Friday, July 31, 2015

Quickies: “Let’s Look At The Record.”

     In 1928, when Al Smith, Governor of New York, mounted his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency, he quickly became nationally known for one of his favorite lead-ins: “Let’s look at the record.” Smith was an old fashioned Democrat, nearly as laissez-faire in his principles and policies as Grover Cleveland. His record in office testified to that. Had his opponent been anyone but Herbert Hoover, “The Great Engineer,” he probably would have won, and spared us the New Deal.

     Looking at a politician’s record gives the best sense for what that politician will do in the foreseeable future: i.e., with the issues of the moment. Thus also with a political party: a party’s record in power is the best guide to its continued use of power.

     And with that we turn to this cri de coeur from Erick Erickson:

     We have passed the point where Nazi comparisons are inappropriate. In the latest video about Planned Parenthood, if you want to watch it, you will see an admission that some of the children are born alive before being killed and carved up — their bodies being sold essentially for scrap.

     These are children. They entered into the world alive and were killed, chopped up, and sold bit by bit....

     The Party of Lincoln that rose from the ashes of a Whig Party that would not stand up to slavery must stand up to this evil. The American public is staring evil in the face and it looks a lot like them. It must end. [Emphasis added by FWP.]

     Well, what’s the Republican Party’s record for standing on its supposed platform principles? Since it gained control of both houses of Congress, has it done any of the things its spokesmen said it would do? Extrapolating from its record since 2010, would you expect Boehner, McConnell, and their minions to mount a serious campaign to outlaw even partial-birth abortions, the most horrific and reviled of all kinds? Failing that, would you put money on whether they’ll submit a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood and stand firm on it?

     To those who’ve answered yes to either of those questions: Don’t all rush forward at once waving your Benjamins at me. I’m not sure I’d survive the paroxysms of laughter.

     Please, God, send us a planetoid. Before I get too old even to cheer for it.

Miscellaneous Outrages

1. The Export-Import Bank

     Ted Cruz is up in arms about it because according to him, Mitch McConnell said that there would be no “deal” to revive it. I can understand anger about being deceived that way, but deceit is as common in Washington as dandelions in my lawn. Besides, as a reason for high and public dudgeon, political mendacity pales in comparison to the larger issue. Why not be angry for a principled rather than a procedural reason: specifically, that the Ex-Im Bank constitutes a subsidy to certain kinds of businesses, paid for by private taxpaying citizens?

     The Democrats have made hay out of “corporate welfare” for decades. I was pleased when the GOP began to own the issue and move against it. I suppose I should have known that it wouldn’t last.

2. The Planned Parenthood Videos.

     The judge who enjoined the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any more of its clandestine videos of Planned Parenthood personnel contriving the sale of fetal organs has blatantly violated First Amendment protections of freedom of expression. It doesn’t matter whether the videos are eventually found to be slanderous; prior restraint has been held to be unConstitutional for decades.

     The real issue here – the one that judge is so desperate to avert our eyes from – is that millions of Americans who approached the subject of abortion entirely in the abstract are being compelled to confront its logical implications. If an unborn baby is merely “tissue” whose fate is at the mother’s whim, then the sale of that “tissue” cannot be morally worse than its disposal. That the sale is being viewed as outrageous is “backfilling” the sense of horror about abortion itself, and therefore fueling anti-abortion sentiment in a fashion that’s proof against disguise by euphemism. The Left simply can’t have its sacrament defiled in this manner.

     Has anyone bothered to note that it’s illegal to sell adult human organs, whether for transplantation or any other purpose?

3. “Cecil”

     I have a soft spot for animals. I make no bones about it. And while I’m anything but a PETAphile – animals cannot and do not possess a human being’s right to life, for reasons beyond the scope of this mini-rant – I dislike and deplore the killing of animals simply for sport. So I deplore the killing of Cecil, which has apparently been a subject of some controversy these past few days.

     But note! Various Left-aligned groups are trumpeting to the skies about the “murder” of Cecil, to the extreme of threatening death to the dentist who shot him. The prevailing thesis on the Right is that these groups are desperate to distract the electorate from the several real outrages we would otherwise be up in arms about. It could well be true...but it could equally well be the case that the Left is more concerned about the death of Cecil than, say, the ongoing Planned Parenthood obscenity simply because Leftists’ only interest in babies is whether they can be indoctrinated to be obedient little Democrats.

     Besides, Cecil was a Zimbabwean, and therefore ineligible to vote in U.S. elections.

4. Peeping Toms And Property Rights

     Time was, it was an absolute principle of the law that the wedge of airspace over one’s legally owned land was a form of property. The owner could extend his structures into it without let or hindrance, and anyone who wanted to pass through that airspace simply had to cope. Alongside that, the use of a camera to invade the privacy of a neighbor – i.e., to photograph persons or items on his property against his will – was a criminal offense. Those were simpler days.

     Apparently, the “drone” phenomenon has changed all that:

     LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Hillview man has been arrested after he shot down a drone flying over his property -- but he's not making any apologies for it.

     It happened Sunday night at a home on Earlywood Way, just south of the intersection between Smith Lane and Mud Lane in Bullitt County, according to an arrest report.

     Hillview Police say they were called to the home of 47-year-old William H. Merideth after someone complained about a firearm.

     When they arrived, police say Merideth told them he had shot down a drone that was flying over his house. The drone was hit in mid-air and crashed in a field near Merideth's home.

     Police say the owner of the drone claimed he was flying it to get pictures of a friend's house -- and that the cost of the drone was over $1,800.

     Merideth was arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief and first degree wanton endangerment. He was booked into the Bullitt County Detention Center, and released on Monday.

     What about the invasion of Merideth’s privacy by a camera-equipped spy device? Have the Kentucky gendarmes arrested the operators of that drone for their infraction, which is illegal as sin in every state of the Union?

     This is injustice plain and simple.

5. No Exemption For Kinda-Sorta “Famous” Musicians

     And “Morrissey,” whoever the BLEEP! he is, should have known better:

     Morrissey claims a security agent at San Francisco International Airport “sexually groped” him before a flight this week.

     In a blog post at the all-things-Morrissey website True to You, the musician says he was flying from San Francisco to London on July 27 and made it through regular security protocols, including a metal detector, with “no bleeps and nothing unusual.”

     But then:

     Before I could gather my belongings from the usual array of trays I was approached by an “airport security officer” who stopped me, crouched before me and groped my penis and testicles. He quickly moved away as an older “airport security officer” approached.

     The officer who sexually assaulted me was identified as the General Manager On Duty. Luckily I was accompanied by two members of British Airways Special Services, who were horrified at the sexual attack and suggested that I lodge a complaint. I asked if there would be any point in lodging a complaint since, as with any complaint against a figure in “authority”, the complaints are simply collected in order to protect the guilty officer should the matter go further. The British Airways Special Services employees assured me that a complaint was worthwhile, and so I filed the appropriate information.

     Morrissey claims that when he tried to confront the offending security officer, he was repeatedly told, “That’s just your opinion.”

     “Apart from ‘that’s just your opinion,’ he would not comment, even though, since the penis and testicles were mine and no one else’s, then my opinion must surely have some meaning,” Morrissey protested.

     Oh, my! The gentleman is claiming ownership of his body parts! The right to exclude others from accessing them without his consent! What an innovation! What a daring excursion into property rights theory! What will he come up with next?

     Say, do you think Famous Person Morrissey has ever thought about such an invasion of privacy and outrage to decency when it happens to someone else? I know which side of that bet I’d take.

6. A Question For My Readers

     I did something on impulse quite recently, and the reaction was unexpected, to say the least. Allow me to tell you about it.

     Last week I took a day trip out to continental New York – you know, the wilderness west of the Hudson River – to look at real estate that might be suitable for a retirement destination. I’d engaged the services of a realtor – let’s call her Jane – who graciously spent her entire day with and on me. We saw a number of properties, two of which struck me as eminently suitable. I took quite a lot of photos of them, thanked her, and returned to Long Island hoping that the C.S.O. might agree with me on one of the two.

