Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Problem According to Proverb 21

This is written in the spirit of truth – not intended to be an attack, but instead an honest assessment of our current President.  This has been attempted in many books and movies, and multiple theories abound about Barrack Obama.  This came to me as I was reading Proverbs 21 .  These thoughts are further tempered by thirty-five years as a soldier, a social scientist by degrees, and a Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit.  That said, I really hope I’m wrong.

First and foremost, it seems he is a False Witness.  Christianity, which he professes to be an adherent of, has a founder who was unapologetic.  Jesus said of Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.” Thus a faithful witness would say, “Apart from Jesus Christ there is no hope.”  He would lovingly explain Islam is a false religion and, “Allah is not the God of Abraham, Isaac AND Jacob.”  He doesn’t.  A False Witness would promote covetousness, division, homosexual marriage, and abortion, Obama does.

Obama does not appear to respect the “common man.”  The plans of the diligent lead to profit -- but Obama mocks this principle of Proverbs.  Both by saying, “You didn’t build that” and if Obama realizes you did, then “it’s not fair” that you have it.   The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.  He habitually sets up straw men by mischaracterizing the upright’s positions, and then attacks their character by assaulting the very same straw man he fallaciously devised. 

A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor.   His credentials of “community organizer” were established by commencing class-warfare on unsuspecting citizens.   He has gained his power primarily by persuading the uninformed and the ungodly to vote for him.  His principal tactic is to demonize his opposition and to promise he is different.  And different he is --he is worse.

When justice is done it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.  Obama has completely perverted this principle.  In Obama’s America, the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor found themselves facing a hostile US Government -- demanding they provide drugs that induce abortions to their employees, in the name of health care no less.  With Obama in power, law-abiding Americans legitimately fear he’ll try and take their guns away; all the while arming the Muslim Brotherhood.  Obama makes deals with communist dictators and is feckless against rogue nations.  His red lines for our enemies are drawn with invisible ink; our government, now $18,000,000,000,000.00 in debt, is underwater in red ink.  

Obama is a tyrant of the worst kind; he hounds the people who he knows will play by the rules, and then gets in bed with the coyotes.  He mocks those who cling to the one true God, their God-given rights and their guns.  He hides behind the Secret Service, the police, and the military, never having dreamt of one day growing up and joining their honorable ranks but instead alternately denigrating them or rendering their sacrifices irrelevant.  His “executive actions” undermine the rule of law and his incessant indictment of the enforcers’ intentions undermines their efforts to bring order out of anarchy.  

Finally, he is incapable and afraid of unleashing the dogs of war, even as he dribbles in drones on select locales.  He won’t let the dogs out to deal with the real evildoers the way that they, and the world, would understand and respect.    Obama entreats evildoers to obey leash laws, while at the same time he domesticates and devastates our nation’s watch dogs with social engineering and decreasing the pack to pre-WW II levels.  Of course when the evildoers are off the chain, ignoring Obama’s invisible red lines (they're evildoers after all), he stands ready to send in his emasculated and military to combat Ebola.   

So what do I consider to be the heart of the problem?  Primarily, that Obama lacked a father to help him become a man -- a father that loved him enough to whack him when he needed it, to model a manly demeanor, a man to teach him how the real world works.   I’ve known more than a few Drill Sergeants that could have helped him overcome this Dad deficiency.  Those like Jeremiah Wright, Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, and Al Sharpton can’t cut it.  The problem now - people like Putin and those in Pyongyang have concluded our President is a punk.  In the meantime, we can only pray our President will meet the Father to the fatherless, the One whom the Son said He is one with and the only way to.  There’s hope.  In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water.

The Cop Conundrum

What with Ferguson, Eric Garner, and the assassinations of Liu and Ramos, we’ve certainly heard enough about the police this year...or have we?

There’s a problem here. We don’t really know, objectively, about the quality of America’s police forces or whether they use their authority generally within the parameters of the law. It’s becoming one of the most discussed subjects in the Commentariat, though the typical opinion-monger seems reluctant to come down firmly on one side or the other. Consider the following statement from our favorite Graybeard:

“On balance, though, I come down with the guys who say that most cops are not bad cops...”

Graybeard may be right, but he may be wrong – and there are institutional barriers that prevent anyone outside them from knowing which position is more accurate.

What is a policeman, in the American context of our time? He’s a municipal or state employee, protected by a powerful union and laws akin to those that protect civilian Civil Service employees, and effectively answerable only to his superiors in the police hierarchy. He’s been granted certain legal privileges – already we’re in murky waters – and a default presumption of justification regarding his uses of coercive force. He may have had some training in police procedure and the restrictions on his activities, though the smaller the district and its police force, the less certain that will be.

What does this policeman do? More to the point:

  • What must he do?
  • What may he do?
  • What must he not do?
...ex officio?

The “must” part has grown very slender. Recent Supreme Court decisions have decreed that, regardless of the prevalent conceptions, the police have no “duty to protect” and no “duty to intervene.” If you deem yourself to be in danger, the problem is yours, even if the police agree with your assessment. You can be in the midst of an actual criminal victimization, yet the police have no duty to intervene to stop it or to protect you, even if they can see it happening before their own eyes.

The “may” part has become very broad. For example, numerous court decisions have ruled that all a policeman needs to detain you is “reasonable suspicion” that you are or have been involved in a crime. What constitutes “reasonable suspicion” has proved remarkably flexible. A cop who wants to search your car can simply say “I smell marijuana,” and suddenly the most invasive imaginable search is “reasonable,” no matter what his original reason was for detaining you. Regardless of any and all circumstances, you are not allowed to refuse his “lawful order” – yet another serious departure from American norms.

The “must not” part has effectively vanished. State and local police forces have become quasi-military bodies. They’ve been equipped with large amounts of military-grade hardware that no private citizen would be permitted to own. They frequently stage violent intrusions and “no-knock” raids on private institutions and private homes. Most of the time, they have court authorizations for those activities...but often on suppositions that later prove to have been wrong, or based on testimony or “evidence” that was convenient but fictitious. Despite all that, courts have ruled that persons subjected to such treatment do not have a right to resist it – that any violence committed in the process of resistance will be held against the citizen, not the police.

To these eyes, it would appear that the incentives pertaining to police and policing have headed in the wrong direction, and are rather far down the road at that.

The incentives of power dictate that over time, power-positions will be filled by an increasing percentage of persons who love power more than all other things. The test of power resides in its use; if you’re not using it, you can’t be certain you possess it. That would suggest that, in the two centuries since the formation of municipal police forces, the percentage of persons in police forces who are there because they love power rather than justice or public service has risen steadily.

Still, even though incentives are important, justice demands that we address the actual behavior of American police. We cannot assume that because the incentives are perverse, therefore the typical cop is merely a thug with a badge. The problem here is that without the cooperation of governmental sources, including police departments, that have a natural interest in keeping us outside their walls, determining the justice and appropriateness of police behavior is next to impossible.

For example, we are told, though not by official sources, that 1089 civilians died at police hands during 2014. Semi-official sources tell us that from 2004 through 2013, an average of 55 policemen were killed each year in the performance of their duties. The ratio might be meaningful, but stripped of context we can’t be sure. Who was doing what to whom (and why) at the time of the death in question? Such details aren’t always available...and when they are, they’re seldom complete or ironclad.

