Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Demise Of Playboy

     Not everything can be successfully commercialized forever.

     Strong words for an early Saturday morning, eh? A bit of a departure from your humble Curmudgeon’s usual opening salvo. Perhaps just a wee bit too in-your-face? Well, you can always ask for your money back. (You can’t always get it, but you can ask.) But it’s what occurred to me as I pondered the death of Hugh Hefner and the steady decline of his Playboy empire.

     Playboy magazine and its satellite enterprises were founded on a curiously hybrid proposition. It was the same concept that gave rise to television shows such as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: the desire to “sell a taste,” to middle and working-class American men, of certain luxuries that only the richest among us could indulge in reality. Though that “taste” was confined to the glossy pages of a magazine, and perhaps a visit to a Playboy Club when the missus was out of town, for decades it propelled Hefner’s fortunes and kept Playboy on newsstands nationwide. The main attraction was, of course, the unclad beauties Playboy featured in its photo spreads.

     The full significance of Playboy — both its rise and its fall – can only be grasped when one looks at those passages in the context of the time of its rise, the other magazines that followed it into the market, and the legal, social, and technological developments of the subsequent decades.

     When Playboy arose, the leading magazines were such staid, wife-and-homemaker-oriented publications as Redbook, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies’ Home Journal. Men, for the most part, didn’t read magazines; “our” periodical was the newspaper. In contrast Playboy was openly aimed at male tastes, and not domestic ones. Moreover, it treaded on forbidden ground, in those early years, for a glossy-stock magazine to publish pictures of naked women. The idea shocked a lot of sensibilities.

     The shock value was the greater part of what propelled Playboy’s sales. Buying Playboy was daring. It marked you as “a man of the world,” unconfined by fusty old conventions or the stultifying opinions of the Grundies. And of course, if you were pressed on the matter by The Little Woman, you could always claim you bought it “for the articles.”

     But “daring” is a limitless frontier. Where Playboy’ photo spreads could be represented, not entirely uningenuously, as homages to female beauty, the competitors it engendered could take a coarser tack, reaching for cruder sensibilities...and they did.

     The Late Sixties and early Seventies brought chaos to the land via conflicts over the First Amendment’s guarantees of “freedom of expression” versus the need to “protect” Americans – especially (drum roll, please) the children — from “prurient” or “pornographic” materials. The time brought an explosion in sexually-oriented publications. Nearly all of them were far coarser than Playboy, almost entirely unconcerned with anything but sex, yet they competed with it for the very same market. The more conservative jurisdictions sought to curb such publications, at least to the extent of keeping them off the newsstands. When the case of Miller v. California reached the Supreme Court in 1973, so did the chaos.

     Without delving into how the Court resolved Miller and subsequent similar cases (usually lumped together as the Obscenity Cases), the outcome was one that had to emerge from a deeply divided judicial body straining to accommodate an even more deeply divided nation. In essence, the new “standard” for declaring material – books, movies, what have you – banned for publication and distribution was whether five Justices of the Supreme Court thought it should be banned. No more objective definition could command a majority. One of the consequences was that the Court had to schedule a “movie day” on which they would watch movies accused of being illegally obscene and rule on them individually. “I know it when I see it” – the Court’s de facto standard for obscenity – became a laugh line for observers of American jurisprudence.

     Then the Obscenity Cases extended their tentacles for Playboy.

     By then, Playboy had become a respected American institution, a component of the periodical Establishment. When a prosecutor in Albemarle County, Virginia attempted to prosecute stores that sold Playboy, using language from Chief Justice Warren Burger’s opinions in the Obscenity Cases as his rationale, Burger himself, the most anti-pornography member of the Court, intervened to prevent it.

     Burger’s majority (5 to 4) opinion proclaimed that sexually explicit material that “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” could be banned by state or local law. This “standard,” which came to be known as the SLAPS test, was so plainly subjective that there was no way it could be uniformly applied nor enforced. That subjectivism, when it reached for Playboy, brought the tottery legal edifice crashing down. Combined with the later Deep Throat case, in which Alan Dershowitz spoke in the defense of Herbert “Harry Reems” Streicher and other actors who had been convicted of distributing pornographic materials by appearing in the film, it rendered the prosecution of a publication as “obscene” effectively impossible.

     The courts could not permit relatively modest Playboy but ban its much cruder competitors. The competitors steadily encroached upon Playboy’s market. Hefner’s empire, now on the respectable end of the “sell it with sex” spectrum, could do nothing about it.

     It’s hard to charge a price for something that’s freely and copiously available to anyone with a decent Internet connection. Name a sexual practice, however outrĂ©, and with a little “Google Fu” you can find it on the World Wide Web. As the cost of producing and hosting digital pornography has fallen, ever more of it, at ever lower prices, has accumulated on Websites innumerable. Today most of it is free; the rest isn’t nearly as expensive, bulky, or hard to conceal as a copy of Playboy. That spells doom for sexually oriented publications in the non-digital world.

     Playboy’s demise can be traced first to the steady erosion of its market share by its “more daring” competitors, and second to the demise of the entire sexually-oriented periodical market under pressure from the Web. Whatever its intentions or pretensions, Playboy’s appeal to its readership was founded on its photo spreads and the other sexually-oriented features in its pages. And so it has gone down with the rest of the fleet of which it had once been the flagship.

     The commercialization of the sexual impulse has ceased to be viable. It no longer matters that large majorities in significant regions of the nation still disapprove, some quite strongly, of sexually explicit entertainment. Thus a magazine which once benefited from the disapproval of bluenoses has fallen, in part due to the success of the industry it germinated.

     If there’s a “new daring” ready to take the place of the old one, perhaps it’s monogamous domestic tranquility of an earlier style: returning from one’s day of labor to a home tended by one’s beloved, to play with the kids, watch an hour or two of television, and perhaps read the latest drivel here at Liberty’s Torch. Granted, it can be hard to shrug off the neighbors’ demands that you cease to violate community standards so blatantly, but you can do it. You’re a man of the world, aren’t you?

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Last Time America Got Tired of Protests

An analysis of neighborhood racial composition in Houston. What I see in it - those neighborhoods that are majority Black are often overwhelmingly Black - 90% or more. So, for many of those living in not-diverse neighborhoods, their only exposure to Non-Black people is the media.

And, we all know how unbiased and fair they are.

For many Black people, White people are nearly an alien species - whose customs, habits, and lives are virtually unknown. For them, the only exposure to Whites is the Smarmy Liberal or the White Power Racist.

Neither convey the essence of reality.

Added to that, PC has made authentic expression of thinking unacceptable. So, Whites generally keep their mouths shut in public.

And, act in private - to remove themselves from the conflict.

In many large cities, when the crime, urban decay, mismanagement of the city, and poor schools reached a certain level, White people left. Except for a few places (Southie, Boston), they didn't go to the streets in protest. They just left.

And did not return.

Their kids might; some of them tried moving into the city, both to save on housing costs and reduce commutes. Until they were vilified for Gentrification - the link leads to multiple articles about the protests.

Some tried to improve schools, setting up parallel systems of charter schools. That didn't go so well, although it's clear that support for charters cuts across racial lines. Betsy Devos has been targeted for her support of charters.

Crime actually went down under Republican mayors - Guilani (whose performance is not without some questions) and Bloomberg (who actually saw crime plunge to 1950s levels), among others. But, the improvements seemed to drive protesters to even more extreme actions.

Withdrawal seems to be the default for many White families. They will vocally support diversity, they will put all the right words in their mouths, but - when it comes to actually LIVING among the Diverse...


After years of working to bring urban areas back, the protests are - once again - raising fears for personal safety. This might very well cause Whites to withdraw, for good.

Who are those Whites who live in Lily-White communities? Not who you might expect - this guy calls some of them out, by name.

This writer gets at the core of many White Liberals, who mouth all the right words, but don't live in ways that are congruent.

Where the Liberals Live.

Where the Conservatives Live.