     Sadly, ‘twas not to be. The C.S.O. has declared, sine die, that she will not relocate. She’s grown too attached to our current house and its environs, and refuses to consider any of the advantages attendant upon departing this Godforsaken lump of terminal moraine.

     That left me in a moral quandary. I’d inveighed Jane into devoting an entire day to me, on the representation that we were serious about buying a house. To discover that it had been a vain quest from the start, undertaken under a false pretense – by both of us, mind you, for I was as badly misled as she – left me feeling that I owed her something. So I sent her an Amazon gift card and a favorite CD of mine.

     Well! You can hardly imagine the emissions about that, from Jane or the C.S.O. The former was unbelievably effusive in gratitude; as the saying goes, she stopped just short of asking to have my baby. The latter wanted to know if I’d gone bonkers at long last: “They work on commission, Fran! It’s just the way things are!”

     If you were in my position – and God grant that you never are; I was middlin’ angry at the C.S.O. for days, a most unpleasant feeling – would you have felt as I did? Would you have done as I did? If not, what do you think would have been appropriate?

     Have a nice day.


CSO: Welcome to Blue Moon Friday!
FWP: Yup. We have one this year.

CSO: Didn’t we have two last year?
FWP: I don’t think so. In a year with fourteen full moons, the months with two will be January and December.

CSO: And why is that, Mr. Former Cosmologist?
FWP: Because full moons happen 29 days apart. We can’t move ‘em around like holidays so folks can have three day weekends.

CSO: What? Can’t Congress do something about it?
FWP: Naah. It’s in recess.

Anthony Hervey.

Mr. Anthony Hervey, pictured here, was killed July 19.

Five blacks apparently objected to his pro-Confederate sympathies and followed him in their car. He was either run off the road or he lost control of his vehicle in the course of a verbal exchange with the other men.

He was a courageous man and a true original. RIP, brother.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quickies: The Thing That Would Not Die!

     The Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch are no doubt aware that I have an...odd sense of humor. However, even the most cynical among you might not have anticipated its most recent manifestation.

     I was at morning Mass just a little while ago, listening to Father Charlie sermonize about the Parable of the Good Fish, when I heard him commit a blasphemy. What? Yes, a Catholic priest, my very own pastor, spoke scandalously, right from the pulpit! Well, I knew I had to say something about that. So I approached him after Mass, wearing my most solemn expression.

     With one look at me Father Charlie knew at once that the subject was grim. “What is it, Fran?”

     “Father,” I intoned, “as a priest you’re aware that to violate one of the really serious Commandments imperils one’s immortal soul. Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not serve red wine with fish or wear white after Labor Day –” that got a start out of him – “yet what did I hear this very morning, from your own lips!”

     His eyes widened as I paused for effect.

     “ ‘Someone has gone out of their way to help you’ –? Really, Father?”

     When he’d ceased laughing – it took a while – I grinned and said “I edit as well as write, you know.”

     Yes, friends, Pronoun Trouble afflicts even the Catholic clergy. Watch for signs of it in your parish. Remember always: Eternal vigilance is the price of gender!

     (Bruce Jenner's notions notwithstanding.)


     [The reignition of the debate over the moral and legal acceptability of abortion, set aflame by the Center for Medical Progress’s videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies, have impelled me to post the following, which first appeared at the old Palace Of Reason on December 17, 2003. -- FWP.]

     In response to this Curmudgeonly tirade, reader Noah commented as follows:

     When the right declaims a new gun control law, and argues that it's the first step along the left's quest to completely disarm the people, everyone laughs. But it's true.

     When the left declaims a new abortion control law, arguing that it's the first step towards a complete ban on abortion, or birth control, or indeed the complete nationalization of the bedroom, everyone laughs. But mightn't it be true?

     The proponents of each kind of law see them as "common sense", while the opponents see them as utter lunacy, the first step on a slippery slope to open tyranny.

     The truth is that there *are* Republicans who would like to see everything but marital/missionary outlawed, just as there are Democrats (and others) who won't rest until every privately owned firearm has been melted down. Take a survey of how many states criminalize sodomy, oral sex, adultery, even fornication and cohabitation (best of all prostitution, 49 states last I checked).

     I'm not saying I agree with this woman's ramblings, or advancing a position one way or the other on the partial-birth abortion ban. What I am trying to say is that it would be folly to dismiss her comments as standard leftist trash without sifting them for kernels of truth.

     Well, your Curmudgeon isn't about to defend laws that criminalize private acts that involve only consenting adults. But in drawing his parallels, Noah has provided a striking case study in disparates, and in how their juxtaposition can becloud political thought.

     The history of sexual regulation by law goes back to the earliest years of European-derived human presence on this continent. Nearly all of the first groups to arrive here were inspired by the New World's opportunity for them to practice their religions without being persecuted for it. Ironically, nearly all of them looked forward to the opportunity to enforce their religious beliefs with the power of the State. It wasn't freedom they sought, but the dominant position in a realm of their own -- if you like, the opportunity to indulge in religious oppression in favor of their own beliefs.

     Institutions of religion have always been hostile to sex. Sex is the earthiest of all earthly pleasures. Prior to the Industrial Revolution and what it brought in its train, it was one of the very few pleasures available to everyone. Any institution that wanted men to focus on the next world, rather than this one, would naturally frown on something so temporal, so universal, and so powerful.

     Regional political power in the colonial era was usually united with some dominant religious sect, all the way into the early 19th Century. Of the original thirteen colonies, only one, Rhode Island, had no established church and no dictates in its founding charter derived from the doctrines of a particular faith. The clerical potentates of the colonies were quite as hostile to sex as any of their European predecessors had been -- and here, they had the opportunity to stamp the laws with their own preferences.

     Alongside that, until quite recently there were substantial extra-legal risks involved in sexual indulgence. So the typical commoner had, not just the law and the admonitions of his local clerics to inhibit him, but also the possibility of rotting away from syphilis or conceiving children that would be his responsibility to feed and nurture. Marriage as it has been traditionally practiced originated to mitigate these risks. Long before religious hierarchies incorporated marriage into their theologies, it was well established as a force for social stability and the norming of sexual conduct.

     Then came penicillin and the Pill. Advances in medical technology reduced the risks of sexual adventurism by orders of magnitude. Though new risks, such as herpes and AIDS, have arisen in the most recent years, these can also be held down by judicious choice of partners and attention to obvious signs of danger. With the rise of an ethic of privacy, made possible by the economic advance of the country, the laws against non-marital and non-reproductive sex, which had always been largely unenforceable, fell into neglect. What remained to inhibit us were the dictates of our consciences and the thunderings from the pulpits, neither of which has proved much of a barrier in practice.

     Sex laws passed in the 18th and 19th centuries, driven by religious belief and protected from being laughed aside by forces entirely outside the law, dropped into the Slough of Irrelevance after 1960. Except for freak cases such as Lawrence v. Texas, which made news because they were freak cases, sexual regulation by law is dead in America -- and that is entirely as it should be.

     Your Curmudgeon will allow that there are a very few Americans who'd like to bring back the whole legal regime, in full force. But they are a trivial rump, who will receive no respectful hearing short of an Islamic takeover. They are ignored by conservatives who appreciate individual rights and the supreme importance of laws that can be evenhandedly and uniformly enforced without violating those rights.

     Compare the regulation of sex with the regulation of abortion, and a forest of differences springs up at once.

     Sex, apart from rape and molestation, involves only consenting adults, presumed to be competent to make their own decisions and choose their own risks. That there are risks, even between partners who know one another well, cannot be denied, but a competent adult is expected to familiarize himself with them beforehand, make the appropriate mitigations, and shoulder the consequences should the dice not fall his way. Only one possible outcome of a consensual sex act necessarily involves a third party: conception.

     The germination of a new life brings a new character onto the stage, one who was not allowed to read the script beforehand and is powerless to affect its ending. There is no question that he is a distinguishable presence; his DNA signature, his abilities, and his vulnerabilities differ radically from those of his parents.

     The competent actors might not want him there. Indeed, they might have taken stringent precautions against his creation and were simply the "victims of bad luck." But there he is. The question before us is no longer about sex; it's about the rights of that third character, and what responsibilities the first two have toward him.

