Thursday, August 31, 2017

Some Thoughts On The Rule Of Law

     What with the violent assaults on Right-allied demonstrators by the masked thugs of “Antifa” – George Orwell, where are you when we need you? – and allied groups such as “Black Lives Matter” – if they matter, why do they kill one another in such appalling numbers? – while municipal police visibly refrain from doing their jobs, there’s been a lot of talk about the abandonment of the “rule of law.” Some of it has been on the mark. Some, but not much.

     The compressed interpretation of the phrase “rule of law” is that the law applies to all persons regardless of their identities or statuses. That interpretation has been uppermost in the minds of those protesting the police passivity during events in Charlottesville, Berkeley, and the like. Yet while evenhanded enforcement of the law is an aspect of the “rule of law” as the originators of the concept saw it, it’s far from the whole thing.

     As usual, no one else is addressing the larger subject, and so...

1. The legislative aspect.

     Law as something other than the whim of those in power is an ancient concept. Yet few nations have cared to try the concept in practice. Fewer still have managed to do so.

     For there to be a Rule of Law in principle rather than merely by lip service, the corpus of laws must meet certain criteria:

  • They must be clear of impact.
  • They must not distinguish among persons.
  • They must not contradict one another in any way.
  • They must be made by a consensus-approved process.

     That last condition requires elaboration. The process by which laws are made or changed must itself be controlled by a law which commands overwhelming popular assent. Moreover, the control must ensure that the legislative process is highly stable. If that process can be changed, the manner of change must be:

  • Public;
  • Difficult;
  • Deliberate.

     Otherwise, private citizens would be justified in thinking that whim had taken command of the law. Under such conditions, there cannot be sufficient stability in the law to command the required consensus. In this we glimpse the great importance of a supreme law that governs the making of all other laws.

     It should be clear from the above that the United States has not known a true rule of law for quite some time. All the requirements above have been violated repeatedly, sometimes with callous disregard for any consideration other than the whims of elected officials, at the federal, state, and local levels for more than a century.

2. The executive aspect.

     Laws must be both made and applied. The executive agency of the state, with emphasis on its instruments of force, is the one that deals with application. Here appears the colloquial interpretation of the rule of law.

     Under a true rule of law, the executive cannot decree that the law only applies when he wishes. Neither can he modify the import of the law, reading into it new bits according to his tastes, or omitting from it parts that excite his displeasure. Of course, the wording of a law has great bearing upon that last matter: if the law is ambiguously worded, the executive can hash it up however he pleases, subject only to subsequent constraint by the judicial agency, if at all.

     Clearly, those conditions narrowly limit the latitude of the executive. That’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote into the Constitution that the president “shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” An executive not constrained in such a fashion would inevitably wield de facto “lawmaking powers” himself.

3. The judicial aspect.

     The role of the judiciary in implementing a rule of law is subtler than it appears. Not only is a judge required to abide by the law as written; he is also forbidden to depart from the processes prescribed for determining if a law has been broken. Furthermore, he is required to adhere to the law’s stated penalties for violation, imposing neither lighter nor heavier burdens than the law allows. Well considered, well written laws thus constrain the judiciary almost as narrowly as they do the executive.

     The United States inherited the English legal tradition of the jury trial. In such a trial, the judge upon the bench acts solely as a referee. He imposes the prescribed trial procedures and rules when they have been violated. He charges the jury with the law as written. He superintends the development of the cases for and against the defendant, and has only the latitude specified in the law itself in imposing a sentence upon a defendant adjudged guilty. If those conditions are observed, it is perfectly reasonable to say that the true enforcers of the law are the jurors, without whose consent no man can be punished.

     As with legislative and executive excesses, many American judges have greatly exceeded their proper roles under a rule of law. The particularly egregious use of contempt charges to impose their will and to prevent lawyers from presenting important factors and arguments – including Constitutional principles that are supreme over all other aspects of the law – has been a subject of much recent discussion. In combination with prosecutorial discretion, which is so frequently and outrageously abused as to be a major scandal, this has made a mockery of American jurisprudence. But this is too large a subject for a Thursday morning essay.

4. The public aspect.

     As I’ve written more often than I care to remember, for a law to be enforceable at all, it must command a popular consensus so overwhelming that those who would choose to violate it are of trivial numbers. My estimate, based on the “success” of various well known laws, is that if 2% or more of the public regards a law as morally or ethically irrelevant, that law cannot be evenhandedly enforced. This, too, bears upon the rule of law, especially with regard to prosecutorial discretion and the maintenance of overall popular respect for the law.

     Apropos of the above, officer candidates in our various military academies are taught, early and often, not to give an order that won’t be willingly obeyed. This is simple realism. Ultimately, respect for the officer’s authority arises from his subordinates’ willingness to obey him; he certainly cannot impose his will forcibly upon armed men who outnumber him. It’s the same with the law: a law that won’t be obeyed and cannot be evenhandedly enforced undermines the rule of law by weakening respect for the law and those who make and enforce it. In that lies a complete and irrefutable condemnation of the majority of the “laws” with which this nation has been albatrossed.

     Of course there’s more to say; isn’t there always? But the above should provide a jumping-off point for discussing the state of American law and legal procedure, the “success or failure” of various laws, and the cultural foundation upon which both the law and the concept of the Rule of Law must stand. At this point, the law and the mechanisms by which we choose those who will make and enforce the law are founded on sand – and in large measure because the rule of law has been so shabbily treated this century past.

Hard to keep up.

Didn't you get the memo? The terms "Populists" and "Nationalists" are out. "Nazis" is in.
Comment by Pernicious Gold on "How The Elites Are Divorcing From Reality: The Economist's 'What If.'" By GEFIRA, Zero Hedge, 8/21/17.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Vectors And Churches

     Lately the days on which I feel there’s little or no point producing a piece for Liberty’s Torch have been more frequent than not. Sometimes I manage to emit something despite that “what’s the use?” feeling. Sometimes I resurrect something from my immense archives. Sometimes I simply declare a day off and absent myself to other duties and pleasures. The common factor is the sense that what I’m doing here achieves essentially nothing.

     It’s worse when the email-bag bulges with denunciations and vilifications. I’m fairly good at shrugging them off, but there’s still something disheartening about the weight of them. Are that many people that perfectly convinced that anyone who disagrees with them must be evil? And does that large a fraction of them have enough bile to spend it on so minor a figure as I? Don’t these folks have anything better to do with their time?

     I know, I know: What’s the point of asking rhetorical questions? But this is the perennial malady of the thinker: when there’s nothing substantive to ponder, he ponders crap like this.

     All the same, now and then this process will allow me to sift a nugget out of the midden. Today, it comes from our beloved Ace:

     Half of America now consists of barely-functional lunatics, and it's best to avoid them for all sorts of reasons....

     Sometimes I pass on stories the lunatics are gibbering about. This Trump Tower in Russia deal, for example. It's not actually laziness -- it would be easy enough just to link it and say "This is probably bullshit." I just did a very easy link in the previous post.

     Takes no time or effort.

     But I sort of would like to do more than that -- by which I mean doing less. Rather than even acknowledging these stories and putting up some kind of half-thought rebuttal to them, I'd like to do more.

     By doing less. By not even acknowledging them.

     The man’s got something there. Giving head space to the ravings of the mentally ill does not serve any positive interest. Inasmuch as those aforementioned lunatics shriek their gibberish over channels devoted to such things, one might logically conclude that those who want to know about them have the means. There’s no need to add any further bandwidth to the dissemination of their ravings.

     Moreover, Ace’s attitude strikes me as better than any alternative:

     As I do not wish to be infected by the viral lunacy consuming half of this country, so too do I not wish to be a vector of that lunacy, infecting other people.

     If this crap is contagious, best not to spread it around, right?

     Which brings me to the subject of churches.

     If you’ve never read Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, it should be at the very top of your to-be-read list. Hoffer’s analysis of the typical mass movement as “a compact and unified church” explains the behavior of those who enlist in such a movement with absolute accuracy. His many observations about the organization of such movements and the attitudes they inculcate and reinforce point to the essence of the contemporary mass phenomenon: it is religious in nature.

     The function of a religious congregation is to provide “a home” for those who accept the religion. Such a “home” has two functions above all others:

  • The presence of others reassures the individual believers that their belief is acceptable;
  • Similarly, the community of believers reinforces that belief by the weight of its numbers.

     The less well substantiated the belief, the more important to its adoption, retention, and perpetuation is the congregation. Consider any contemporary religion – yes, including mine – and ask yourself how long an individual believer, separated from all his fellows, could hold out against the adverse opinions of those around him. I’m here to tell you: it takes more strength of conviction than you’d find in 99% of Mankind.