The judicial system is also involved. Consider a “no-knock” raid in which one of the occupants of the house is killed by the police...but it later emerges that the police raided the wrong house. Exactly such things have happened in recent years. Were the intruders not police, that would constitute felony murder by the plain words of the law. However, cops are almost never held to account for such events. Judicial deference to the police is seldom punctured.

All that having been said, there are surely some cops who aren’t merely thugs with badges, just as there are surely some who are that and nothing else. Our problems include both detoxifying the incentives toward thuggish behavior under color of police authority and protecting good cops from being lumped in with their not-good colleagues in blue.

Much police misbehavior stems from bad law: the unConstitutional firearms laws, the anti-drug laws, and the many “laws” that prohibit or restrict various kinds of peaceful commerce. In such cases, it’s easy to dismiss the matter by saying the cops are “only doing their jobs.” In point of fact, police discretion is usually involved to a considerable extent. It’s almost always exercised in a fashion that favors authority...and those persons favored by the police and officialdom.

An example: Where I live, a permit is required to operate a roadside coffee truck. Also, sanitary codes apply to such trucks. Most operators stake out specific spots on particular thoroughfares. Over time, they become known to the police. Relationships develop. Some such operators are conceded something akin to property rights over the spots they habitually occupy. The police then harass others who might stake out positions they deem “too close” to their favored operators, repeatedly (sometimes several times a day) demanding to see permits, conducting “inspections,” and generally making it plainly visible to potential customers that this operator is “on the outs” with the police.

There is nothing even remotely legal about this. Yet it has become commonplace on Long Island. That a number of coffee-truck operators have family ties to the police is surely not a coincidence.

Bad laws create and intensify the incentives to bad behavior. That includes bad police behavior.

The problem is stiff. Americans are generally disposed to believe that much of the above is unavoidable, perhaps even desirable. The rise in allegations of police misbehavior has caused rancor and tumult, but is unlikely to bring about substantial legal, judicial, or procedural changes. No outcome is certain, but the probabilities incline in the direction of an intensification of the “us versus them” attitude about the police that’s become prevalent on both sides of the “blue wall.”

There is no Last Graf. Be watchful, and wary about developments in your locale. Record any suspicious incidents in as much detail as possible. Get to know the cops who regularly appear in your neighborhood personally; personal relationships are one of the few deterrents to abuse available to the private citizen. And stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Perils Of Op-Ed: An End-Of-Year Reflection

As I’ve been doing this since 1997, you might think I’ve had both the time and the inclination to ask myself “What the BLEEP! are you doing, moron?” at least once since then. And yes, I have, on occasion, wondered why putting these pieces out as regularly as I usually do is important enough to me to spend an average of an hour and a half each day writing and posting them.

The matter becomes especially puzzling when I find myself with little or nothing to subjects of compelling interest uppermost in my thoughts.

Well, we all have our little foibles. Among mine is a need to say those things that, in my sometimes exclusive opinion, need to be said but aren’t being said by others. It’s equal parts a belief in my own powers of expression and a commitment to Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

(Excuse me? No, I don’t wear that any more. The tights no longer fit, and capes have been out of style for decades. Besides, ever since that encounter with gold kryptonite...oh, never mind.)

Still, it’s healthful to ask oneself “Why am I doing this?” about everything one does, at least now and then, and to ponder the soundness of the answers. Especially this business of opinion-mongering. Who’s listening? What effect am I having on him? Am I happy about that effect? Would I change it if I could, and if so, how?

In case you’re curious, Liberty’s Torch, like Eternity Road before it, on average welcomes about 300 readers per day. That’s an estimate rather than a measurement, as it’s founded on Blogger’s “page load” counter and a typical ratio of about 3.3 page loads to one unique visitor. It’s not a particularly large readership, but if the comments that arrive here are any guide, it’s a passionate one. I appreciate it greatly, am pleased to have it, and will happily feed it prose until I become physically, mentally, or emotionally unable to continue.

In part, I do this for you, Gentle Reader. But only in part.

Not long ago, in my little non-fiction book An Indie Writer’s Odyssey, I wrote:

Cruising SmashWords for reading material—hey, I can’t spend all my time writing these sententious pieces—I’ve noted about two dozen writers who’ve described themselves as “best-selling.” Inasmuch as I read four or five books per week and I’d never heard of any of them before, it occurred to me that others might find this appellation as mysterious as “award-winning,” and as worthy of explication.

Many, many periodicals maintain “best-seller lists.” Which organ you read will determine which of them you’re familiar with. New Yorkers tend to think of the New York Times and the list that appears in its Sunday Book Review section, and indeed, for a considerable spate of years I was unaware that other “best-seller lists” existed anywhere. But there are many; pick up the regional dailies from other cities and you’ll find one in each—and the books listed there aren’t guaranteed to match those listed in the Times.

It’s legitimate, albeit barely, to deem oneself a “best-selling writer” if one has ever-so-briefly occupied the #20 slot on the best-seller list of the Rat’s-Ass, Nebraska Rumor and Stink: circulation 23, motto: “Road Kill Pics Page One Above-The-Fold.” After all, the Rumor and Stink—a fine publication, really; their coverage of homosexual necrophiliac bestiality scandals is unequaled by any periodical outside Zimbabwe—has a perfect right to publish whatever sort of nonsense it deems “newsworthy,” guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of these United States. But to grasp the full significance of being one of the R&S’s “best-selling writers” requires a bit more information:

  • How is the list composed? Does the publication solicit sales figures nationally, regionally, or only from very local sellers? Does it include books sold over the Internet, and books distributed in electronic form? Does it even bother with sales figures? “Best-selling” doesn’t have to mean “Most-selling.”
  • Does the list deliberately exclude certain categories of books? It’s been the case since Gutenberg that if all category restrictions are removed, the best-selling book is the Bible, and in places 2 though 10 are various cookbooks.
  • How often is the list updated? A list updated once per week will show results quite different from those of a list updated once per year—especially since most booksellers don’t keep sales figures around for that long.
  • Does the list have an agenda? That is, does it exist primarily to promote the works of certain writers, or of writers in the publication’s area of circulation? Does it exist to push works with a particular social, cultural, or political slant? Oftentimes these little qualifications won’t be mentioned even in the small print.

The relevance, just in case you’re wondering, is this: Writers of all sorts write to be read. We yearn to be read. Some among us would sell their children into slavery for a single week on the Times best-seller list. (I can’t: I don’t have any of my own, and the C.S.O. has steadfastly refused to “lend” me hers.) To be read is to receive confirmation that one has said something that others have found valuable, or at least temporarily diverting. That’s why so many of those SmashWords writers describe themselves as “best-selling,” whether honestly or not: by telling a potential reader that many others have read their works, they’re hoping to induce him to join that “multitude.”

The genesis is, of course, a desire for significance: importance to others. Everyone wants to be significant to others, even if negatively so. Why do you think serial killers put so much effort into what they do?

Most of us who blather on the Web don’t get anything for it. I certainly don’t. But then, I would reject an offer of compensation, for a simple reason: He who pays the piper calls the tune. The moment my incentives are altered by accepting money for my opinions, I’ll start to think about what might affect those payments. As long as I do this entirely because I want to do it, I’ll be free to say what I damned well please.

(By the way, note how this contrasts with my perfect willingness to accept payment for my fiction. That’s entertainment, a wholly different business.)