     If the developing embryo is rightless tissue, morally no weightier than a tumor, then excising it and discarding it are morally neutral deeds. Surely a woman has the right to control her own body if in doing so she injures no one else's rights, just as she has the right to swing her arms freely if no one else's nose is in the way.

     But if the presence in the womb is a human being with the same right to life as his mother, then to abort him -- to kill him -- is murder. It can only be justified in a "lifeboat scenario," where either the mother or the baby must inevitably die, regardless of anything that might be done by any involved party. The mother's prior intentions, and her disinclination to be a mother, are just as irrelevant as they would be once the baby has been born.

     There are intermediate positions. Some argue that, until the baby is capable of living on his own, without support from the mother's body or some technological substitute, he cannot be held to possess rights, for no man has a right to the coerced support of another. Others argue that, even if all abortions are murder in principle, nevertheless, respect for the right of privacy requires that we not criminalize abortions before a certain point in gestation, as to do so would either require massive invasions of privacy, or would open the door to selective prosecution at some district attorney's sole discretion.

     Let all of that pass. The central fact is that abortion has nothing to do with sex. The crux of the abortion debate is when the developing baby's right to life begins, and what can be done to protect it without incurring unacceptable costs.

     If abortion has nothing to do with sex, then the debate over the legal status of abortion need have nothing to do with the legal status of sex.

     Are there pro-lifers who seek the re-criminalization of abortion because they hope that it will inhibit sexual license? Yes, indubitably. But that particular motivation is not part of the political / legal debate. Indeed, your Curmudgeon cannot name even one person, public figure or private party, who's ever expressed that motive. He would regard such a position as unworthy and insincere, as would every other pro-lifer he knows. If the baby's right to life and the legal protection thereof are not the issues under discussion, there is nothing to discuss. We have had enough of laws against this because it "leads to" that.

     It is illuminating to note that, while laws that regulate sexual conduct have had a controversial aspect for nearly two centuries, laws concerning abortion have only been actively discussed for about forty years -- that is, roughly since the development of oral contraception. Prior to that, the near-universal conviction was that abortion was absolutely wrong at any stage of gestation. If a man impregnated an unmarried woman, he was under an absolute obligation to do the right thing and marry her. If he would not do so and could not be compelled, the woman would simply have to bear the child, contriving as much privacy for her illegitimate birth as she could, and then arrange for the baby to be adopted.

     The shift in attitudes arose because, once high-quality contraception that didn't interfere with sexual pleasure was available, sexual indulgence was inhibited solely by the possibility of contraceptive failure or negligence in contraceptive use. If only abortion could be legalized, even the remotest possibility of having to endure the shame of illegitimacy could be averted. The fear of the illicit abortionist, nicely dramatized in the movie Dirty Dancing, would cease to confine sexual appetites.

     Herein lies the seed of the prevailing obfuscations. The crux of the abortion issue has never been sex, but the interest in the thing has been driven from the first by sexual desire. All Palace readers will know the history, from the critical 1973 Supreme Court decision to the present day.

     Some day, another topic will relieve abortion of its "most contentious" title, because it will engage a desire even more powerful than the sex drive: the desire to live. The topic will be human cloning.

     Imagine that it becomes possible for a human to reproduce himself parthenogenetically -- that is, without a contribution of DNA from another party -- and therefore to replicate his body perfectly. Human bodies are usually equipped with human brains and minds. The brain is the only portion of such a clone that would not be medically useful to its progenitor.

     The clone would be a perfect source for every sort of transplant. If the law were to treat clones as having no rights of their own, they could and would be disassembled at will, to extend or improve the lives of those whose DNA signature they shared. Imagine how strongly men will desire that such a resource be available to them.

     But if we omit the possibility of artificially induced brain death, such a clone would be human, in all relevant ways indistinguishable from any other. If he is acknowledged as such, to treat him as an organ farm for another person, denied an acknowledged right to life, would be clearly wrong: murder for medical reasons, under color of law.

     The abortion controversy prefigures the cloning debate in its core issues, but will be a pale shadow of it in intensity.

     So your Curmudgeon will ask: If the development of the clone were to involve a human womb, would the debate be about sex?

     The rest, as they say, is an exercise for the reader.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Quickies: “Retro-Sexism”

     There’s an illuminating and highly positive article at The Federalist on this remarkable phenomenon and the apoplexy it’s causing The Left:

     You’ll see her perched at a banquette at the bar after work: the millennial college grad nursing that outdated American dream of marriage, kids, and the house with the lawn and the white picket fence… She’s nursing a stiff drink, too, because husband-hunting is hard work these days, not to mention frowned upon in college-educated career-girl circles. She toys with a stray curl and sucks listlessly at (how fitting) an Old Fashioned, or a gin martini (but only one) if she’s out with an older man and wants to seem sophisticated.

     She may go full-blown retro and have her hair done in pin curls, or it may be modern, but her lips are likely stained a crimson shade—B├ęsame’s Red Velvet 1946 as seen in ABC’s “Agent Carter” is a good bet these days. She’s dressed in something fetching and feminine that she got from Etsy, eBay, or one of the dozens of “vintage inspired” or reproduction clothing companies that have gained popularity in the last decade (PinUp Girl, Tatyana Boutique, Stop Staring, Collectif, Trashy Diva, Bettie Page Clothing, Queen of Heartz, Heart of Haute, Voodoo Vixen, ReVamp Vintage…the list goes on.)

     I beseech you to read it all! If you have the slightest regard for femininity or freedom, it’s guaranteed to put a huge smile on your face. If you’re male and single, it might even get you thinking positive thoughts about marriage.

     The feminist mouthpieces are losing their collective marbles over the explosion of “retro-sexism.” Of course, “feminism,” a wholly owned and not-at-all autonomous subsidiary of The Left, has always been anti-choice, regardless of its representations:

     "No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one." -- Interview with Simone de Beauvoir, "Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma," Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p.18

     ...but the weeping and gnashing of teeth among contemporary feminists is nevertheless a soul-soothing marvel to behold. Are these...women not bright enough to realize that they’re giving the game away?

     Maybe they aren’t, at that. The brightest woman I know (IQ approximately 180), my Vietnamese-American sweetie Duyen, sneers at any mention of them or their nonsense. The very idea that she should refrain from wearing tight dresses, short skirts, or high heels, or that she should never have gotten the various “upgrades” she freely chose to get, leaves her in stitches. But then, Duyen understands freedom. She risked her life to obtain it.

     The whole agenda of the Left is to persuade Americans that freedom is a bad idea. Feminism is integral to that project. Why else would feminists condemn the very women it claims to represent for choosing a course through life simply because it appeals to them?

     Stay stupid, feminists. Perhaps it will cushion your fall into the dustbin of history.

Quickies: Did You Have Any Idea How Sick You Are?

     For believing in God, that is:

     The Atlantic writer Jeffrey Tayler is annoyed at the “educated elite” in our country. Why have they not risen to the occasion and labeled passionate religious belief a mental illness?

     The writer’s disappointment followed the release of an article on The News Nerd entitled “American Psychological Association to Classify Belief in God as a Mental Illness.” In the story, Psychologist Dr. Lillian Andrews had stated: “The time for evolving into a modern society and classifying these archaic beliefs as a mental disorder has been long overdue.”

     Yet the article, it turned out, was a hoax.

     Alas for Mr. Tayler. Indeed, the journalist had already treated religion as a mental illness before this study had seemed to confirm it. Yet, “the hour was not nigh,” he wrote sadly. “Psychologists were not yet ready to diagnose firm belief in God as what it is: an unhealthy delusion.”

     “Yet, would that it were so,” he whined in a piece for Salon. “Imagine, so many Supreme Court justices and Republican politicians, from Antonin Scalia to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, disqualified in one fell swoop on mental health grounds from holding public office!”

     There you have it: the voice of the oh-so-tolerant Left. Never mind that ninety percent of Americans profess a belief in God, whether or not they claim affiliation with any recognized religious denomination. Never mind that among those nearly three hundred million Americans are many who could beat Jeffrey Tayler at any contest of intellect or comparison of achievements you can imagine. And never mind that a diagnosis of mental illness is sufficient to strip the “sufferer” of every right an American has ever enjoyed.