In BOTH cases, many live in heavily monoracial neighborhoods.

Day Off

     Today will go to fiction, I think. At any rate, my blathering cells are fatigued, and I have nothing fresh to write about. Till tomorrow.

Friday Round-up

Open comments - add your 2 cents, or even more.

I wanted to cross-post a few things:

They're Starting to Talk About Civil War - is it likely?

My ancestors fought in the previous one. The aftermath did not bring us together. Neither did the end of Reconstruction. Are the divisions too deep for one country to continue?

Are you thinking about seeing Tom Cruise's new movie? I hear that it's exciting, but - don't look for historical honesty in it.

Amazingly, the fact that the director's father, Arthur Liman, was one of the prosecutors in the Iran-Contra Affair, has been used to suggest that the director, Doug Liman, was somehow privy to all sorts of 'knowledge' that has mysteriously been kept secret, but he is now revealing in this movie.


Go, if you want entertainment, but don't use this as your historical background. The same was true for JFK (which - full disclosure - I enjoyed). Films have been used since Birth of a Nation (the original) to push a political viewpoint.

I've been working to find some calm in my life. For me, a major part of that is to disconnect from MSM. I've been spending too much time over the last few months catching up on news, politics, and frivolous idiocy.

I think it's time to check out. I'm going to check in on ONE site daily for news. Otherwise, I'm going to mind my own business. If a topic hits the level where I feel compelled to comment on it, I'll scour the Internet for that information. Otherwise, I have a book to complete.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sturdy Wisdoms And Realizations

     “Ve get too soon old und too late schmart.” – Ancient maxim

     “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” – Book of Proverbs

     Our time is slowly but steadily unearthing what I call “sturdy wisdoms:” the hard won learning of our parents, grandparents, and the generations before them. The “youth revolution” of the Sixties had many destructive effects, but the very worst of them was the contempt we showed for such wisdoms. We decided that we were the smart ones. The fusty oldsters cluck-clucking at us were fossils of a bygone era, misguided by their excessive respect for tradition. We were certain that we knew better than they, on just about every subject under the Sun.

     We reaped the whirlwind for it. We deserved what we got. Yes, there were others who knew that we were headed for a fall and, for reasons of their own, hastened us toward the abyss. That doesn’t spare us the odium for our arrogance and foolishness. However, admitting that might be the key to sparing our progeny some of what we’ve suffered.

     This morning I have three sturdy wisdoms in mind for your consideration. I contend that insisting on the contrary propositions has cost us dearly and will continue to do so until we unlearn and resolve sincerely to do better. There are others beside these three; indeed, there are many. But I’m not here to write an encyclopedia of our follies, merely to provide some color commentary.

     The first sturdy wisdom to be revived is one about which there’s still much dissent. In all probability that will continue forever. It’s been derided as simplistic, self-limiting, even dictatorial. Yet the truth of it glows more brightly with every passing day.

Sex is a serious matter.

     Long, long ago, at a Website far, far away, I wrote the following:

     Viewed through a coarsely-grained lens, sex is just a variety of agreeable physical contact between bodies. Why should it differ emotionally from other physical activities we enjoy? What makes it so special?

     The mystery deepens when we note that there are devices, available for a few dollars, that can excite the body to greater degrees of pleasure than ordinary sex, or even extraordinary sex, could ever achieve. Yet people overwhelmingly prefer the genuine article, with all its muss, fuss, occasions for embarrassment, and potential for social and emotional disaster....

     You have to open your defensive perimeter, your reflex-reaction zone, to let someone else get close enough to you to make love. A woman has to permit her man to enter her body. Each partner is in a state of total physical vulnerability while their embrace lasts. There are implications and overtones to this that no rationalization about sex being mere happy friction can erase.

     And it doesn't stop with the sexual embrace itself. No matter how often we tell ourselves otherwise, every sex act is a test of a proposition: "Will we be a unit? Will I share his home and bear his children? Will she stand by me in my battles and nurture me in my times of infirmity?"

     The unit of two is the unit best suited to human beings. One person can accept and bond to another on mutually agreed terms, with little or no ambiguity about the nature, obligations and extent of the intended relationship. Larger numbers don't work nearly as well. If you disagree, you've never been in politics.

     No amount of propaganda about sex being just one more way for people to enjoy their bodies can erase these facts. They are graven in our genes, and in our nature as a species....

     See that handsome stranger or pretty lady across the bar? What were you thinking a moment ago, about how it would be nice to try the night with him / her, and that it needn't come to more than that if it doesn't work out?

     Don't kid yourself, my friend. From the moment you first touch, forces will be unleashed in heaven and on Earth that will rock you to your core, and it won't matter a dented copper groat what your intentions were.

     Be smart. Know yourself. Know your species.

     Quite a lot of Americans who pooh-poohed that sturdy wisdom, gaily dismissing the warnings of parents and grandparents about casual sex, have reached their thirties, forties, and the years beyond alone. A large fraction of them have suffered painful divorces. Others have lost all contact with their children. Others have contracted diseases they could have avoided. Still others have become embroiled in legal complications from which escape seems indefinitely far off.

     Our predecessor generations knew all the hazards. They strove to impress us with them. And we laughed them off.

     The second sturdy wisdom is one for which I’ve been called a kook, a loon, a bizarro, out of touch with the realities of contemporary living. Indeed, this is one the effacement of which affected more than just the postwar generations. Huge industries have sprung up to exploit our foolishness, and have profited greatly from it.

Debt is slavery.

     If you are in debt, a part of the reward for your labor goes to others to service the debt. You can be legally penalized for failing to service your debts. You get nothing else for doing so. You are therefore, in part, a slave.

     Debt slavery is the chain that keeps many Americans working at jobs they’d love to slough. Financiers love it; the rest of us endure it to afford our “needs.”

     I revived an old Eternity Road essay on this subject earlier this year. It drew the same choruses of dismissal in 2017 as it had in 2006. Yet the truth of it remains beyond intelligent dispute:

     Many a reader has been saying to himself "But how could I get the things I need without incurring these debts?" for several paragraphs now. Such questions arise from a perverse sense of "need" far more often than not. Americans are hooked on material self-indulgence; easy credit is the pusher that feeds our habit. Most of what we have, we do not need. We want it, and we certainly enjoy it, but those are far different things.

     "Need" is the gateway drug. "Need" is habitually "defined down" over time: from a house, to a car, to better clothes, to a better car, to a really nice house in a "suitable" neighborhood, to designer jeans and sneakers for the kids, to the latest iPods®, to a PlayStation 3 ® and all the "hot" games for it, to a Giant Economy Size bottle of Chivas Regal to dull the pain from having to pay for all that stuff.

     Man's needs are food, clothing, shelter, and heat. All else is discretionary. The truly prudent man does not incur debt to pay for discretionary items.

     William Pitt said three centuries ago that “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” Nor was he incorrect. Those who hope for your enslavement have no better way of securing your collaboration in the project than by inducing you to incur debt.

     The third sturdy wisdom is one that informs most of my op-ed writing. It seems so perfectly obvious to me, yet millions upon millions of persons dispute it at a temperature that could set the world aflame. Indeed it has done so several times already.

Do not trust government or would-be governors.

     The man who wants power over you is inherently untrustworthy. For the love of God, think about it! Once you allow him power over you, he’ll be beyond your control. You’ll be stripped of the ability to defy him. When he does other than what he “promised” he would do, you’ll be without recourse.

     One of the most extraordinary aspects of the American Constitutional design, underappreciated even by the most erudite legal scholars, is this: The United States was designed to be an anarchy. The giveaway appears in the Sixth and Seventh Amendments:

     Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

     Amendment VII: In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

     The right of trial by jury says, in so many words, that you cannot be punished by State decree. You can only be punished by the judgment and with the consent of your peers. But a State that cannot inflict punishment upon its subjects without their explicit consent is not a State in the original sense of the word: an organization that commands the pre-indemnified use of force, whether initiated or in response.

