extent; therefore, there must be no truce, and no "negotiated settlement." If, after we have won, we should elect to pardon him, it must be on the wariest of terms, for such persons seldom repent and reform in this life. Given an opening, they will return -- and the memory of their earlier defeat will sharpen and intensify their resolve.

I have no idea whether the oft-heard conviction that sex offenders never reform is factually accurate. Yet that is the model to follow: once a totalitarian, always a totalitarian. The root of the thing hardly matters: Communism, Nazism, Islam, Enviro-Fascism, what have you. They all embrace the totalitarian ideal; indeed, without it they would hardly have gained the purchase on our public institutions they have today.

Do not contemplate compromising with them.
Do not imagine that they can be satisfied.
Do not concede their integrity.
Do not trust them.

And keep your powder dry. I fear that we'll all soon need to use it.

Dudley Do-Right didn’t.

The U.S. is a total failure at rewiring the Islamic world, the impossible dream of disastrous wars and other interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, "the Middle East peace process" and elsewhere. Now, with predictably tragic consequences, we're about to do it again.[1]
But we meant well, and, besides, we’re Americans. Sorry about Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and Somalia.

On to Russia.

[1]  "When Lawmakers Forget the American Interest." By Diana West, 9/19/14.


President Clinton himself admitted to his wife’s odd Eleanor Roosevelt conversations in 2012 during a speech:
A special thanks to the members of the Roosevelt family who are here. And the one who is not, Eleanor, who made sure that the four freedoms were included in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. I know that because, as all of you famously learned when I served as president, my wife, now the secretary of state, was known to commune with Eleanor on a regular basis. And so she called me last night on her way home from Peru to remind me to say that. That Eleanor had talked to her and reminded her that I should say that.[1]
Condescending secularists sniff about the irrationality of the religious. No "talking snakes" for them. Or attacks on people who don’t believe what they believe, that Christian trademark. Nothing like that. No. They are secular -- and leftist for the most part -- and rationality is what they live by.

Some pretty odd things are believed by people of faith, it’s true, but I wonder what Bill Maher has to say about Ms. Clinton’s "communing" with two dead people (Eleanor and Mahatma). Or about the socialist cornucopia that leftists always expect to find behind just one more statute, rule, Executive Order, or policy tweak. Or "welfare" spending that does everything but advance the welfare of the recipient and her community.

Or raising the minimum wage. Some people who have actually studied this issue know that if you raise the price of an input, people (e.g., employers) buy less of it. But this is not an item in the catechism of the secularists, whom we know are rational to the last rank. In what passes for rationality in Left World, when you raise the price of steak or insurance, people will continue to buy the same amount of steak or insurance as ever before. And not seek a cheaper alternative.

Or the idea that 500 Somalis moving into your neighborhood represents an improvement in your life.[2]

Lord knows what makes leftism such a potent force in modern life. The lies that are spoken to support it and extend it have reached a crescendo in our times and might as well be taken as a catechism for a pseudo religion.

"In the beginning was The Far Right."

Why else defend lies with such energy? The hard core left is now running Sweden and is not shy about association with thugs. It punishes any deviation from bedrock immigration and multicultural theology, lacking only, for now, the power of arrest. But it's only just slightly out in front of the rest of Europe and the U.S.

A focus on free speech would help us navigate through our factional shoals. The West used to value unfettered speech and inquiry but the investment the left has in lies is too great, so honest, vigorous debate is probably out of the question. So, it's not about the truth but about a street fight.

Hillary was right. There is only the fight.[3]

[1]  "10 Weird Things You Didn't Know About Hillary." By Ben Shapiro, Breitbart, 9/22/14
[2]  The emphasis being on "your" in this sentence.
[3]  H/t: Underdogman.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lost...And Found? A Belated Rumination

James Pinkerton has a seven-year-old essay at The American Conservative that I blush to have overlooked before this:

In one of the great epics of Western literature, the hero, confronted by numerous and powerful enemies, temporarily gives in to weakness and self-pity. “I wish,” he sighs, “none of this had happened.” The hero’s wise adviser responds, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” The old man continues, “There are other forces at work in this world … besides the will of evil.” Some events, he adds, are “meant” to be, “And that is an encouraging thought.”