     Say, how about an APA declaration that intellectual narcissism disqualifies the sufferer from writing opinion-editorial pieces? To say nothing of the obvious inadequacies and delusions of a “professional” writer who apparently doesn’t know the difference between healthy and healthful.

     Here’s the hoax article that thrilled Tayler so. Be sure to read the comments.

“But It Violates The Laws Of Physics!”

     Good morning, Gentle Reader. The news is all bad, except for this bit:

     Interplanetary travel could be a step closer after scientists confirmed that an electromagnetic propulsion drive, which is fast enough to get to the Moon in four hours, actually works.

     The EM Drive was developed by the British inventor Roger Shawyer nearly 15 years ago but was ridiculed at the time as being scientifically impossible.

     It produces thrust by using solar power to generate multiple microwaves that move back and forth in an enclosed chamber. This means that until something fails or wears down, theoretically the engine could keep running forever without the need for rocket fuel.

     Say what? A completely enclosed propulsion system? A device that produces thrust without ejecting matter in the opposite direction? A drive that ignores the sacred Law of Conservation of Momentum?

     Hey, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet:

     The drive, which has been likened to Star Trek’s Impulse Drive, has left scientists scratching their heads because it defies one of the fundamental concepts of physics – the conservation of momentum – which states that if something is propelled forward, something must be pushed in the opposite direction. So the forces inside the chamber should cancel each other out.

     Note the charming use of my favorite word: should.

     However in recent years Nasa has confirmed that they believe it works and this week Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems at Dresden University of Technology in Germany also showed that it produces thrust.

     The drive is capable of producing thrust several thousand times greater than a standard photon rocket and could get to Mars within 70 days or Pluto within 18 months. A trip to Alpha Centauri, which would take tens of thousands of years to reach right now, could be reached in just 100 years.

     While all over the world, physicists and people who fancy themselves scientifically literate are muttering “What’s next, perpetual motion?” “Pons and Fleischman ride again” and “Just wait until someone figures out the scam.”

     But it’s not quite that simple. I’m here to tell you.

     It’s a commonplace rejoinder – among engineers, at least – to ask a skeptic about some proposition under discussion “Does it violate the laws of physics?” It expresses the conviction, popular among our sort, that “the laws of physics” are the sole serious constraint upon human technology and what it makes possible. In at least one sense, that conviction is a reliable guide to the possible. In another, it’s rather misleading.

     Physics is the name we give to the most fundamental of the sciences: the one that purports to study and elucidate the bedrock rules of existence. And indeed, those we call physicists have propounded marvelous theses over the centuries: “laws” from which they can predict the behavior of objects of specified characteristics within specified contexts. Some of those “laws” have yielded massive technological breakthroughs and consequent improvements to human life.

     But something else has been happening all the while: current physicists have disproved the “laws” propounded by prior physicists by testing them in realms of mass, size, and speed their predecessors could not explore. These supersessions of previously sacred “laws” proceeded under a principle of science sometimes called the Correspondence Principle: The replacement for an existing theory must perform as well or better in all the contexts in which the existing one seemed to function adequately.

     And since we’re talking about science here, perform actually means predict.

     Theory has followed upon theory for centuries, old ones falling by the wayside as new theories, inclusive of a wider range of conditions of mass, size, and speed, have out-predicted them. From this we infer an important limitation upon human knowledge:

We can never be sure we know
what the laws of physics are.

     Science fiction writers play along the margins of our physical knowledge all the time. I’ve done so myself:

     “So what did Martin haul us up here to show us?” Patrice said as they settled into seats in her sleeping area.
     “Actually, the showing comes a wee bit later,” Althea said. “First, a lot of telling.” She leaned against the lumpy nickel-iron wall and waved a hand mock-casually. “We think we’ve cracked it.”
     No one spoke, or grunted, or even breathed audibly, yet the spike of surprise that passed through the visitors was impossible to miss.
     “You...think,” Teodor said.
     Althea nodded. “The experimental results from our test crystal are consistent with a fifteen percent increase in the speed of light.” She grinned again. “That’s fifteen percent over the speed of light in a vacuum.
     A gasp circled the group.
     “What can you do with that?” Teodor asked.
     “With that alone? Not much. But that’s just from the power we have from one eighteen-century-old fission reactor that spends most of its juice keeping us alive up here. If my equations are sound, with a terawatt of power I can get raw space to accept passage at approximately Michelson eighty. Give me a terawatt more, and I can drag a fifty-ton mass up to that speed in about two months.” She pulled a mock innocent face. “Hope to Earth in four months or a little better. That fast enough for you?”
     She swept her eyes over the stunned guests.
     “Rothbard, Rand, and Ringer,” Valerie breathed. “You actually did it.”
     Althea nodded. “We think so, Mom.”
     “Wait a moment,” her mother said. “What about reaction mass?”
     “Don’t need it.”
     “How, then?”
     “Basically, the same technique that allows me to increase the speed of light,” Althea said. “Alteration of the permittivity constant, applied differentially—a front-to-back gradient—over an ovoid volume enclosing the mass to be propelled. A properly distributed effusion of gamma rays and W-plus bosons is all it takes to get the process started. Put a negative charge on the outer surface of the vessel, and you're off. That gives you a reactionless drive and the next best thing to perpetual motion. Only works in a hard vacuum, though, so don't expect to use it for anything groundside.”
     The genesmith appeared near to apoplexy. “You altered a fundamental constant of physics?”
     Althea nodded again. “Should I have asked permission first?” She grinned. “I had to, Granduncle. The only way to breach what we call the lightspeed barrier is to alter the conditions that determine lightspeed. The only way to do that is to increase the permittivity of the vacuum. And the only possibility of doing that lay in Althea's Axiom.”
     “Which is?”

     [From Freedom’s Scion.]

     We regard the “fundamental constants of physics” as constants because we don’t know how to alter However, it’s merely my fiction-enabling speculation that we’ll eventually learn how to do that. One of the most important of all breakthroughs in physical thought arrived with early high-energy physicist Arthur Compton, who argued that certain interactions of light and “fundamental particles” could not be explained without postulating violations of the Conservation of Mass-Energy. Such violations disturbed many physicists of his time. Isn’t that illegal? they chorused. Werner Heisenberg proved that under certain circumstances it was not – that particles with nonzero mass-energy could spontaneously come into existence for time intervals too short to permit them to be observed. From this and other insights, modern quantum physics was born.

     The deep lesson here is one about the “laws of physics.” We believe there are such laws. At any given time we think we have a decent grip on them, at least for those ranges of mass, size, and speed for which we can perform experiments. But by reason of our inherently limited ability to manipulate reality, we can never know them with complete inclusivity and perfect certainty...if they exist at all.

     The EM Drive appears to have challenged the Conservation of Momentum. No doubt a barrage of tests is being planned for it as we speak. We shall see.

     What we posit as “the laws of physics” at any given moment are statements about observable regularities that appear to have no exceptions. That’s how all of science is done:

  1. Researchers note a regular, reproducible phenomenon;
  2. They propose a theoretical structure that would explain it;
  3. They use that theory to make predictions about relevant objects in a relevant context;
  4. They design experiments to test those predictions:
    1. If the experiments produce results that conform to the predictions, they perform further experiments;
    2. But the first time an experiment produces non-conforming results, they abandon the theory and look for another.

     Should Shawyer’s EM Drive withstand rigorous, worldwide testing, it will compel physicists to look beyond the “classical” Law of Conservation of Momentum for still deeper laws that include the “classical” law but explain the EM Drive as well. Human knowledge will be advanced and refined. But it will still be incorrect to say that we know the laws of physics in some absolute sense. Nature doesn’t permit such arrogance.

Two very funny women.

Don't be a chump. Stump for Trump.