But the perils of op-ed don’t begin and end with keeping the paychecks (if any) coming. Indeed, that might not be the worst of them. There’s a constant temptation to ask oneself “What do my readers want me to say?”

If you succumb to the lure of telling people, however defined, what you think they want to hear, how can you claim to be of any importance to them? You’re pandering: feeding their opinions back to them, whether out of a hope for approbation or fear of negative feedback. Indeed, it’s worse than that: in suppressing your own sincere convictions, you’re doing your readers a disservice, by denying them the possibility of learning something from you, even if it’s only how passionate they are about their own convictions.

I’ve said some massively unpopular things in my years writing for the Web. The feedback has cost me a couple of friends. It’s occasionally blown me (temporarily) out of pixels. But in retrospect I don’t regret a word of it...and I’ve learned how important it is not to let such feedback throw me off my stride.

Either you honestly believe what you’ve written and have written it for that reason above all others, or you’re deceiving your readers in search of some extrinsic reward. There is no middle ground.

All that having been said, no matter what one says, one is always telling someone what he wants to hear. That’s another of the perils of op-ed: overvaluing the positive responses to one’s words.

Consider these two pieces:

I shan’t dispute those writers’ assertions, nor shall I question the sincerity of their convictions. Yet ponder this: they’re telling some fraction of their readerships what they want to hear. How large is that fraction, and how important is it to those writers that they continue to receive approbation from it? Imagine that at some later time, evidence is presented to them that causes them to question the accuracy or the validity of their previous statements. Would they react honestly, or would they succumb to the temptation to wave it aside without a rigorous examination and evaluation?

In our time you cannot avoid telling some what they want to hear, and others the exact opposite. If that matters to you more than the accuracy of your observations and the validity of your conclusions, you’re either pandering today or will pander tomorrow. In other words, you’ve abandoned honesty in favor of popularity.

Popularity matters most to pop stars and politicians. That’s not an outright condemnation of popularity. Ask Bill de Blasio how important it is to retain the approval of certain groups. Then ask yourself whether you’d be willing to sacrifice your personal integrity for popularity, as virtually every politician of our day seems to feel he must.

The Year of Our Lord 2015 is almost upon us. I intend to keep on as I’ve been doing. If you approve, fine. If not...fine! I receive nothing for my labors here, and I intend that it shall always be so. (Of course, it helps that I don’t need money, but...well, it does help.) What you read here will always reflect exactly what I believe – and that will be founded on what I think I know. If you believe I’m wrong, I’ll give you the opportunity to convince me, provided you can do so without insulting me or denigrating something I value.

As with insults and denigrations, so also with appeals to authority. I reject all such “arguments.” Anyway, a great many of them are fabrications. As Socrates said to Confucius during one of their televised debates, “Dude! Don’t go putting words in the mouths of historical figures.” (Confucius’s reply that “They don’t let you put stuff on the Internet that isn’t true!” was ruled out of bounds by moderator Zoroaster.)

There are many temptations in the world. Fortunately, I can resist those of op-ed. As for the others, Don’t Ask!

Happy New Year from your Curmudgeon Emeritus!

A look at Pope Francis.

Ah, but Francis in in fact the Anti-Benedict XVI, who had caused scandal by exalting Christianity, impregnated with Greek reason, the opposite of Islam. Benedict XVI recalled the principles of the Church, that undermined the compassionate pseudo-poverty-worship [lit. misérabilisme] spread by the media. Francis acts upon the compassionate pseudo-poverty-worship to enhance his popularity with the media. Benedict XVI recalled dogma in an age that rejects it. Francis tosses out dogma to please the age.
~ Eric Zemmour, French journalist.

"Eric Zemmour looks at the Pope." By Tiberge, Gallia Watch, 12/30/14.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Civility Watch

Say, remember being harangued about civility? About how important it is to respect the other guy’s point of view and restrict ourselves to courteous methods of disagreement? Most of that came from the Obamunists. It was especially concentrated around the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords by a creep who proved to be a deranged left-wing nut. If memory serves, it was aimed almost exclusively at those of us who dared to criticize the president or his covey of fellators. You know, at us “racists.”

Let’s have a quick survey of civility-relevant incidents of the past few days:

This one actually strikes me as positive:

Overnight, Queens' Park Rangers players observed a moment of silence on the pitch ahead of their English Premier League match against Crystal Palace in London. The team is chaired by AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes.

The folks on that AirAsia flight probably hadn’t done anything to deserve their demises. That a soccer club should take a moment over their deaths is a nice touch, regardless of whether the CEO of AirAsia runs the club.

But that’s only the first of the morning’s entries. This one should disturb anyone familiar with the famous New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square:

On New Year's Eve, as the clock winds down on 2014, the powers that be will hope to be ringing in a new year that carries forward business as usual. That must not be allowed to go down because business as usual in Amerikkka includes wanton police murder of Black people. The refusal of grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island to indict the cops who murdered Michael Brown and Eric Garner made this clear. So the powerful, beautiful and necessary outpourings that have disrupted this society's normal routine must continue and escalate on New Years Eve and into the New Year.

Kerry Picket at Breitbart adds:

The website urges protesters to bring signs, banners and whistles and links to the cities where New Years Eve celebrations should be crashed. New York, Houston, Los Angeles, New Haven, San Francisco, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Boston will endure a mass influx of anti-cop agitators.

Some protesters are already making threats for New Years Eve, according to The Gateway Pundit. One Twitter user declared: “F*ck 12 and u. PICK A sidE or die with em. #Ferguson #VonderritMyers Shawtown 211MOB New Years Eve Massacre Kill A Pig Night 12/31/2014.″

Just lovely...but perhaps not well thought out. New Yorkers have a very low tolerance for such things. City revelers are likely to greet such...protests in kind, if not worse. We shall see.

Let’s not neglect those lovable guys, the Muslims:

Three Muslim groups joined forces to organize a Saturday protest in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania invoking Koran scripture and the words of Malcolm X in announcing the “Muslims Mobilized Against Police Brutality” protest.

Muslim groups who coalesced to lead the protest charge were Muslim Wellness Foundation, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, and United Muslim Masjid, a south Philadelphia mosque.

Ferguson National Response Network also promoted the Saturday demonstration. The group has promoted hundreds of protests and has been connected to Ferguson Action which recently held a “Transition and Transform” mass meeting.

Aren’t Muslims just the neatest possible addition to our melting pot? Considering that they don’t melt and never intended to?

Meanwhile, Bill de Blasio, the very first openly socialist mayor of New York City, wants you to know that the problem isn’t his policies or his pronouncements, it’s the media’s cheek in daring to report on them:

“What are you guys gonna do? Are you gonna keep dividing us?” de Blasio demanded of reporters, angry at them for daring to report the ugly behavior of certain demonstrators. You can tell from his body language that de Blasio feels the wall pressing hard against his back. He needed a scapegoat, fast, and chose one of the few institutions less respected than he is at the moment. That might not have been a smart pick, as politicians often learn when picking fights with the folks who buy ink by the barrel and pixels by the gigabyte.

To me, it appears that de Blasio, who’s already lost the support of the police, the firemen, and the municipal-employees unions, has reloaded his revolver and blown off all the toes on his other foot. But what else could we have expected from a left-wing politico who openly tried to ban horse-drawn carriages from the city so one of his cronies could seize the real estate that hosts their stables for redevelopment?

