Monday, July 31, 2017

“How Stupid Can You Get?” not a question one should bandy about carelessly. Some people might take it as a challenge:

     The University of Iowa’s student newspaper has announced the discovery of a special privilege which intelligent people acquire as an accident of birth. This new privilege — called “cognitive privilege” — functions in essentially the same way as white privilege.

     The Daily Iowan revealed the discovery of this new privilege earlier this week....

     As with skin color and much else, Daily Iowan author Dan Williams argues, people have no control over how smart they are. Life is a huge cosmic lottery full of winners and losers.

     Cognitive privilege is one of “many kinds of privilege besides white privilege.”

     Let’s see, now: for decades, the Left has had multiple cows whenever anyone suggests actually studying intelligence. For instance, when Herrnstein and Murray published The Bell Curve, the first systematic study of general intelligence and its correlates since Arthur Jensen’s tarring and feathering back in 1969, virtually the whole of the academic Left denounced them as racists, sexists, et cetera ad nauseam infinitam. Their sin, of course, was to look at genetic factors’ participation in intelligence. Social “scientists” on the Left insisted in a virtual chorus that only environmental factors that affect intelligence ought to be studied or considered for public policy purposes.

     Why? The reason is actually quite simple: if only environmental factors – e.g., home life, cultural surroundings, quality of schooling, and so forth – are valid subjects for study, then government can justify intrusive adjustments to such things in the name of a “level intellectual playing field.” It’s a BLEEP!ing money river for the social engineers.

     There’s just one problem: No one has yet identified a controllable environmental factor that correlates with measurable intelligence, whether the metric chosen is school grades or the Revised Stanford-Binet. Programs such as “Head Start” have spent billions without producing enduring cognitive gains for their clients, even in the early grades of grammar school.

     That’s becoming generally known. As it becomes known, those who absorb the lesson will turn ever more firmly against intrusive government programs to “equalize” educational results, especially as regards the races and sexes. That troubles the Left, ever the fans of the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent State.

     That makes me wonder whether, given that it’s in a losing position on the environmental-factors front, the Left has decided to embrace the position it previously condemned: i.e., that general intelligence is somewhere between one third and two thirds a product of genetics.

     Mind you, the prevailing consensus among cognitive scientists is as open to dispute as the supposed consensus among “climate scientists.” Science has no use for consensus; anyone who tells you different is either an ignoramus or a liar. At this time, no one knows the genesis of intelligence, particularly the highest reaches of intelligence. All anyone has is an opinion.

     If this Dan Williams fellow is “on his own,” he might soon be reined in sharply by his fellow-traveling Leftists for implying the endorsement of a thesis that’s long been unacceptable to them. However, he could also be tossing a straw to the wind: a flier intended to test the currents of opinion for whether a new sally in identity politics might be popular. For among the things becoming generally known are the means and distributions of IQ as controlled by race and sex – and if the race and gender hustlers could use these measures, which have displeased them for decades, they’d turn their previous stance on its head to make use of them.

     It doesn’t bother me either way. Regardless of the position they adopt, we know what the race and gender hustlers will demand: more government intervention, more government programs, and more government spending. They can’t “redistribute” IQ points...and thank You most sincerely, dear God, for that great blessing.

“Whom The Finger Of Allah Hath Touched”

     Excuse me? Why yes, my quote key has been getting a lot of exercise lately. But then, I’ve always liked quotes. They’re a way to express your sentiments through the mouths of others better known and (hopefully) better respected. Of course, they can be overdone. For example, we have this famous statement by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.” Legend has it that Socrates replied to the hyper-opinionated Transcendentalist that “A man with two ears and one mouth should speak half as much as he listens,” but I’m inclined to distrust that. Remember what Abraham Lincoln said: “There’s an awful lot of made-up shit on the Internet.”

     The title phrase was at one time used by Middle Eastern Muslims to describe the mentally disturbed. Such unfortunates were accorded a semi-sacred status in medieval Muslim societies. They were protected against predation by social custom, and were often treated as holy mendicants, fed and clothed by the charity of the sane. Some even achieved the status of oracles or prophets. That should tell you a lot about Islam, if you think about it.

     I have no idea how many such persons could be found in a typical ninth or tenth century Arabian village, but it couldn’t have been a great many, else an informal “thinning of the numbers” would surely have taken place. It was probably a bit like the more recent phenomenon of the “village idiot.” One such would lend a town a charitable aspect and a certain quaint appeal. The other villagers would see to it that he was cared for and came to no harm. However, a town besieged by persons desirous of the post would quickly adopt defensive measures.

     If you’re wondering where this is going, Gentle Reader, I’m sure you’re not alone. The overarching subject has been much on my mind for months. It’s only now coming into acceptably clear focus.

     The defining conceptual shift of our most recent decades is the blurring of the boundary between tolerable and intolerable. I could present examples of phenomena that have “crossed the border” in either direction, but it hardly seems necessary. Suffice it to say that many behaviors – verbal behaviors included – that were once regarded as entirely tolerable are now deemed heinous enough to make one a pariah: unemployable, shunned by “decent folks,” and generally relegated to the alleys where the bums and drunkards sleep. Conversely, behaviors once widely regarded as intolerable now proclaim their “pride” and hold regular parades, notably in San Francisco. This has been the cause of a lot of social discord.

     When I paused to assess the words tolerable and intolerable in a sober frame of mind, and I measured them against the behaviors to which they’ve been applied, I came to a conclusion I didn’t expect. It’s striking enough to be only tentatively held, but it’s worth extensive consideration even so:

In the preponderance of cases, tolerable is about percentages.

     Percentages meaning:

  1. Frequency of occurrence in the general population;
  2. Fraction of the involved persons’ behavior;
  3. Imposition of disruptive, offensive, or dangerous characteristics or behavior upon unwilling others.

     Let’s return to the “village idiot” of the opening segment. Call him Smith. (Surprise, surprise.) If the village numbers some hundreds of persons, and Smith is its only idiot, he’ll probably be regarded as tolerable by criterion 1. If Smith’s idiocy manifests solely in sitting on a fence and dribbling nonsensically on good-weather days, he’ll probably be regarded as tolerable by criterion 2. Finally, if Smith doesn’t demand a village-idiots’ representative on the village council, doesn’t randomly lie down in front of traffic or run naked through restaurants and retail establishments, and doesn’t assault passers-by, he’ll probably be regarded as tolerable by criterion 3. The other villagers won’t insist on confining or killing him. They might even look upon him with a certain affection.

     Smith becomes a problem for the village if he violates any one of those criteria. He’ll probably be confined to some pleasant institution with padded walls, to be cared for (and kept out of others’ hair) by the “professionally kind:” well-compensated persons in white uniforms who are unlikely to have a shred of genuine kindness – to say nothing of the spirit of Christian charity – in their bodies. But then, when they “whom the finger of Allah hath touched” seriously disrupt the lives of the decent and self-supporting, that’s the only reaction imaginable, regardless of how it might look to an uninformed outsider. Life must go on.

     The borderlands around tolerable are like that: gray, murky, and dangerous to explore.

     That quaint old phrase “village idiot” is immensely useful. The second of its words should be regarded as a wildcard, to be replaced by any of a wide range of other deviancies from normal deportment and / or self-support. I have no doubt that my Gentle Readers can come up with a number of socially significant replacements all by themselves.

     These past forty years have seen an explosion in the varieties and populations of “village idiots.” It’s been accompanied by their dismissal of the bounds on acceptable idiocies and their adoption of increasingly disruptive and predatory tactics to get what they want. They’ve received substantial help from the Main Stream Media, which are always eager to assist an aberration along if it will provide them with “news” – or even better, a cause to which other aberrants and professional promoters of discord can attach themselves, and thus create even more “news.”

     My point is this: There have always been “village idiots.” However, before our time they “whom the finger of Allah hath touched” were far fewer in number. They lived quietly, without disturbing normal persons or the prevailing public order. They didn’t demand special accommodations to their particular brand of idiocy or deem themselves above the laws that bind the rest of us. Before the social dislocations of the Sixties they were, by the percentages criteria, tolerable. That is not the case today.

     Remember the wildcard character of the word “idiot.” And ponder just what might happen should the normal persons of these United States decide they’ve had enough.

     (For the curious: This essay was, in part, stimulated by the reactions to President Trump’s announcement that the transgendered shall no longer be permitted to serve in the U.S. military...but only in part.)


You know what's the funniest thing about all this [Scaramucci, Priebus, Sessions, Spicer]? The funniest thing is that it's still better than having the Democrats in power!
"President Chaos and the Keystone Kongress." By Andrew Klavan, PJ Media, 7/28/17.

Overreach and hemorrhage.