     The congregation isn’t an important vector for its creed; that would require nonbelievers to immerse themselves in the congregation, which doesn’t happen often. However, the existence of the congregation provides doctrinal reassurance to the individual believer: if he’s at all evangelically inclined, it will assist him in his efforts to make converts.

     The American Left is such a congregation. Its social aspect is critical to its endurance; leftists associate almost exclusively with other leftists. Not only does that “keep the faithful in the pews;” it also precludes “contamination” by propositions antithetical to the Left’s doctrines. Note how neatly this meshes with the Left’s strategy of colonizing large organizations and rendering them hostile to any opinions other than those it approves.

     When the contemporary Right started to coalesce, largely through the agencies of talk radio and the Internet, the Left’s church felt threatened for the first time since the New Deal. That’s the natural behavior of churches with mutually contradictory doctrines. Political churches, unlike the sort associated with more conventional faiths, will see one another as enemies to be fought. The prevailing ethical levels among the respective congregations will determine which side chooses what tactics, and what responses they’ll evoke.

     It is noteworthy that today’s Leftists and Rightists are largely unsuccessful at spreading their faith. The uninvolved have come to regard both as too noisome to bother with, despite the enduring differences in civility of their congregants. So the battle is between two “compact and unified” faiths, neither of which has a Chinaman’s chance of making converts from the other side and precious little more of adding to its numbers from the uninvolved.

     In this we see an echo of the 2016 presidential election. Though he ran as a Republican, Donald Trump was openly unaffiliated with either church. He proposed policies and undertakings that both rejected. The uninvolved, with modest assistance from the church of the Right, elevated him to the White House, while “church ballots” gave Congressional majorities to more conventional Republicans. That gave us the current situation in Washington, where the Republicans on Capitol Hill exhibit a distinct disinclination to collaborate with “their” president. The frustration of those who supported Trump and his prescriptions is considerable.

     Party politics, including the doctrines promulgated via party platforms, has been largely neutralized by ideological schisms. The clearest doctrinal battles are now at lower levels: the state governments, which are largely Republican-dominated. (A brief look at Texas and California tells us all we need to know about them.) It is from the state level that the doctrinal vectors of the next couple of decades will emerge, as state governors and legislators who’ve achieved some success attempt to bring their policies to the federal level. Meanwhile, the “established churches” of Left and Right will likely remain locked in a standstill until new forces arise to render them irrelevant. Perhaps that’s as it should be. For those of us who merely want to live quietly, the path of prudence just might be to stand off from all of it...preferably well armed.

The real conspiracy of silence.

Trump cannot be unaware that Saudi Arabia is the true “Global Center” of promoting and financing Islamic extremism, and that no partnership with it is possible for as long as the nature of its regime remains unchanged. If and when the Ibn Saud dynasty collapses, a populist Islamic regime is more likely to triumph than a reformist, modernizing movement. The decades-long Beltway conspiracy of silence on Saudi Arabia’s role in abetting Islamic terrorism is now certain to continue. Under Trump America will not set herself free from the need to pander to Saudi whims, including the “right” of its government to bankroll thousands of mosques and Islamic centers around the world that preach intolerance and provide the logistic infrastructure to extremists. Operationally, this policy still requires not only overlooking the nefarious activities of the supposedly friendly Muslim states but also a consistent U.S. bias in favor of the Muslim party in virtually every conflict with Christians, and for the Sunni side against the Shiites. On this issue, and many others, he has succumbed to the Swamp.
"The Unmaking of a President." By Srdja Trifkovic, Chronicles blog, 8/30/17 (emphasis added).

If You Thought They Were Kidding... were mistaken. YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, has begun to obscure those videos it deems “offensive” or “inappropriate.” The first such video to be “sandboxed” is Jared Taylor’s Race Differences In Intelligence, in which he discusses the evidence for persistent, racially correlated, statistical differences in the distributions of various measures of human intellect. The video is available, but YouTube has made it difficult to share and impossible to comment on or embed.

     I’ve captured a copy of the video; apparently YouTube hasn’t managed to forbid that. At nearly 200 MBytes it’s too long to email, so those who want a personal copy will need to download it themselves. If there’s anyone who knows how to embed a playable video in a Web page without YouTube support, the information would be most valuable.

     How long do you think it will take for wildly popular lecturer Jordan Peterson’s videos to be treated this way? After all, Dr. Peterson has grievously sinned against the “trans” community by denying them their free choice of pronouns! Hasn’t Canada made that a criminal offense?

     The big push by the thoroughly SJW-colonized tech giants to prevent those of us with conservative, race or sex realist, or otherwise “dangerous” opinions from spreading them is under way. If you value the ability to communicate that the Web has brought us, the time to defend it is now.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Solution Unsatisfactory

     [With North Korea in the news again for hurling missiles around the periphery of Japan, I thought this old essay might strike a chord. It first appeared at the old Palace Of Reason on October 24, 2003 -- FWP]

     This past week, while rummaging through his private library, sorting books into "to remain shelved" and "attic bound" categories, your Curmudgeon stumbled across an old Robert Heinlein story, one of his oldest, whose title he's appropriated for this essay. It concerns a fictional post-World War II regime in which a farsighted American military man drives for -- and achieves -- a world state, held together by a nuclear monopoly. That state is manned exclusively by Janissaries, each having taken an oath to preserve the peace of the world. Since their loyalty is to the commander of that nuclear monopoly, he is, in effect, the military dictator of Earth.

     The story's protagonist finds this solution to the problem of weapons of mass destruction unsatisfactory. He proceeds with it solely because, within the context of the story, no preferable alternative exists.

     Heinlein wrote that story in 1941, friends.

     The problem of WMD is far worse today than ever before. The great analysts of the early postwar period could not have foreseen our current situation. For example, Bernard Brodie argued in The Absolute Weapon (1946) that the A-Bomb was geostrategically the Ace of Trumps, and would remain so, since it could be used to preclude the development of any comparable or superior weapon. Nor did any of his colleagues do better. (Gregg Herken covers the strategic thought of Brodie's time in his fine book Counsels Of War.)

     The closest anyone has come to foreseeing our current plight is physicist / futurist Eric Drexler, who, writing in the mid-1980s, conceived of the potential of nanotechnological weapons that would threaten all of humanity -- and that would be within the technological and financial reach of ordinary individuals. Dr. Drexler didn't find a solution, either -- indeed, if a solution to the advent of cheap, easily made planet killers is even conceivable.

     We will soon witness the birth of two, perhaps three new nuclear states: North Korea, Iran, and possibly Saudi Arabia. The first two are on the verge of ascent to nuclear status through research and development; Saudi Arabia is rumored to have made an oil-for-weapons deal with Pakistan, though these reports are not yet confirmed. All three developments portend near-term calamity.

     The menace of a nuclear armed North Korea, a poverty-stricken Communist gangster-state willing to trade weapons for hard currency, should be obvious by now. Hardly less so is Iran, whose ruling mullahs have openly proclaimed that, were they to come into possession of a nuke, they would use it against Israel. As for Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda's principal source of funding, militant Wahhabi Islam, and Islamic terrorism worldwide, the prospect of a "mislaid" Saudi bomb should be just as scary.

     Up to now, we've been very lucky. The disintegration of the Soviet Union raised all sorts of unpleasant possibilities, but none of them materialized. These three new terrors are much worse. The Soviets had a strong interest in stability; Pyongyang, Tehran, and the Islamist maniacs supported by the Saudis do not.

     In the era of "non-state actors," no palatable solutions present themselves.

     Steven Den Beste argues for the revival of the old "blackmail is a bomb" policy, that treats the threat of nuclear assault as equivalent to the assault itself, and prescribes massive retaliation in response to it. But that policy only works when the brandisher of nukes is itself a state, well delimited in space, and can be unambiguously identified as such. Of course, the same observation applies to the actual use of a nuclear weapon. If we were struck but could not trace the attack unambiguously back to a government, what would we do next?

     Had Black Tuesday involved, not a quartet of stolen airliners but a nuclear explosion in Manhattan, and had al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the act, what would America have done? Would the president have struck Afghanistan with nukes? Would the American people have endorsed such carnage?

     If you regard those outcomes as dubious, you're not alone.

     Is it time to try Heinlein's "unsatisfactory solution" in the form of an American World Empire, so that we can control the manufacture, transport, and use of all weapons anywhere? Your Curmudgeon can't see it. Apart from the practical difficulties of subjugating six billion people spread over 50 million square miles of land, the overwhelming majority of whom have no tradition of rights and no love for the American concept of democracy, it is inconceivable that the resultant peace would be, in Ralph Peters's words, "a peace worth having." The unprecedented power the Empire would possess would be a magnet for all the megalomaniacs in the world. Inevitably, they would rise to the top -- given enough time, the worst always do -- and the word "freedom" would vanish from the human lexicon.