     The statists that rule this once free country have made a mockery of those guarantees. They’ve done it with “prosecutorial discretion,” with laundry-list charges and “plea bargaining,” with the silencing of the right of jury nullification, and perhaps worst of all with administrative laws created and imposed by unaccountable bureaucrats, entirely outside the Constitutional requirements on the law.

     We permitted it. We were told it was “necessary,” that the usual processes of legislation and judicial operation were “inefficient,” “unsuited to our complex modern era.” And we swallowed it whole. The ghost of William Pitt must have wept at the sight. Yet people ask me why I study the skies each night, hoping for a convenient planetoid.

     There are some indications that those sturdy wisdoms are being rediscovered. Those who rediscover them often do so in a spirit of “if only I had known.” The understanding that debt is a form of self-imposed slavery is receiving particular respect: millions of Americans discovered during the recent recession that the deep financial holes they’d excavated for themselves shackled them more tightly than they could endure. The other sturdy wisdoms are singing less audibly, but there are some hopeful signs.

     It’s time we admitted how little we really know, and how much there is to learn from the experiences of others...especially others who have already run the race to completion and would happily tell us about the hazards they encountered along the course.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Embracing The Faith

     The world abounds in ironies. The more striking ones get a lot of air time and column-inches – not because of the irony, but because there are substantial numbers of persons who don’t grasp the ludicrousness of their contentions. Have one on me:

     That some utterance constitutes “hate speech” is, of course, an opinion: the opinion of some hearer who hates what he’s heard. He’s the one doing the hating; it’s an interior experience that he might not share with anyone. Therefore, given an agreeable hearer, nothing is hate speech, whereas given an adversarial hearer, everything is! Quelle merveille!

     But that’s just an example. The specific irony I have in mind pertains to faith. As an open, avowed Catholic Christian, I’m often confronted by persons who demand to know “how someone as smart as you could believe something so ridiculous.” (There are also persons who don’t know that I’m a believer and walk into a minefield by denigrating someone else’s faith, but let’s leave that to one side for the morning.) My habitual reply is “I find the evidence persuasive.” That will often kick off an exchange that goes something like this:

Scoffer: Evidence? What evidence?
FWP: Classical history, both sacred and secular, about the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the lives of His Apostles in the following years.

Scoffer: Oh, come on. No one’s ever risen from the dead.
FWP: You know this from personal experience?

Scoffer: Well, it’s obviously impossible!
FWP: What you mean by “impossible,” sir, is that you haven’t seen it with your own eyes and therefore don’t believe that it’s possible. That’s what we call the “black swan” fallacy.

Scoffer: But you can’t prove it happened.
FWP: Nor can you prove that it didn’t. However, there are multiple, mutually confirming eyewitness accounts that Jesus was crucified and was seen and heard by living men three days later. You can reject those accounts as fabrications if you like. I’ve decided to accept them as veridical.

     There’s little to be said beyond that. However, in one memorable encounter, an interrogator proceeded to demand that I “present the evidence” for his consideration. I laughed. “You’ve derided me for my faith, and now you want me to educate you?” I shook my head at this species of arrogance, previously unknown to me, and walked away.

     Now, a Christian believer – i.e., one who accepts the Resurrection and its implications – has the advantage of innocence. That is, nothing Christ exhorted His followers to do is noxious toward others. His preachments were entirely wholesome. But there are faiths of which that cannot be said: faiths that require the believer to reject the countervailing evidence, and to impose that requirement on everyone else. Socialism is one such faith. How one comes to accept that faith, and how he defends it afterward, is my subject for today.

     Girls, hold on to your boyfriends: the socialist believer might have reached the faith through a rational process. The operation of human reason depends upon one’s choice of premises and the availability of relevant information. The contamination of either of those things can produce fatal conclusions from an impeccably rational process. And yes: there are socialist evangelists who specialize in propagating that faith by effectuating such contaminations...usually, upon the naive and the untutored.

     Of greater interest is the path of utility. The socialist believer might embrace his faith because he sees in it a path to something he greatly desires. That might be wealth, or power, or a great and loyal following. Many would argue that such a believer is insincere, and the charge cannot be denied. However, such believers tend to be dedicated evangelists for their faith. They give their outreach efforts everything they’ve got. That intensity alone is sufficient to win them an appalling number of converts.

     Another route toward the socialist faith is the conviction that capitalism has injured oneself, or persons or things one loves. That path is common to several subvarieties of socialist believers. The environmentalists are particularly notable. During the Thirties, Comintern agents in the U.S. entreated Negro ghettoes by arguing that American capitalism was “holding them down.” It proved a fruitful approach, one that might be on the march among American Negroes again today.

     Finally for today – and I’ll allow that this might be merely a subvariety of the paths above – a believer might embrace socialism to gain admittance to a welcoming social circle. This is common on university campuses, especially among socially awkward young men who’ve had a hard time “scoring” with the young women around them. Sly socialist promoters will often use sexual access as a lure for such men. It works on an embarrassing percentage of the targets.

     Once the socialist faith has been accepted, how it’s defended when questioned becomes the topic of interest – and here the ironies truly abound.

     The “rational socialist,” whose premises or knowledge (or both) are faulty, will come across persons who dispute his premises or his assertions of historical fact. That renders intelligent argument impossible. Two persons who disagree on what has already happened will reach opposed conclusions that cannot be harmonized without first correcting one or the other’s claims of fact. However, this sort of clash can have a positive outcome, if the “rational” socialist isn’t so personally invested in his convictions that he’d reject your presentations of contrary evidence. Of course, if their premises differ, the clash is irresolvable.

     The “socialist for gain” is a tougher case, for his socialism is founded on profit for himself: something that socialism does offer to its commissars. As we tend to project our morals and ethics onto others, he’s likely to assume that you want something for yourself, and that your opposition to socialism is part of how you plan to get it. That will predispose him against you – brace yourself – on ethical grounds.

     The “socialist for The Cause” is uninterested in arguing about socialism. Why should he? It’s just an instrument for protecting or advancing his Cause. Only if he were to be convinced that socialism would harm his Cause would he turn away from it – and though with most wholesome causes this is indeed the case, he’ll seldom accept your arguments as sincere. Instead he’ll tell himself that you have another agenda, and that his Cause is only an impediment to it.

     Finally, the “socialist for the girls” cannot be reached at all...unless you’re a stunning capitalist true believer of low morals, ready and willing to prostitute yourself for the sake of defeating the socialist menace. How many of those are there, really?

     Of course, in our day, argument between Left and Right over any particular issue is nearly pointless. Neither side is willing to concede the other’s wholesomeness of motives or sincerity in argument. Yet an understanding of the paths by which those who disagree with us attain and defend their convictions can be very useful: it can illuminate our own rational and emotional weaknesses. For conservatives and libertarians have also held dubious positions, have proclaimed them with apostolic fervor, and have denounced others who dare to differ with us. The outer mistakes in those positions are of less moment than the inner one: holding our own convictions to be beyond all dispute.

     That’s where Nazis come from.

Finding Equilibrium

I've been a focused person most of my life. I finished college with 3 kids and a husband, while working part-time. I worked full-time as a teacher, while building a business with my husband, and with 3 kids at home.

When I decided to work on my Master's, I threw myself into it whole-heartedly, while continuing to blog almost every day.

In SC, I worked as a teacher, often taking on new classes with unfamiliar content, and simultaneously attending and providing professional development, earning an amateur radio license, mentoring other science teachers, and writing a book.

Oh, and still blogging - for about 14 years now.

How did I do that? I'm a relatively single-minded person, who puts all her energy into the most important task at the moment. I'm good at breaking things down into bite-sized chunks. I'm also capable of ignoring other issues/tasks until I have the time.

Like cleaning the house. Or shopping for groceries. I'd be lying to say that it hasn't led to a few arguments with my spouse. However, I always kept the main task at the top of my mind, and attention.