Indeed it is. Perhaps, today, we are meant to live in these times. Perhaps right here, right now, we are meant to be tested. Maybe we are meant to have faith that other forces are at work in this world, that we are meant to rediscover our strength and our survival skills.

And so the question: can we, the people of the West, be brought to failure despite our enormous cultural and spiritual legacy? Three thousand years of history look down upon us: does this generation wish to be remembered for not having had the strength to look danger squarely in the eye? For having failed to harness our latent strength in our own defense?

With apologies to the frankenfood-fearers and polar bear-sentimentalizers, the biggest danger we face is the Clash of Civilizations, especially as we rub against the “bloody borders” of Islam.

Please, please read the whole thing. (If you regard fighting your way to the end of one of my essays is wearying, you'll find this experience either terminally exhausting or exhilarating.) Pinkerton fearlessly zeroes in on what the Western world lost -- in many cases, willingly -- when it surrendered the ancient title of Christendom.

I once wrote:

For nearly two centuries, America was seen as Olympus come to Earth: the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. For a century it was a nation of heroes, envied by all the other peoples of the world, upon which they automatically called in their darkest hours. That's an image of ourselves that should rouse all but the terminally comatose from their torpor.

The present generation of Americans may be only half-salvageable. Cravenness is dispelled only under unforeseen trial. Miseducation is harder to overcome than ignorance. The forces that call for surrender to the intolerable, that march under the banner of relativism and accommodation, are mighty. From their perches in academe and the media, they've done gruesome damage to the history and self-regard of our nation. But that's no reason to despair. It's certainly no reason not to raise our own banners and march.

We must put away venality and rediscover our just pride.
We must proclaim a gospel of responsible individual liberty, and hold strictly to it.
We must demand absolute fidelity to promises from our public officials.
We must purge our laws, our language, and our thoughts of much nonsense that entangles them.
We must cease to grant any respect to the demands of the Fakers and Takers; they must be recognized once more as parasites and objects of charity.
We must learn to discriminate between the unconscious and the conscious followers of Cthulhu and Allah. The former must be either enlightened or neutralized; the latter must be defeated by any means expedient. In no case may they be accommodated.

These are the weapons with which we can defeat Cthulhu, Allah, and the seemingly irresistible tides of demography, and reclaim our heroism.

"Olympus come to Earth" was a long-pondered choice for this Catholic; it was more evocative of the sentiments I wanted to stir than "Heaven come to Earth" would have been. The "gods" of classical mythology weren't divine in the sense appropriate to a Christian or Jewish believer; they were depicted more like very powerful humans who held themselves to be "above" the laws that govern the rest of us. When they were bad, they were very, very bad; when they were good...well, that wasn't often.

Brave, principled men who are willing to put "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" on the line for the values they hold dear are Olympian in stature. However, they are Christian in character. That is, they bind themselves to the moral laws enunciated by the greatest Lawgiver that could ever be:

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]
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.]

A land that hews straitly and explicitly to those laws may justly call itself Christendom: a land ruled, ultimately, by Christ. A land that sets them aside, whether out of negligence or in search of some other advantage, may not.

There's been a resurgence of popular interest in the "traditional" Christian sects in recent years, most notably in Catholicism. It's not large enough to be called anything as dramatic as a movement or a renaissance, but it's happening. Significant numbers of teens and young adults, blessed by not having received formal religious "instruction," are discovering the immense value in Christianity, and embracing it as what it is and should always have been: a revelation of joy rather than an indoctrination in dreary renunciations and obligations.

In On Broken Wings, I had Louis Redmond, far and away my most popular character, put it this way:

    "What has the typical response to indoctrination been, Father? What percentage of the children that have passed through parochial schools remain communicants as adults? Do we really need any other explanation for why the schools are closing down at such a rate?"
    The priest grinned without humor. "Don't you think the property tax situation might have had something to do with it, Louis? To say nothing of the problems the Church has had with zoning boards all over the country?"
    Louis shook his head. "That's nothing new. The American Church has faced those forces for three centuries. It's only in the last fifty years that our numbers have diminished this way. And we're mostly to blame for it."
    He scowled. "It was always a mistake, you know. Religion isn't for children, and to impose it on them by force has never been to anyone's greater good. As society has secularized, the resentments over that practice have been free to come out into the open. Is the Church better off for all these claims of the physical and emotional abuse of children by priests and nuns, even if every last one of them were eventually disproved? Are Catholics better off?"