     There is a third approach, midway between passivity and empire. America could extend the rationale for Operation Iraqi Freedom to its logical conclusion, and declare that it will preemptively strike any state or "non-state actor" that seeks mass destruction capabilities. We could become the Spartans of the Third Millennium: armed to the teeth, constantly on high alert, and flexed to go to war whenever and wherever a threat appears.

     This approach would combine the disadvantages of passivity with those of a world-girdling empire. Eventually, given imperfect intelligence, someone would sneak a nuke or a bioweapon past us. We'd have to militarize just as thoroughly as if we intended to conquer the world. And we'd lose our freedom just as surely.

     A time approaches when no one on Earth will be safe. Whether WMDs pass into the hands of homicidal maniacs willing to die if they can kill a swarm of their "enemies," or a world state so powerful that it can suppress all such traffic emerges from our current asymmetric multi-sovereignty order, the man who wants only to sit under his own vine and fig tree faces a terrifying future.

     Earth is no longer room enough.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Pardon Power

     In Tom Kratman’s chilling novel Caliphate, he describes – interstitially, which is an interesting way of injecting important backstory data into a narrative – the use of the president’s pardon power to legalize assassination. The president at issue was elected in the wake of a nuclear attack by Islamists on three American cities, and is, shall we say, a bit impatient with restraint. He uses the pardon power to immunize those who kill his political enemies and other obstructors to his agenda. Indeed, at one point he effectively pre-announces pardons for persons who would do so, even though the murders haven’t yet occurred:

     In addition to the camps for males and females, President Buckman also opened camps for the political opposition, such as it was, though these were integrated. No particular effort was made to fill these camps. Instead, the administration published lengthy lists of people it considered enemies of the state. The camps were declared to be “safe zones,” where those same people would be protected from the anger of the masses.
     Implicitly, of course, Buckman was saying, “Outside of these camps, you will be murdered and we both know you will because I will pardon your killers. Inside, we will keep you alive. Or, of course, you could leave the country. And good riddance.”

     Kratman describes this in such matter-of-fact terms that one might as well be reading a newspaper account. It makes the idea all the more chilling. And while it would clearly be a moral abuse of the presidential pardon power, it would not, by a strict reading of the Constitution, be a legal one.

     Given that blatant moral abuses of the pardon power have occurred within recent memory – Bill Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich, under multiple felony indictments, after allegedly receiving “considerations of value” from Rich’s ex-wife Denise – the subject is worthy of serious thought.

     These days, refusals by “authority” to enforce the law as it stands are too common to bear enumeration. Despite the municipal statute against going in public with one’s face and identity concealed, the Charlottesville, VA police declined to enforce the law against Antifa. New York sheriffs are virtually unanimous in refusing to enforce Andrew Cuomo’s unConstitutional SAFE Act. Barack Hussein Obama explicitly directed the IRS not to enforce portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) that he found politically inconvenient. You’d almost imagine that “the law” is a set of optional guidelines “law enforcement” is preauthorized to ignore when it pleases.

     The consequences have been disastrous for Americans’ respect for the law. When the authorities are tacitly empowered to ignore the law at their discretion, what replaces the law is human opinion: the rule not of laws but of men. I’ve made my opinion of that nightmare plain:

     “Why are you so...fixated on the Constitution, Mr. Sumner? Isn’t it a little bit naive to think a document two centuries old contains all the answers to the problems of a complex modern society?”
     “Have you read it, Miss Weatherly?” Sumner’s voice remained mild.
     “Not lately, no.”
     “Then you might have forgotten that it’s the supreme law of the land. All other law and all government action must conform to it. If it needs to be revised or expanded, it contains provisions for that.”
     “A lot of people would say,” Weatherly cooed, “that we’ve done that, only informally.”
     Sumner pursed his lips and glanced down at his shoes. For a moment, Weatherly thought she might finally have scored against his infuriating self-assurance.
     “Miss Weatherly,” he said with a note of regret, “I’m a lawyer. I was raised by a lawyer. He taught me to think of the law as our most precious possession. One of the questions he repeatedly insisted that I ponder was ‘What is the law?’ Not ‘What would I like the law to be,’ but ‘What is it really, and how do I know that’s what it is?’
     “My profession, sadly, has made a practice of twisting the law to its own ends. There aren’t many lawyers left who really care what the law is, as long as they can get the results they want, when they want them. So they play the angles, and collaborate with judges who think they’re black-robed gods, and generally do whatever they can get away with to get what they want, without a moment’s regard for what it does to the knowability of the law.
     “I care. I want to know what the law is, what it permits, requires, and forbids. I want my clients to know. And the only way to reach that result is to insist that the words of the law have exact meanings, not arbitrary, impermanent interpretations that can be changed by some supercilious cretin who thinks he can prescribe and proscribe for the rest of us.
     “The Constitution is the supreme law, the foundation for all other law. If it doesn’t mean exactly what its text says—the public meanings of the words as ordinary people understand them—then no one can possibly know what it means. But if no one can know what the Constitution means, then no one can know whether any other law conforms to it. At that point, all that matters is the will of whoever’s in power. And that’s an exact definition of tyranny.
     “Washington was against it. Jefferson was against it. Jackson was against it. All of these men rose to the office of president. I am against it, and I seek the same office. The rest is for the voters to decide.”

     The abuse of “interpretation,” “prosecutorial discretion,” “judicial review,” and other mechanisms to subvert the plain meaning and impact of duly enacted laws has gone so far that there is no longer a “rule of law” in these United States. Harvey Silverglate made a considerable point of this in his book Three Felonies A Day. The malady may be uncorrectable...which makes what follows in this tirade too ironic for the self-respecting citizens of a supposedly Constitutional republic to bear.

     Three days ago, President Trump pardoned former Maricopa County, AZ sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio had been “convicted,” by a judge rather than a jury, of “criminal contempt.” Contempt for what? A court order that forbade him to arrest suspected illegal aliens. But illegal aliens are lawbreakers under explicit federal laws concerning immigration, ports of entry, and permissible residence in the U.S. So Arpaio had been “convicted” of the “crime” of enforcing federal law.

     For President Trump to pardon Joe Arpaio was a pure act in the defense of the rule of law – in other words, a defense of justice against tyranny. Yet he’s been assailed from one end of the political spectrum to the other for that pardon. Why?

     For the life of me, I can’t imagine it. For that matter, where on Earth would a judge of any level whatsoever find the authority for ordering a law enforcement officer not to enforce the law? A county sheriff has the same duty and authority to enforce the law as any other LEO, be the law local, municipal, state, or federal. Moreover, Sheriff Joe was supremely admired for his determination that the illegal-alien laws should be enforced in his demesne – a portion of Arizona badly beset by illegals and the crimes they facilitate.

     Quoth the redoubtable Mike Hendrix:

     Contrary to a whole passel of hysterical psychotics, Trump was more than just within his rights as President to pardon the man; in truth, he HAD to do it, lest the entire idea of justice and the rule of law be forever dismissible as no more than a bitter joke. Good for him for standing up to the monstrous tyrants of the PC Left once again. And hats off to Sheriff Joe for standing firm under the never-ending onslaught of these despicable cretins, from their jug-eared-moron Savior on down.

     I enthusiastically second this from first syllable to last – and they who seek to deny that objective, easily comprehensible and enforceable law exists because it would inconvenience them to admit it should be among our first targets for removal from any office of public trust.

ISIS training kids to simulate exposure to chemical weapons.

September 19, 2013.

H/t: SouthFront.

Alert the CIA.

From Eva Bartlett, fearless independent journalist in Syria:
When in the eastern district Bab al-Hadid [of Aleppo] in June 2017, I interviewed a man in his small hardware shop who spoke of what the West deemed “rebels”:
“They are criminals! They call themselves ‘rebels’, but actually they are all terrorists, with no exceptions. They’re all the same but with different names. ISIS is like Nusra, Nusra are like the FSA, the FSA are like ISIS.”
"SYRIA WAR DIARY: Terrorists, Thieves and Thugs, Reality of Life Under 'Moderate Rebel” Occupation.'" By Eva Bartlett, 21wire, 8/27/17.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Directions In Totalitarian Outreach

     [Owing to this important article on Congressional overspending, I’ve chosen to resurrect the following piece. It first appeared at Eternity Road, though I can’t remember exactly when. -- FWP]

     Columnist Robyn Blumner cites a few choice notions from British economist Richard Layard's new book, Happiness: Lessons From a New Science:

     It turns out, according to the author, that people measure success by looking at those around them. Keeping up with the Joneses is killing our inner peace. Even as we acquire luxury items, the other guy has more. Layard calls it a "hedonic treadmill."

     But there are other forces at work beyond our own affluenza, including the government's approach to the people it serves. When a nation embraces a culture of community well-being over a "you're on your own" attitude, happiness gets spread around. "Our fundamental problem today is a lack of common feeling between people --- the notion that life is essentially a competitive struggle," Layard says. He points to the Scandinavian countries as among the happiest because they "have the clearest concept of the common good."