When I retired, I anticipated finally having time to complete an in-process novel; I'm still working on the revisions, although I've made notes on what needs to change. My goal is to have it ready for copyediting by the end of the year.

So, I've begun looking at other possible choices for part-time money. I don't need a lot, just a few hundred a month to fill the gap between income and expenses. Whatever I do, it will have to fit into my household organization, novel revision/next novel planning, and volunteer work.

In short, I will make - at last - efforts to bring balance to my life.

Don't Get Mad, Get Even

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

On Being White

     I’ve been warned. I’ve been reminded. I’ve been catechized about the unwisdom of giving in to fury. It’s not good for me. If it’s good for you, know that I envy you, because there’s a lot to be angry about these days.

     The foofaurauw over the National Football League’s decision to “support the players” in their “protests” against the national anthem and flag of the United States rather than to enforce the league’s rules about proper conduct during the anthem has caused a significant number of previously faithful football fans to tune out. I expect that number to grow still further, especially in light of the mealy-mouthed statements from head coaches, marquee players, and Commissioner Roger Goodell. It will ultimately, if not soon enough for any decent American’s tastes, crash the league financially.

     Yet the disease is spreading:

     Gregg Popovich is the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. That team is composed largely of American Negroes, like every other National Basketball Association team and a great many college teams, too. There isn’t one NBA player whose salary is less than the high six figures. There isn’t one who couldn’t augment his income by public appearances and the sale of autographed items, as many do. But supposedly they and theirs are “oppressed” by having to earn their incomes on a basketball court. Now their head coach tells us that we don’t know what it means to be born white.

     As a public service to Popovich, and to anyone else who might be uncertain about what it means to be white – especially, what it means to be a white American – I shall explain.

     To be born white in the U.S.A. is to inherit a six-digit share of a $20 trillion debt you had no part in borrowing or spending. Your parents, should you be lucky enough to have any, might look upon you as a blessing, but they must also accept the immense burdens and hazards that will accompany your upbringing and maturation: on average, about $1 million for you and each of your siblings until age twenty-one.

     From the instant of your birth, you’re a number in a system designed to tax and control you. Government busybodies will use you as an excuse to intrude into your family’s most intimate operations. Neighborhood busybodies supposedly determined to “keep you safe” will help them. “Educators” with little interest in actual education will propagandize you about a wide variety of “issues.” This will be in support of your share of white guilt: your responsibility for crimes committed by others long dead and not even remotely related to you. Yet those “educators” will deny you answers to many of your questions. You’ll have to look elsewhere for honest information about history and economics. That condition will last all the way through college, should you be inclined toward a “higher” education. Dare to mention in class that before the Civil War there were both white and black slaveholders and white and black slaves, or that the institution of slavery is still rampant among nonwhites in Africa and the Middle East, and you’ll be mobbed or worse.

     Should you reach your maturity determined to be a decent and productive citizen, you’ll be penalized for the color of your skin. White people aren’t entitled to anything, you see; only blacks are entitled. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission isn’t concerned with whether you can get work, only with whether your black competitor can. In any head to head contest with a black employment applicant, your qualifications will weigh less heavily in your favor than the color of his skin will weigh in his. A company determined to hire you rather than him will need to watch its “employment statistics” closely, lest it give the EEOC an excuse to impose “supervision” on it.

     But you’re white, which means no excuses for anything. You’ll find work, and you’ll labor diligently at it. And on paycheck day, the list of deductions from your supposed salary will remind you of just what the State thinks of you: a resource to be mulcted, in large measure for the support of nonwhite idlers and their bastards. Seven out of every ten black babies born today are illegitimate – born out of wedlock. Child support from the father? Not unless the father is an NBA power forward. But to note that fact in public would put you at extreme hazard.

     Still, you’ll soldier on. You’re white; it’s expected of you. As the bumper stickers say, millions on welfare depend on you, so you can’t be allowed to slack off. It would be a crime against society and a betrayal of your “white privilege:” the privilege of being blamed for others’ sins while simultaneously having to pay for them.

     Where will you live? In a city, where the young blacks play the “knockout game” and usually get away with it? In a suburb, where mobs of black teens terrorize schools, parks, and shopping malls? Where the “authorities” will harangue you mercilessly about permits, property taxes, the height of your fence, and your unworthiness to have a handgun? Or in the country, where there’s little work even for a white farmhand, the alternative labor supply – illegal aliens from south of the border – being so copious and so cheap? Decisions, decisions...

     You’ll manage. If there’s anything inherently noble about the white American, it’s that he manages. He keeps trying, no matter how heavy the burdens or how bleak the outlook. But the insults, both overt and covert, will keep coming lifelong. They’re particularly dense in mass entertainments, which appear consciously designed to disparage every last one of the values you hold. Hey, they have to offend someone — giving offense is the style in comedy today, don’t y’know – and you’re the safest candidate. Especially if you’re a white male Christian...or, may God protect you, a Catholic.

     Perhaps you’ll contrive to retire, somehow. That’s becoming quite a feat. At any rate, fewer of us manage it with each passing year. But the insults won’t stop even there. For daring to vote for conservative candidates who at least talk a good game, you’ll be denounced as a racist. To go to a rally for such a candidate, much less to volunteer to work for one, is an act of unusual courage. Well organized groups will target you, expose your most private information, possibly trash your house or attack your loved ones. No, you still can’t have a handgun. Handguns are for criminals only; it’s the law.

     And of course, when you quit this vale of tears, whatever you’ve managed to scrape together for your inheritors will be truncated by the State. (Our motto: “The needs of the State come first.”) However, your share of the white American’s burden will be passed to them with interest.

     That’s the barest skeleton of your “white privilege.” Think of it as a Christmas tree hung with many “ornaments,” some heavier than others. Every day still more are hung on it...and you. The tree is bowing under the weight. There’s no way to know when it will snap.

     Yes, I’m angry. A lot of whites are. Should this disrespect for us and for the symbols of the country we built – the only things black slaves built were tar paper shacks and the fortunes of a few plantation owners! – spread to baseball or hockey, we might decide to crash the entire overpaid institution of professional sports; the NFL and NBA are already on notice. That might be only the opening stages of a thoroughgoing “readjustment” of national attitudes and institutions.

     Go ahead and call me a racist. Go ahead! We both know you want to! See how much I care?

Monday, September 25, 2017

ALERT! Cheap Books!

     Hans G. Schantz has informed me that from Wednesday, Septembed 27 through Friday, September 29, his novel A Rambling Wreck, the sequel to his smash first novel The Hidden Truth, will be priced at only $0.99 at Amazon. So if your reading stack is looking a bit low, get over there and score a copy!

Miscellaneous Round-up

I've been accumulating some links that I wanted to pass on:

[NOTE: the first link was wrong - I corrected it]
  • For the numerically-minded - or, NOT for the SJW. A very nice explanation of why the polls are at such variance with reality.
  • Warning - strong language. How to bring down the Left. Crudely put, but a lot of truth in this.
  •  What REAL courage looks like - NOT that he supports America, but that he showed willingness to buck The Majority Wisdom (Trademark Pending, assuming that those SJW jerks can get of their oversized butts to do it). I no longer watch football (not that I ever did all that much), but - so are a growing number of football nuts (otherwise known as my family).
  • An Oldie, but a Goodie.
  • And on a Lighter Note: Ooooh, the Burn is BAD! BAKING BAD!
Just found this link to the ONE player who bucked the conformity.

The coach on that player's action:
When asked by a reporter about Villanueva coming out for the anthem, Tomlin said, “Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team.”
 The protesters are having a difficult time getting the photo op parameters working:

  • Kapernick tried sitting, at first. But, that was so obviously disrespectful, that he went to the NEXT tactic
  • Kneeling. However, some (myself and a few others) pointed out that he was USING a quasi-religious position for his own disrespectful ends.
  • Now, many teams have gone for Solidarity-type poses - and, POSES they are. Standing players putting their hands on kneeling teammates' shoulders, arms linked - they are varied, but depend on coercing others to join in as 'semi-allied' allies.
  • The Steelers were in a tough place. Pittsburgh may have changed since I lived there, but still remains hard-core AMERICAN. So, they hoped to bypass that by remaining in the tunnel. Oh, drat! ONE player decided to use HIS 1st Amendment rights to show support for America. The coach was NOT pleased, as this puts the rest of the team in the spotlight, by their absence.
This is gonna be interesting. I make a suggestion below:

I also made another comment about MLB, and who it wouldn't spread to that league.