Should the trend continue, the social gains will accumulate over time.

This has its hazards, of course. Far too many priests and ministers are prone to preaching their own preferences rather than the truths set down in the Gospels. Christ's dictates, as we can see from the citations from the Gospel According to Matthew, are few and simple. His yoke really is easy; His burden really is light. He forbade very few things; all that lies beyond His Commandments is within Man's free choice, subject only to the constraint that it not be put to use oppressing, defrauding, or wounding others.

Ironically, one of the best evidences is the redoubled fury of militant atheists and other anti-Christian forces, which see their hard-won gains among young Americans slipping from their grip. But those gains stemmed primarily from the antihedonic, hairshirted teachings of so many priests and ministers: the harping on renunciation and self-denial, even unto the point of self-mortification. Glory be to God! If our lives and their potentials are His gifts, how could it possibly be His command that we deny ourselves the pleasures of existence, or refuse to prosper, or make ourselves miserable with privation and pain amidst the innumerable bounties of the world? Does it really take a Certified Galactic Intellect to see this, or have you just been waiting for someone like me to bellow it at you?

As clerics steadily (albeit somewhat grudgingly) replace their hairshirted preachments with the words of the Redeemer and the militant atheists are revealed as the hypocrites they are, Christendom is creeping back. The seven Christian virtues:

  • Faith: To hold fast to that which is true despite inability to prove it mathematically;
  • Hope: To stand fast upon one's principles in the belief that deliverance is possible;
  • Charity: The active concern for others that springs from sympathetic personal connection;
  • Prudence: Sober consideration among alternatives in place of impulsiveness;
  • Justice: To defend what is right, and not to demand what is not;
  • Temperance: The exercise of restraint in the face of "too much;"
  • Fortitude: Courage and perseverance in the face of obstacles and trials.

...are being rediscovered and reinvigorated. And young Americans are finding something two generations of naysayers canted was a fraud and a delusion: the peace of Christ.

An enticing neologism occurred to me a few minutes ago: hypocrats. It's not a word you'll find in any dictionary, at least not yet. I would use it to refer to those who would rule you through lies. That's a population of which there seems no shortage.

Hypocrats in politics are obviously many. Indeed, most professional pols are plainly willing to say or do anything rather than let their prestige, power, or perquisites be taken from them. The man of Christian conscience who enters the political arena soon finds that there is little welcome there for statements of principle: i.e., statements about absolute right and wrong. If his "colleagues" don't manage to bend him and compel him to compromise, they're likely to ostracize him or drive him out.

But these are merely the most visible hypocrats. Many "activists" are of similar character. Though a goodly number of allegiants to false causes such as "global warming / climate change / climate disruption" are sincere believers, their leaders are not, as is made evident by the ways they conduct their personal affairs. (Michael Loftus's exposition captured just below makes a rather pointed point about that.) A "leader" who doesn't believe in the cause he purports to "lead" is almost always focused on power, wealth, or both.

The third group I have in mind this morning is the cult of relativism. "All is relative," the relativists ceaselessly proclaim. "No religion / standard / ideology / morality / culture / creed is superior to any other. Each has its own validity." These, can be detected by their expressed preferences, verbally and behaviorally. What's most important is their open hostility toward the Christian-Enlightenment standard of absolute right and wrong: the barrier they've largely battered down to make room for the dissolute and bloodthirsty alternatives of Cthulhu and Allah.

A standard of any sort is where one makes one's stand. Relativism is an attempt to seduce Christians away from their stand: the cluster of compelling truths we've made our own and should defend to the death. Note how many militant atheists are relativists, and vice-versa. Note how they deride us for our inability to prove the existence of God, when they have no greater capability to disprove it. Note how they insist that Christianity -- to be fair, they usually say "religion," but in practice the only one they ever assail is Christianity -- "is valueless," or "has never done anything for the world," in blatant contradiction of actual history (which they ceaselessly strain to obscure or rewrite). And note how they preen themselves on being "smarter" than us believers, when their pretensions are without any foundation.

All these persons want to rule you: i.e., to get you to do what they want, as opposed to what you might prefer and what would benefit you personally. And they do it through lies.