H/t: Shenandoah.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Quickies: A Brilliant Summation

     I found this comment attached to a discussion of emissions trading schemes: one of the Left’s favored devices for promoting allegiance to the Cult of Global Warming:

     All of this of course is aided and abetted by propaganda. We often think of propaganda in this context as simply a semi-hysterical knee-jerk reaction of hasty bare-faced lies.

     It’s not. It’s a finely crafted science and we would do well to remember it, else be seduced by it.

     I found this rather crisp description in Norman Davies ‘Europe – A History’. Page 500, almost exactly halfway through this brick of a book.

     “Theorists of propaganda have identified five basic rules:
  1. The rule of simplification: reducing all data to a single confrontation between ‘Good and Bad’, ‘Friend and Foe’.
  2. The rule of disfiguration: discrediting the opposition by crude smears and parodies.
  3. The rule of transfusion: manipulating the consensus values of the target audience for one’s own ends.
  4. The rule of unanimity: presenting one’s viewpoint as if it were the unanimous opinion of all right-thinking people: drawing the doubting individual into agreement by the appeal of star performers, by social pressure, and by ‘psychological contagion’.
  5. The rule of orchestration: endlessly repeating the same messages in different variations and combinations.”

     All this sounds familiar to you?
     It certainly does to me.

     I’ve encountered no better summation of the tactical structure of Leftist propaganda. Their propaganda’s efficacy frees them from having to debate their positions on the merits...which, as they have none, is a good thing for them.

Defending The Permanent Regime

     A friend of mine liked to say that there’s only one major party in American politics: the “Incumbent Party.” He would dispute with those who disagreed by pointing out the 95%-or-better recidivism rate in Congress, the collusion of the government and the media to marginalize and dismiss third parties and their spokesmen, and the prevalence of cross-aisle logrolling that fattens the cats associated with both the nominal major parties at taxpayers’ expense. He made a damned good case out of it.

     Another way of characterizing the Incumbent Party, which has a lot more resonance with the politically reachable, is as the “Permanent Regime:” a governing class that cannot be removed from power short of armed revolution...which, of course, the regime is doing its best to render unlikely if not impossible.

     We have a Permanent Regime in Washington, though it strains to preserve the illusion that it can be removed and replaced by something wholly different. Recent developments in the Continuous Campaign® have started to peel back its cloak of concealment, such that Americans can finally see what we’ve allowed to fetter us.

     First up is this tidbit relevant to the race for the Republican presidential nomination:

     Who is the only candidate that Hillary Clinton can beat? Uhm, Joan, that would be Jeb "Call me Jeb!, not Bush" Bush:"
     Behind a garden modeled on Monet's, Jeb Bush addressed a lawn-full of chief executives and hedge-fund managers at an East Hampton, New York, estate Saturday morning. While the candidate is no stranger to courting wealthy donors, this time was different: about half the attendees were Democrats.

     "This guy sells well," said Kenneth Lipper, the money manager and registered Democrat who hosted the event, after Bush left. Virtually the only one who left without writing a check, Lipper said, was a buck deer that wandered past the group assembled on the wooded grounds...

     Jeb Bush has so many negatives against him that I could make an essay out of them alone. Yet donor-class members, including habitual Democrat donors, consider him worthy of large amounts of their money. Why?

     Doug Ross thinks it’s because Hillary Clinton can defeat him easily:

     How dim do you have to be to believe that Jeb! can win a general election against any Democrat?

     How's that Bush brand name doing? Is Common Core suddenly popular? How about illegal immigration in the wake of Kate Steinle's senseless murder?

     Friends, this is a course called False Flag 101, and Jeb Bush is the subject. As well as the antithesis of an electable candidate for the GOP.

     Doug might well be correct, but I take a more “inclusive” view: Jeb’s performance in office would not differ significantly from that of Hillary, and the donor class knows it.

     Draw your own conclusions.

     Second, we have this reflection on Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s reaction to Mike Huckabee’s recent comments about the “Iran deal:”

     I wonder. Is Debbie Wasserman-Shultz perhaps related to Sergeant Shultz -- of the Juden Polizei.

     She, along with an overpaid idiot at the JDF (Jonathon Greenblatt, a former advisor to Obama no less), came out swinging at Mike Huckabee -- whom I personally detest -- for saying what any sane Jew should be saying. In short, for saying that the Iran deal is allowing Iran to turn the entire nation of Israel into a Jewish oven. A sane Jew is one who has heard "Never Again" reverberating in their ears their entire lives. That clearly leaves out Mrs. Shultz. (Hmmm. Is she less Jewish and more a gut German?)

     Here’s Wasserman-Schultz’s statement:

     Appearing on CNN Monday afternoon, the Democratic chairwoman said such words were “unacceptable” for any presidential candidate, regardless of party. “No matter how people feel about the Iran deal,” she said, “to make the suggestion that there is some comparison to the six million Jews who lost their lives… to preventing Iran, in a deal, from achieving a nuclear weapon is an outrageous, unacceptable analogy.”

     Wasserman-Schultz claims to be “reviewing” the terms of the deal, but is unwilling to let Huckabee express a strongly negative opinions. Apparently, “calling a spade a spade” has become “unacceptable” in least, as long as the one in the Oval Office hates Israel.

     Third, Obama wants the Gadsden Flag banned:

     In a 45-minute speech, Obama called for reducing or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, reviewing the use of the solitary confinement and banning of Confederate and Tea Party Flags on public property, among other things.

     “Any system that allows us to turn a blind-eye to hopelessness and despair, that’s not a justice system, that’s an injustice system,” Obama said Tuesday. “Justice is not only the absence of oppression, it’s the absence of racist, divisive symbols in our public discourse.”

     Don’t you just love the way the spokesmen of the Regime redefine words like justice to suit their own suppressive purposes? They started with rights a century ago, and today you can hardly find anyone under the age of 90 who knows what the word really means. But I digress.

     A resistance that cannot publicly display the symbols of resistance has been partially atomized, and thus partially disarmed. There’s no other imaginable rationale for banning flags, billboards, bumper stickers, stained glass windows, or any other visible form of expression. Think about it.

     Fourth, we have the political elite’s revulsion against and concerted attack on Donald Trump. ‘Nuff said.

     When all the errors are in the bank’s favor, you can be forgiven for thinking there’s more at work than sloppy arithmetic – Me.

     The two “major parties” have allied with one another against private Americans. Not one element of American politics and public discourse since the departure of Ronald Reagan from the White House countervails this proposition. Indeed, the behavior of the Republican caucuses in Congress should nail it to the wall. That nominally private organizations such as the U. S. Chamber of Commerce have leagued with them against “conservative insurgents” is merely icing on the cake. The Democrats have their own nominally private annexes, as the behavior of the unions and the Main Stream Media has made clear for quite a while.

     Now that government has burst all Constitutional bounds and has succeeded in enervating the traditional conception of individual rights, he who seeks significant power, profit, and prestige has no choice but to get into bed with the Permanent Regime. However, the Regime isn’t a cheap whore; it exacts a high price for its favors. Cosa Nostra dons who required an unconditional promise of unspecified future service before they would confer their favor upon a supplicant were extremely moderate by comparison.

     As we can see from the above, the Regime knows how to defend itself. If the occasional quarrel succeeds in penetrating its armor, the wound only spurs it to reinforcement.

     There are still some conservatives and libertarians who believe that the GOP can be salvaged and returned to a Constitutional orientation. Here are some thoughts from one of them. They might be right; I make no claim to infallibility, on this subject or any other. However, the evidence is strong that even an ultimately successful effort will take several decades and a high price in toil and treasure.

     As I’ve been saying all too often lately, there is no Last Graf. There are no guaranteed solutions, and no perfect defenses. But at the very least we can open our eyes and ears, see plainly what lies before us and hear clearly what our political masters are saying. We can recognize the enemy: that he is not localized to a single party, and that whether we hope to defeat him or merely to deflect him, we will need vigilance and resolve not on one front, but two.

Abandonment of our POWs.

Throughout his Senate career, [John] McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero who people would logically imagine as a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.

Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain’s role in it, even as the Republican Party has made McCain’s military service the focus of his presidential campaign. Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War turned their heads and walked in other directions. McCain doesn’t talk about the missing men, and the press never asks him about them.