Blank Checks

     Dystopic continues to dazzle:

     Usually, when you encounter an item with no definitive price tag, it is because the item is absurdly expensive. When a potential customer is forced to ask for the price, the salesman might gauge his wealth, his gullibility, his willingness to part with his money, and a myriad of other things before settling on what he believes he can get. It also provides an opportunity to sell the customer on the object, rather than merely counting on the item and its price to convince the potential buyer.

     In simple terms, forcing another to be open about his wants, and being closed off on your own, gives a man a decided bargaining advantage.

     Indeed. How often have you, Gentle Reader, been asked by a car salesman, florist, or pimp “How much were you thinking of spending?” But Dystopic isn’t concerned with those minor excrescences on the marketplace:

     Lately, we’ve seen this at work with Antifa, BLM, #TheResistance, and other assorted left-wing groups. Grievances are produced, from slavery, to the plight of Native Americans, to American foreign adventures in the Middle East. Being honest with ourselves, some of these grievances have at least a historical merit to them. But for such leftist groups, the price for burying the grievance is obfuscated behind buzzwords and jargon. We must dismantle the cisheteropatriarchy, we must check our privilege, we must become a positive advocate for change. Everything from microaggressions to cultural appropriation are cited as examples of these things.

     But I ask, what change?

     The question is seldom asked by anyone with a popular platform. However, once asked, it answers itself.

     They want us to give in, to stop resisting them. If that means voting their way, they want that. If it means ceasing to defend ourselves and our property against their depredations, they want that. If it means never again criticizing or questioning them, they want that, most definitely. They want everything, including our approval for their entire agenda and any tactics they might deploy.

They want a sociopolitical blank check.

     But Americans don’t write blank checks. And it’s driving the Left utterly BLEEP!ing nuts.

     One advantage to coming of age in a market-oriented society is that it compels one to cultivate the ability to recognize a fraud in progress. This is especially important in politics and public policy.

     Yes, we’ve seen our share of political snake oil salesmen. Occasionally the electorate has failed to detect one in time to obstruct his schemes. Yet more often than not we sniff them out, tell them “Thanks but no thanks,” and wish them pleasant reincarnations. We deflected one from the presidency less than a year ago, and she’s really ticked off about it. (“It was my turn!”)

     Just now, the Left is steaming over having been rejected soundly at the federal and state levels. Of course, like Tolkien’s Shadow, it will “take another shape and grow again”– there’s nothing more predictable than the persistence of evil – but the question of greatest import to your humble Curmudgeon Emeritus is whether it will learn from its defeats. Defeat is education, as Louis Nizer has told us. At any rate, he who doesn’t learn from his losses has no upward path and therefore no future.

     The central lesson of the Left’s most recent electoral setbacks is not to ask for a blank check.

     What, after all, was the major difference between the Trump and Clinton II campaigns? Trump had a specific agenda that he talked up, in relatively good detail, at every opportunity. It consisted of items and policy directions the electorate approved. Mrs. Clinton mainly promoted herself, and as has been said innumerable times to this date, the more of her the voters saw, the less they liked her. On those occasions when she was contextually compelled to address specific aspects of public policy, she did her best to keep her positions vague, albeit qualified by the need she felt to defend the outgoing Obama Administration of which she’d been a part.

     Mrs. Clinton wanted a blank check. “Elect me,” she might as well have cried, “because of me, not because of what you want or what you think I might do with the power of the presidency.” But that permitted voters to conjecture Clinton II policies they disapproved, based on what they remembered of the Clinton I years plus Mrs. Clinton’s lukewarm defenses of various Obamunist policies. It killed her campaign, especially among the voters whom her campaign didn’t bother to address.

     It didn’t help Mrs. Clinton that her allegiants were busy harassing conservatives and Trump supporters and doing all they could to suppress their gatherings and the public statements of their luminaries. Neither did it help when the hijinks of such as Robert Creamer were exposed to the nation.

     It’s all of a single, unbroken weave. The Left wants a blank check simply because that’s what it wants. Specific policies? They don’t really matter. What does matter to them is absolute, unbounded power and complete indemnification for whatever they might choose to do with it. But Americans won’t write blank checks to politicians. At least, we won’t once we become aware that that’s what they’re demanding.

     The nation foolishly elected Barack Hussein Obama because he succeeded, with the help of an enthusiastically complicit media, in disguising himself and his intentions. It might have been a lesson we needed. Whether we rejected Mrs. Clinton because we learned from the Obamunist debacle or because unlike her husband she’s a lousy politician, we did manage to dodge the bullet she represents. But there are more rounds in the clip.

     A great many Republican legislators are regularly returned to their seats on Capitol Hill despite never having kept even one promise, party-platform or personal, to their constituents. Their re-election campaigns reduce to this: “Put me back in because I’m your guy. Anyway, you can’t afford not to.” The blankness of that check is becoming ever more apparent. Whether Americans will rally at last to replace those time-servers in 2018 and 2020, we shall soon see.

Message From A Marine Colonel NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:

     I could not have said it better.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Demise Of Pro Sports

     The four major team sports are going to Hell simultaneously. For several decades Americans have enjoyed professional team sports as a refreshing diversion from mundane cares. Yet today, at a time when the promotion of pro sports has reached pain-threshold levels and the amount of money annually invested in American pro sports franchises and their associated industries approaches $1 trillion, we’re turning away from them in droves. Clearly, it’s time for the subject and its trends to receive appropriately Curmudgeonly attention.

     Sports originated from the play impulse that mated to our aggressive natures, subordinated them, and transformed them into ways to compete that don’t involve bloodshed. Team sports were “put to work” to teach cooperation and constructive competition to the young. In this we see the reason that amateur sports were for so long esteemed above professional sports: the ideal was to play “for love of the game,” for its “may the best man win” axiom and for its implicit moral-ethical lessons.

     How far we have fallen! Today’s team sports are essentially indistinguishable from the bloody spectacles of the panem et circenses era of the Roman Coliseum. Even ice hockey, for a long time the epitome of rough-yet-sportsmanlike competition, has deteriorated.

     Our current foofaurauw over pro athletes’ open displays of contempt for the nation, its anthem, and its flag are mere symptoms. To find the disease, we must look deeper.

     To those of you who don’t share my enthusiasm for ice hockey: my sincere apologies (you Philistines), but my survey of the deterioration will begin with a figure few will remember and many will not recognize at all: former New York Rangers general manager Craig Patrick.

     I recall vividly a televised interview Patrick gave to Rangers’ play-by-play announcer Jim Gordon. Gordon asked Patrick, who as the team’s GM was heavily involved in player recruitment, what sort of recruits he favored. Perhaps Gordon expected a litany of vital on-ice skills the Rangers needed. He didn’t get it. Patrick surprised him (and no doubt much of the TV audience) by saying that character was paramount: He said that he looked for players with “the kind of character we want.” Moreover, he meant it exactly as would any ordinary person. His selections of players for the Rangers to sign testified to his sincerity. This, during the era of ever intensifying on-ice brutality exemplified and dominated by the “Broad Street Bullies:” the Philadelphia Flyers.

     Then as now, ice hockey was the least profitable of the four major pro sports. Many NHL franchises operated at the break-even or lose-a-little level. Yet for decades it had been a curious mix of punishing physical play and great gentility. Indeed, for a long time there was an informal rule that in a match between teams A and B, if both of team A’s goalies were to suffer disabling injuries during play, team B was required to lend its backup goalie to team A for the remainder of the game. Moreover, the “borrowed” goalie was expected to play his best...and on the occasions when the “rule” was invoked, that was exactly the case.