A global empire costs money … lots of it. Since WWII, the United States has established and maintained its worldwide hegemony with bribes and military force. The two foundations of that power are a worldwide network of military bases with a military budget that exceeds the combined military budgets of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan … and uneven trade agreements that systematically transfer wealth from the United States to our trading partners. This is not sustainable. We pay to play and that cost has hollowed out our economy.[1]
The single most important feature of Donald Trump's personality is that he understands that it is not America's responsibility to be every foreigner's bitch. Which is in stark contrast to all morons and betrayers who thought (1) to dump billions and billions of dollars on a communist dictatorship through factory relocation and bizarre trade imbalances and (2) to pursue ridiculous will-o'-the-wisps in the Hindu Kush and Nineveh and Tyre with our military.

Afghanistan, Syria or Iran any threat to us? No. Does it matter what gas and oil pipelines go through what countries? No. But U.S. troops half way around the world, confrontations with non-submissive foreigners, and overheated rhetoric in spades? You bet. Three bags full.

U.S. southern border defended by U.S. troops? Don't be naive. What an utterly ridiculous thought. Somewhere in some distant land is a shaky government with a lukewarm commitment to democratic governance, not to mention modernity and rationality itself. So THAT is where you can find our military. Pissing away lives and treasure.

However, I have to say that Trump, as usual, manages to present a confused picture. It seems I voted for a military confrontation with N. Korea and needlessly confrontational relations with Russia and China. Every week that goes by is a week of lost opportunities. Maybe Gen. Kelly can create order where there is chaotic lurching. For starters, there has to be someone in one of the few slots filled by the Trump administration who can explain to him and the Congress that "health care" isn't a constitutional responsibility of Congress.

[1] Comment by Jester on "The Demolition of U.S. Global Power." By Alfred McCoy, The Unz Review, 7/16/17.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

“Atomic Blonde”

     Remember Eighties spy thriller movies? The intrigue, the plots and counterplots, the betrayals, the glorious violence? Well, they’re back with a vengeance. Just a few years ago, martial arts sensation Gina Carano brought us Haywire. This weekend has brought us Charlize Theron’s star vehicle Atomic Blonde.

     The C.S.O. said we simply had to see it – “It’s going to have a really high body count, Fran” – and as I’m a major Theron fan, I concurred. So we spent yesterday watching her kick, slash, and shoot her way through the week that climaxed with the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event that would have had some significance even without Charlize’s derring-do.

     Despite all the violence, it’s a genuinely beautiful movie. Director David Leitch uses several subtle tricks of the cinematographer’s trade to chart protagonist Lorraine Broughton’s course through her pursuit of a critical list of Allied undercover agents and her agonizing discovery that she’s been misled about a great deal by her MI6 employers. Theron’s Lorraine is electrifying in every scene; I could hardly look away when she was in action. Alongside her, James McAvoy and Sofia Boutelle give splendid performances: the former as the duplicitous David Percival whose games are more than double or triple, the latter as Delphine Lasalle, fledgling French agent and Lorraine’s fleeting lover.

     Another star of the show is the selection of pop songs of the era as counterpoint to the action. There were so many brilliant juxtapositions of memorable pop with plot events that I can no longer remember them all. (One I won’t forget is when Lorraine walks into a seedy dance club to the tune of Re-Flex’s The Politics of Dancing.) Suffice it to say that it all works wonderfully well.

     However, Atomic Blonde gives us more than excellent performances, music, and cinematography. It also reminds us why we read fiction or go to the movies: we want to see good duke it out with evil. We want to root for a genuine good guy. We don’t expect him to be invulnerable or indefeasible; certainly Lorraine isn’t either of those. But we want the moral issues to be plain more or less from the outset. Nothing is more dispiriting than the John le Carre style portrayal of losers and victims embedded in a milieu in which conscience has no place because right and wrong are irrelevant.

     Highly recommended.

"Essential Services"

     The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. – H. L. Mencken

     I’m fascinated – in the sense that a horror-movie fan is fascinated by gory slayings – by the phrases governments use to clothe themselves in righteousness and indispensability. You’ve already seen me rant on “compelling government interest,” a phrase that’s been used to legitimize one invasion of our liberty after another. Here’s another: “essential services,” a phrase by which the Omnipotent State means us to assume that the “services” so described are...well...essential. And maybe, just maybe, they might be...but to whom?

     It’s a subject worthy of a few CPU cycles, if you have any to spare on a Sunday morning.

     “Gentlemen, you see that in the anarchy in which we live, society manages much as before. Take care, if our disputes last too long, that the people will come to think they can just as easily do without us.” – Bejamin Franklin, to the other delegates to the Constitutional Convention

     It’s been noted, here and elsewhere, that during the “government shutdowns” we’ve all been instructed to fear, approximately 85% of all federal workers are still at work...whatever “at work” might mean to a federal “worker”...and 100% of all federal “workers” are guaranteed to receive their full salaries, including for the duration of the “shutdown,” when the “shutdown” is over. In other words, the “shutdown penalizes the government and its drones only to the extent of a brief delay in paying 15% of the federal workforce. Everything else about the Carriage of State, with the possible exception of payments to holders of federal debt instruments, rattles on as it had before the “shutdown.”

     Doesn’t sound too fearsome, does it? Why, you may ask, doesn’t the “shutdown,” which has been painted in such garish colors, actually shut something down? The answer is always “essential services.”

     There’s a notable lack of specificity about those “essential services.” That’s probably because so few Americans would agree with the list of nuisances and make-work tasks bundled under that heading. So it’s worth asking explicitly: what “services” does the federal government provide that a majority of Americans would agree to classify as “essential?”

     National defense? Well, yes, I think we could get majority concurrence on that one. But what others? The Postal Service is autonomous today. The interstate highway system pretty much “serves” us without need for human supervision, despite the occasional pothole. Would anyone much care whether the alphabet agencies were furloughed in their entirety? How about the staffs of our elected federal legislators? Surely the 535 elected nostrum-spouters in the Capitol could go without their regularly scheduled tongue baths for a few days without soiling their diapers, no?

     Not according to Washington’s definition of “essential.” In Washingtonese, it appears to mean “whatever we choose to do, regardless of whether it benefits anyone but ourselves.”

     There’s a moral in there, somewhere.

     An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public. – Charles Talleyrand

     At this point in the deterioration of the American Constitutional order, there’s an irrefutable case that the federal government is a lethal parasite upon the American people. Subtract the military and the border patrol, and what’s left that any private citizen, not an employee of the federal government itself, really values? Granted that there are millions of pensioners and layabouts who really like their monthly checks, but were the federal apparatus uprooted and cast into the flames, would they need them? Consider in this light the enormous increase in the cost of living imposed on us by the federal government: first in our tax burden, and after that through regulation, inflation, and the federal protection of coercively maintained unions. Isn’t it probable that even the millions of retirees who subsist on Social Security alone would find other means?

     A Man From Mars, looking disinterestedly at the federal government, would immediately conclude that “it’s got to go.” Not only is it a parasitic organism; it commits some horrendous crimes. I’m not talking about the A-Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ponder the murders of Randy Weaver’s wife and son, or the massacre of the Branch Davidians at Waco. Try to find a justification for them.

     The redefinition by Washington of “essential” is essential only to Washington itself. With only the two exceptions already noted, every service private Americans genuinely value is provided by a lower level of government, usually a municipality or county. Yet we’ve been taught – quite successfully – to fear a “government shutdown” above condemnation to Hell. But that’s rather convenient for those who value their ability to mulct us for their personal benefit and the benefit of their cronies, isn’t it?

     Apologies, Gentle Reader. I got up on “the wrong side of the bed” this morning. It doesn’t much help that my driveway is a shambles, that my lawn has been ruined by the same people who ruined my driveway, that my hands hurt as if they’d been smashed by a closing car door, or that Rufus has just drooled all over my only clean pair of jeans. I’m sure I’ll be better soon. Tomorrow, perhaps.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Services Rendered

     [You get an oldie today, so the C.S.O. and I can do our respective chores, go to the movies, and have a leisurely dinner out. The subject is one we don’t hear too much about these days. The essay first appeared at the old Palace of Reason, on June 28, 2004 -- FWP]

     Time was, Americans were fascinated by the concept of "planned obsolescence." A great many commentators of the Fifties and Sixties made the notion – i.e, that products were being manufactured with built-in failure dates – the center of their attacks on our "consumer culture." The underlying thesis was that manufacturers were in a position to dictate to consumers, and that planned obsolescence was a more profitable approach to their businesses than making products that last.

     It was a canard, of course. No manufacturer in a market economy can ever be free to dictate to his customer base. His competitors watch him too closely for that. They'll pounce the moment he gives them an opening. But as the foundation for conspiratorial allegations about free-market capitalism, planned obsolescence was next to ideal. It had all the required elements: an evil cabal (businessmen), a seductive lure (falling prices), and a helpless victim class (consumers) to whose rescue the guardians of justice and fair play (government) had to ride, lest American society collapse under the weight of its rusted tailfins and worn-out vacuum cleaners.

     In truth, we got then what we get now: value for value. If the deterioration of the value of the dollar is properly taken into account, Americans today enjoy a standard of living that's three to four times that of their Fifties predecessors. This would not be possible had we been hobbled by the need to keep replacing necessities as they wore out.