Finally, no round of vituperation would be complete without a roundhouse swipe at law-abiding firearms owners:

What country fetishizes, lionizes, valorizes, idolizes, and sacralizes guns as much as does our United States? OK, possibly Mozambique — the only country with an AK47 on its flag, but really, it's long past time to end this obsessive "My Precious" attachment of Americans to instruments of death.

This morning of Dec. 25, 2014, of the nine top stories from US Reuters, six were about shootings — four new ones and two about the national movement against shootings of citizens by police. This pandemic of sick violence, punctuated by mass killings of children, has gone on far, far too long. It is long past time to repeal the stupid Second Amendment....

Repeal the Stupid Second Amendment. Surround it, grab it, bring it in the back room, pull down the shades, and end it. OK, petition for it, get it on the ballot, and get it done by enough of the US populace, by enough people in enough states, to get it consigned to the dustbin of history.

The author of this remarkably tone-deaf editorial, which implicitly argues for the outlawing of some 80 to 100 million law-abiding Americans, is “PeaceVoice Director and teaches in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University in Oregon.” He clearly has no knowledge of history...or no interest in the inevitable sequel to a mass disarming of a nation’s citizenry. Or perhaps he has plans for the aftermath; most leftists imagine themselves as commissars rather than serfs. Your Curmudgeon reports; you decide.

Well, that’s civility for you. Why be civil toward persons you’re utterly certain are either stupid or evil? Especially as their enthusiasms are the one and only firm control on a government creeping ever nearer to open totalitarianism?

Happy New Year, Gentle Reader. Myself, I’m off to the armory. The voices have told me it’s time to clean and oil all the guns.

The controlling fatal Western flaw.

And then there is the problem of the European welfare states: compared to a hundred years ago, today's Europe is a socialist continent: all the demands of the socialists of that time have been met. Yet socialist parties still exist, and succeed in convincing us that our current political and economic systems are still “capitalist” and that more state intervention is needed to “curb the excesses” of free enterprise. In other words: for socialists there is never enough socialism. Only when utopia is established, will socialists call the system “socialist”.

. . . Communism lures us with the prospect of a return to the garden of Eden, where people survive automatically, like animals, and their livelihood is provided for them by a benevolent God . . . .[1]

Mr. de Jong identifies yet another curious disconnect in current political speech – that the current political system is "capitalist." Never mind that every aspect of the economy is burdened by crushing taxes and suffocating regulations. For Westerners, it's still the Wild West, a rapacious free for all of brother against brother, bank against widow, landowner against sharecropper, and despoiler against the environment. This certainly applies to the U.S. although from this side of the Atlantic it seems a bit of a stretch to believe that Europeans still might think of their countries as capitalistic. De Jong surely is better informed.

The other disconnect I have in mind is the bizarre – and duplicitous – effort to paint National Socialism as "right-wing." For reasons I've mentioned before, that's ludicrous where the spectrum at issue is the one with total government on the left side and the total absence of government on the right.

Both conceptual disconnects are dishonest and deliberate attempts to conceal the nature of the left. Western nations are hopelessly socialist, regulated, controlled, and abused by government and the "right wing" in actual fact is the home of people devoted to limited government, free markets, the rule of law, freedom of speech and conscience, and voluntary association. The ideal "rightist" state is a far cry from the coercive police states uniformly desire by the left.

The second point by de Jong is most interesting – the state as a new benevolent God. It brings to mind P.J. O'Rourke's witticism that Democrats are like Santa Claus and Republicans are like, well, a fearsome God. Dems will deliver free stuff and Republicans will deliver condemnation, muesli for breakfast, and cold showers.

Even more interesting on this point is Gerry Neal's insight[2] that traditional English thinking had been that man is a fallen being from whose inevitable secular criminality the state existed to protect us. The church existed to aid man in dealing spiritually with his sinful nature. However, in the unfolding of the English Reformation, the Puritans rejected the limited thinking of state and church that neither could bring about paradise on earth, as only Christ Himself could do that upon his Second Coming.

The Puritans, however, saw state and church as corrupt institutions whose corruption showed them to be enemies of God. The Puritans, however, as the exalted Calvinist, perfected Elect, endeavored to order life according to a tendentiously literal interpretation of Scripture leading to out-of-control shining-city-on-a-hillism, the search for the perfect, uncorrupted earthly community.

You can see how De Jong's insight -- that communism holds itself out as being to provide for human needs in the manner of a benevolent God -- would appeal immensely to people enamored of the idea that traditional institutions are all that stand between mankind and earthly paradise. Please read for yourself Neal's take on who the heirs of the 17th-century Puritans are in America today.

There are no easy answers to why so many Westerners seem so grossly out of touch with the realities of an imperfect world. People who hate us and whose thinking is fundamentally at odds with our most basic values and institutions are hailed as brothers and as equals with no recognition whatsoever of all manner of contrary evidence.

Dealing with the cold realities of human existence is difficult under the best of circumstances and the human desire to find mental and spiritual refuge in fanciful doctrines and foolish assumptions about human nature and cultural and racial differences is understandable.

Alas, it appears to me that the desire of humans to avoid facing the plain and sometimes unpleasant facts of life is simply too strong. That powerful urge to seek false refuge can be seen most starkly in the complete absence of outrage or repulsion with respect to the 20th-century crimes of the left, so strong is the human desire to believe the socialist-progressive lies.

Only catastrophe -- Solzhenitsyn's pitiless crowbar of events, Ben Franklin's dear school, or the wrath of God -- appears likely to break through the armor plate of Western delusion.

[1] "Marxism Is Still Alive." By Nikolaas de Jong, The Brussels Journal, 12/24/14.
[2] "Puritanism, Theocracy, and Social Conservatism." By Gerry T. Neal, Throne, Alter, Liberty, 12/12/14.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Middle Of The Octave

Well, close enough, anyway...

1. Another missing aircraft.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the newly missing AirAsia flight out of Indonesia. This isn’t something to take lightly, as there are 162 people on board. Some of them might even be non-Muslims. But what comes to mind immediately is that this will be the top story on every news organ in the world until the fate of the plane is known.

Why is that significant? Because disasters involving aircraft have become so infrequent! Time was, you were guaranteed to read about a handful of air disasters every year. The usual crash or collision took hundreds of lives. (Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man had a point.) Yet today, even though commercial aircraft are, on average, far older than they were when they seemed to be falling from the sky as if pulled down by Godzilla, we hardly ever hear of an air disaster, at least one involving planes from Europe or the Western Hemisphere. That’s what makes them newsworthy events.

Compare and contrast with the media’s initial treatment of the Apollo 13 flight.

2. The Rafael Ramos funeral.

Yes, the cops really did turn their backs on New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. Moreover, he deserved it. But the most important aspect of the event is what it implies for the future of de Blasio’s term of office.

It’s been said that you cannot govern a city like New York without the support of the police. I would dispute that to some degree, as an American city tends to self-police to a high degree. However, the municipal unions are critical to maintaining a mayor’s control of the city administration...and the New York police, firemen, and non-uniformed municipal employees have powerful unions that tend to act in sympathy with one another. Should they decide that de Blasio is undeserving of their cooperation and support, he’ll become a “lame duck” well before the usual time.