     Talk about sportsmanship! Can you imagine anything like that happening in a pro team sport today? Nevertheless, it was so. The sport often derided as “gang warfare with clubs” (“I went to the fights last night and a hockey game broke out”) was the one that exhibited the highest imaginable standards of may-the-best-man-win good grace.

     But change was on the way. Sports-oriented cable channels were emerging. They needed content and were willing to pay for it. The content that would command the highest advertising revenues would command the largest fee to its providers, and the advertisers favored winners. The paradoxically brutal yet graceful sport of ice hockey began to shed its prior character in favor of a “Winning Is Everything” ethic. In this it trailed the other pro sports, though only by a decade or so.

     The flood of money into pro sports made possible by the nationwide embrace of television caused them to put winning above all other considerations. But when winning is everything, character cannot be allowed to stand in the way. An athlete with superior (if only barely) skills would be valued over an athlete with superior character. An athlete willing to brutalize or cheat to enhance his on-field performance would be preferred to an athlete with scruples who insists upon obeying the rules of the sport. Those who rallied to the new ethic, the Rafael Palmeiros and Jack Tatums, multiplied and grew rich. The exceptions, the Hobey Bakers and Grant Hills, dwindled.

     Where money is plentiful, we will always find persons who value money above all things. Where the way to great wealth is brutality and dishonesty, there will be those who pursue it with those tools. Where brutality and dishonesty are tolerated for the profits they bring, they will become prevalent.

     But good character is of a single weave. The man of good character doesn’t brutalize, cheat, or show contempt for the nation that makes it possible for him to become wealthy. Thus, we should not be surprised that a growing number of pro athletes display brutality and dishonesty and a lack of respect for the United States and its symbols.

     Yes, there’s a backlash in progress. Viewers disgusted with contemporary pro athletes’ various faults are “tuning out” of pro sports. The recently televised Monday Night Football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams was held in a largely empty stadium, and was watched by a relatively small television audience. The message was not lost on those who track such things.

     Still, audience disaffiliation takes time to work. We must not expect a swift turnaround in the state of affairs. Baseball players continue to “juice.” Football players continue to commit conspicuous off-the-field crimes. Basketball players continue to father bastards. Hockey players are growing more violent by the season. And there are disparagers of the nation in all four sports.

     What of amateur sports? Do they even exist today, except as veneers over covert pay-to-play arrangements that violate the meaning of the word? If so, are they gaining an audience, or are they being treated as meaningless and uninteresting “because there’s no money in it?”

     Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Imagine A World Without Internet

That's the situation that Togo found itself in recently. The government of Togo, which has been experiencing some resistance to their country's heavy-handed rule from the entrenched family, shut down the Internet.

The results were NOT what might be expected.

Colonization Chronicles

     Once the Left has set its sights on some organization, that organization must choose between all-out war or abject surrender. This follows from Robert Conquest’s Second Law of Politics:

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

     The dynamic involved is well understood:

  1. Let a Leftist in on any grounds whatsoever: e.g., “diversity.”
  2. The same or related grounds will get the Leftist visibility and, ultimately, a promotion.
  3. The Lefty now uses his position to get more Leftists in and advance their careers, while discouraging and impeding the hiring and promotion of Rightists or the non-political. The gaggle of Leftists will coordinate and operate as a bloc within the organization, gaining influence as their number increases.
  4. Over time, this dynamic results in a Left-dominated organization – and Leftists put politics above all other things, including the health of the organization.

     Simple, isn’t it? It’s death to any organization that requires competence and shuns politics...but once it’s in progress, it’s damned near impossible to resist. The truly tragic part is this: The early stages of this colonization process are nearly invisible.

     The insidiousness of the process is why Conquest’s Second Law includes the phrase “not explicitly right-wing.” The sole guaranteed preventative is a resolution not to hire Leftists, and to expel any that manage to sneak in – in other words, to politicize the organization toward the Right ab initio. That resolution requires that even a highly competent Leftist, whose relevant skills could be a great asset, must be excluded from the organization. That’s a tough call for a manager in a hiring position to make.

     Apparently, managers in the entertainment industries are incapable of making it.

     I’ve written about the Left’s colonization of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) on a number of occasions, most notably here, here, and here. The speculative-fiction genres, which are singularly attractive to young, imaginative readers, must have appeared a very juicy target. As it happens, the logic applies just as powerfully to the comic-book industry:

     Jon Del Arroz is an award-nominated science fiction writer, contributor at The Federalist and author of the upcoming space novella Gravity of the Game. He has followed the industry problems closely.
     There's a disconcerting trend on the left because the black-balling attempts in the industry have failed, due to independent media platforms, so they have moved to intimidation and threats of violence. Sad!

     Del Arroz, a comic book fan, senses a reckoning coming.

     The Industry is in trouble. Unlike others they have a distribution network only meant to further Marvel/DC properties. For real change to happen, fans have to support indies.

     PJ Media reached out to Richard Meyer [YouTube channel: Diversity & Comics], who was happy to talk about being targeted by SJWs. "It's a neo-McCarthyism situation, the industry is being destroyed," he said. "They are killing it. They've turned an industry into a community which doesn't have to have sales or success. It's a vicious pogrom and excommunication of anyone right of the extreme far left."

     Please read the entire article.

     Now as it happens, this colonization is self-defeating. The Left will suppress entertainment considerations to promote its political positions. But no one buys comic books to be harangued about politics. As a relevant sidelight, note this development on which Meyer comments:

     Carol Danvers, or Captain Marvel, is becoming transgendered. Comic book fans have taken to calling her "Carl Manvers."

     "We're watching her boobs disappear in every issue," said Meyers. "Marvel has killed all the heterosexual romances in the stories and replaced them with gay relationships. Gay relationships are depicted as idyllic and heterosexual romances are shown as problematic. Comic book shops are suffering because they can't sell these books. No one wants them."

     Promoting politics over adventure is bad enough, but gay couples only and boobless women? Insupportable! Therefore, the colonized organizations will lose sales and, eventually, collapse. That doesn’t make it any less of a loss to those who once enjoyed the destroyed organization’s offerings.

     It does, however, emphasize the importance of promoting “indies,” in this field and elsewhere in the entertainment world, who actually provide the customer with what he’s there for. A number of indies in science fiction and fantasy have gained large followings. The rise of indie comics will eventually provide comic-book aficionadi with the good-versus-evil clashes between larger-than-life figures (and the booby women) for which they value the form – if those indies receive enough attention to keep them from throwing up their hands, moaning “What’s the use?” and abandoning the enterprise.

     In the usual case, the Left cannot provide entertainment of the sort consumers enjoy. Leftists’ political obsessions prevent it. The bad news is that the entertainment forms the Left has conquered will be unentertaining in the near term. The good news is for those of us with some staying power: the conquered organizations will fail and be replaced by new, healthy purveyors of entertainment, who’ll know better than to politicize their wares.

     That doesn’t mean Conquest’s Second Law will no longer apply. Indies who become successful could well be seduced into joining or forming organizations. The dynamic outlined at the start of this screed will apply to them just as forcefully as it has applied to Hollywood, to the speculative-fiction genres, and to the comics industry. Perhaps they’ll learn from the sins of their predecessors, but it’s by no means certain. No human failing is more widespread than the inability — or the unwillingness – to learn from the mistakes of others.

     We shall see.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Of Suppositions And Purple

     I’m beginning to wonder if I’m turning into “one of them.” You know, the old folks who seemingly can’t shut up, particularly the subvariety that expresses itself on the Web compulsively, on any and every imaginable subject. I’ve known others like that. They seem animated by consciousness that their time on Earth is running out. They fear that they might die with something left unsaid...perhaps by anyone ever.