The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a special forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington—and even sworn testimony by two Defense secretaries that “men were left behind.” This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number—the documents indicate probably hundreds—of the U.S. prisoners held by Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain.[1]

I've not delved into the POW/MIA issue but one of the indicators of official allergy to the truth about this issue that I ran across in the 1980s or early '90s was an account in the Washington Times of a POW/MIA office the U.S. maintained in Thailand. Apparently the office was to be closed down. However, the really strange thing was that the officer in charge, a brigadier general, had been personally involved in destroying the paper records of that office. As in "hands on" involved. Somebody absolutely, positively wanted those records gone for a general officer personally to have been involved in their destruction. And what about those records of this ultra sensitive subject required their destruction rather than removal to some archive back home? Heck, was it even legal under any version of the Federal Public Records Act that today is making things oh-so-minutely uncomfortable for Mrs. Clinton?

It's been a long time since I read the story but I'm sure about the nature of the office, the involvement of that officer, and the place that the story was reported.

It's not the first time that U.S. servicemen have disappeared into communist hands and dropped down the memory hole. See also this article about American Korean War POWs who disappeared into the Soviet Union. It cites Laurence Jolidon, author of Last Seen Alive for the proposition "that the government of the United States has not aggressively and completely investigated this issue [U.S. servicemen in Soviet hands] but has allowed it to fade quietly from public view in order to advance other foreign-relations objectives."

Those POW/MIA flags need to be flown to honor the memory of those abandoned men as well as to remind us of the perfidy of our own government in abandoning them.

Whatever the issue – POWs, open borders, amnesty, free trade, globalization, spending, or the destruction of the Constitution – is there any doubt that our national government does NOT care about the American people?

[1] "McCain and the POW Cover-Up. The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam." By Sydney Schanberg, The American Conservative, 7/1/2015.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Day Off

     ...from Liberty’s Torch, that is. I intend to spend today working on Statesman, which has proved a frustratingly difficult project. Meanwhile, I exhort you to read and ponder this piece by harpist Moira Greyland. The anger and sadness it emanates are so strong as to be palpable. Consider also the arguments in this piece from PJ Media’s Walter Hudson.

     I’ll be back tomorrow, I hope.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Quickies: Heartfelt Sympathies Dept.

     Currently at a loss for how to continue Statesman and bored with all my pastimes, I resorted to the Web. Presently I wandered over to Sarah Hoyt’s place. Sarah writes about as frequently as I and always at respectable length, so she’s a good bet for a diversion at just about any time.

     And I found this gem:

     ...followed by this plaint:

     Yesterday older son and I were talking while driving back from Denver from looking at apartments for him, and we agreed this being dragged around in a vehicle of flesh is a pain in the behind. Because with the drive to Denver and some duties still at the other house (such as being there for handymen and such) we’re netting about viewing an apartment a day.

     In fact, he says, the whole apartment thing is a nuisance, because he should be able to just send his mind over to attend classes, of course.

     In my case, this is more critical because of course the flesh thing is no longer working all too well, so it keeps giving out on me when I least expect it to.

     This is to say that now that we punted back from working in the house 12 hours a day to about 3 hours in the evening, I’m slowly coming up from “stupidly tired.”

     And yes we should be done by the end of the week. And the writing should start again today.

     BUT I was shocked at how tired I was. How tired? Well, full dose ibuprofen was not DENTING pain. I still wanted to cry every time I moved. I not only couldn’t concentrate on reading a book, I couldn’t stand on listening to a book. And eating stuff with flavor was too much work, so I was living on milk. We came up from this to being able to eat and read comics, and today interest in reading other stuff.

     The thing is, I HOPE this is because of the surgery four months ago. I mean, I’m not that old and I was never that bizarrely tired before.

     I sympathize. My God, how I sympathize! I’m a few years older yet, and I can’t believe how long it takes me to lever myself out of bed in the morning. I mean, a certain reluctance to rise from a warm bed co-occupied by a beautiful woman is to be expected, especially at 4:00 AM, but really!

     Sarah my secret love, I wouldn’t be surprised if the surgery is part of it, but as much as I hate to tell you this, I must: weariness of the persistent sort also arises from the depredations of age...and it tends to intensify its grip as the years pass. Few are fortunate enough to feel even somewhat vital all the way into their sixties and seventies. And no, I’m not generalizing from a single datum.

     [That last was intended for my distant sweetie Duyen, who turned forty this year and can’t stop lamenting “the end of my youth.” Be at peace, you diminutive Vietnamese-American vixen; this too shall pass away...though I don’t expect either of us to like that process, either.]

To See And Yet To Disbelieve: A Sunday Rumination

     Gather round, Gentle Readers, for I have a story to tell. It’s about youth, and age, and an unusual collision between them. It’s about rebellion of the most pitiable sort: rebellion against one’s own potentialities and virtues. And it’s about things that were, and are, not of this world, yet were clearly seen...and were rejected by him who saw them.

     It’s about a man, but ultimately, it’s about fallen Man.

     He was young, and old. He had known both hardship and comfort, in approximately equal amounts. He knew a great many things, but practically nothing about himself. If he had a mission, it wasn’t the one he imagined.

     He was noted by one and all for his seriousness, his intensity, and his concentration on faith and the things of the spirit. Such matters were never far from his thoughts. He kept them close even as he studied the most mundane of subjects. Throughout his youth they undergirded his world and lit it from within. He was often derided as a “junior mystic.” He took no notice of it.

     It was his habit to speak seriously. Though he had not yet passed his twenty-first summer, he conversed with peasants and philosophers, commoners and kings, with equal ease. Despite his seeming youth, his elders never dismissed him or took him for granted.

     He trusted his reason and the evidence of his senses. Let’s give him that much, though his trust in those things lapsed when it ought to have been at its peak.

     The first cusp of his life came at a party. He was deep in conversation with a somewhat older woman. The talk had covered several subjects, and he spoke seriously about them all. As the hours passed, others gathered around them, though none of them spoke. Evening had given way to night, and a brief lapse in their exchange had come, when the conversation took an unexpected turn. “I’ve been studying palmistry,” she said, though their chat had not come near to any such topic. “May I take a palm print from you to study later?”

     He thought about it for a moment, could find no harm in it, and assented. As one of their hosts went to fetch an ink cartridge, she reached for his right hand. He turned it palm upward to her, and she gasped.

     She stared wide-eyed at his palm for several seconds, in complete silence. “You must be about two thousand years old,” she said at last. “I can see that you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.” She released his hand and silently retracted her request for a palm print. The party broke up shortly thereafter.

     The incident shook him to the core. Somehow she had seen deeply into him – far more deeply than he had ever permitted anyone, even his parents, to look. Others had twitted him about his perpetual seriousness, how he treated his life as if it were a problem to be solved when his coevals treated theirs as a frolic in the sun. The advice he’d heard most frequently, from persons young and old, was to “loosen up.” He had always dismissed such prescriptions, but he hadn’t forgotten them.

     Only one person, his parish pastor, had spoken to any other effect. But he’d allowed a distance to form between them that dimmed the luminance of his pastor’s counsel, all the way to invisibility.

     In the firestorm her remark had ignited within his skull, he drew the wrong lesson.

     It was only much later, after two decades of heedless self-indulgence and reckless adventurism that had nearly cost him his life twice before, that he recalled that evening and her words. It may have helped that he was far from home, and that recent developments and encounters had shaken him as deeply as that earlier conversation had done.

     She was right. I knew it at the time. I turned away from it even so.

     He strained to find the reason for it.

     Was it a form of delayed-action peer pressure? Or sudden revulsion at the idea of a life focused on studying, learning, and pondering? Or was it just a suppressed adolescent rebellion that had finally built up enough steam to force itself forward at last?

     He could not know. The young/old man he’d been was as alien to him as he’d been to himself at that time. Perhaps too much time had passed. Perhaps he’d seen too much, had been wounded too many times. It didn’t matter. A second cusp, more pronounced than the first, was upon him.

     I knew better even then. I knew better, but I did worse. The very epitome of folly. But what now?