     Yet it is nonetheless true that certain products are made with a built-in lifetime, with the approval of those who buy and use them. In some cases, that lifetime is a single use. You might have employed one such with your morning coffee and doughnut: a paper napkin. No one complains about having to throw those away. Why?

     It takes a little thought to discern the pattern beneath our acceptance of disposable products. What we really pay for when we buy a physical good is not the good itself, but rather, what it can do for us. The paper napkin's disposability is virtually the entire point of the thing. It allows us to cleanse our faces and fingers without requiring that we launder it afterward, as we would a cloth napkin. The same could be said of many goods with comparable purposes.

     It's a funny lens to view the world of physical goods through, isn't it? Yet it applies without exception. Whatever we think we're purchasing, what we're really buying is labor: either the services the good will provide us, or the lessening of our own toil. The only thing we seek as an end in itself and for no other reason is happiness -- and if that's available in any store on Long Island, your Curmudgeon hasn't found it yet.

     Disposables to the side, we can obviously get more service out of goods that can be reused. The more uses a thing is good for, the more valuable it is to us. That tends to raise its price, but as long as its utility rises as fast or faster, it will remain marketable.

     (Your Curmudgeon will pause here to consider what appears to be a glitch in the curve: the luxury wristwatch. Having recently seen a $250,000 watch, and having noted that it tells time no better and no worse than a $50 watch, your Curmudgeon had to ponder his premises for a bit. Ultimately, he realized that no one purchases a quarter-million-dollar watch because it tells time. It has the same function as a diamond bracelet: to impress the onlooker with one's wealth. Therefore, it fits the model.)

     Following this line of reasoning leads us to conclude that those things that provide a desired service but never fail or wear out should be infinitely valuable. This is indeed the case, yet paradoxically, these infinitely valuable items are without material cost. All it takes to acquire them is some skull sweat. They're ideas.

     He who teaches may charge tuition, but, once you've absorbed them, the ideas he vends are cost-free. Even bad ideas have some value, as object lessons in how the reasoning process can go wrong, and the consequences a bad idea can have when put into practice. But good ideas of wide applicability can be the foundation of a life, a political system, or a religion capable of transforming the world.

     In the midst of a campaign season, quite a lot of ideas are "in play," bandied about by candidates, their backers, the talking heads on television, and The Celebrated Man In The Street. That's where we are today...or it would be, if numerous calumnies and innuendoes weren't clogging the channels of our discourse. As matters stand, we appear to be far more concerned with incidentals: who lied or shaded the truth about what, who boinked whom, and who stands to profit from this or that political decision, regardless of whether the decision itself was right and proper.

     Your Curmudgeon ardently wishes it would all go away. In the words of Arthur Herzog, it's turned the American political dialogue into something approaching torture.

     If now is not the time to be concerned with ideas and their consequences, what time would be more appropriate? Granted that one of Mankind's critical ideas throughout history has been the importance of character. Indeed, it's a point your Curmudgeon is fond of making. But attacks on others' character that lack substantiation, or whose basis has been proved false-to-fact, contribute negatively. If they speak to anyone's character, it would be that of the men who forge and deploy them.

     To get service from our political ideas, we must think about them, discuss them, study the cases to which they've been applied, ponder their consequences, and compare them to the relevant alternatives as honestly and egolessly as we can. A moment spent on pointless derision of one's political opponents, rather than on dispassionate analysis of what works, and when and where, is a moment wasted -- and you know how your Curmudgeon feels about the waste of time.

     So shall we tune out the character assassins and venom vendors for now? Can we concentrate instead on the differences between Democrat and Republican, and how the policies of each has fared these past few decades? Of course; your Curmudgeon was sure you would agree. Putting political ideas under the microscope is the only way to profit from them. But what's that you say? What's that lump of discolored paper protruding from your Curmudgeon's pocket? Well, if you must know, it's a paper napkin. Yes, yes, it's a used one. We go through them very fast here at the Fortress of Crankitude, and your Curmudgeon dislikes descending to the basement to fetch more, especially in the middle of dinner. Besides, throwing them away after just one use seems

Friday, July 28, 2017


     No, this won’t be a technical discourse on firearms of any kind. My knowledge of such things is far less than that of many others who blog frequently and knowledgeably on the subject. But my knowledge of one thing about guns – the most important thing, in my admittedly un-humble opinion – is absolute.

     Take a deep breath before reading on.

     “They got the guns. We got the numbers.” – Jim Morrison

     Just now we have a bad case of runaway government, the very worst this country has ever suffered. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency was a desperate gamble on a complete outsider who refuses to subscribe to the norms of the political class. He said the right things, and he said them in a fashion that persuaded us not only that he meant them but that he would act on them with the full power of the presidency. So, even though other men who’d said the right things in a convincing fashion, once we’d given them the offices they sought, had let us down, we said “What the hell, one more try,” and put him in the White House.

     He’s trying, folks. Though I was dubious of him before the election and voted for him with trepidation, my admiration for him has grown great. He was serious, he is serious, and he’s trying his best. He clearly loves this country: an attribute that, as we learned from his predecessor, is indispensable in our chief executive. But he’s being thwarted on a great many fronts.

     He’s being thwarted by the immense Washington political establishment and the millions of faceless bureaudrones that serve its aggregate will. Every day those bureaudrones sally forth on their mission: not Trump’s mission, theirs. They do so with the full power of the federal government at their backs. Their mission is overtly antithetical to freedom, prosperity, and public order and safety. And they get their way damned nearly 100% of the time.

     Why? How? Guns.

     As you read this, Nicolas Maduro is reducing Venezuela to a totalitarian dictatorship. As much of a hellhole as it’s already become, Venezuela is poised to sink to still lower levels of poverty and violence. Maduro’s enforcers roam the country, inflicting themselves where and on whom they will. Private Venezuelans are unable to do anything about them or him.

     Kim Jong-un is perhaps the only North Korean guaranteed to be well-fed. His intimates probably eat well. His troops eat satisfactorily. But the ordinary North Korean gets by – if he does – on a ration that wouldn’t sustain an American for three days.

     The warlords who exercise de facto control of Somalia, and who quietly fund and encourage the notorious pirate gangs of the waters off east Africa, reign absolutely within their demesnes as the ordinary Somalians they dominate suffer and starve. Black Hawk Down dramatized their rule, its instruments, and its consequences. Now that American armed forces have left their theater, their control is unchallenged.

     All over Europe, Middle Eastern Muslim savages are rampaging, raping women, brutalizing native born Europeans, and sometimes murdering. Those they prey upon are largely helpless to resist them...yet the governments of the nations they afflict allow more to pour across their borders every day.

     And of course, right here in the good old U.S. of A, a policeman recently shot dead a woman who’d called the police to report a possible sexual assault, and a man who’d committed no physical or other harm to anyone will end his life in prison for helping to oppose the arbitrary and dictatorial actions of a federal bureaucracy.

     Why? How? Guns.

     “Before all else, be armed! -- Niccolo de Macchiavelli

     There’s no substitute for being armed and ready. Nations have learned this, often to their sorrow. Private persons don’t always grasp the lesson.

     In any given situation, he who controls the preponderance of armament and has a sufficient number of men willing to use it can just about always get his way. This is an important aspect of the dynamic of power. When Friedrich Hayek wrote, in The Road To Serfdom, the chapter titled “Why The Worst Get On Top,” he was primarily concerned with the type of man who will rise through a power hierarchy. Yet there’s a component to Hayek’s personality-and-character-based analysis that appears only by implication: given two power-lusters equally ruthless and avid for power, the one more likely to prevail is the one with a preponderance of force at his command.

     Today, that force is instrumented with guns and implemented by agents of The State who carry them.

     The Second Amendment has been called the guarantor of all the rest. While that’s true in theory, in practice matters are somewhat different. The ability to concentrate force at a decision point ahead of other competing forces will almost always be decisive.

     The Cliven Bundy standoff was hailed as a demonstration of the willingness of Americans to resist an unjust government action by the force in our possession: our ownership of private firearms. To the best of my knowledge, no shots were fired during the faceoff between federal bureaucrats and private citizens. After a time, the bureaucrats, aware that public opinion was solidly against them, backed down...but as the arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing of Gregory Burleson – for making those bureaucrats feel fear, a pure novelty in the history of American jurisprudence – illustrates, they were hardly willing to let the matter stand that way.

     How did they get their way? Why is Burleson likely to die in prison? Guns. No one is about to assault a federal government bastion for the sake of freeing him. The odds are too greatly in the government’s favor. So there he will remain.

     “Government gunpower is the argument that always wins.” – Robert Ringer.

     My point is not that we should never surrender our right to keep and bear arms. That’s been established innumerable times already, by commentators far more eloquent than I. My point is that we’ve allowed government -- all the 88,000 governments that infest this government-hagridden land – to amass too much coercive force: too much gunpower. As a practical matter, under current circumstances The State always wins. That condition will remain unaffected by the identities and convictions of the men we put into elective office.

     Changes to the laws are all very well. Changes to the correlation of forces between The State and The People are far more vital.