     Well, if so, then so be it. I am what I am, to quote America’s most famous sailor. (I’m told God said something along those lines to Job, too.) Anyway, there are far too many developments and phenomena that deserve to be observed and commented on for me to slacken off now. I mean, it might be a cushy job, but someone has to do it.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

[Jenny Joseph]

     The above poem gave rise to a social phenomenon: The Red Hat Society, which numbers over 40,000 local clubs throughout the English-speaking world. Though I’ve been familiar with the poem for quite a long time, I learned of the Red Hat Society and its satellite clubs just yesterday. The occasion was dinner out with the C.S.O.

     Well, of course it was because a chapter of the Red Hat Society was present at our chosen restaurant! I drew the C.S.O.’s attention to the table full of purple-garbed, red hatted ladies, and she informed me about the Society, its thousands of clubs, and her opinion that it was a rather superficial treatment of the sentiments in Jenny Joseph’s poem.

     But what are those sentiments? Clearly it’s not a sartorial prescription. Neither is it a sneer at society’s exhortations and conventions, at least as they apply to younger folks. The exhortations conduce to our individual betterment. They do, you know: Get your first serve in, don’t draw to an inside straight, do unto others and then run like hell...but I digress. The conventions help to preserve a state of public peace in which we can generally trust that we won’t be knifed, gang-raped, or besieged by life insurance salesmen on the way to the corner store for milk.

     It’s been on my mind intermittently since yesterday at the restaurant. It will probably be there for a while longer.

     There’s a dimension of latitude that comes to some of us with age. It would be a mislabeling to call it “freedom;” typically, an individual is just as free before he turns decrepit as afterward. It’s more about the lessening of some of one’s personal inhibitions. Other people’s opinions of us and our choices matter less. We no longer worry as much about “setting a good example for the children,” whether our own or those of other parents. Some of us get a little careless about a few things – vocabulary, associations, flirtations, certain indulgences we carefully limited in our younger years – and become rather insouciant about them.

     It’s certainly that way with me. (Send $20.00 and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the details.) As I look a bit younger than I actually am, I draw a fair number of dubious looks and disapproving comments for it. My usual response to those bothered by my little ways is to shrug, smile, and say “Too bad for you!”

     Here’s an example: I sing along with the music in retail establishments, at least if I know the tune and the words. I can carry a tune, and I’m told my voice is decent, so I get some pleasure out of hearing something I know from years ago and joining in. The way other shoppers look at me is often enough to blister paint. Now and then, one will actually approach and upbraid me for it.

     The last time someone dared to castigate me about that practice, I waited until she’d run down, smiled, and said, “Suppose I’d been a black teen with a boom box, playing that garbage they call ‘rap music’ at pain-threshold levels. Would you have approached him?” Needless to say, there was no reply, so I tipped my nonexistent cap, wished her a pleasant afterlife, and passed on...still singing. It was refreshing.

     However, if you have a voice like a frog with a man stuck in his throat and can’t carry a tune with a forklift, you might want to suppress the habit. For the children, don’t y’know. Also, honesty compels me to admit that most of the retail establishments I’ve patronized in recent years now play the most godawful repetitive techno crap on their PA systems. No words, barely a recognizable tune, and it never BLEEP!ing changes or ends. More than coincidence? Your Curmudgeon reports; you decide.

     If there’s a theme to the above, it would be that other people’s suppositions about you are not binding. There are limits – no fondling the unwilling, no writing graffiti on other people’s fences, and for the love of God, aim before you spit and spit accurately! – but they’re looser than most think.

     So what if you’re sixty-five and look like the “before” side of a weight-loss commercial? Go to Carvel anyway. (Buy a six-pack of Flying Saucers. Buy two; you’ll get 25% off. It’s a real bargain.) How much longer do you have to enjoy what life has to offer? And do you really think your equally decrepit wife will regard you more amorously if you lose the potgut? Get serious.

     So what if “they” say that anime is only for kids? Order a set of xxxHolic and enjoy them. They actually have a lot to say, and the banter among the characters will remind you a great deal about young rivalries and young love.

     So what if “they” say a mature man who buys a red Corvette convertible is out to make a fool of himself? Flip ‘em the bird and buy the damned thing while you can still get into and out of it. Alternately, say “At least I’ll be doing it to myself. Who botched the job on you?” And make sure to wear a propeller beanie when you drive it with the top down.

     The above was written with absolutely no idea in mind...except purple.

Tired, Just Tired

I've been traveling (CLT to CLE and back again). Some great things about the trip:

  • Saw an Indians game (Go Tribe!), which we won
  • Saw my daughter, sister, and brother
  • Got a major portion of the revision done (I mean that I marked up the hard copy - still have to put most of the actual revisions in the electronic copy). Would like to get it out to some people for a first pass (just to check on major plot holes, anachronisms, etc. - no copyediting, I'm going to bite the bullet and pay for it). If you'd like to be one of those people who wants to make sure that the flow of the book works, send me your contact information at rightasusual2003-at-gmail, and I'll pick a couple of people to help me. No pay, but you get to read a free book.
  • UPDATE: I've finished the hard copy, just have to enter and tweek things - shouldn't take more than a few weeks!
  • Rested, spent time with the grands
The not-so good:
  • I really need to get cracking on getting my house in shape - this time away puts that further in the future
  • Did not spend time with the newest grandkid (his mom was sick) - next time
  • I really miss my bed
  • The clock is ticking on getting ready for:
What blogging I've been doing is here: Right As Usual. I'm going to keep slogging away at necessary offline work, and get back to blogging this weekend.

The Unaddressed Question Of 1984 why did it happen? What was George Orwell’s conception of the train of developments that led to the ascendancy of IngSoc, the Party, and the all-enveloping totalitarianism that ultimately consumed the people of “Oceania?”

     A writer who manages to take a handful of your guts and give them a good twist, as Orwell does in his most famous novel, writes from a sense of mission. He has a theme in mind that has engaged his passions, and which he intends to present to his readership in fictional form. If he’s good at his trade, his readers will be just as engaged with that theme. Where he exulted, they’ll exult; where he shuddered, they’ll shudder. Eric “George Orwell” Blair was one of the best of his day.

     A bald reading of 1984 suggests that Orwell’s major aim was to depict the horrors of an all-encompassing totalitarian state: a state whose masters will be satisfied with nothing less than controlling the thoughts in its subjects’ heads. There’s an obvious utilitarian reason for the power-mad to want such control: it precludes all possibility of rebellion. If it were possible – and I shan’t suggest that it absolutely isn’t – it would be the ultimate totalitarian wet dream. But how would a relatively free society get to IngSoc, The Party, the ubiquitous telescreens, et cetera? Did Orwell have a sociopolitical path in mind?

     Closely associated secondary question: Does it matter?

     The critical passage in 1984 is one that has appeared here before:

     ‘And now let us get back to the question of “how” and “why”. You understand well enough how the Party maintains itself in power. Now tell me why we cling to power. What is our motive? Why should we want power? Go on, speak,’ he added as Winston remained silent.
     Nevertheless Winston did not speak for another moment or two. A feeling of weariness had overwhelmed him. The faint, mad gleam of enthusiasm had come back into O’Brien’s face. He knew in advance what O’Brien would say. That the Party did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of the majority. That it sought power because men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better. That the party was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others. The terrible thing, thought Winston, the terrible thing was that when O’Brien said this he would believe it. You could see it in his face. O’Brien knew everything. A thousand times better than Winston he knew what the world was really like, in what degradation the mass of human beings lived and by what lies and barbarities the Party kept them there. He had understood it all, weighed it all, and it made no difference: all was justified by the ultimate purpose. What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?
     ‘You are ruling over us for our own good,’ he said feebly. ’You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore-’
     He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O’Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.
     ‘That was stupid, Winston, stupid!’ he said. ‘You should know better than to say a thing like that.’
     He pulled the lever back and continued:
     ‘Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others ; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?’

     It is in those six hundred words that Orwell truly strikes to the heart of the power luster’s mindset. Whatever he wants you to think of his motives, his true aim, even if he’s never consciously admitted it, is absolute and unopposed power over all things, forever.