     The years he’d squandered could not be regained. All he could do was mourn them. Yet he knew he’d had an epiphany. Though the habits of the twenty years behind him inclined him to dismiss it, his reason remained intact. He resolved that this time, he would believe what he saw all too plainly.

     He embarked upon a project few men ever dare to undertake: the complete reconstruction of his life. He knew how it must begin: the component he’d first sloughed must be the one first restored.

     He returned to faith in God.

     We are frequently told to maintain a healthful skepticism, even about what we see with our own eyes, hear with our own ears, and reason out with our own minds. It occurs to few persons that the popularity of such primary-color cynicism isn’t a perfect justification for it. Why not trust the evidence of our senses? Why not believe that the world is as it appears? Why not entertain, if only for a moment, the possibility that he who tells you not to trust your own eyes, ears, and reason might not be your friend – that he might have motives of which he dares not speak?

     Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was quite explicit about it:

     Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it – no matter if I have said it! – except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense.

     That applies just as strongly to epiphanies – private, internal experiences – as to external ones that others could share. For we have senses that go beyond the conventionally enumerated five: the kinesthetic senses of our bodies, the probabilistic, inferential, and inductive senses of our minds, and the moral sense that emanates from our souls. These are no more to be disregarded than the reports of our eyes and ears.

     I’m inclined to think that epiphany is more common than most of us imagine, which might be a part of the reason many persons dismiss theirs. Internal experiences are difficult to discuss with others. Many persons are embarrassed to mention them. The secularity and overall cynicism of our era makes it harder still. An industry has emerged that’s powerfully biased against accepting them; its practitioners charge hundreds of dollars per fifty-minute “hour,” which inclines their clients to privilege their opinions above others.

     A few persons who’ve had epiphanies have told me about them. Most of them pledged to accept their internal revelations and to act accordingly. They’ve all benefited thereby. Most of those who’ve dismissed them are still on the sunny side of the sod, so who can say what might arise to change their minds?

     Sometimes what changes a mind is the sudden, event-triggered perception of wasted years, as was the case for the subject of the brief tale above. I almost succumbed to the impulse to call such an interval “years spent wandering in the wilderness,” but realized that that kind of wandering almost always has a cleansing, healing effect. Provided you don’t starve or get mauled by a grizzly bear, of course.

     To sum up:
     Trust your internal senses.
     Trust your facility of reason and what it tells you.
     Be prudent, but don’t be paralyzed; you are more than even you can know.
     Remember how much of your “knowledge” is really confidence derived from past experiences: in other words, faith.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Normality Versus Hegemony

     Quite a long time ago, I read a semi-humorous article written by a man who was left-handed. The thrust of the article was that “it’s a right-handed world:” i.e., that commonplace devices and the conventions of the world cater to right-handed persons, and that left-handers must cope as best they can. Being rather young at that time, I was somewhat intrigued by this revelation. It set me on a kind of quest: I went looking for ways in which ordinary things embedded the assumption that their users would be righties rather than lefties. As you can imagine, I found a multitude of them.

     However, the discovery did not cause me to infer that the world is prejudiced against lefties, nor that lefties are treated unfairly. It did accentuate the importance of normality – conformance to the most common patterns – in easing one’s journey through life.

     Left-handedness is not normal. That’s not to say that it’s “unnatural,” or “perverse,” or bad in any other sense. It’s merely uncommon. Lefties constitute about 15% of the population of the United States, according to recent surveys. Thus, one who is pursuing a “mass market” for his new device will more likely orient it toward righties, if handedness matters to its use.

     This is not wrong or evil; it’s merely good sense. It does mean that lefties will have to cope with burdens righties don’t. But that’s also the case with persons distant from the norms for height, weight, and general intelligence. More, there are specific occupations in which left-handedness is a valued asset; pitching and orthopedic surgery are two examples.

     This highlights the difference between normality and hegemony.

     In our time, attempts to conflate normality and hegemony are rife. It’s normal:

  • To be right-handed (~85%);
  • To be heterosexual (~97%);
  • To have two arms and two legs (~99%);
  • To have the “normal” five senses (~99%);
  • To prefer the company of those who share one’s race, religion, or ethnic heritage (~100%).

     None of these conformances to various norms confer privileges beyond a degree of convenience. Yet they matter. The lefty, the homosexual, the amputee, the blind and the deaf, and the member of a minority race, creed, or heritage must all find ways to cope with their minority standing. It’s no one’s “fault;” it’s merely the way things are. Yet there are activists determined to impose those minorities’ preferences upon the rest of us by political means, as if not Nature but the State had decreed their disadvantages.

     And far too many of us let them get away with it, most commonly in the name of “compassion.”

     It’s not that long ago that the overwhelming majority of Americans would have known how wrong that is without needing time for reflection. But the conflation of normality with hegemony has penetrated so deeply into the public consciousness that many of us react in precisely the opposite fashion – by reflex conditioned in by the relentless propagandization of those aforementioned activists.

     This is on my mind this fine July morning due to a phrase I first encountered quite recently: “sundown segregation.” It refers to the natural human tendency to prefer the company of others like oneself when there are no overriding considerations (e.g., one’s occupation). That tendency is why America has “Chinatowns,” “Germantowns,” “Little Italys,” and the like. It’s also the main reason why American Negroes tend to concentrate geographically, despite racialists’ claims that they’ve been “herded into ghettoes.”

     Political initiatives to combat that wholly natural tendency are, in a word, unnatural. It takes no more than ordinary intelligence to realize and deplore this, just as it would take no more than that to condemn a State decree that 50% of all marketed devices be oriented toward the convenience of the left-handed. Yet such initiatives have multiplied. They receive a truly unnatural degree of acquiescence.

     What too many good-hearted persons fail to realize is that the overt rationale for such initiatives is nothing more than a cover for the all-important covert motive: the desire of the power-hungry to assert absolute hegemony over every aspect of human life.

     In some cases, it starts innocently. Just as it’s normal to have two arms, two legs, and five senses, it’s normal for a person so equipped to feel sympathy for the plight of the amputee, the blind, and the deaf. Just as it’s normal for an American to be self-supporting (or a member of a family with an adequately functioning “breadwinner”), it’s normal to feel sympathy for those who aren’t, whether by reason of incapacity or tender age. Power-mongers have learned how to latch onto such sentiments and politicize them. Thus “programs” are born to redress such “iniquities,” so the “afflicted” can feel “included.” Note that such programs tend to be eternal, by reason of the natural existence of such persons...and that they swell in a fashion detached from the prevalence of the “afflictions” they purport to relieve.

     In other cases, there’s nothing innocent about it. I hardly need to tell any Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch about the inroads black racialist mouthpieces, homosexual activists, and flacksters for “undocumented immigrants” have made into America’s politics. The salient thing here is that those inroads were paved with propaganda: ceaseless beratings of the majority about supposed “injustices” done to those minorities. Power-mongers and members in good standing of the political class have exploited them to the hilt.

     Were we to stipulate that some true injustices have been inflicted on members of minority demographics, wouldn’t it still be a far greater injustice for the State to penalize the overwhelming (and wholly innocent) majority of us to redress them? Wouldn’t that constitute a perversion of the very idea of justice: the punishment of the guilty without penalty to the innocent?

     You know the answer full well.

     The above might seem too obvious to emphasize...which is why I repeat so frequently that obvious means overlooked. The gulf between the claims of “rights” and “injustices” and the cupidity and malice of the grievance-mongers that make them should be highlighted, yet it’s far more often ignored. Given the Main Stream Media’s swiftness to seize on exploitable occurrences to feed the grievance-mongers’ furnaces, coupled to politicians’ readiness to leap onto podia and trumpet “causes” in which we should all be compulsorily enrolled, the importance of reversing the tide has never been greater.