Hmm. Maybe hypocrat will find its way into the dictionaries after all.

I'll give the closing thought to the Pinkerton essay:

We in the West will always need warriors. We must have chevaliers sans peur et sans reproche—“Knights without fear and without reproach”—to safeguard our marches and protect our homes. Men such as Leonidas, whose Immortal 300 held off the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC, long enough for other Greeks to rally and save the nascent West. Or Aetius, the last noble Roman, who defeated Attila the Hun, Scourge of God, at Chalons in AD 451. Or Don Juan of Austria, who led the Holy League to naval victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571. Or Jon Sobieski, whose Polish cavalry rescued Vienna from the Turks in 1683.

These are not just legends, not just fictional characters—they were real. And if we dutifully honor those heroes, as heroic Men of the West and of Christendom, we will be rewarded with more such heroic men.

Future epics await us. Future Knights of the West, ready to defend Christendom, are waiting to be born, waiting for the call of duty. If we bring them forth with faith and wisdom and confidence, then also will come new heroes and new legends.

Maybe it was meant to be. And that is an encouraging thought.

May God bless and keep you all!

Pearls of Expression.

Of the Deliberately Inept Party [GOP]:
"We don't know what we are, but we are not them" is as failed an election strategy as I can imagine.
Comment by Schmutzli on "Democrats Unfazed." By Karin McQuillan, American Thinker, 9/22/14.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. – George Orwell, 1984

I’m one. I know quite a few, most of them serious enough about their faith to (at least) go to Mass regularly and avoid such peccadilloes as murder, rape, kidnapping, theft, adultery – when someone else might find out, anyway – false witness, and conspicuous envy. But quite a number of us are torn about various Church teachings. Whether privately or openly, we hold that about some things, Church teaching is flatly wrong. That gets us into all sorts of hot water with other, rigidly orthodox Catholics, who reflexively say things such as “You can’t be a Catholic if you think that.”

A lot of trouble has stemmed from such clashes. A certain German pastor by the name of Martin Luther could tell you all about it.

This piece from my beloved Adrienne pointed me toward a conflict that’s bound to become more acrimonious over time:

New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has defended his decision to accept the presence of a homosexual group in the St. Patrick’s day parade, in a column for his archdiocesan newspaper....

Although homosexual actions are sinful, the cardinal said, a homosexual inclination is not. Therefore, insofar as the group involved in the parade was advertising its inclinations rather than actions, he saw no reason to step down from his honorary post as Grand Marshall of the parade.

This is consistent with current Church teaching. Is the Church’s teaching on this subject correct? I’m hardly the one to say so; besides, I have serious doubts about some of its related policy decisions. However, the acrimony isn’t concerned with the correctness of the teaching, but with the willingness of some to differ and of others to castigate them for doing so.

Some of the fire emanates from Elizabeth Scalia, also known as “The Anchoress.” Let it be known that Liz is capable of being as acerbic as anyone, and like all of us occasionally lets fly when it would be better to disagree politely, if not silently. The fusillades are setting Catholics against one another and making us look bad to Christians of other denominations.

What hope is there for a Great Ingathering of the followers of Christ – the aim of ecumenism – if we can’t disagree politely with one another on a subject such as this? Though there’s a zone of “core theology” where disagreement with the Holy See is massively unwise – and note that every Pope has confined his assertions of infallibility to theological matters – outside that zone Church teaching is tentative and temporal.

For example, it was once doctrine that all games played with cards, dice, or men on a board are inherently mortally sinful. That included chess...yet the World Junior Champion of chess was once a certain Father William Lombardy, who went on to become a superior grandmaster and played for the United States in at least one Olympiad. It was also once doctrine that anything except vaginal intercourse, even between man and wife, is inherently mortally sinful. And if you’re at all educated about medieval European history, I hardly need to tell you the embarrassments the Church suffered over the sale of indulgences.

This matter of persons self-identified as homosexuals marching in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade, which despite its affiliation with the Church is no rite thereof, is well outside the theological zone. It’s acceptable to disagree with the parade organizers’ decision...but entirely unacceptable to viciously castigate other Catholics for disagreeing. They who spew venom at their fellows in Christ over such a subject are doing the Church great harm.