     Layard endorses the high tax rates of these nations as a way to reduce overwork, making it less valuable. It also has the added benefit of giving government the resources to provide a broad array of social services that tend to make people's lives more secure, such as universal health care.

     And high taxes reduce income disparities, leading to a general sense of relative well-being. Layard says that studies find that the more equally a nation's income is distributed, the higher the level of average happiness. He is not talking about communism, but a shrinking of wealth disparities.

     No, Ma'am, he's talking about communism. He's using "a shrinking of wealth disparities" as a stalking-horse, a utilitarian lure with which to lead people into taking the claims of early Marxian communist theory seriousy -- even though in no country that has experienced communist rule has "a shrinking of wealth disparities" actually taken place.

     There are so many logical and rhetorical problems with Layard's thesis that it would be impossible to cover them all in a single essay, even at your Curmudgeon's habitual excessive length. But it's vital that at least the most important ones get a cursory evisceration.

     First, there's the hedonic treadmill. Now, this is an important line of thought, one not to be dismissed lightly simply because it's used by some as a bludgeon against "consumerism" and capitalism in general. But the hedonic treadmill is only a worthy concept when seen in its appropriate context: the passage of the years of an individual life.

     For the treadmill to catch at Smith's ankles, he must insist on perpetuating all his pleasures and diversions as he ages, rather than slough the pleasures of youth while adopting new pleasures and diversions as appropriate. For it is the multiplication of pleasures, all contending for space on Smith's agenda, that pulls the hedonic treadmill's belt. But since the typical man does, albeit with some regret, relinquish the pleasures of youth when the time comes to do so, he remains able to walk at a comfortable pace; the treadmill does not snare him. And our friend Smith is nothing if not typical.

     Layard's use of the hedonic treadmill is tendentious; he wants us to see it statically, as a trap that arises from increases in wealth and that's not countervailed by any other dynamic. Yet we all age. More, even the pleasures of youth change over time, as anyone who can remember how different the diversions of the Sixties were from those that the young enjoy today would realize at once. Time permits nothing to stand fast; it's ludicrous to imagine that our frivolities would be exceptions.

     Second, there's nothing but opinion behind the assertion that "people measure success by looking at those around them." Some undoubtedly do, but these are probably the least happy of all persons. They've relativized and externalized their desires; their wants are no longer their own. In effect, their sole motivation is the assuagement of their envy. But your Curmudgeon has known thousands of persons in his half-century on this ball of mud, and can only think of three to whom the charge would stick.

     A nation whose citizens are mainly actuated by envy is one which will experience no significant advancement. Its members will spend as much time (or more) trying to retard one another's gains as they'll spend working on their own fortunes; this is the logical consequence of a relativized desire system. History provides numerous examples of such societies -- and all the Twentieth Century's experiments in income-leveling, including all the Communist states that have passed into the dustbin of history, are among them.

     But the crown jewel of absurdity, the acme of counterfactual contention, is here:

     Layard endorses the high tax rates of these nations as a way to reduce overwork, making it less valuable. It also has the added benefit of giving government the resources to provide a broad array of social services that tend to make people's lives more secure, such as universal health care.

     Seldom have so many nonsensical notions been crammed into a fifty-word paragraph. Let's go through them in detail.

     High tax rates do not reduce overwork. They deprive the worker of a part of his incentive to work more; this is true. But Americans' interest in increasing their hours was no less during the days of our highest marginal income tax rates than it is under the much lower ones of today. They merely added another item to their agendas: tax minimization, whether by contriving clever bartering schemes, earning part of their incomes "off the books," or outrightly lying to the IRS about their deductible expenses.

     More, Layard's argument for high tax rates combines all the following:

  • The revenue funds "a broad array of social services";
  • Those services "make people's lives more secure";
  • The above, combined with the destruction of incentives to earn more, is what people would really prefer if they could get in touch with their inner Rousseau.

     Every word of this contention is demonstrably false. When tax rates rise past the Laffer crest, the marginal revenue they garner becomes negative. Thus, there is no net financial gain to the State from the elevation of the rates past that point. The Reagan anti-tax revolution of the Eighties established this beyond any possible counter-argument:

Fiscal Year Federal Receipts, $Billions
1980 517.1
1981 599.3
1982 617.8
1983 600.6
1984 666.5
1985 734.1
1986 769.1
1987 854.1
1988 909.0
1989 990.7
1990 1073.5

     Thus, despite the "heartless" Reagan tax cuts -- the Kemp-Roth rate reductions of 1981 and the Packwood tax reform act of 1986 -- federal revenues soared by 107%. Congress overspent the funds gathered, but in doing so did not provide any more social services than in previous decades. Indeed, federal social services remained close to constant in proportion to the populations served. However, something did increase rather dramatically: federal expenditures on the salaries and perquisites of federal employees:

Fiscal Year Federal Employment, Thousands Federal Wages Disbursed, $Billions
1980 2987 58.0
1981 2909 63.8
1982 2871 65.5
1983 2878 69.9
1984 2935 74.6
1985 3001 80.6
1986 3047 82.6
1987 3075 85.6
1988 3113 88.8
1989 3133 92.8

     Thus, while the federal workforce expanded by 4.8%, federal wages paid increased by 60% -- and every other cost account tied to federal employment increased in proportion. Perhaps those federal employees felt that their lives had become more secure, but it's doubtful that their increased prosperity had that effect on anyone else.

     With particular regard to the myth of "universal heath care," which pops up at each debate over the proper extent of government benevolence like a toadstool after a rainstorm, it is also demonstrably the case that in every country whose health care system has been nationalized under this pretense, the State has had to disguise the failure of the system as best it could by erecting a multi-tier scheme of service, under which persons unfortunate enough to be on a lower tier are compelled to wait or accept low-grade service while those in a higher tier are served with something approaching efficiency and efficacy. The stories from the old Soviet Union are legion; they're matched, in horrific quality if not in mere quantity, by the stories emanating today from France, Canada, and Britain. Socialized medicine leaves people to die rather than admit that its "universality" is a sham. This cannot be squared with any interpretation of "making people's lives more secure."

     Lastly, Layard's claim, in Miss Blumner's words, that:

     [H]igh taxes reduce income disparities, leading to a general sense of relative well-being. Layard says that studies find that the more equally a nation's income is distributed, the higher the level of average happiness.

     ...requires something more than "studies" for its substantiation. "Studies" about "well-being" and "happiness" are the most easily manipulated things in the world. They can be framed to produce whatever conclusion the "researcher" desires to reach. There are no metrics that can accurately and reproducibly capture happiness or well-being. All we have to go on is the observable behavior of people in the environments they choose for themselves from the available options. What we can observe with little effort is this:

  1. No matter where in the world we look, other things all being equal, people prefer to have more money and more choices of goods from which to select.
  2. As long as the possibility exists, they'll work more to get it.
  3. The population flow between nations where the State tries to impede private profit and material gain by taxes, regulations, and the like, and nations where the State puts fewer and lower such barriers in the citizen's way, is heavily from the former to the latter, often despite great hazards to life and limb in the journey.
  4. The most viciously invidious societies known to history have been those where the State's exactions were the highest. Individuals became obsessed with what their neighbors had managed to retain and amass. They often succumbed to the seductions of the State to become informants for it -- in hope of material reward.

     Thus, our verdict on Layard's contentions must be that they're contrary to both good sense and everything we know about the behavior of real human beings. If he's sincere, he's fatally unintelligent, naive, or ill-informed. If he's not, then he's just one more Marxist trying to seduce the unwitting into donning communist shackles. In either case, he deserves no respect whatsoever. But that's a judgment that applies to many an "economist" from the formerly-Sceptered Isle, which has been cranking out the preponderance of the Western world's Marxist polemicists with economics degrees since before World War II.

The Klan! The KKK!

And if we focus on the sanguinary consequences of the two movements [communism and the KKK], the imbalance is even greater. The famous Black Book of Communism, published in 1991, claimed that across the 20th century, Communist regimes had racked up a peacetime total of roughly 100 million human fatalities, and although that latter figure has been widely disputed as a considerable exaggeration, the true number is surely in the many tens of millions, with merely the famine deaths induced by Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward of 1959-1961 usually pegged at 35 million or more.

Meanwhile, the victims of the notorious KKK seem rather fewer in number. The Wikipedia entry for the KKK is over twice as long as that for Communism, and hardly seeks to airbrush the misdeeds of that violent organization, but only manages to provide some 15 murder victims, all listed by name, drawn from the combined decades of the 1950s and 1960s, which represented the height of the Klan’s modern power. This apparent gap between 15 deaths and perhaps 70,000,000 or so seems rather wide.