     Government is too large.
     It commands far too much force.
     It will not surrender that force voluntarily.

     Is the moral as obvious to you, Gentle Reader, as it is to me, or have I not yet had enough coffee?

     More anon, perhaps.

     (For a fictional coda, see this short story.)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why The Long March?

     After undertaking a brief, informal survey, I concluded that (much to my surprise) Antonio Gramsci’s call for “cultural hegemony” – i.e., his exhortation to Marxists to undertake a campaign of conquest of the West’s systems of education, information, and culture – is not yet known to many American conservatives. (More recently, we have Rudi Dutschke’s “long march through the institutions,” which drew the enthusiasm and support of Herbert Marcuse.) Oh, they’re adequately aware of the damage that’s been done to education, journalism, and entertainment; those things are too obvious for anyone to be unaware of them. However, they appear unaware that the Left mounted a systematic drive to conquer those industries.

     I recently wrote about this with a particular emphasis in mind: that the Left has become desperate. While I do believe that to be the case, I also recognize the power that inheres in longstanding institutions. That power, like Tolkien’s Sauron, can withstand a long series of defeats without suffering worse than temporary setbacks. It cannot be offered an armistice; rather, it must be destroyed root and branch.

     That aspect of the Left’s institutional campaigns has thrown a new shadow for me, owing to Bookworm’s latest piece:

     What the Marxists figured out during WWII, thanks in no small part to the Left’s huge push to bring America to the aid of the Soviet Union once Hitler invaded Russia, was that, while Americans were not amenable to hard Marxism, they could be totally swayed by soft Marxism. This idea landed hardest and best in America’s colleges and universities. There, mild-mannered professors in rumpled, tweedy suits carefully indoctrinated their students in a whole new way of thinking about America’s liberties.

     Mostly, these academics inculcated in their middle-class students a sense of guilt about America’s bounty — never mind that the bounty resulted from hard work and innovation. To the Leftists, America’s wealth, no matter that it was earned, not inherited, was evil, and young people had to pay for their countries’ sins. Moreover, when students protested against this indoctrination (and yes, back in the day, some did), the same Marxists hid behind the Constitution’s protections.

     This was a brilliant strategy. If you’ve got the college students, you’ve got the next generation of elementary and high school teachers, and the next generation of news people, and the next generation of screenwriters, and the next generation of women’s magazine writers, and the next generation of college professors. And with each iteration, with each generation that passes through, you can dig in the messageharder and deeper, until you end up with the insanity of intersectionality, cultural appropriation, safe spaces, triggers, political correctness, and all the other tropes that work as vehicles for intellectual tyranny.

     There’s an insight buried in those three paragraphs it could cost the life of our nation to overlook.

     Consider for a moment the drive of recent decades to put essentially all of our high school graduates into college. Whose idea was that? Why has “higher education” – why yes, those are “sneer quotes!” – become the one and only respectable destination for a high school grad? And why on Earth did Americans ever accept that funding colleges and universities is a legitimate function of the federal government?

     Until the post-World War II repatriation of our overseas forces and the passage of the “GI Bill,” “higher education” was regarded as appropriate for only a minority of high school graduates. College was understood to prepare the collegian for a rather narrow range of futures:

  • Scientific research;
  • “Captain of industry;”
  • A college professor.

     Of those three, “captain of industry” was the most significant: the most common motivation for sending one’s high schooler to college was so he might become well acquainted with the scions of other rich men highly placed in American corporate life. It was quietly accepted that not a lot of “real learning” would occur. The most important thing was connections: making them and solidifying them, that the family lines of the great men of industry and commerce would remain firmly allied with one another. Smith’s spratling would become a chum of Jones’s, and would like as not marry Jones’s sister.

     The rush into the colleges that followed the war changed all that. The acceleration of technological progress and the desire of many to participate was part of the propulsion. However, an even greater part, fueled by a systematically nurtured “New Deal” anticapitalist-egalitarian sentiment, was the desire to penetrate the haunts of the rich and influential, especially those that separated them from the hoi polloi. If the sons of grocers could attend the same institutions as the sons of industrialists and financiers, perhaps in time the grocers’ sons might become industrialists and financiers as well: “cargo cult” thinking as applied to “education.”

     Yet owing to the determined efforts of John Dewey and his fellow thinkers, as early as the late Forties America’s colleges were firmly in the hands of the Left, which had no intention of turning out patriotic, well educated, or productive young persons. Quite the reverse.

     Totalitarianism, regardless of the “flavor of the week,” is inherently centralist. A “decentralized totalitarianism” is a contradiction in terms. Moreover, totalitarianism doesn’t centralize political power alone. It demands the centralization of everything that’s important to the life of Man.

     When totalitarians acquire power by revolution, they immediately move to occupy the news media and the schools. James Clavell’s cautionary tale The Children’s Story was intended to warn us about that. However, totalitarians are quite willing to work in the opposite direction: to occupy the news and educational institutions first, then to use them as instruments for attaining power.

     (In America, adding the entertainment industry to the Left’s quiver took longer, because the original attempt was too overt. Cf. The Hollywood Ten)

     The Left’s Triple Alliance of education, journalism, and entertainment has proved deadly to Americans’ comprehension of freedom, of the intent of our Constitution and constitutionalism’s conceptual foundation, and of the dynamic of power and the motives of the power-seeking. More, those industries have been relentless in their efforts to suppress emergent competition. Though they seem to be fighting a defensive, holding action at the moment, their endurance is considerable. They might yet outlast the recent developments in “citizen journalism,” homeschooling, and indie fiction and filmmaking, whose financial bases are tenuous and uncertain.

     They’ll surely bend all their power, resources, and political influence to the effort.

     If there’s a central point to this tirade, it’s that The Left’s strategists know what they’re doing. They do it consciously and with malice aforethought. Indeed, in light of the many parallels in journalism and entertainment, it’s reasonable to suspect that the push to get everyone from high school into college is a conscious component of Leftist strategy. No other aspect of the educational system has been as effective at occluding American history and inculcating Leftist sentiments in our young people. Moreover, it’s “philosophically compatible” with the Left’s overall instinct toward centralization. Feeding all the meat through a single grinder gives the best chance of producing a uniform product.

     It’s somewhat heartening that an increasing number of young men have been exploring the trades and other alternatives to “higher education.” But don’t expect the Left to let that trend pass unchallenged. It has already struck back on two fronts: social altitude (i.e., occupational “prestige”) and marital prospects. There might be other strokes to come.

     Food for thought.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Function And Terminology

     Once again I’m “under the gun” – sheesh, I had more free time (and got more and better sleep) when I was still solving other people’s problems for a living – and must shortly be away from the keyboard, so please bear with me if this rant is shorter (or rantier) than most.

     Some species of aberration are more difficult to confront than others. The one I have in mind this fine July morning concerns that hoary old Leftist tradition, the promiscuous spouting of utter nonsense in a frenzied attempt to compel others to accept it:

     Zachary Antolak, a/k/a “Zinnia Jones,” a/k/a “Satana Kennedy,” a/k/a “Lauren McNamara” is a person familiar to regular readers here. An atheist transgender activist and Internet pornographer, Antolak/“Jones” has tattooed himself/“herself” with a symbol used on the cover of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible modified with transgender symbols.

     The bizarre semantics by which Antolak/“Jones” claims that the penis is not “male genitals” is a perfect example of the lunatic ideology of the transgender cult. As I noted in the case of Eyrne Daymont a/k/a “Aryn Maitland,” crazy is a pre-existing condition. When confronted by the rhetoric of transgender activists, we must recognize that we are dealing with seriously disturbed people. Their efforts to distort language, to change the meanings of words, and to force the rest of to accept their revised definitions, represent a dishonest attempt to obtain validation by compelling others to ratify their delusions.

     This is getting to be “par for the course” for the more “out there” transgender activists. While I certainly won’t claim that “they’re all like that,” there are enough seriously disturbed TG activists to make big trouble for the ones who merely want to live quietly as they choose.

     For those who are interested in dealing seriously with such lunacy, I present the following:

Terms arise to fulfill specific functions;
They cannot be meaningfully separated.

     That “really” ought to be “obvious,” but there’s that word again.

     We don’t call the penis and testicles “male genitalia” for purely arbitrary reasons. We call them that because they fulfill a function that, very long ago, we deemed “male,” just as we deem the vagina, ovaries, and uterus “female.” The terms male and female are functional designators above all else. They designate the distinguishing properties and functions of male and female bodies that preceded everything else about Mankind and our societies.

     More concisely, male and female are about the function we call reproduction. If your body can fertilize a human ovum, you are functionally male; if your body produces and stores such ova, and is at least potentially capable of sheltering a developing human zygote, you are functionally female.

     To disassociate the terms from their functional origins is to render them meaningless. We cannot use meaningless words: a statement that approaches tautology. But the Left would be delighted to render all our words meaningless. It would make deceiving us far easier.

     Now that I’ve disposed of the word-mincing of this “Zinnia Jones” person, please allow me a few million words about transgenderism generally.