3. Less news is...less news!

Derek Hunter’s column of today contains this statement:

Fox News serves an invaluable purpose, but aside from "Special Report with Bret Baier," there isn’t a whole lot of “news” happing there anymore.

But how much “news,” defined in the traditional fashion as reportage on recent events of general significance or interest, is there to be had from any media outlet? And if there isn’t much being reported, might the reason be that not much of general significance or interest is actually happening? And if not much is happening, wouldn’t that be, by the old maxim, a good rather than a bad thing?

Robert A. Heinlein once posited that the greater part of human neurosis can be traced to our unhealthful habit of wallowing in the troubles of billions of strangers. There’s a lot of truth in that. The remaining question is whether wallowing in the troubles of friends, family, and neighbors, as reported by local papers and shopping circulars, is any improvement.

4. How’s your shooting from a moving vehicle?

Dan Mitchell’s column of today on the use of red-light traffic cameras as revenue-generating instruments should raise a few hackles on freedom-minded folks. And of one thing we may be sure: what brings in revenue, the State, in all its evil glory, will never, ever abandon. (When was a tax last repealed in these United States?)

Here on Long Island, we have a comparable case: the use of automatic speed-measuring devices by Nassau County to generate revenue. County executive Ed Mangano, a Republican, wants to retain them, despite a unanimous vote by the county legislature that they be abolished. His reason? It would punch a hole in his budget.

Still feeing sanguine about the GOP’s takeover of Congress and so many state legislatures?

5. Test readers.

My thanks to those of you who have volunteered to be test readers for the first draft of Polymath. If I’ve missed any of you, shoot me a note at my Yahoo address and I’ll make sure you get a copy.

There’s no “deadline,” as my cover artist is badly backed up at the moment. However, sooner is always better than later. And thanks again.

Failed execution.

Read this article and watch the video above, which is the same one found at the link.

The video shows an ambush on August 29, 2013, of an Oregon State Trooper that went wrong. For the ambusher.

The way the attacker set up his car on the line rather than way off the road to maximize the chance of catching the officer exiting his vehicle without the cover of the officer's vehicle, the attacker's immediate, aggressive exit from his vehicle, his poised stance, his purposefully intended distracting questions the answers to which he knew before he pulled over, his Army fatigues used to lull suspicion even though he'd been discharged from the Army Reserve the previous year, the immediate and aggressive movement to contact, and the use of deadly force when the offense was minor and the officer correct and professional all rule out any interpretation of this other than that it was a deliberate attempt to lure a police officer into stopping the attacker for the purpose of killing the officer.

A former police officer's take on the incident here.

For 25 points extra credit, compare and contrast the confrontation between Officer Wilson and Michael Brown in Fergudishu, Missouri.


Another failed assassination attempt on a cop here.

A successful assassination attempt on two cops here.

Keynesian death throes.

Thus, the Keynesian disaster [in Japan] is complete. Massive BOJ [Bank of Japan] money printing to fund the deficit is eroding real wages, thereby mitigating against tax increases capable of closing the fiscal gap and reducing the financing burden. The mad men at the BOJ are also, and simultaneously, obliterating the domestic saver with ZIRP [zero interest rate policy] and warding off international investors with a plunging exchange rate. Consequently, there is no honest way to finance the public deficit, meaning that the printing presses will continue to run red hot.

That this policy amounts to a financial suicide mission is obvious enough. But what is truly scary is that Japan’s policy model has been greenlighted and adopted in one form or another by governments and their central banking branches all around the world.

"The Keynesian End Game Crystalizes In Japan’s Monetary Madness." by David Stockman, Stockman's Corner, 12/26/14.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tornado or Tipping Point?

Could your reading this column change the course of history?  It is my hope that this brief column will feel like the breeze of a butterfly blowing on your cheek.  In 1972, Edward Lorenz delivered in Washington, D.C., a paper to the American Association for the Advancement of Science entitled Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?  What he suggested was “a small change in the initial condition of a system could cause a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena.”  This is now popularly referred to as the "butterfly effect."   Had the butterfly not flapped its wings in Brazil, you might not be reading this right now. 

We used to have a maxim – “How many Rangers can you fit in the back of a truck?” The answer: “All of them.”  Said another way, there is always room for one more Ranger.  At some level, that seems right – you can always squeeze in, or pile on, one more.  At another level, we know that is wrong.  This concept is expressed in the old saw “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”  Some may remember the old plastic camel kids’ game.  The players would take turns putting a piece of “straw” into one of the two baskets on its back.  Eventually, one last, little piece of straw would break the beast of burden’s back.  The one who put that last straw in would be the loser.

One might define the point where the camel’s back breaks as the “tipping point.” That exact point where the camel goes from being a useful conveyer of cargo to a broken beast is the tipping point.  Malcolm Gladwell wrote a business book titled just that – The Tipping Point.  In it, Gladwell defines a tipping point as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point". The book attempts to explain the "mysterious" sociological changes that mark everyday life.  In it, Gladwell states, "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do".   Examples some of us might be able to relate to could include the previously popular “pet rock” or perhaps the omnipresent “smart phone”.    From “relatively rare” to “everyone has one.”  Somewhere between those two poles was the “tipping point.”

President Barack Obama plainly said he wanted to “fundamentally transform” the United States of America.  For many Americans, that sounds more like a virus than a vision.  In the latest Gallup survey, only four in ten Americans approve of the job Obama is doing. The latest Rasmussen poll indicates two out of three American voters think our country is headed in the wrong direction.  Only one in four thinks that we’re going in the right direction.   

The trouble with tinkering with a complex system is that you can’t always predict the outcome of your tinkering.  If you’re arrogant enough to think that you can fundamentally (and radically) transform a complex system, you are just plain reckless.  One sixth of our economy, our very health care system, is being fundamentally transformed by a bill that was built on lies.  The unanticipated and unintended consequences of a bill that not one Republican would vote for, nor one Democrat even read, are still being exposed. What we do know is that Dr. Gruber and President Obama lied to the American people in the process.  As a matter of fact, the fact-checking website Politifact named President Obama's claim that people could keep their health insurance plans if they liked them its "Lie of the Year" for 2013.

The danger with Barrack Obama is that he’s producing a “Tornado in Texas.”  Barrack Obama has put more guns into the hands of ordinary Americans than the US had under arms in all of World War II. In the US last year, there were over 21 million background checks for gun purchases.  The total number of Americans that served during all of World War II, in the Pacific and European theaters combined, was 16.1 million. In the last year alone, there were five million more checks for gun purchases than all of the Americans that served during all of World War II.  Manufacturers mockingly made Obama “Gun Salesman of the Century.”  You’ll recall ammo sales also exploded – to the point of shortages.

Is Barrack Obama more like a tornado or the tipping point?  Is he more like the transformer-in-chief, or the straw that breaks the nation’s back?  We may not have healthcare for our well-being, but America will be well-armed.   

This column originally appeared in the 24 DEC  2014 Upson Beacon.

New Contributor!

I am pleased to announce that we’ve got a new Contributor here at Liberty’s Torch: Colonel Robert Young (retired), currently a newspaper columnist in Upson County, Georgia. A brief bio of Colonel Young follows:

Colonel Robert G. Young retired on 30 JUL 2014. His last assignment was Alpha Company, Warrior Transition Unit, Fort Benning, GA.