Not only does the KKK total pale in comparison with Stalin and his considerable body-count, but during its two decades of greatest infamy all those hundreds or thousands of armed Klansmen accounted for fewer victims than the number sometimes sent to the Chicago city morgue over "a long holiday weekend these days . . . .[1]

Fifteen Klan deaths versus 70,000,000 deaths caused by communists . . . . Hmmm? Do we have some kind of a massive con job going on here?

It's the same with "Fascism" and "the Nazis." Those are left-wing phenomena firmly and dishonestly planted on "the far right" to obscure the true nature of homicidal leftism. ONLY Nazis are possessed of a terrible viciousness. The horrors of the 20th-century left are simply to be ignored like the queen's inexplicably telling a camel joke at a state funeral.

[1] "American Pravda: The KKK and Mass Racial Killings." By Ron Unz, The Unz Review, 9/19/16.

More loathsome media toads.

They are so upset. The degree to which they resort to scurrilous attacks matches the degree to which Trump has pulled back the mask on sellout parties all over the West. Trump has upset the globalist honey wagon.

H/t: Breitbart.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Too Good An Idea Not To Share

     ...especially in view of Europe's “refugee crisis:”

     Swedish women are being raped -- including gang raped -- in increasing numbers as the flood of Middle Eastern “refugees” continues. How about offering them a welcome here where they can feel safe, Americans?

“It’s Been Done.”

     Among my memories – some of which are bolstered by the relevant artifacts – I treasure a record titled When You’re In Love The Whole World Is Jewish. It’s a collection of skits on Jewish themes, every last one of which is sidesplitting. The one I have in mind this morning involves a successful businessman named Leibowitz whose son is about to have his Bar Mitzvah. He’s looking for a spectacle that will outdo what a partner did for his son. When a “Bar Mitzvah consultant” suggests that the son read his Bar Mitzvah address before the General Assembly of the United Nations, Leibowitz considers it briefly, then demurs thus: “Not bad, but there’s something missing. I got a feeling it’s been done.”

     Here’s the skit, and just try to control yourself:

     Now that that’s out of the way...

     I’ve become an absolute beast about unoriginality in fiction, especially fiction in the speculative genres: science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The whole point of the speculative genres is to enable the writer’s imagination to roam freely. A writer who elects to mimic someone else’s ideas is wasting the opportunity. A writer who slavishly follows a “hot trend” – e.g., vampire fiction, which has become so obnoxiously repetitive that I refuse to enter a room that contains an item of vampire fiction – has pawned his writer’s gift for a mess of pottage.

     This is giving me some difficulty – steadily increasing difficulty, it seems – with finding reading material. Most of what’s called “mainstream fiction” is terminally boring. The thriller genre is even more repetitive than the speculative ones. And no one’s done convincing military fiction since Tom Clancy and Ed Ruggero.

     Throw in the contemporary tendency among fiction writers to produce series instead of stand-alone novels, and the hunt for something fresh and new becomes torture.

     Among the writers I most enjoy today is Lee Child, the creator of ex-military cop Jack Reacher. Yet Child, too, is beginning to have trouble coming up with fresh crises and conflicts for his nomadic hero to solve. It’s a tough sort of trap from which to free oneself. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been sealing off the ends of the two series I created: I’d rather not get so covered with their adhesive that I can’t come up with something wholly original.

     I’ve emitted plaints like this before. But just now I’ve got nothing new to read, and having just returned from a fruitless search of the recommendations at Amazon, the urge was upon me to vent once more. So, fellow indie writers and would-be writers: what have you got for me that hasn’t been done? I’m a hungry reader with time on my hands, I have a large fiction budget, and I’m waiting!

WTF Department

     Sometimes, there’s nothing else to say:

     Removal of a number of statues and other smaller Catholic icons from the campus of San Domenico School in San Anselmo has raised concerns among some parents.

     In an email to the school’s board of directors, Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and the head of school, Shannon Fitzpatrick objected to the removal of the statues and other steps the school has taken in an effort to make the school more inclusive.

     “Articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico’s 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one’s heritage and beliefs,” wrote Fitzpatrick, whose 8-year-old son attends the school.

     She added, “In our time here, the word ‘Catholic’ has been removed from the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be ‘less Catholic,’ and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic.”

     Responding to follow-up questions Monday, Fitzpatrick wrote, “There are other families having the same concerns I do. Many parents feel if the school is heading in a different direction then the San Domenico community should have been notified before the signing of the enrollment for the following year.”

     “More inclusive” appears to mean “less Catholic.” It forces questions about what other aspects of the school will be altered or abandoned under the same justification.

     Yet this is far from an isolated incident.

     My wife works for a number of Catholic organizations, among which are several Catholic schools. When I mentioned the above to her, she characterized it as part of a trend. Enrollment at Catholic schools has been dropping precipitously, such that just to garner enough revenue to keep the doors open they’ve been accepting non-Catholic students. Apparently that’s resulted in other changes, such as the ones at San Domenico.

     There are threads of several colors running through this pattern. Perhaps the most obvious is the declining size of families of all denominations, including Catholic families. Whereas a Catholic couple of the Forties and Fifties might have produced three, four, or five children, contemporary Catholic couples, similarly to others, seldom produce more than two. Fewer Catholic kids imply lower enrollments at Catholic schools, regardless of all other considerations.

     Other considerations intrude as well. The Church in America has been severely weakened by several forces, including the embrace by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of political progressivism that ever more closely approaches the Marxist “liberation theology” rampant in South America. Such politics makes frequent appearances at American pulpits, much to the dismay of many lay Catholics. For example, last week a priest of my parish dared to proclaim that for a man to own unused land is morally equivalent to stealing it from the homeless. It takes little imagination to envision what a Catholic of conservative disposition would think of that.

     The rot is most visible in Catholic higher education. Virtually all the venerable Catholic universities have departed from the faith as their fathers once knew it. Many of the best known ones have sacrificed Catholicism for success at some sport. What does it matter if Junior is a pagan, or a Muslim, if he can hit the three-point shot? Indeed, what does it matter if he can’t read? Ask the trustees at Notre Dame, Georgetown, Seton Hall, or DePaul.

     But not to be omitted is the extraordinary cost of American “public” education. An American family must pay for a government-run, government-corrupted grammar and high school system regardless of whether that family’s kids go to such or schools...indeed, regardless of whether that family has any kids at all. To pay for a second school system, often at rates made outrageous by government-imposed mandates and requirements, is beyond far too many budgets. If you’ve ever wondered about Catholic schools’ resort to Bingo Nights and other non-educational fundraising measures, that’s a great part of the reason.

     Scant wonder that Catholic grammar and high schools are under such pressure to accept non-Catholic students...and to make accommodations to them and to their parents that they would have rejected with prejudice fifty years ago.

     Catholic education has always been the target of hostile forces. The famous 1925 Supreme Court case Pierce v. Society of Sisters illustrates one thrust against it, mounted by the state of Oregon. After the highest Court had ruled that such a measure was unConstitutional, the enemies of American Catholicism resorted to other measures, including propagandistic, regulatory, and financial ones.

     The demonstrable superiority of Catholic grammar-school education to all other varieties gave this struggle a supremely ironic cast. But when the government is on one side of a contretemps – and ever since state governments permitted “public” school teachers to unionize, that has been the case – the playing field is tilted against the other.

     The government has often declared an “interest” in an educated citizenry. Considering how horribly the “public” schools function, the sincerity of such claims is open to doubt. If there’s a hierarchy of priorities in such things, it would appear that keeping the teachers unions happy is at the top thereof. As Catholic schools are not unionized, those unions’ interest in suppressing Catholic education by any expedient means is obvious.

     It’s time for Catholic parents to become far more involved in this matter. It’s also time for Catholics of charitable inclinations – hopefully, that means all of us – to put some thought into how we direct our charitable contributions. Perhaps a few dollars to the general fund of the local Catholic grammar school would not be amiss. I plan to amend my will with that in mind; your course is your own affair.

Loathsome media toads.

Pardon the redundancy.

H/t: Breitbart.

Friday, August 25, 2017

With Hopes And Prayers For The Safety Of The People Of Texas

     Because it’s by no means assured:

     Pray for them.

Quickies: How It’s Done

     The following comes from a man who once emceed a television series about “how it’s done.” And this time, he demonstrates it himself!

     Rowe posted on Facebook Tuesday a comment written to him:
     One of the tenants of white nationalism is that college educated people are academic elitests. Comment? No? I’m not surprised. You never take a political stand because you don’t want to alienate anybody. Its bad for business. I get it. But there is a current of anti intellectualism in this country – promoted by Republicans. Those people love you, and they think your initiative is their initiative. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is kickin’ our ass academically.