     Blaire White, a highly intelligent and well spoken young transwoman, has stated that transgenderism is a mental disorder. If we proceed from the function-determines-terminology perspective, she is unassailably correct. He who was “born a man” cannot be functionally a woman; she who was born a woman cannot be functionally a man. Yet the disorder has no cure, and if ignored can lead to much worse problems, both for the sufferer and for those who love him.

     That having been said, contemporary medical and surgical techniques make it possible for one born male to “present and live” as a woman, and for one born female to “present and live” as a man. Some self-designated transgenders make use of the full range of medical and surgical options. Some “stop short” of the complete resculpting of their externals. I know transgenders of both kinds.

     And...girls, hold onto your boyfriends...given a willingness among such transgenders to conform to the appearance and behavioral norms of their preferred genders, there is no harm to the rest of us in it. The entirety of the burden falls upon the transgender.

     Yes, you read that correctly.

     The italicized phrase is the key. A sufficient degree of conformance to gender norms, even though contemporary medicine cannot affect the body's reproductive functions, allows the transgender to “pass.” Problems arise when “transgenders” dismiss or defy those norms: for example, the bearded guy in a dress who insists on using the ladies’ room. It’s entirely justifiable for the rest of us to be upset by that.

     Is there a gray zone? Of course, and such gray zones will undoubtedly become grist for the Left’s mill. In particular, gray-zone cases will be used to attack longstanding arrangements through the law, disturbing the comfort and peace of mind of the rest of us. I don’t know what can be done about that; I’m not a lawyer and haven’t even been asked to play one on TV. But the outriders of the gender-fluidity campaign make it plain that we should be braced for it, especially as regards so-called “public accommodations” law.

     My point is largely that, in observance of The Curmudgeon’s Carbohydrate Aphorism:

Keep thine eye fixed upon the doughnut, lest thou pass unaware through the hole.

     ...we should dismiss cosmetic matters, but take care to preserve the truly important things – and one of the most important things is the reliability of the meanings of the words we use.

     And with that, I’m off to my duties. Until later, Gentle Reader.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


     The past couple of weeks have been fairly bad for us here at the Fortress of Crankitude. Rufus was diagnosed with lymphoma. Beth’s minivan refused to pass an emissions-control inspection. The paving company my general contractor hired to extend my driveway messed it up badly and refuses to fix it. I had to jettison one of my vinyl storage sheds. We’ve just endured a torrential rainstorm that knocked out power and ruined all our potted plants. And I think I have aliens living in my barn. (What does it matter if they come from another planet? They should still go through passport control and Customs, right?) But as the philosophers said to the emperor (from a safe distance, of course), “And this, too, shall pass away.” So let’s have a little marginalia this fine Tuesday morning.

1. Fiction Promotion.

     I detest “social media,” in part because they’re dominated by idiots, trivia, and idiots spouting trivia, but also because I’m about as asocial as anyone alive today. However, after being bludgeoned about it for many moons, I’ve created a pair of Facebook groups, specifically to promote my two novel-series:

     Maybe they’ll help my flagging sales. (I know, releasing a fresh book or two would help too, but all things in due course.)

2. Klavan On The Left’s Not-So-Secret Weapon.

     The following Andrew Klavan video came to my attention only yesterday:

     It’s worth viewing for several reasons, most emphatic of which is that Klavan, an insider, can give personal, first-hand testimony about the media establishment’s absolute hostility toward the Right. Moreover, as he’s been a screenwriter for almost as long as he’s been a novelist, Klavan can confirm that the Left has used its media dominance to deny the Right a place in the entertainment industry for more than just the last few years.

     Books, the Internet, and talk radio have helped us, of course, but the bastions of the entertainment and journalistic media have remained closed to us – and as Klavan notes, those are the conduits through which the Left establishes its enduring historical vision and cultural hegemony. Yet the Right continues to advance...and it’s making the barons of those satrapies very nervous.

     The fundamental insight here, which Klavan only implies, is that the Left has become desperate. The Right is winning arguments and converts even though it has very few media outlets and the Left has demonized it at every opportunity. The one way the Left can prevent the Right from advancing is to deny the Right access to any platform – and when you see AntiFa / Black Bloc thugs trying to shut down a conservative movie, to silence a conservative speaker, or to disrupt a conservative or patriotic event, they're acting on that premise.

3. Control Of The Terminology.

     It’s well known among students of rhetoric that control of the terminology in which a discussion is held is tantamount to assured victory. That alone suffices to explain the Left’s attempts to dictate the words we may use and the contexts in which we may use them. It also suffices to establish my own, oft-repeated point about such things.

     A recent article at Return of Kings extends the logic of this process to five “up and coming phobias:”

     As every person on the right knows, the left loves to control language. Whether it is through so-called “hate speech” legislation or political correctness, the left strives to dictate what words can and cannot be used in society-at-large. And the left seeks to do this because they know that to control a person’s language is, quite literally, a way to manipulate and steer that person’s thoughts. It is a means of creating self-censoring thinkers.

     Thus, language-control is a way of gaining power over people. Furthermore, it is a power that makes people fight the left using the left’s own chosen terms, which means fighting the left on its own rhetorical terrain. And, as any strategist knows, you never want to fight an enemy on ground that he has selected. This is why refusing to use the left’s 1984- language is so crucial, as is positively fighting back against that language control.

     Now, in recent years, when it comes to the battle for language, everyone and their dog has experienced the explosion of the left’s ‘-phobia’ and ‘-ism’ propaganda war. You have homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and so on. At the same time, you have racism, sexism, ableism, etc. All these terms are designed to elicit a positive emotional reaction from the left’s true believers while simultaneously seeking to shame the individuals or groups at which those terms are aimed. And, for a surprising number of years, these terms have been quite effective at shifting the cultural landscape in the left’s favor.

     What follows in that article might strike my Gentle Readers as fanciful...but I’m old enough to remember a time before “homophobia,” when open homosexuality was regarded by nearly everyone as a danger to young Americans. I’d take it seriously for that reason alone.

     As a highly relevant bonus, have a quick snippet from Florence King’s Lump It Or Leave It:

     Being guilty of “bad judgment” is now a sin in and of itself. It is morality’s scene stealer, standing alone in all its short-circuited glory, with no before and no after, no cause and no effect, no wheat and no chaff. Suggest that bad judgment leads to a decision that leads to an action, and that it is the action that constitutes the moral lapse, and you will find your name at the top of the –ist list.
     Did your Congressman fuck a Doberman on the steps of the Capitol. He’s guilty of bad judgment, not dog-fucking. Who said anything about dog-fucking? Where in the world did you get that idea? Dog-fucking has nothing to do with dog-fucking. It’s a question of bad judgment, and if you don’t agree, you’re not only an –ist, you’re a phobe.

     The late Miss King surely had as keen an eye as was her way with words.

4. The War Against Sexual Mutuality.

     You may remember this odious story from a few months ago, about which I ranted in my usual fashion. The notion that her orgasm pleases him offends some women – that is, it offends women who despise men, including the men to whom they open their legs. As bad a problem as that is, there are “men” who are offended by the notion that she might have desires of her own, and that he should take them into account:

     As readers of the red pill manosphere know all too well, you cannot negotiate desire. By its very nature, desire is the opposite of negotiation. And yet here we have this self-proclaimed expert plowing ahead as she gamely positions herself to help men everywhere who are in the awful predicament of not being able to get their leg over with their own wives.

     On and on she goes as she explains in torturous detail how she convinced couples to keep diaries so as to track how they negotiate their sex lives. The word comes up again and again. Arndt relies on the word almost as much as commuters rely on their smart phones.

     The situations and examples that she describes in this video are nothing short of pathetic. Men groveling for sex, a wife informing her husband that he is allowed to have 50 thrusts as long as he does not jiggle the book that she is reading, husbands crying when faced with someone explaining their daily sexual misery....

     As long as men listen to women then their problems will only compound and get worse. These long suffering men made their first mistakes when they listened to their wives. And yet here they are once again listening to a woman on the same subject.

     The linked essay pinned my “petty malice” meter. While I disagree with parts of Miss Arndt’s presentation, it’s hard to believe that anyone could shower that sort of bile on well-meant relationship advice – especially as the advice mainly consists of being willing to listen to and acknowledge one’s spouse’s desires (and lack thereof).

     Persuasion expert Michael Emerling once said that defining your desires as right and everyone else’s desires as wrong is the key to abject failure at persuasion. It’s also the key to a life of sexual deprivation. But that’s a point that makes itself, wouldn’t you say?

     That’s all for the moment, Gentle Reader. I’m behind on my current novel and must make some headway before I lose the thread completely. Until tomorrow, be well.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Uses Of Simplicity

     These days there’s quite a lot of “loose talk” about “tight stuff:” that is, talk about concepts that have precise meanings and shouldn’t be batted about in a careless fashion. Some such concepts are among the most useful ideas men have ever produced...but their utility depends upon precise comprehension. If you don’t understand it as it’s meant to be understood, you won’t use it as it’s meant to be used.