     The totalitarians of 1984 might have been the successors of earlier “reformists” of some more conventional stripe. They might have been the reformists themselves. The salient point about them is that they are present in every movement that demands power over others, and their ascendancy to the summit of such a movement is inevitable.

     Ayn Rand’s Dr. Floyd Ferris – “We’re after power and we mean it” – is an echo of Orwell’s O’Brien. The two are fully conscious of their true aims. Indeed, once a dictatorship has been established, only persons animated by that aim and frankly conscious of it could possibly rise to the top. They’ll do so because they’re completely without moral constraints. They’re willing to do anything to get there, and anything to stay there. He who has even a single scruple remaining to him will be helpless before them.

     All else is methodology: the selection of the most efficacious means for attaining their end.

     These past two months I’ve written thrice about Nice-Guyism:

  1. The Feelings Blob Part 2: Getting Tough
  2. Nice-Guyism And Ethical Imperatives
  3. Nice-Guyism Continued: Offering Cookies To Mice

     My friend and colleague Dystopic has written similar pieces about weaponized empathy, a highly useful term for political outreach. Perhaps he grasped the overriding importance of this phenomenon from the first; I didn’t.

     The point here is that our desire to be “nice” and to be evaluated thus by others is a useful weapon to the Left...and nothing else. Inversely, if we wanted to be seen not as “nice” but as “heartless,” the Left would have mounted a campaign that uses that motivation as its weapon. In either case, the Left’s covert program would be the same: unopposed power over all things. The weapon is independent of the aims of its wielder, something a gaggle of firearms-rights enthusiasts will easily grasp.

     By corollary, the wielder cares nothing at all about the weapon but whether it will serve his purposes. Once he’s attained his true ends, his only interest in the weapon will be whether it might be useful in preserving them. He’ll discard it if the answer is negative.

     There is so much import in the above that it’s almost a shame that I feel a need to summarize it. Yet it achieves its greatest impact when reduced to a schematic.

     In a relatively free society, they to whom power is the true and only end will act as follows:

  • Identify the dominant motivations of the persons of that society.
  • Identify a Cause which couples effectively to those motivations.
  • Marshal “activists” around the Cause and use it as a pretext for seeking increased State power.
  • Demonize all who oppose the method (increased State power) as enemies of the Cause.
  • Use any grants of power to solidify possession of that power-seat and to penalize opponents.
  • Should the Cause not be well served (i.e., the usual case), blame the opposition and demand more power.
  • Gradually ease out “true believers” in the cause, especially at the power-wielding echelon.

     Needless to say, this schematic can be used by several Causes simultaneously. Those Causes might be consistent in some respects. They might be wholly disconnected from one another. They might even conflict; indeed, this is commonly the case, and more useful to the power-luster than one might imagine. Yet the true aims of those at the Causes’ several tillers will be uniform.

     Perhaps Orwell was supremely insightful in neglecting to specify the sociopolitical currents that led to IngSoc, The Party, et cetera. Perhaps it really doesn’t matter at all.

     A final note: At Return of Kings today, John Carver presents Twenty passages from 1984 that have been realized in essence. Compare those developments to the demands of the various Cause-related groups active in our time. Can you trace the threads that connect their Causes to those developments...and to one another?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Disciplining “Our Own”

     The wall of silence is breached. The media can no longer deny that the Obama Administration wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign, just as President Trump claimed in March. It’s been confirmed by testimony and by FISA records. The strident accusations, by CNN and others, that Trump’s claim was a lie have become platters of unseasoned crow that “journalists” must confront. But will they? And what about the Democrats who echoed those claims and linked them to accusations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government? Will they offer retractions and apologies?

     Not bloody likely, and I’m here to tell you why.

     We form affinity groups on various bases: race, religion, ethnicity, regional loyalties, occupations, political affiliations, and so on. Every group allegiance creates an Us and a Them, with a concomitant assignment of differing privileges and approvals. The results of the cleavage normally include a reluctance to entertain accusations against “our own” in a neutral, judicial fashion. The degree of protection awarded to “our own” varies inversely with the degree of civic trust awarded to members of the group by persons outside it.

     Civic trust is an under-addressed factor in studies of the stability of a social order. It pertains to the average willingness of individuals to regard other individuals whom they do not know personally as non-threatening. If that trust factor varies greatly according to differences in affinity group affiliation, the society is in trouble.

     Judgments of a neighborhood as “good” or “bad” measure its degree of civic trust. Are the residents generally regarded as responsible and law-abiding? Are local businesses respectful or exploitive of local needs and preferences? Is the constabulary responsive? Are the streets and other public spaces “safe?” These are the questions that underpin “good neighborhood” and “bad neighborhood” assessments.

     Civic trust plainly includes the sub-category of public trust: the degree of trust private citizens have in the honesty and competence of public officials and government generally. This also conditions social stability, in a determinate fashion. If generally high public trust should be impacted by a narrow revelation – for example, the discovery that a particular official has behaved corruptly – the reaction among private citizens will be swift and predictable: Get him out of office and put him behind bars. The man in the street will demand it out of his desire to defend the integrity of the relevant institution. Inversely, if public trust is low, the man in the street will shrug, say “What can you expect? They’re all thieves,” and retreat from the subject. His attention will be focused narrowly on his own agenda and the protection of what’s his, rather than the trustworthiness or lack thereof of public institutions.

     High civic trust enables wide-ranging attachments: patriotism, nationalism, national pride, public engagement. Low civic trust compels particularism: withdrawal from wide engagements and the narrowing of one’s attachments to those affinity groups he believes he can trust.

     When civic trust falls low and particular attachments become sufficiently strong, groups’ willingness to discipline their members for offenses against “outsiders” drops toward zero. The defense of Us against distrusted Them is seen as far too important to permit it.

     American political particularism is a reflection of the diminished degree of our civic trust, specifically in two institutions: partisan politics and the “news” media. Time was, politicians of different parties could work together on specific ends. That was possible because not only did they sincerely agree on the ends to be sought, but also because they trusted one another not to have covert agendas that differed radically from those ends. To the extent that politicians have ever been willing to acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, the parties refrained from attacking one another when a policy championed by one in the face of misgivings by the other gave rise to a negative result. There was a prevailing belief that regardless of party affiliation, those in office meant well, generally understood their capacities and their limitations, and (with rare exceptions) really were doing the best they could for the nation. They made allowances for one another, and we made allowances for them.

     Time was.

     Ours is an era of low civic trust. Particularism is rampant; indeed, it’s probably the most important social influence of our time. It has a threefold impact on politics and reportage on political figures:

  1. Massive hostility between the political parties;
  2. Massive distrust of the news media by the news-consuming public;
  3. News media self-protectiveness as a higher priority than honest, candid journalism.

     In consequence, erring members of the parties and the media are far more likely to be protected by their groups than chastised by them. Moreover, the sinners will expect, even demand such protection. They’ll expect their fellows to mount counterattacks against their accusers, rather than offer expressions of impartiality and pieties about integrity.

     In other words, Hillary Clinton’s “vast right wing conspiracy” charge was merely a harbinger of more and worse to come.

     The root of particularism is, of course, particle. The e pluribus unum envisioned by the Founding Fathers has fragmented along many kinds of fissures. Though there’s always been some degree of differential trust among our various groups, the cleavages have deepened close to the point of impassability. The distaste for admitting to a misdeed by “a member of my club” has never been higher. The willingness to apply correction is proportionally low.

     Needless to say, that makes the problem worse. To see an offense go unadmitted and unpunished – worse, to see it rationalized and defended by the fellow-allegiants of the offender – makes the miasma of distrust thicken. But absent a complete cleansing of both the political and the journalistic classes, this is what we must anticipate and endure for the foreseeable future. Who is ready, willing, and able to undertake that cleansing? You? I? Arbitrarily chosen politician or candidate for office Smith?

     Food for thought.