He was born in Washington, DC. His father (Robert A, Young) was a career diplomat for the US Department of State and Colonel in the US Army Reserves, his mother (Julie) a registered nurse. In 1979 he enlisted in the infantry, serving in the 1/8th Infantry Bn, 4th ID (M), Fort Carson, Colorado; the 1/16th Infantry Bn, 1st ID (FWD), and the 11th Special Forces Group (ABN), Fort Meade, MD.

In 1985 he was awarded a BA degree from the University of Maryland and designated a Distinguished Military Graduate, receiving a Regular Army commission as a second lieutenant. His military education includes CGSC and the Officer Basic and Advanced Courses. He holds a Master of Arts degree (MMAS) from the Command and General Staff College.

Over the last 35 years, COL Young has had the great privilege to serve our Nation in a variety of units on numerous deployments and operations including:

  • 1981-82 Cold War (West Germany) – 1st Infantry Division
  • 1988 GOLDEN PHEASANT (Central America) - 82nd Airborne
  • 1989-90 JUST CAUSE (Panama) - 82nd Airborne
  • 1990-91 DESERT SHIELD/STORM (Saudi Arabia/Iraq) - 82nd Airborne
  • 1992 CABANAS (Honduras) - 528th SOSB, US Army Special Forces Command
  • 1994 UPHOLD DEMOCRACY (Haiti) - 75th Ranger Regiment
  • 1996-97 Defense of Korea (Republic of Korea) – 2nd Infantry Division
  • 2004-05 ENDURING FREEDOM (Kandahar, Afghanistan) 3rd BDE, 25th Infantry Division
  • 2007-08 IRAQI FREEDOM (Kuwait & Iraq) Third Army/US Army Central
  • 2009-10 ENDURING FREEDOM (Kabul, Afghanistan) ACSE-A, US Army Central

Among his awards are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (5 Awards), Army Commendation Medal (5 Awards), Army Achievement Medal (6 Awards), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (2 Awards - Panama and Haiti), Kuwaiti Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait), Southwest Asia Service Medal (2 Bronze Stars), Afghanistan Campaign Medal(2 Bronze Stars), Korea Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, NATO medal (Afghanistan/ISAF) National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Unit Citation (Bronze Oak leaf) and the Army Superior Unit Award (w/OLC). He has earned the Air Assault Badge, Pathfinder Badge, US Master Parachutist Badge, and the German, Canadian and Honduran Master Parachutist Badges and the Ranger Tab.

He is married to the former Sally Kennedy of Columbus, GA. He has five children; Rob - formerly served in the 3rd Ranger Bn (two deployments to Afghanistan), Jane - a graduate of Auburn University, and three still at home, Rebekah (18), Sarah Beth (16), and John David (11).

Please welcome Colonel Young to the Liberty’s Torch roster.

Report From Long Island, Good News Edition

I’m in too good a mood to produce one of my usual tirades, so allow me to ramble a bit.

The sun is out today. We haven’t had a lot of sunshine lately, and it tends to get less frequent as the winter intensifies, so I’m grateful for that.

I managed to finish the first draft of Polymath, which I’d struggled with far longer than I expected when I began the project, so I’m grateful for that. A dozen persons have volunteered to read and comment on the draft, and given my propensity to make errors I can’t see even when revising, I’m just as grateful for that.

My new Yamaha digital piano, which was marked down about 60% at Amazon, has proved to be everything I’d hoped it would be, so I’m grateful for that. Unfortunately, all my piano chops have vanished over the twenty-five years or so since I last played. However, I’ve acquired several helpful books and teach-yourself courses by which to work on regaining those skills, and I’m grateful for them as well.

I recently became a member of a Massage Envy spa near my home – if there’s one near you, check it out; they’re not that expensive and very good for you – and Corie, my masseuse, has helped to alleviate several of my chronic aches and pains, so I’m grateful for that.

My most recent blood tests indicate that my type 2 diabetes is firmly under control and my cholesterol and PSA levels have returned to the healthy band. I’m really grateful for that.

I’ll retire from my day job on or about 5/1/2015, with absolutely no debts whether long-term or short-term. Between my company pension and my savings, I shan’t need one penny of valuta from Uncle Sam, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

My novels have reached over 100,000 readers. About 1% of them have written to express their appreciation for my books. The words required to express how grateful I am for that haven’t yet been added to the English language.

Despite my age and various physical troubles, I’ve retained my alertness, my acuity, the sharpness of my perceptions, and my overall joie de vivre. I remain married, much to the astonishment of my wife’s friends. My neighbors are pleasant and helpful. My neighborhood is as safe as any in America. Grateful? You bet.

My animals are healthy. All my machines work. The prices of oil and gas are down. The fridge, freezer, and pantry are stuffed to capacity. There’s plenty of ammo for all the guns. And I managed to score an inexpensive used copy of Dead Space for PlayStation 3, with a strategy guide! Die, necromorphs, die!

With all the complaining going on out there, I figured you might enjoy hearing that for at least one person, life is currently okay and better than okay. So what if I can’t...nahh, you wouldn’t want to hear about that.

If you’re wondering what brought this on, it was an email from a friend who’s not doing so well. He has my prayers and my sympathies, of course. He’s also done me a great service, by reminding me about my own good fortune. I’d love for everyone to be able to say the same, but as I know full well that that will never be the case, at least I can appreciate my own blessings properly.

And how have you been doing, Gentle Reader?

I Promise You Won’t Believe This...

...unless you view it for yourself:

And cleanliness is next to godliness, you know.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Request For My Readers

Polymath, “a novel of the American Renaissance,” is complete in first draft.
I need a test reader for it. Perhaps two or three.
Any volunteers?

What is America's survival plan?

There is no American survival plan against Islamic subversion and terror. In fact, the entire Western world is in denial about the vile and deadly threat of Islam. Where there isn't active deception. We are in danger of being ruled by our inferiors. Islamic culture is just primitivism masquerading as a civilization.

Everything about it is sick.

Carol Brown lays out the basics of a plan to eradicate the threat here.

We all need to just cut the crap. We have set up a dynamic where if we do nothing the West will be inundated by its enemies. Unpleasant actions are required but inaction means something far more unpleasant for us in our own countries.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Contretemps: A Christmas Story

(A Christmas gift to my readers. Among the great mysteries of modern life is why people who know the benefits that flow from faith reject it, and them, when they need them most. American life, especially, is about as strenuous as the unaugmented human animal can withstand. So why be stubborn? Why not partake? Why not admit that every so often, we come to a pass so narrow that only faith can release us?)