There have been several prominent commentators on the Catholic Church and Christianity in general who’ve indulged themselves in such a vicious fashion, over this subject and others. You’d almost think they wanted a fresh set of schisms, to “purge” the Bride of Christ of “evil dissenters.” Perhaps they do; they might well view it as a club, membership in which becomes ever more prestigious as its numbers dwindle. That, to be maximally gentle about it, is not the case.

Glory be to God, people! Where is your Christian charity? Do you really think the subject justifies such open malice toward those who disagree with you? Do you think any pope in living memory would sanction it – or join in it?

Is homosexuality a terrible affliction? Yes, of course. Opinion is divided about its genesis, its reversibility, and the extent to which the Church should tolerate it. But even those who condemn it most thunderously as a sinful choice have no warrant for castigating or belittling their fellows in Christ for disagreeing. Equally so, those who believe that the Church is correct in admitting persons of avowed homosexual inclinations to its services and its seminaries have no warrant to rain fury upon those who insist that homosexuals should be excluded. It’s a rejection of Christ’s mandate to love one another, regardless of which way your opinions incline.

Cease to carve divisions among us that are in no way necessary, fellow Catholics. Be Christian in word, deed, and spirit as well as in your weekly offering envelopes. Please.

It’s only a movie . . . .

Now, however, Obama is rejecting cooperation with Damascus – the only realist course with any chance of success – and is relying on a “fantasy” scenario to create some boots on the ground. No lessons have been drawn from Libya’s collapse into bloody anarchy, or from the failure of America’s decade-long effort to train and equip the Iraqi army, which disintegrated when faced with the IS three months ago. Such fiascos notwithstanding, Obama wants to build up a Syrian rebel force as one of the pillars of his strategy . . . .[1]
It’s hard to believe that this man is calling the shots in American foreign policy. He actually can look at Libya and Iraq and tell himself, "This time it will be different. No unpleasant and unforeseen outcomes are possible." On what he bases this belief, we are not told. The Middle East is in flames, and years of military effort and ruinous expense in Iraq and Afghanistan are for naught. And yet you'll search his speech in vain for evidence of his understanding of that.

The dead giveaway of impending U.S. policy failure is the invocation of phrases such as:

  • "we stand with people who fight for their own freedom" (especially if it’s freedom from infidels),
  • "common security," (not including the Arizona border and Southside Chicago),
  • "common humanity" (Lee Rigby not available for comment),
  • "bipartisan support" (as clueless as it ever is),
  • "steady, relentless effort" (feckless dabbling),
  • "seize the future" (sort of a commie thing),
  • "American leadership" (confidence builder!),
  • "mobilize the world" (it hangs on your every teleprompted word, Barry),
  • "the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future" (and our constitutional order, free markets and free speech),
  • "an enduring burden" (like your leadership),
  • "our responsibility to lead" (Russia and China a sus ordenes),
  • "stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity" (but just "stand for"),
  • "solve ________’s crisis once and for all" (Ghost Busters),
  • "partner forces on the ground" (and unicorns),
  • "inclusive government" (always include your enemies),
  • "broad coalition" (of three),
  • "roll back" (scold),
  • "drawing down our forces" (cutting our losses on last addle-brained venture),
  • "targeted" (randomly killed), and
  • "eliminated" (like Gaddafi).

The gem "a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy" – uttered with a straight face – left out only the words at the end, "except where Muslims are involved."

In point of fact, ANY strategy that does not face full on that Islam itself is the catalyst for the carnage we see in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. We’ll squander yet more blood and treasure until Muslims are removed from Western countries and medieval Muslim states are quarantined and denied access to financial and other resources based only on a fortuitous control of oil. Until then there will be no end to Islamic terror and bullshit, no matter how many nitwits wet their pants over such necessary and unavoidable measures.

Well so much for our intelligent commentary. Mr. Trifkovic deconstructs the whole absurd Obama speech on ISIS. It’s a speech that’s more suited to the pages of The Onion than to a major political address by a sitting American president. But we got the latter and God only knows what the next catastrophe will look like. ISIS is the direct result of our involvement in Iraq and precipitous withdrawal. As a glimpse into the future, it’s as good as any.

[1]   "Obama’s “Strategy” and the Ensuing Non-Coalition." By Srdja Trifkovic, Chronicles, 9/17/14.