     A final thought: normal does not imply good or better. Majorities have no rights nor privileges as such, all pseudo-democratic notions notwithstanding. Assertions of hegemony through demography ought always to be resisted and refuted, no matter what demographic might claim it. It’s merely the irony of our place and time that minorities – groups outside the norm and distinct from it – should be waging a largely successful campaign to wield hegemony over the rest of us.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Ceremony Of Innocence

     The slowly emerging details about the supposed “deal” with Iran over its nuclear program are becoming ever more incredible. Consider the following exchange between Senator Marco Rubio and Secretary of State John Kerry:

     The language Senator Rubio quoted does indeed seem to obligate the U.S. to assist in the defense of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Kerry, ever the prevaricator, tried to slide around the issue with a typically weasel-worded response about “coordinating with Israel.” Yet his mealy-mouthed assurances about Israel’s security being a paramount consideration cannot obscure the plain meaning of the words in the agreement presented to the Senate.

     Is it even thinkable that the Senate should ratify such an agreement?

     It’s been said by many commentators, and once by me, that were Barack Hussein Obama an agent of an enemy power, his actions in office would not differ from what he’s done to date. The Iran “deal” nails it to the wall – and unless it’s somehow blocked, it will elevate Iran to the status of a nuclear power with the ability to threaten its neighbors with annihilation.

     Strictly speaking, the well-being of Israel is not a vital interest of the United States. Our longstanding alliance with Israel is highly useful to both countries, but were the Muslim states around it to succeed in destroying it, the impact on America would not be catastrophic, at least in the near term. However, the betrayal of our security guarantees to Israel would complete the loss of credibility of the United States in world affairs. Nation-states have long memories about such things.

     Americans tend to look first to domestic matters when choosing political sides. This is normal and natural; what’s near will always have more potential effect upon us than what’s far away. But when a president chooses to side with a declared enemy of this country in its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, fully aware that at least one ally would thereby be placed under the threat of imminent destruction, it tends to get people’s attention. That includes the attention of the more farsighted strategists of the president’s party, who must surely be thinking about what the consequences will be for its electoral fortunes.

     Any smart Democrat should be thinking along those lines, even if he doesn’t give a hoot about the extinction of Israel.

     There’s been some speculation that there just might be enough Senate Democrats with residual traces of conscience to block the agreement with Iran. Obama’s end run around the Senate, deliberately going first to the United Nations Security Council for its endorsement, has angered rather than mollified his co-partisans. The prospect of the U.S. actually training Iranian security forces, despite the ongoing chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to the Zionists!” heard in the streets of Tehran, might be the falling stone that looses the avalanche.

     The deal also frees Iran to pursue the acquisition of ICBMs. That factors in as well.

     Yes, the Corker bill has made it more difficult. Yes, the pusillanimity of the GOP caucus on Capitol Hill will be difficult to overcome. Yes, Congressional Democrats have displayed near-perfect party unity up to this point. Yes, yes, yes.

     There remains hope: the hope that Obama has at last gone too far, that he’s finally awakened the consciences of enough Americans – Democrat partisans included – to evoke firm, bipartisan opposition to his agenda. Whether that hope is substantial or slender, I cannot say. But absent a real, flying-lead revolution that concludes with The Won’s corpse hanging from a D.C. lamppost, it’s all we have.

     It’s become very difficult to be sanguine about the future. Evil is surging around the world, while the forces of freedom and justice have been kept chained and enervated near to impotence. Millions of Americans have turned away from prospects of advancement and toward preparations for calamity. The youngest of us struggle to support themselves; the oldest huddle fearfully, wondering whether it will be an act of Islamic terrorism, the demise of Social Security, or an ObamaCare death panel that will finally get them.

     The “bullets, beans, and Band-Aids” futures are strong and rising.

     Yet which are the loudest voices in the national cacophony? The pettiest of the interest groups! The advocates for same-sex marriage, for government-funded abortions, for the elimination of every vestige of God or the Commandments from public spaces! The campaigners for the “rights” of the “undocumented!” The endless yammering of self-nominated “victims” of all varieties!

     When William Butler Yeats wrote, just after the conclusion of World War I, that:

     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.

     ...he might as well have been thinking of our milieu.

     There is no Last Graf. I’m not arrogant enough to imagine that I could compose a course of action likely to reverse the blood-dimmed tide and allow our ceremony of innocence to continue. I can barely imagine a course that might preserve what remains to us.

     What comes to mind as I write these words is a scene from Frank Miller’s script for the movie 300, as Leonidas prepares to meet Xerxes:

     King Leonidas: [on being told the Persians are coming to parley] Captain, I leave you in charge.
     Captain: But, sire...
     King Leonidas: Relax, old friend. If they assassinate me, all of Sparta goes to war. Pray they're that stupid. Pray we're that lucky.

     We need an act of the most vicious evil, the most arrant stupidity, by one or more of our enemies to awaken enough of us to matter. In which regard I can only echo Leonidas:

     Pray, my friends.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones

The US military has some very colorful expressions – many, if not most, simply not appropriate for this publication.  One of the idioms that I always found to be deliciously descriptive yet imaginatively intriguing was the phrase, “Self-licking ice cream cone.”
The first use of the phrase is thought to have been in a 1992 paper by Pete Worden, then a US Air Force officer, titled “On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones” critical of  NASA's bureaucracy.   Worden later worked on Capitol Hill, an experience that led him to say that NASA actually stood for "Never A Straight Answer.”  Ironically, after his retirement as a Brigadier General, Worden became the Director of NASA's Ames Research Centerin California.

 Worden, being a little unconventional, was known to occasionally appear in costume, “usually dressing as either Darth Vader, a wizard, or after arriving at NASA, as a goat herder.”   This behavior resulted in an “inquiry from Senator Chuck Grassley that led to an investigation by the NASA inspector general's office into a private project to photograph a group of Viking re-enactors….Although concluding that no government money had been spent on the Viking re-enactment, the investigation itself was estimated to have cost between $40,000 and $600,000.”  Only our Government can waste like that.

America’s prosperity has enabled a standard of living unmatched in human history.  It also has allowed for excesses and intemperance to the point of impending self-destruction.  Unfortunately, Americans, like our bureaucracies, are prone to obesity.   
The General Accountability Office (GAO) reports, “From 2004 to 2012, the federal non-postal civilian workforce grew by 258,882 employees, from 1.88 million to 2.13 million, an increase of 14 percent.”   According to a June 22, 2015 publication of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 35 percent of men and 37 percent of women were obese, and over 65 percent of the United States population is overweight. Clearly, in many instances, bigger is not always better.

What can prevent this proclivity for counter-productive growth from leading to our self-destruction?  Most likely, reduction will not occur until the pain produced by the problem of unbridled growth becomes so severe that reduction becomes more attractive than an externally imposed dieting plan or an uncomfortable girdle.   Thus the intrinsic problem with the self-licking ice cream cone – it simply doesn’t have the will-power to stop itself. Perhaps nowhere is the self-licking, self-fulfilling nature of government bureaucracy more evident than in the government school system teacher unions.

Richard Berman, reporting on the 2014 elections explains, “Teacher unions have spent hundreds of millions of dollars obstructing reasonable reforms to ‘last in, first out’ hiring policies, seniority-based pay, and teacher tenure that could improve the status quo that protects unions and incompetence in the classroom at the expense of students. In practice, this means quid pro quo agreements with political candidates where campaign contributions are traded for promises of an anti-reform agenda.” 

Consider this cautionary tale of Government’s attempt to reform itself:

The government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. Recognizing someone may steal from it, they created a night watchman position (GS-4) and hired a person for the job. Then they said, "How can the watchman do his job without instruction?" So they created a planning position and hired two people: one to write the instructions (GS-12) and one to do time studies (GS-11). Then they said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing his job correctly?" So they created two management positions.  Then they said, "How are these people going to get paid?"So they created a timekeeper position (GS-09) and a payroll officer (GS-11). Then they said, "Who will account for all of these people?" So they created an administrative position and hired three people: an Admin Officer (GM-13), an assistant Admin Officer (GS-12) and a Legal Secretary (GS-08). Then they said, "We have had this organization in operation for one year and we are $22,000 over budget, we must reduce overall costs," so they fired the night watchman. 

Ronald Reagan described the self-licking nature of government’s insatiable
appetite this way, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!”  

The Era of Big Government is here, and you WILL like it.  And if you don’t, expect a call from the IRS or some other self-licking eternal entity.