     That comment came from someone named Chuck Atkins, apparently a fairly well known leftist activist. Perhaps he’s had success with such illogic in the past – there are certainly enough people afraid of being called “racists,” “white nationalists,” or what have you – but Rowe took him to school:

     Since we’re being candid, allow me to say how much I dislike your post. Everything about it annoys me – your smug and snarky tone, your appalling grammar, your complete lack of evidence to support your claims, and of course, the overarching logical fallacy that informs your entire position. What really bugs me though, is the fact that you’re not entirely wrong. It’s true; I haven’t shared any political opinions this week, in part anyway, because doing so might very well be “bad for business.”

     What can I say? I work for half-a-dozen different companies, none of whom pay me to share my political opinions. I run a non-partisan foundation, I’m about to launch a new show on Facebook, and I’m very aware that celebrities pay a price for opening their big fat gobs. Gilbert Gottfried, Kathy Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, Milo Yiannopoulos…even that guy from Google who just got himself fired for mouthing off. There’s no getting around it – the first amendment does not guarantee the freedom to speak without consequences. And really, that’s fine by me.

     So no – I’m not going to share my personal feelings about Charlottesville, President Trump, or the current effort to remove thousands of statues of long dead soldiers from the public square. Not just because it’s “bad for business,” but because it’s annoying. I can’t think of a single celebrity whose political opinion I value, and I’m not going to assume the country feels any differently about mine. So, rather than blow myself up, or chime in with all the obvious observations about the cowardly scum in the pointy hats, I’m going to talk instead about my belief that comments like yours pose a far greater threat to the future of our country than the existence of a memorial to Thomas Jefferson, or a monument to George Washington. Ready? Let’s start with a closer look at your claims.

     Here’s the complete response. Savor it, while I go back to work on Innocents. (I’ve just paid my cover artist for the gorgeous cover she drew, so now I have to finish it!)

Kill the whites.

The sainted Mandela:

Hypocritical bastard. There he stands melodiously pledging to kill whites in Xhosa but saying in English how it's an "emotional moment" for him that those fighting for democracy and peace, for love among South Africans, should be "mowed down." Well, we're seeing which version Mandela extolled is being played out now. (Link to photos of murder and violence meted out to S. African whites in case that link goes dead).

Note the two white morons with wimpy clenched fists singing about killing whites. There ought to be a statue of them for every white community in the world to show just how far some white imbeciles and sellouts will go to celebrate the death of of their own people.

H/t: Diana West.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Former Secret Service Agent Dan Bongino Gets Donald Trump!

     As no one else has understood him to date:

     It’s only two minutes long, so enjoy!

A Suggestion To Pro-Freedom Rally Attendees

     The following comes from Poul Anderson’s novel Operation Chaos. In the quoted scene, the CEO of a company is pleading with the leader of a disruption to disperse the crowd:

     "I see. I didn't expect anything else," Barney said. "But I wanted to put the situation in plain language before witnesses. Now I'm going to warn you."
     Those who heard whispered to the rest, a hissing from mouth to mouth. I saw tension mount anew.
     "If you employ violence upon those who came simply to remonstrate," Marmiadon declared, "they will either have the law upon you, or see final proof that the law is a creature of the vested interests . . . which I tell you in turn are the creatures of Satan."
     "Oh, no, no," Barney answered. "We're mild sorts, whether you believe it or not. But you are trespassing. You have interfered with our work to the point where we're delayed and shorthanded. We must carry on as best we can, trying to meet our contractual obligations. We're about to run an experiment. You could be endangered. Please clear the grounds for your own safety."
     Marmiadon grew rigid. "If you think you can get away with a deadly spell—"
     "Nothing like. I'll tell you precisely what we have in mind. We're thinking about a new method of transporting liquid freight. Before going further, we have to run a safety check on it. If the system fails, unprotected persons could be hurt." Barney raised his volume, though we knew some of the police officers would have owls' ears tuned in. "I order you, I warn you, I beg you to stop trespassing, and get off company properly. You have half an hour."


     "Ready?" Barney asked. In the restless pale glow, I saw sweat gleam on his face. If this failed, he'd be responsible for unforeseeable consequences.
     I checked the connections. "Yeah, nothing's come loose. But let me first have a look around."
     I joined Ginny at the parapet. Beneath us roiled the mob, faces and placards turned upward to hate us. They had spied the floating containers and knew a climax was at hand. Behind his altar, Initiate Marmiadon worked at what I took to be reinforcement of his defensive field. Unknown phrases drifted to me: "...Heliphomar Mabon Saruth Gefutha Enunnas Sacinos..." above the sullen mumble of our besiegers.
     The elflight flickered brighter. The air seethed and crackled with energies. I caught a thunderstorm whiff of ozone.
     My darling wore a slight, wistful smile. "How Svartalf would love this," she said.
     Barney lumbered to our side. "Might as well start," he said. "I'll give them one last chance." He shouted the same warning as before. Yells drowned him out. Rocks and offal flew against our walls. "Okay," he growled. "Let 'er rip!"
     I went back to the generator and started the motor, leaving the circuits open. It stuttered and shivered. The vile fumes made me glad we'd escaped depending on internal combustion engines. I've seen automobiles, as they were called, built around 1900, shortly before the first broomstick flights. Believe me, museums are where they belong a chamber of horrors, to be exact.
     Ginny's clear call snapped my attention back. She'd directed the canisters into position. I could no longer see them, for they floated ten feet over the heads of the crowd, evenly spaced. She made a chopping gesture with her wand. I threw the main switch.
     No, we didn't use spells to clear Nornwell's property. We used the absence of spells. The surge of current through the coils on the generator threw out enough magnetism to cancel every charm, ours and theirs alike, within a hundred yard radius.
     We'd stowed whatever gear might be damaged in safe conductive-shell rooms. We'd repeatedly cautioned the mob that we were about to experiment with the transportation of possibly dangerous liquids. No law required us to add that these liquids were in super-pressurized cans which were bound to explode and spray their contents the moment that the wall-strengthening force was annulled.
     We'd actually exaggerated the an attempt to avoid any slightest harm to trespassers. Nothing vicious was in those containers. Whatever might be slightly toxic was present in concentrations too small to matter, although a normal sense of smell would give ample warning regardless. Just a harmless mixture of materials like butyl mercaptan, butyric acid, methanethiol, skatole, cadaverine, putrescine...well, yes, the organic binder did have penetrative properties; if you got a few drops on your skin, the odor wouldn't disappear for a week or two...
     The screams reached me first. I had a moment to gloat. Then the stench arrived. I'd forgotten to don my gas mask, and even when I'm human my nose is quite sensitive. The slight whiff I got sent me gasping and retching backward across the roof. It was skunk, it was spoiled butter, it was used asparagus, it was corruption and doom and the wheels of juggernaut lubricated with Limburger cheese, it was beyond imagining. I barely got my protection on in time.
     "Poor dear. Poor Steve." Ginny held me close.
     "Are they gone?" I sputtered.
     "Yes. Along with the policemen and, if we don't get busy, half this postal district."
     I relaxed. The uncertain point in our plan had been whether the opposition would break or would come through our now undefended doors in search of our lives. After my experience I didn't see how the latter would have been possible. Our chemists had built better than they knew.
     We need hardly expect a return visit, I thought in rising glee. If you suffer arrest or a broken head for the Cause, you're a hero who inspires others. But if you merely acquire for a while a condition your best friends won't tell you about because they can't come within earshot of you-hasn't the Cause taken a setback?

     The mix detailed above might be a bit expensive to procure, but a cheap yet effective substitute exists. (Thank you, Texan!) Food for thought, Gentle Readers!

An Announcement

     As Yahoo’s email service has become completely unreliable – their Web programmers don’t seem to know how to write a decent script – I am forced to announce a new email address for my Web correspondents.

     In the future, please address all correspondence to:

morelonhouse – at – optonline – dot – net

     I'll check it once per day, probably in the morning. Thank you for your patience, especially those of you who’ve been waiting to hear from me!

All my best,

Tests Of Faith

     This morning, we have a quiet cri de coeur from Stephen Kruiser:

     Mine is a life that hasn't exactly been fraught with tragedy. It has, however, known a fair amount of financial and personal struggle throughout the years. If the rough patches on one's journey are tests, I feel as if I should have multiple graduate degrees in Getting Over It Already.

     Whenever anything gets too ridiculous, I have relied on a triple-tiered, unwavering support network of family, amazing friends, and faith.

     In the past few months, the faith wavered. That's not wholly accurate: it disappeared.

     Kruiser is a lifelong Catholic who has always valued his faith, which makes the sense that it has deserted him particularly painful. The article is eminently worth reading in its entirety, but I’m going to skip to the end:

     The map to the path back to God is probably right in front of me.

     I am just going to need to look harder.

     The comments section is the usual mix of blather, including quite a bit of anti-Catholicism, but that’s of no real moment.