     The field of heuristics incorporates several such concepts. If the term heuristics is unfamiliar to you, it’s the “applied” side of epistemology: the branch of philosophy that addresses what we think we know and how we came to believe it. Heuristics is the grab-bag into which we toss our techniques for solving problems and extending our knowledge.

     People frequently employ heuristics without knowing that they’re doing so. Of course! Any practical technique for learning something qualifies as a heuristic, so any method by which we approach a problem qualifies, informally at least, as a heuristic. If it works, that is!

     Probably the “best known” heuristic technique – those are sarcasm-quotes, not scare quotes – goes by the name of Occam’s Razor. It supposedly originated with William of Occam, a Fourteenth Century English friar, philosopher, and theologian. The “traditional” statement of his Razor was simple and evocative:

“Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

     Isn’t that an “of course” sort of statement? We don’t put unnecessary ingredients into our recipes or unnecessary parts on our machines. So why is this statement regarded as such an important breakthrough in thought?

     Well, in point of fact, the “traditional” statement says very little. It’s the way that principle is used as a heuristic – i.e., how it’s applied to problem-solving – that makes it valuable. In the problem-solving domain, most particularly the problem of explaining an observable phenomenon, it works this way:

  1. Gather as much information about the phenomenon and its context as possible.
  2. Now eliminate from the context all but one feature: the one that seems most likely to “produce” the phenomenon. Create a “test environment” containing only that feature.
  3. TEST! Does the phenomenon occur in the test environment?
    • If so, you have a workable temporary explanation for the phenomenon.
    • If not:
      1. Add another, plausibly related feature to your test environment;
      2. Return to step 3 (TEST!) above.

     The question the student new to Occam’s Razor will normally ask at this point is “But why? Why use that procedure?” And he is right to ask.

     The reason is supremely practical: The fewer elements there are in any proposed explanation for a phenomenon, the easier it will be to test. Therefore, we’ll finish soonest if we use that order to winnow through the possible explanations.

     Note: That’s not the same as the “vulgar” statement of Occam’s Razor – i.e., that “the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct.” That is quite literally nonsense.

     Consider the following, seemingly simple situation: I have in my hand a steel ball. I stand, hold the ball out at a height of four feet, and open my hand. The ball falls. Half a second later it hits the floor. Why?

     Of course you know the answer: Gravity! Plus simple kinematics, of course. Distance traveled from a standing start under constant acceleration equals 0.5*a*t2, right? Right! But wait just a moleskin-gloved minute there, Colonel: What’s producing that “gravity?” The ball itself? Would we get the same results if instead of a steel ball, we dropped a ball of feathers? Suppose we tried our test outside, in the wind? What then? And how about under water, or in interplanetary space?

     It develops that there are several other elements necessary to the context: elements we omitted to include in our summary of the experiment. The seeming simplicity of our original explanation was premised on an assumption: a solid object of high enough mass density to be negligibly affected by air resistance and air currents, dropped from four feet above the surface of the Earth. It’s the mass of the Earth that produces the local gravity vector. Galileo wouldn’t have got the same results under water, or on the Moon. (Fortunately, the crowd watching his famous experiment didn’t think to suggest those venues.)

     The simplest explanation – “That’s just what balls do when dropped four feet” – was incorrect. So would be any other explanation that omitted the size, shape, and density of the ball, the presence or absence of resistive media and currents within it, or the proximity of a spherical mass of 6*1021 tons with a diameter of approximately 7900 miles. It all counts.

     Were we utterly ignorant of the laws of gravitational attraction and determined to figure out why a steel ball dropped four feet takes half a second to hit the floor, it would be smart to test the simplest explanations first, not because they’re “likely to be correct,” but because we’ll eliminate wrong answers fastest that way.

     If you’re guilty of having misunderstood Occam’s Razor before this, don’t feel too bad. Lots of very bright people, including a number who have reason to know better, have misstated it and misused it to promote their preferred explanations for various things as “the most likely.” Some of them had axes to grind. Indeed, whenever you hear someone proclaiming a thesis that “can’t be wrong,” you’re not listening to reasoning, but to propaganda.

     The “global warming” crowd is especially culpable in this regard. Much of the time they don’t even bother with observable phenomena, but restrict themselves to simulations of nonexistent conditions and then claim that “this is what’s happening to the Earth.” When they do address observed phenomena, they almost never include all the relevant conditions in their proposed explanations of events – but they always claim they need more money and power. Were we to apply Occam’s Razor in their fashion to their behavior, we would surely conclude that the simplest explanation – i.e., that they want more money and power regardless of what the climate of the Earth is doing and why – is the most likely to be correct. And upon that note I retire from the field.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Day Off

     I had it in mind to write about Occam’s Razor, what it really means, and why so many people misunderstand it, but the essay grew far too complex for a Sunday, so I decided to take the day off from blogging instead. Perhaps it will appear tomorrow. Until then, be well.

I believe that.

Apart from some negligible combat missions in the early days of the revolution, it was only in the end of July 2012 that the SyAAF became actively involved in suppressing the rebellion. This was done mostly by deploying L-39ZAs on bombing runs over Aleppo and its suburbs. These sorties resulted mostly in civilian targets such as hospitals and schools being hit, and unsurprisingly led to numerous civilian casualties.
"The Syrian Arab Air Force, Beware of its Wings." By Oryx, bell¿ngcat, 1/16/17.

Pearls of expression.

Horse Pizzle:
The locals speak Kurdish.
Shemp 4 Victory:
If you have a point, feel free to make it.
"Pentagon Furious After Turkey Leaks U.S. Base Locations In Syria: 'Hard Not To See This As A F-You.'" By Tylker Durden, Zero Hedge, 7/19/17.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


     A little earlier today:

     FWP: You know, we’re down to the last two bottles of water.
     CSO: I know. I have a rebate coupon for Staples, so I’ll pick some up later. Can you think of anything else we need?
     FWP: From Staples? No.

     Just a few minutes ago:

     CSO: Sweetie! I’m back!
     FWP: Need help with anything?
     CSO: Would you bring the water in out of the van, please?
     FWP: Sure. (trudges off)

     When I got to the van, I saw not one but three large cases of bottles of Poland Spring’s finest: 108 bottles in all, massing to about 150 pounds. After I’d toted them all to our pantry, I confronted the C.S.O. afresh:

     FWP: Three cases?
     CSO: (defensively) Well, it was on sale.
     FWP: (with majestic mock-severity) I’ve told you, and told you, and TOLD you: NEVER GO WATER SHOPPING WHEN YOU’RE THIRSTY!
     CSO: (indecipherable, laughing much too hard)

O Standards, Where Art Thou?

     In the days before I discovered girls, I received many exhortations from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, friends, friends’ parents, and miscellaneous other persons whom I regarded with a modicum of respect to try my hand at this or that undertaking. Their urgings encompassed everything from painting to pole vaulting. “I don’t think so,” I would normally demur, usually because I was engaged in something else and determined to finish it properly. “But you might be good at it,” they would reply, “and you won’t know unless you try it.”

     After I’d acquired some verbal facility, I came to call this the Asparagus Antiphon. (No, I didn’t care for asparagus then. I feel the same today. But I digress.) The parallel isn’t exact, of course. A child isn’t “good at” a vegetable; he either likes it or dislikes it. But the emotions pertinent to it are a match.

     Most kids don’t learn the fine art of changing the subject nearly as young as I did. It proved an excellent counter to the Asparagus Antiphon, even before I’d named it that. I got exceedingly good at it – so good that those who’d decided to hector me about attempting gymnastics, prestidigitation, the tuba, or what have you were mystified by how fluidly the conversation had left the track they’d embarked upon. It won me the peace I needed to persist at whatever challenge I’d already accepted until I “got it right.”

     Though young, I’d grasped something that many persons never do: that an enterprise of any sort, to be worth your time and effort, must have standards: criteria by which to determine whether you’d “got it right.” I was determined to know what standards apply to whatever I was about to attempt, and to meet them squarely. That’s much easier if you’re allowed to concentrate than if your attention is scattered over a large number of subjects.

     Today, to insist that there are standards for performance in certain endeavors is tantamount to blasphemy.

     This morning’s sweep of news sites, opinion mongers, and beloved blogging colleagues brought me, as it eventually will, to the lair of the esteemed Charles Hill. He quotes an amusing piece about a not-so-amusing subject: poetry:

     There’s zero barrier to entry with poetry — the rules for writing sonnets are right there, and not even the American educational system has so far managed to destroy literacy completely. If you want to go mano-a-mano with Shakespeare, your word processing program even comes with a dictionary and a thesaurus. There are 350+ million people in America today; Elizabethan England had maybe 3 million. Just as a matter of simple probability, there should be some world-class sonnet-writers around right now…
     …but, of course, there aren’t, because sometime in the later 19th century our universities started awarding degrees in English Literature.

     The insight in the final lines above is enormous: Many of the persons who pursued those degrees had no poetic ability and no taste. But they were determined to get degrees, and it’s a lot easier to sell pretense and flummery in “English Literature” than it is in mathematics or physics.