    The sound of his wife’s footsteps approaching pulled at Stephen Sumner’s neck hair. He hoisted his magazine a little higher in hope that she’d walk past. It wasn’t to be.
    “Would you like a ham or a lasagna for the second entree?”
    He dipped the magazine and peered up into her face. Adrienne’s expression was mock-solicitous, almost sappy. A pinpoint-sized eraser to dab at a mural of recrimination and regret.
    “Doesn’t matter.” He pointedly returned his eyes to his reading and listened for her departure. In vain.
    “Steve?” Incredibly, she hooked a finger over his magazine and pulled it aside. “Can’t we make this a good Christmas? It doesn’t last that long, you know.”
    Everything lasts too long with you.
    He bit back his reply, smiled weakly and nodded. She looked into his eyes a moment longer, driving him to the edge of his endurance, and returned to her kitchen.
    His watch made it a few minutes before noon.
    Bob and his brood will be here in an hour. A whole day of bellowing, demands for liquor, and tasteless jokes told at the top of his voice.
    Bob Bushnell was Adrienne’s brother. He and his wife Ruth were notoriously lax with their children. The previous year, Michael and Susanna had run pell-mell through his home from the hellish moment of their arrival to the blessed instant of their departure. Sumner had tried to halt them as gently as he could, which wasn’t very. His reward had been a screaming match with Ruth that had left his head ringing for the rest of the day.
    It isn’t bad enough that I have to put up with them and their mannerless spratlings. They’ll probably bring Scout again.
    He clenched his jaws at the thought. The previous year, the black Lab had left bruises all over Sumner’s shins with his whiplike tail. When Sumner had left off watching him to pursue the rampaging kids, Scout had ruined a priceless antique armoire by piddling on it. Sumner had never come that close to violence before.
    Anticipation of the trials to come pushed him out of his chair and toward the coat closet. He yanked his overcoat off its hanger, pulled it around himself with a savage jerk, and made for the door. Adrienne chose that moment to emerge from her kitchen again.
    She started to say something, took note of the coat, and stopped. He halted as well. For the first time that day, he looked at his wife and actually saw her.
    Adrienne was wearing the black sheath dress that flattered her so, the one she only wore under a blue moon. She’d accessorized it with a thin gold belt, a strand of pearls, and her black opera pumps. Her thick, shoulder-length black hair gleamed like a satin cascade around her face. At forty years of age, she was still a heart-stopping beauty. When she made the effort.
    Twice a year. Thanksgiving and Christmas, when her family comes for dinner. The rest of the time it’s sweat clothes and sneakers.
    It was the extra push he needed. He turned away from her and started out of the house.
    “Where are you going?”
    He didn’t turn. “To see a man about a dog.”
    He closed the door behind him without replying.


    The streets of Onteora were thinly traveled. Few cars passed him as he walked. A bare handful of pedestrians, collars and scarves pulled tight against the thickly falling snow, trudged past him through the five inches that had accumulated already.
    Sumner stalked down Grand Avenue, the city’s main boulevard. Shop windows that had glittered brightly at him, promoting the commercialized joys of the season for weeks past were shuttered and dim. Their proprietors were undoubtedly at home, enduring whatever agonies their own families allocated to the magic day.
    His anger-fueled pace took him swiftly through the city proper and into the dormitory suburb of Foxwood. Commercial buildings gave way to single-family homes on modest lots, each swaddled in a blanket of snow. The trickle of pedestrian traffic dwindled to nothing. As he walked, the spire of Our Lady Of The Pines, Onteora’s Roman Catholic Church, gradually came into view. It drew him forward like a beacon in darkness.
    Presently he stood before the tall oaken doors, glumly regarding the large sign at the entrance.

All The Joy Of The Most Joyous Of Days To You and Yours!
Christmas Day High Masses at 8, 9, 10, and 11AM
Christmas Evening Masses at 7, 8, and 9PM
Glory To The Newborn King!

    He’d married Adrienne in this church, fifteen years before. She’d insisted on a religious wedding. Though a lapsed Catholic who’d ceased to practice it upon graduating from high school, he’d made no protest. He’d walked in as a free man, walked out with a shackle on his arm, and had not returned.
    As if of its own accord, his hand reached out to grasp the antique wrought iron door pull. He realized what he was about to do and consciously jerked himself away.
    That was the beginning of a slow ride to hell. I should have put my foot down then and there and hauled her to a Justice Of The Peace.
    Snow from his collar slid down his back. The shock of the wet cold on his neck made him spasm and mutter an oath. He shook himself and slapped awkwardly at the icy lump, then turned back toward the church doors as if compelled.
    Why am I standing here? I’m not going in there.
    Struck by a sudden premonition of danger, he wheeled and ran down the church steps toward the gate. In his confusion, his muscles did not register the change in traction beneath his feet, and his hearing did not detect the burble of the pickup truck accelerating down the street.
    At the walkway’s edge, he lost all control of his motion. He found himself skidding helplessly into the street as the truck came rumbling past.
    In a panic, he cast himself backward, deliberately flopping onto his back on the walk. The back of his head struck the icy concrete with an unanticipated force, sending swirling blue worms through his world to steal away the day and deliver him into darkness.


    He awoke sitting in the rear pew of the church, his coat pulled tight around him, hands thrust deep into its pockets. The church was dark, except for a single candle that lit the tabernacle upon the altar. The dim sun of winter did not pierce the stained glass windows. It could well have been midnight.
    A male figure stood at the altar rail, facing toward the rear of the church. The man was dressed in ordinary street clothes. He wore no coat. His hands were clasped before him. His eyes were on Sumner’s face.
    “I haven’t seen you here in quite a while, Steve.”
    Sumner carefully hoisted himself erect and approached the other. His face seemed familiar, but Sumner could put no name to him.
    “I’m sorry, have we met?”
    The stranger’s face was unreadable.
    “Perhaps not. Not that I haven’t been waiting for it. But you’ve been more than a little reluctant to stop by the house.”
    Sumner blinked. “Are you the pastor? What happened to Father Schliemann?”
    Schliemann’s more of an institution than the church. If he’d died or retired, I’m sure I’d have heard of it.
    The man smiled. “No, I’m not the pastor. Let’s say I’m an interested observer. Very interested.”
    “Later, perhaps. What brings you out today? Why aren’t you with your family?”
    Sumner’s confusion receded before the returning tide of his anger. “What family? Adrienne’s family? Sorry, Adrienne’s—”
    “Your wife. Yes, I know.” The man’s low, mellifluous voice dropped still further. “You took her to wife here, at this altar. Promised to love and cherish her, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death did you part.”
    Sumner stared. The stranger couldn’t be more than about thirty years old.
    Is he one of Adrienne’s cousins?
    “Forgive me, please. Were you there that day? I confess I can’t remember you.”
    The man’s face darkened. “Yes, I was there. I like weddings. I go to all of them. Every wedding holds infinite promise, even if what comes after isn’t always for the best.” He turned to gaze at the altar and the tabernacle upon it.
    “You and Adrienne had all the possibilities of any other newlyweds, Steve. All of life stretched before you. Your paths were yours to choose. But today you’re a bitter man, prematurely drained of life and isolated from all that might freshen your spirit. What happened?”
    The question, so directly put, staggered Sumner where he stood. He stumbled forward a pace and planted his hands on the rail to steady himself.
    “I don’t know. I... we just lost it, somehow. We—”
    The man looked sideways at him, knowing and monitory.
    “‘We,’ Steve? Adrienne’s still trying. She weeps sometimes, when you’re not around to see it. She tells me over and over how much she loves you. It hasn’t been easy for her, she’s gotten just about none of the things she hoped for from marriage, but she’s still trying to rescue you. What have you been doing?” He faced Sumner squarely. “Are you even trying to love her back?”
    Sumner stood aghast, mouth hanging open. The man nodded.
    “Yes, I knew. I don’t miss that sort of thing.” He turned back toward the tabernacle. His face seemed to glow in the steadily deepening darkness.
    “I don’t like to take a direct hand in these domestic matters. I prefer to leave that sort of thing to my mother. But every now and then, someone who has absolutely no excuse catches my eye, and I do this. They say a word to the wise is sufficient, Steve. Got the idea?”
    Sumner fought down his shivers and found his voice. “What do you want me to do?”
    The stranger cocked an eyebrow. “What do you want to do?”
    “Is... is it up to me?”
    The man nodded. “It always has been. Each man is the master in his own house, from the day he takes his life into his own hands until the day he dies. What do you want from your marriage, Steve?”
    “Love. Companionship. Support. Children... once.”
    The stranger cocked an eyebrow. “Children? It seems to me you did your best to defeat that particular goal of matrimony.”
    Sumner said nothing.
    “Well, it isn’t too late. But for the rest of it, what do you propose to do to get what you and I would both love for you to have?”
    “How about providing a few of the things you said you wanted to Adrienne? Wouldn’t that be a start?”
    It was more than a disinterested suggestion.
    “Yes, it would.”
    The man nodded. “Those things come more readily if you learn how to forget yourself a little, now and then. This is one of the places where that’s easiest to do.”
    “Sundays, yes, but the other days are good, too.” The glowing face was overcome by longing. “I’ve missed you, Steve. I hate to see anyone in pain. There’s relief from that here, if you open yourself to it. The doors are never locked.”
    Sumner tore his eyes from the luminous visage and let them roam the church. The pews and font, statues and sacred images were reminders of his youth, gentle prods to memories of a time when little had seemed impossible, when life had been lit with promise. Even in the darkness, now nearly complete, it was a supremely welcoming place.
    “I’ll be back.”
    The man nodded. “I’m glad to hear it.”
    “Will I... will I see you again?”
    The glowing face was touched with a wry humor, knowledge of unnameable secrets blended with an impish delight in the twistings of time and chance.
    “That depends. Now go home and be the master in your own house. Gently, but firmly. As I am in mine.”
    Sumner was seized by vertigo. He staggered back, lowered his head and fell to his knees.
    The church whirled and became formless.