     Everyone has crises of faith, because faith is a much wider category of ideation than most persons imagine. Concisely: Let Proposition X be a statement that, in the nature of things, can neither be proved nor disproved. If you believe Proposition X even so, you have faith in it. This is of special significance if you choose to conform or constrain your behavior in light of Proposition X.

     Mind you, Proposition X cannot be a statement about the past. Statements about the past are either factual or counterfactual – correct or incorrect – right or wrong. Statements about the future, or about conditions that cannot be verified or falsified, are the ones that matter. Consider, for example, Job’s statement before his neighbors:

     For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. [Job 19:25-26]

     That’s plainly a statement of faith. (Whether the story is fact or fiction is immaterial.)

     We have “secular” faith in many things: in people; in our relationships; in the soundness of our methods for pursuing what we want; and perhaps most important of all, in the value of our own lives and labors. It’s in the nature of such convictions that they will be tested... and that some of those convictions will fail their tests. Everyone is let down in some fashion, by someone or something, at some time in his life.

     Some hold (as a matter of faith) that God determines what the tests will be. I’m on the negative side of that one. God does not wield the “police power” under the veil of Time. He has decreed the laws of this universe and set us free to cope with them. We are subject to them despite our severest strivings to set them at naught. It is those laws that provide our tests:

  • By obstructing our progress toward what we want;
  • By placing us in competition or opposition to others with contrasting aims;
  • By denying us absolute latitude and infinite time to make our decisions and practice our methods.

     Much of this is summed up in a fatalistic way by the old maxim “Shit happens.” Indeed it does...but the regularity behind it should tell us a great deal more than most of us dare to infer.

     Before we proceed, have a few of the recognized faiths’ takes on “Shit happens.”

  • Catholics: If shit happens, we deserve it.
  • Protestants: Let this shit happen to someone else.
  • Jews: Why does this shit always happen to us?
  • Muslims: Let’s do some shit to those dirty infidels.
  • Buddhists: What is the sound of shit happening?
  • Rastafarians: Let’s roll this shit up and smoke it!
  • Solipsists: There is no shit.
  • Atheists: You theists are full of shit and you know it.

     These, too, are useful encapsulations. You might want to write them down.

     I’m reasonably sure Stephen Kruiser will regain his faith. His article speaks of a support system most of us don’t enjoy in its fullest extent. The point of this brief piece is otherwise:

Like Shit, Tests Of Faith...Happen.

     Indeed, I’m of the opinion that we should be grateful for them, for they help us to discover what we really believe, as opposed to fictions we maintain only while they’re comfortable.

     Be well, Stephen. I’ll be praying for you.

Says it all.

Zero Hedge on its main page has this great graphic pointing to a Charles Hugh Smith essay[1] on the economy.

The article's doom porn if you will but not wrong. It's not if but when.

However, the picture is pretty much emblematic of the last 50 years of the U.S. political class's management of the affairs of what used to be a great representative federal republic.

Now we're awash with debt, flooded by foreigners stealing jobs, chasing every known will o' the wisp on the planet with an AK, destroying civil liberties in the name of greasy sanctimonious lies, conniving with vicious leftist street fighters, awash in Hillary Clinton corruption and mendacity, and kowtowing to feminist, minorities, and every species of sexually-deranged freak known to science.

We're long past the point where we could consider this a sane, functioning society. Millions reject basic rationality and despise their own people.

[1] "Did The Economy Just Stumble Off A Cliff?" By Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds, republished at Zero Hedge, 8/24/17.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Teaser Three

     [All right, all right! But just the one more. -- FWP]

Monday, 09/11/2028, 19:10: Onteora County

     Sokoloff pulled up to the curb in front of his Oakleigh ranch, maneuvered to position the trailer for detachment the following morning, set the handbrake, killed the engine, and sat back in indecision.
     What next?
     He’d striven not to think about the passenger in his trailer. That was possible no longer.
     She’s safe. That much I can guarantee. But this “my lord and master” bit has a heavy feel. She’s been treating me as if I own her. A possession.
     Her behavior just before lunch was most troubling of all.
     She expects me to use her for sex.
     Did other men use her that way? Is that why she fled? What kind of upbringing would aim at conditioning her to accept that? Who would do such a monstrous thing to an innocent young girl?
     It took more than a few days to plant that notion in her head, that’s for certain. She’s been under someone’s thumb for months. Maybe years.

     If Fountain’s conditioning was as thorough as it appeared, Conway’s suggestion about securing professional help for Fountain, though well meant, might only scratch the surface of the problem. She was going to need therapy of several kinds. Probably as much therapy as she’d had abuse.
     He felt the swelling of a new motivation.
     I think I’ll be headed back to Virginia very, very soon. When I find the bastards who did this...
     He smiled.


     The trailer door opened. Fountain immediately laid the book aside and assumed the pose of waiting. Her lord entered and stood before her, looking as troubled as he had earlier.
     Perhaps we have reached his manor. I must be absolutely attentive. I must overlook nothing and forget nothing. I must please him in all things.
     I want to please him.

     Never before had she entertained such a thought about a master, even in her most remote fantasies.
     “Fountain,” he said, “we’re here. It’s time to get you, uh, settled.” He gestured at the paperback. “Bring your book if you haven’t finished it.”
     She bowed her head. “As my lord commands.”
     A spasm crossed his face, and she tensed.
     Have I displeased him already?
     She forced the thought away.
     I will learn in due course.
     She followed him in silence, past a strip of concrete and a metal post on which stood a plastic box that bore the legend 5217, and along a narrow stone walk to a concrete stoop that stood before the door of a long, low house. She looked about quickly. The houses around it were greatly similar in size and form. They stretched off into the distance on both sides.
     I must remember everything.
     He pulled a key ring from his pocket, fumbled with it briefly, inserted a key into the lock on the door and opened it. He gestured that she should enter before him. She hesitated.
     That is not how I was taught.
     I must do as he commands.

     She stepped into the darkness. A light went on overhead. She surveyed the surroundings, found them unaccountably plain and meager for a master, and turned to face him.
     “My lord? Forgive me this presumption, this your manor?”
     “It’s my home,” he said. “Yours too, for now.”
     For now. Perhaps it is a way station, and not his place of power. Of course it is not. He is too great a lord to endure such paltry accommodations. That he would dwell in such a hovel, and suffer to be surrounded by others just as tawdry, is unthinkable. Perhaps he intends that we shelter here only until he has alerted his other servants and has been notified that his palace has been made ready for his return.
     He shepherded her into the structure, brought her to a room that contained a sink, a stove, an oven, a few other items she could not identify, and a small table and four chairs. He bade her sit, went to a tall steel box, and pulled open a drawer near its base. He glanced over at her and grinned.
     “Are you a little hungry, hungry, or very hungry?” he said
     “I am hungry, my lord.”
     “Two slices then.” He drew four triangular shapes from the drawer, went to the oven, and pushed a couple of buttons on its face. When it beeped he pulled a metal tray from a cabinet, set it on the countertop, removed a plastic film from the triangles and arranged them on the tray.
     Why is there no one to prepare his meal? Why is there no one to wait upon him? Why has he not commanded that I make ready to see to his pleasure?
     The strangenesses were multiplying faster than she could register and absorb them.
     It appears that this way station was not fully prepared for him. Perhaps someone will soon be chastised for the neglect of it. I may learn much, if I am permitted to witness it.
     He slid the tray and its burden into the oven, pushed a few more buttons, closed the door and seated himself facing her at the little table.
     “It’ll be ready in a few minutes. Hope you like your pizza with peppers and mushrooms. It’s store bought, but not bad all the same.”
     She had no idea what he was talking about, so she merely bowed her head.
     I must learn. I must overlook nothing and forget nothing.
     He peered at her in a curious fashion, as if she presented him with some sort of problem. As frightening as the notion was, she had no recourse except to do exactly what he commanded, as he commanded it and when he commanded it.
     I am his. I must wait upon his will.
     The oven beeped. He rose, pulled a heavy glove from a drawer, opened the oven, and slid the tray out. Before she could rise or speak he’d put the triangles on two waiting plates, brought them to the table, and placed one before her.
     “Let’s eat.”
     The triangles steamed up at her. The aroma was wholly new, and wholly luscious. She put a fingertip to the surface of one and jerked it away with a cry, scorched. He immediately rose, face tight with alarm.
     “Damn it, I should have known better.” He took her hand gently in his, examined the scorched fingertip, and pulled her out of her seat toward the sink. In a moment blessedly cold water was running over her finger in a torrent, easing the pain from the burn.
     “Let’s hope this doesn’t blister,” he said. “You’ve never had pizza before, have you?”
     “I have not, my lord.”
     “I should have realized, damn it.” He banged a closed fist on the countertop. “You didn’t know coffee, so why did I expect you to know pizza? Stupid, stupid fuckhead.
     His dissatisfaction was evident and directed entirely toward himself.
     “My lord?” she murmured.
     He looked back at her. “Yes, Fountain?”
     “What is a fuckhead?”