     Charles comments thus:

     I suppose I should consider myself fortunate that I have Facebook friends who will point me to contemporary verse without even the slightest hint of irony.

     (Note the subtly ironic term “Facebook friends.” In my experience – limited, to be sure – prefixing “Facebook” to a relationship term nullifies it completely. Compare this to the practice of prefixing an abstract noun with “social” and thus inverting its meaning. But I digress.)

     Time was, poetry had certain rules: criteria whose satisfaction was demanded of anything that was represented as a “poem.” If you wanted to be deemed a poet, you had to know the rules for the forms you proposed to practice, and you had to abide by them. Of course to be regarded as a good poet, rule conformance, though necessary, was not sufficient. You had to display something more: originality, elegance in phrasing, and some sort of substance. The point of your verse could be humorous, as in the odes of Ogden Nash, or it could be formal and grave, as in the works of Emily Dickinson, but it had to be there, or your verse would be dismissed as “doggerel.”

     The demise of the formal rules of poetry happened long ago. People who wanted to be least, to be thought of as poets...found all those niggling little requirements “too much trouble to bother about,” so they simply vented onto paper. After all, it’s the substance that matters, right? The profound insights; the great emotions; the expression of immutable and eternal truths! Or maybe not. Surely we should be inclusive of poetry that flows spontaneously from the lips as well. Why leave the hallucinators and the schizophrenics out of the fun?

     Free verse...blank and blank verse...verse composed of neologisms...verse rendered in shrieks and howls...the damnedest unversed verse the Universe can contain has rained down upon the noble field of poetry like a cascade of vitriol. With the dismissal of all the standards that once applied to poetry, poetry has been robbed of all point.

     And now there are no more poets, and no more poetry.

     The current, multifarious campaigns against standards of all kinds are destroying the very concept of achievement. If there are no standards for acceptability and quality, there is no way, apart from the most arbitrary and subjective of judgments, to grant laurels to any human product, whether of the hands or of the mind. When everyone is a poet, no one is, for poetry as a category of items distinct from all others has been rendered meaningless.

     The true horror is in this: There are persons whose conscious intent, whether overt or covert, is to destroy the concept achievement and all recognition thereof. They’ve had more success in some fields than in others. For example, what’s happened to poetry, painting, and sculpture hasn’t yet happened to archery, basketball, or real estate development. That chafes them greatly, for any field in which the participants can be differentiated from one another is an obstacle to the Harrison Bergeron future at which they aim. (In that vision, each of them imagines himself to be the Handicapper General. Yet another instance of Commissar Complex. But I digress.)

     I do only a very few things. I’m determined to do whatever I do as well as it can be done...or failing that, as well as I can do it, given my personal capacities and gifts. That requires that each of my undertakings pertain to a set of standards: rules for inclusion in the field, and criteria by which to judge achievement. Thus I have no interest in fields that have abandoned all standards. They’re the natural habitat of poseurs and pretenders: “artists” uninterested in hard work or critical judgment, and “critics” determined to place themselves on the same plane as the “artists.”

     Standards are what make possible justifiable human pride: yet another of the barriers to their hegemony the would-be commissars are determined to destroy. It stands in the way of their preferred substitute: the “self-esteem” they promote relentlessly in our “schools” that forbids all notions of right and wrong, or better and worse. (And as I sense that this is about to mutate into a tirade of a completely different sort, I believe I’ll close here. I wouldn’t want to digress.)

Friday, July 21, 2017

It’s Time

     Time for what, you ask? Time for God to re-enter the public square, from which so many have labored to eject Him:

The End Of Prayer Shaming from East Catholic High School on Vimeo.

     Without God – Without His clear, simple rules for Man’s survival and flourishing – there is no hope. Only with Him is there hope. All else is madness.

     (Shamelessly stolen from Peace Or Freedom.)

Self-Censorship In The Face Of Ignorance And Viciousness

     A long time ago, having observed – and experienced – the consequences of opinion-venting without prior acquisition of relevant knowledge, I resolved never again to speak or write on a subject before familiarizing myself with it. While that’s had a certain tempering effect on me...well, on some subjects,’s also given me many occasions for amusement at persons who allow themselves opinions about subjects on which they know little or nothing.

     Unfortunately, it’s also given me many occasions for a facepalm over the behavior of others, including persons and institutions I value.

     One of those arrived just yesterday, at Mass. If you’re unfamiliar with how Catholics conduct Mass, one segment, which is called the prayers of the faithful, involves the reading of (supposedly) worthy intentions by the lector, to which the assembled worshippers are expected to reply with a chorus of affirmation. Those intentions will often include an appeal to God for wisdom and prudence in our high officials, which is about as worthy an intention as is possible when one is speaking of power-mongers. But now and then the intentions go further...unwisely.

     Yesterday’s prayers of the faithful included an appeal for the elimination of nuclear weapons. To say I was startled by it is a grotesque understatement. Yet I could hardly rise to object in the middle of a sacred rite.

     I have no idea who decided to insert that appeal into yesterday’s prayers of the faithful. Whoever it was must be ignorant of the history of the past seventy-two years. Not only did atomic bombs bring an end to World War II in the Pacific, preserving the lives of many thousands of American soldiers, sailors, and airmen; nuclear weapons have been instrumental in restraining armed conflict between nations ever since.

     To take merely one example: before they became nuclear powers, India and Pakistan were at war. The conflict between them was essentially continuous. When India acquired nukes, armed conflicts between them essentially ceased – and not because of ahimsa.

     Brendan at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler notes another important case — one that did not occur:

     See…these entitled, stupid ignorant halfassed millennials never picked up a book. Never read any history.
     Don’t know that, were it not for a sudden change in tactics, Peenemunde would never have been bombed. The British scientists sneered at the idea of an atomic bomb, calling it “silly water”. They and others laughed at the concept of such a device even existing.
     Then the V1′s and V2′s visited London. Thousands died.
     The reality came home…Germany had a delivery system...all they needed was the warhead.
     One detonation.
     A village.
     A demonstration strike on an uninhabited region.
     An ultimatum.
     “We have the atomic bomb. Surrender. NOW.”
     Those of us older, wiser, hardened and educated in the vagaries of Lady Fate, are in no doubt that, had the above occurred, this planet would have screamed for centuries from the nightmare that was the Third Reich.

     Ignorance of such things is understandable and the young and callow. It’s completely unforgivable in persons who expect respect for their opinions – and a pastor, priest, or member of the clerisy who parades his ignorance in such a fashion risks far more than personal ridicule.

     Among our race’s misfortunes is a tendency to defer to a loud voice on the assumption that the speaker knows what he’s talking about. That’s never been a wise assumption. These days it’s chancier than ever.

     There are a lot of loud voices in the national discourse. Very few of them have any basis for their assertions. The black race-hustlers, the feminist “patriarchy”-shouters, those who rail against “white nationalism” or “cis-heteronormativity” or other twaddle seldom actually present an argument for their positions. Rather, they rely upon the intimidation possible to one willing to sling invective, backed by the understandable desire common among persons of good will not to be attacked. Sadly, that results in the shouters and demonizers being granted more air time, larger audiences, and more respect than they deserve.

     One of my self-imposed duties is to oppose such persons, their idiotic assertions, and their overall vileness. Someone must do it, after all, and who would do it better? The consequences are often unpleasant, but usually only briefly, as it becomes apparent to any third parties to the exchange that only one of us: 1) is a man of good will, and 2) knows the subject matter. It’s heartening to be approached afterward and thanked by persons whose private convictions I’ve defended...and saddening when they add “but don’t tell anyone” and slink away before anyone can identify them. But then, courage of conviction isn’t a commonplace attribute any more...largely because the loud voices have acquired allegiants willing to employ violence to ensure that no opinion contrary to the ones they approve will be expressed.

     Yesterday’s piece, which I’ve come to think was improperly titled, addressed the chief barrier to Christian charity: fear. The loudest voices are the ones that engender much of that fear, whether it’s fear of being drawn into an ugly conflict or fear of being singled out for vengeance. The “Antifa / Black Bloc” thugs that have lately striven to suppress conservative events and views are only the most visible elements of the malady.

     It’s exceedingly difficult to build good will among us when fear has become as pervasive as it has in recent months. The quest for a remedy has become urgent. The well-being of the nation – indeed, of the entire world – depends on finding one. That the loud voices spout arrant, easily disproved nonsense should be part of the solution...but then, they probably know it already, so merely disabusing them of their “illusions” won’t help.

     With that, I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers. Put your thinking caps on, folks. I can’t do it alone, and the hour is getting late.

Everything that is wrong about our Syrian policy.

H/t: Zero Hedge.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Christian Ethics In Practice

     Now that I no longer solve other people’s problems for a living, I can allow my thought processes to prowl: to range hither and yon among the many stimuli available, carrying conceptual pollen from one to another, and then to watch, sometimes amusedly and at other times bemusedly, to see what hybrid might emerge. It’s about as close as a contemporary American can come to the job I’ve wanted most of my life: Vice President In Charge Of Thinking Good Thoughts. (Career-hunters be warned: there’s no money in it.)