    “Huh?” Sumner struggled up from the murky depths. He found himself on his back, on the rearmost pew of Our Lady Of The Pines. A short, slight figure loomed over him, hands gently chafing Sumner’s face: a young man about twenty years old, with a smooth, solemn face and piercing dark brown eyes. He noticed Sumner’s return to consciousness and gave a sigh of relief.
    “Thank God. I’ve been trying to wake you up for an hour. Are you okay?”
    “I think so.” Sumner heaved himself upright. As he did, he was visited by a spike of pain from the back of his head. He put his fingers to it and winced. At least there was no blood.
    “Did you haul me in here?”
    The young man nodded. “I was driving the truck.”
    Sumner looked him over. He looked to weigh about a hundred fifty pounds. “All by yourself?”
    “Well, yes.”
    “Never mind. What’s your name?”
    “Louis Redmond.”
    “Thank you, Louis. I’m sorry if I worried you. Could you do one other thing for me?”
    “Sure, what?”
    “Drive me home? I walked here from Chedwick. It’s only about three miles.”
    The young man grinned. “No problem. Come on, let’s go.”
    As Louis navigated the slippery roads through the city, Sumner asked him, “Am I taking you out of your way?”
    Louis shrugged. “It’s no big deal. I wanted to spend an hour in church, and I did.” He grinned. “I didn’t expect to spend it that way, but what the hell.”
    Sumner chuckled. “Well, it’s time for both of us to get back to our families.”
    Louis said nothing. From the corner of his eye, Sumner saw a delicate thread of tension run down the boy’s cheek. He knew at once that Louis had no family, that chance had reaved them from him, that he’d gone out into the snow that Christmas day for a reason exactly the reverse of the one that had launched Sumner from his home: to mourn.
    They pulled up before Sumner’s house in Chedwick moments later. Louis set the handbrake and turned toward Sumner.
    “Careful on the walk, okay? If you don’t pay attention, you can go really wrong really fast.”
    Sumner nodded. “I know.” He stuck out his hand. “Thank you, Louis. Merry Christmas.”
    Louis shook it. “You’re welcome, uh—”
    “Steve Sumner.”
    “You’re welcome, Steve, and all the joy of the day to you.”
    “And to you, Louis. Good-bye.”
    He strode up his own walk with new purpose. Every window of the stately Federal colonial, the chief prize of his twenty years’ labor at law, was bright. The Bushnells’ car was nestled behind his in the driveway. From the house came the light and sounds of an incipient party: seasonal music, laughter, and the multifarious jostlings of a family gathering.
    “My house,” he murmured. He let himself in and made for the kitchen, where Adrienne was holding court as she finished assembling her lasagna. Ruth was weakly cajoling her children about not making trouble. Bob was already flushed and sweating, complaining about his dry-goods business over the carols from the bookshelf stereo, waving a half-filled glass for punctuation.
    Sumner reached for the stereo and switched it off. The others fastened on him at once.
    “Yo, brother-in-law!” Bob said. “Got a few new ones for you. Heard the one about the blind mime and the nun?”
    Sumner fixed the half-drunken man with a determined look. “Bob, come this way a moment, would you please?”
    Bob’s forehead crinkled momentarily. He glanced at Adrienne for an explanation, shrugged and followed Sumner out to the living room, his wine glass dangling from his hand.
    “What’s up, bro?”
    “Bob,” Sumner said, “first, thank you for not bringing Scout. Second, I’ve decided we’re going to have a nice Christmas this year. And that means no shouting, no crass jokes about priests, nuns, or private parts, and no ugly stories about anyone in the family. Okay?”
    Sumner plucked the glass from his brother-in-law’s hand. “Third, you’ll be drinking coffee, tea, or soda for the rest of the day. You’ve obviously had enough alcohol already, and I don’t want you to get sloppy at dinner, the way you did last year.”
    “Steve!” It was half protest and half whine.
    “This is my house, Bob.” Sumner let the implications hang unspoken.
    Sobriety seeped back into Bob Bushnell’s features. He seemed to come to a belated recognition of his surroundings.
    “All right. Ruth made a comment about it before we left our place. Peace?”
    Sumner grinned. “Peace. Merry Christmas, Bob. Let’s rejoin the ladies.”
    Adrienne and Ruth were seated close together, talking in low, anxious tones. They stood as the men reentered the kitchen.
    “Is everything all right, Steve?” Adrienne’s hands were balled tightly, white at the knuckles.
    “Just fine, sweetie. When do you expect to serve dinner?”
    “About three.”
    “Good. Then we can make the seven o’clock Mass at Our Lady Of The Pines.” The children immediately began to shout their disapproval. Sumner glared at them, and they subsided sulkily. “Ruth, do you think you can get Michael and Susanna to behave for that long, or shall I have Michelle Stevens come over to babysit them while we enjoy our day?”
    The momentary silence was a thing of crystalline perfection.
    “You haven’t been to Mass in years,” Adrienne said. “Why—”
    “I was invited. Of course, I could go alone.” He peered at his wife from under his brows.
    “No, I’ll come. Ruth? Bob?”
    The Bushnells exchanged puzzled glances. Their children’s eyes were wide. “Dressed as we are?” Ruth said.
    Sumner smiled and nodded. “It’s not a problem for the management.” He moved up to Adrienne and took her hands in his own.
    “I love you, sweetie,” he murmured. “You look wonderful tonight. Thank you for everything.”
    “I love you too,” she whispered, barely audible.
    It was a start.


(Available for free, in all ebook formats, at