     Upon recovering from his fit of laughter, Sokoloff salved Fountain’s scorched finger with an aloe-rich analgesic lotion, bandaged it, and cautioned her not to ask too much of it for a day or two. He returned them to the kitchen table, fetched a knife and fork from his utensil drawer, and held them out to her. She peered at them curiously, but made no move to accept them.
     Damn. Just how deep does her lack of acquaintance with ordinary stuff go?
     “Fountain, from your expression I’m guessing that you’ve never used these tools before.”
     She cringed subtly. “I have not, my lord.”
     “Well, back before...before you came to me, how did you eat solid food?”
     She lowered her gaze to the table.
     “My lord,” she said, “since we first met I have not seen a food I’d seen before, except for milk.”
     He opened his mouth, closed it, and thought furiously.
     She never saw eggs before. Corned beef hash? Pizza? Okay, if I really try I can believe that, but eggs?
     “Then what are you used to eating?” he murmured. The need to make her feel safe and secure welled up in him. “Just tell me what you want, dear. If I don’t have it here, I’ll go out and get it for you.”
     She looked up, color rising into her face. “No, my lord! I will eat what you provide, whatever it may be. I have no other desires. I know it is not my place!”
     Her obvious fear silenced him.
     What was done to this girl?
     “Fountain...” He halted himself and drew a deep breath. “Please don’t be upset. Just tell me what you used to eat. What you ate before you came to me.” He reached across the table and drew a fingertip down her cheek. “Please.”
     “It was always the same, my lord,” she said after a moment. “I was not told it had a name.”
     “Can you describe it?”
     Her mouth worked. “It was...soft.”
     “Well, what sort of flavor did it have? Was it sweet, salty, sour, bitter?”
     She screwed up her face as if taxed by a monumental act of concentration.
     “I...” Her eyes opened, pleading. “My lord, these are not words I know.”
     Great God in heaven.
     “Then tell me this.” He struggled to keep his tone low and even. “Did you like the food I’ve given you?”
     Her face lit. “Yes, my lord! It is wonderful! The pleasure of it surpasses”
     “What you used to eat? Your diet?”
     She nodded. “Yes! Your foods surpass my diet of before as your beauty outshines the stars!”
     His mouth dropped open. He forced himself to remain calm and counted silently to ten.
     Stay focused, Larry.
     “Well, thank you for that comparison, dear.” He rose, rounded the table, and pulled her plate toward him. “But if you liked those foods, I think you’ll love this one. Watch what I do.”
     He slowly and carefully cut her pizza into bites about the size she’d portioned for herself at breakfast. She watched with the concentration of one determined to learn a wholly new skill. He stabbed one fragment with the fork and passed the utensil to her. She took it awkwardly, in an infant’s grip, but with an evident determination to please him.
     “Now open your mouth, dear.”
     She did.
     “We’re halfway there,” he said. “Now carefully put the bite in your mouth, close your lips, and pull the fork out.”
     She did. Her mouth began to work delicately. He kept his hands pressed firmly against the table.
     Her eyes went wide. She began to tremble. All at once she started to stab the bits of pizza and cram them into her mouth at a speed beyond all caution. Her chewing and swallowing became so exaggerated that it was all he could do to restrain his mirth.
     When she had finished, she offered the fork back to him. Her glowing smile was fully adequate testimony to the success of the experiment. He gently took the fork from her hand.
     “That,” he said, “is pizza.”


     Sokoloff rose and took their dishes to sink, rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher, and swept the table for crumbs with a damp sponge. Fountain remained seated. She watched him with unmixed attention and absolute concentration. He could read nothing else from her expression.
     She acts as if everything is new to her. Maybe it is.
     I have to know who did what to her and why.

     The tiny part of his mind, present in every man that’s ever lived, that ceaselessly examined and reflected on its own operations was silent.
     Presently there was nothing more to clean up, and no other chores to occupy him. He returned to the table. She was still there, still unswervingly attentive. He took her hands in his.
     “Fountain,” he said, “if you’d rather not read, would you like to watch television? There isn’t much on, but I have some DVDs.” She made no reply. He mentally reviewed the movies he owned for something unthreatening. “Have you ever seen Fantasia 2000?
     Her gaze narrowed slightly. “What is...fantasia?”
     “Well, it’s sort of a musical cartoon. It’s very pretty.” He waited for a reply, but received none.
     I can see how this has to go.
     “Okay,” he said. He tugged gently on her hands. “Come with me.”
     She rose at once and followed him in silence to his little living room. When her eyes lit on his wall-mounted television, animation flooded into her face. “A teaching box!”
     Is that fear?
     “It’s a television, dear. We usually call it just TV.” He hesitated. “You received your lessons from a TV?”
     She turned to face him.
     “Many lessons, my lord.” A shudder passed over her. “How to behave in the presence of a master, how to speak to him, how to bring him pleasure.” A second shudder. “How you would chastise us if you were...displeased.”
     What I would do.
     They taught her to fear fear men.

     Careful not to lose his clasp on her hands, he sank slowly to his knees. Her eyes flared to their widest stops.
     “My lord...”
     He squeezed her hands. “Fountain,” he murmured, “please believe me: I will never, ever do the smallest thing to hurt you. There’s nothing you could do that would make me ever raise a hand to you. You could burn this house down and all I would care about is making sure you were all right.”
     She stared down at him, lips parted.
     “But my lord,” she whispered, “I am yours.
     “No, dear.” He rose. “You are yours. You’re just here so I can take care of you. Keep you safe. That’s all. I’m not going to do anything to you.”
     But when I find whoever did this to you...
     He tugged her gently toward the sofa and indicated that she should sit. When she’d settled herself, still obviously mired in incredulity, he turned on his television and DVD player, pulled his Fantasia 2000 DVD from the adjoining shelf, inserted it into the player, took the remote in his hand, and sat next to her. She immediately moved to settle herself against his side. He looped his arm around her and hugged her gently. She leaned into the embrace.
     “Just watch and listen, dear. I think you’ll enjoy it.”
     He pressed the PLAY button.


     As the movie ran, Sokoloff glanced now and again at Fountain, straining to be certain that the unfamiliar sights and sounds were pleasing her, or at least not terrifying her. She remained tight against his side, eyes fixed on the screen, silent and motionless throughout. When the last images had faded and the concluding notes of the Firebird Suite had died away, he clicked the STOP button and set the remote down on the side table.
     After a long silence, he said, as softly as he could, “Did you like it?”
     “So much beauty,” she whispered.
     She sobbed and buried her face against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her. Tears swiftly soaked through his shirt.
     I think Stravinski would call that a satisfactory audience reaction.
     When she was quiet against him, he caressed her shoulders and murmured, “What did you like best, the pictures or the music?”
     She pulled back a little in his embrace. “They were”
     He smiled. “No, the pictures and music came from two completely different bunches of people. Then a third bunch of people put them together. Very few people are good at all three of those things. At least, not that good.”
     “Do you make pictures or music, my lord?” she said.
     “Uh, well, I can’t really draw—I mean make pictures,” he said. “But I can make music, a little. I mean, I can play and sing music other people have written.”
     She looked up at him, obviously waiting.
     Oh boy.
     You stepped in it, genius. Time to step up.

     “Would you like me to make some music for you, Fountain?”
     She nodded eagerly.
     He released her and went to the northwest corner of the room where stood the small electric piano he’d allowed to languish unused for most of a year. He sat at the bench, turned on the power, waited for the fans to stabilize, and set his fingers to the keys.
     What do I still remember how to play? Not jazz or rock and roll. Not honky-tonk or ragtime. Something calm, something that soothes and exalts.
     As if seized by a power not his own, his left hand moved to finger an inverted G chord. His right produced a matching arpeggio. Though he did not will it, his voice rose, unaccountably strong and smooth, in the simple melody an ailing Viennese, destined to be taken from the world before his time, had written and others had mated to an ancient prayer to produce a hymn beloved of all Christendom.

Ave Maria
Gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena

Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus

Et benedictus fructus ventris
Ventris tuae, Jesus
Ave Maria

Ave Maria
Mater Dei
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus
Ora pro nobis, Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus

Nunc et in hora mortis
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Ave Maria

     He completed the closing stanza, let the piano fall silent, and sat with head bowed. The hymn had overcome him, as it always did. He didn’t want Fountain to see.
     Beauty. The world is rich in it, Fountain. Enough to raise your soul to heaven. It’s rich in horror, too. Enough to wring you dry of tears.
     Whatever you fear, whatever others have done to you, you will know no horror while you’re here. Only beauty and peace. Upon my life I swear it.

     A gentle hand fell upon his shoulder. He looked up at Fountain. Her eyes were soft.
     “Thank you, my lord.”
     She knelt, took his hands, and kissed them.