     It’s been two years now since I retired from wage labor, yet I continue to be amazed at how an old movie, wedded to a seemingly unrelated article, can elicit new and potentially important ideas. But of course, the critical word in that sentence is seeming. The connection had to be there from the start; I just didn’t see it until I’d had some time to think.

     (Memo to me: Must write something about the terrible lack of time to think that afflicts so many Americans today. After thinking about it for a while, of course.)

     Yesterday’s essay coupled to the previous day’s tirade in a fascinating fashion. The “Preparations” piece is rather grim, while the “Shangri-la” piece has a great deal of hope in it. Yet they exhibit a fundamental concurrence. I said as much, obliquely, in the opening to the latter. It’s time to make the concurrence explicit.

     Superficially, the great shortcoming, in our nation and our world, is the lack of true Christian charity.

     When Lost Horizon’s Father Perreault says to Robert Conway that the world’s true hope is for “a way of life based on one simple rule: Be Kind,” he’s expressing the essence of Christian charity. Jesus of Nazareth stated it in a slightly different fashion: in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and in the Second Great Commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Paul of Tarsus, in one of his few moments of complete lucidity, put it thus:

     Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if [there be] any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law. [Romans 13:8-10]

     The great challenge this presents us isn’t because Christian charity is complicated. Rather, it’s because we’re presented with so many seemingly compelling reasons to behave otherwise.

     “The State is based on threat.” – Illuminatus!

     Our world is hagridden by malevolences: agents of predation and violence. Some of them operate in the open: governments. There isn’t one government anywhere on Earth that doesn’t deserve to be destroyed, root and branch, and all its masters and its minions publicly condemned to sackcloth and ashes lifelong. Yes, that includes the 88,000-plus governments of these United States. Their evil cannot be offset by the trivial amounts of good they (accidentally and unintentionally) do.

     The primary aim of persons in government is the primary aim of “The High” as Orwell put it in 1984: “The aim of the High is to remain where they are.” Their master tactic is fear: specifically, engendering fear in their subjects:

  • Fear of other governments;
  • Fear of punishment for disobedience;
  • Inducing their subjects to fear one another.

     The pattern reaches all the way back to the origin of states. Franz Oppenheimer found that in marauding predator bands that got tired of marauding and settled down to mulct their fattest victims in perpetuity. (Cf. The State) Consider the behavior of Eli Wallach’s raiders in The Magnificent Seven dispassionately. How, apart from not remaining in a single place, do those bandits differ from government tax collectors?

     Perversely, other governments and private predators are what make the exactions of one’s government seem acceptable. The aggregate provides stability to the individual components. They who operate through fear serve as one another’s allies and justifications. They also deprive us of the resources – material and emotional – with which we might otherwise practice Christian charity.

     There’s evil in the world apart from that of governments. There always has been; there will be until Man is no more. The awareness of our vulnerability to that evil, and the sense that we must guard against it, deflects us from positive and constructive relations with others. Charity and distrust are mutually antagonistic – and distrust nearly always wins the contest between them.

     The critical significance of community is its role in damping our fear and distrust of one another. We build communities largely without realizing it. The essential mechanism is the gradual acceptance – nearly always subconscious – that those around us are worthy of our trust.

     He whom we trust is easy to love, in the sense of the Golden Rule. We accept that he’s benevolently inclined toward us, which makes us capable of reciprocal benevolence. A community will form on that basis and no other.

     Yet there are limits to the operation of community. A community of a few hundred souls is plausible; a community of several thousand strains credulity. How can anyone know that many persons well enough to trust in their benevolence? The concatenative assemblage of community – Smith trusts Jones, and Jones trusts Davis, so Smith, reposing faith in Jones’s judgment, trusts Davis – becomes tenuous and weak after three links. When we add significant differences in language and customs, it becomes effectively impossible. We’re aware of this subconsciously as well. Otherwise we wouldn’t be “on guard” when away from our homes. We certainly wouldn’t casually venture beyond them, trusting in the Omnipotent State for our protection.

     The safety Americans once felt when abroad arose from the awareness of the tyrants of other lands of the great power of the United States to take vengeance for offenses done to it. Isaac Asimov captured this in fictional form in The Foundation Trilogy:

     [The lieutenant] motioned curtly to his men, "Take him."
     Toran felt the clown tearing at his robe with a maddened grip.
     He raised his voice and kept it from shaking, "I'm sorry, lieutenant; this man is mine."
     The soldiers took the statement without blinking. One raised his whip casually, but the lieutenant's snapped order brought it down.
     His dark mightiness swung forward and planted his square body before Toran, "Who are you?"
     And the answer rang out, "A citizen of the Foundation."
     It worked-with the crowd, at any rate. The pent-up silence broke into an intense hum. The Mule's name might excite fear, but it was, after all, a new name and scarcely stuck as deeply in the vitals as the old one of the Foundation - that had destroyed the Empire - and the fear of which ruled a quadrant of the Galaxy with ruthless despotism.
     The lieutenant kept face. He said, "Are you aware of the identity of the man behind you?"
     "I have been told he's a runaway from the court of your leader, but my only sure knowledge is that he is a friend of mine. You'll need firm proof of his identity to take him."
     There were high-pitched sighs from the crowd, but the lieutenant let it pass. "Have you your papers of Foundation citizenship with you?"
     "At my ship."
     "You realize that your actions are illegal? I can have you shot."
     "Undoubtedly. But then you would have shot a Foundation citizen and it is quite likely that your body would be sent to the Foundation - quartered - as part compensation. It's been done by other warlords."
     The lieutenant wet his lips. The statement was true.

     That Americans abroad no longer feel quite that safe arises from seventy years of federal government indifference toward the mistreatment of its citizens by such tyrants. Otherwise, Kim Jong-un and the ayatollahs who rule Iran would not have dared to mistreat Americans who’d dared to venture into their domains. Yet those obscenities bear a powerful lesson about community and its limits.

     Fear nullifies the charitable impulse. How can we be kind – to do unto him as we’d have him do unto us – to someone against whom we must guard ourselves? The thing is plainly impossible; the “ought” is impotent in the face of the “is.” Yet having established that, we are not finished with the problem.

     If you’ve been wondering what “seemingly unrelated article” set me off on this course, the moment for “the big reveal” has arrived:

     Everyone who has tried them tells me threesomes are difficult. And anyone can imagine that threesomes with the government are the most difficult of all. Suddenly it’s no longer a matter of whose elbow is in whose eye, but a matter of whose legal rights are getting stripped, which way the courts lean, and who is likely to lose his parental privileges and, likely, his liberty or at the very least his wealth.

     Which is why I find it absurdly rich of CNN (All the News Fit to Fake) to wonder why American couples are having less sex than they were 20 years ago.

     The article disingenuously roots around for an answer (so to put it, to coin a phrase) and comes up with several. It’s not that they’re wrong – precisely – it’s more that they determinedly ignore what is at the back of those obvious causes of the – ah – dry spell enveloping Americans.

     Please read it all. Among the influences Sarah gradually articulates is how the anxiety under which we labor is made manifest within our marriages and similarly intimate relations.

     Anxiety is stress. All stresses other than the purely physical wear the guise of anxiety. Cicero wrote that “No power is strong enough if it labors under the weight of fear.” Whether he had it in mind or not, that includes the power of sexual desire and attraction.

     Anxiety enervates. It synergizes with our other labors to drain away our energies – and don’t kid yourself; sex requires energy. Indeed, all desires and other impulses to action require energy to be actuated. If you don’t have it, you won’t act, no matter how beautiful your spouse or alluring her new negligee and perfume. And that’s not the end of the story.

     The anxious man naturally wants to feel less anxious...less burdened. But what if he comes to see his beloved as a source of burdens rather than a helpmeet? What if as he contemplates her, the difficulty of pleasing her looms larger than her attractions? Hasn’t that been a principal aim of the gender-war feminists for forty years and more? And doesn’t it transform her from an object of desire to yet another source of anxiety and stress?

     Not only does that anxiety affect relationships already formed; it also keeps them from forming in the first place:

     [W]omen aren’t going out into what they’ve been told is a rape culture, and men, particularly men in college – the prime reproductive age – don’t have to deal with kangaroo courts and mattress girls should their partners decide that the sex wasn’t entirely to their satisfaction and thereby retroactively withdraw consent and claim they were raped. Do you blame them? When public officials and the cultural power structures spend so much time convincing both sexes the other is out to get them, we should thank our lucky stars some young people are still willing to risk sex, despite everything.

     More fear, less love and sex. Less love and sex, less children...and less Christian charity. Especially when we note the intimate connection between fear and hatred.

     I could go on. Perhaps I will, at a later date. But I believe the point has been made.

     For Christian charity to have a dominant role in life, that our homes and communities might less resemble bunkers and more resemble Shangri-la, life must be largely cleansed of fear. That will require that we do away with the things that make us fear. How that might be accomplished, I cannot say. Anyway, it’s time for Mass. Be well.