Tuesday, October 31, 2017

“Everybody,” Who?

     The squeaking and shrieking from the political class, its allied interest groups, and its allegiants in the media, has reached the pain threshold and rocketed beyond it. And Americans are increasingly tuning it out. That’s the good news.

     However, the reason Americans are tuning it out is an old saw that cuts straight through the heart of the American political system and its satellite institutions: “Everybody does it.” That’s the bad news.

     Did you ever rise bright and early in the morning, quaff an unexpectedly good cup of coffee, look with approval on an unblemished, wholly promising new day, then read the news and find yourself yearning for an absolute hereditary monarchy and the abolition of all technology more recent than the goose-quill pen? Yeah, me too.

     Sex scandals have been the grist of the media for many years. The tabloids used to feast on them. The media’s “official motto,” “If it bleeds, it leads,” rhymes, has excellent scansion, and is very compact, but the sotto voce codicil to it should receive more attention: “If it oozes from the genitals, it comes ahead of the bleeders.”

     And so we have all manner of media blaring at us about Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, and most recently Kevin Spacey. I have a lot of “Who cares?” moments, but this time around I was somewhat more engaged, largely because both the offenders and their defenders have been muttering not-so-silently that “everybody does it.” Hollywood’s “casting couches” have been an open secret for many decades. Given that most aspiring actors and actresses arrive in Tinseltown not knowing how to act and barely able to read a script, the very small number of capable directors and wealthy producers had to apply some discriminant to determine who should receive their attention.

     The defenders of the media figures embroiled in these matters aren’t quite ready to say “everybody does it” in a normal tone of voice. The obvious rejoinder – “Do you do it?” – is one they’d rather not face. All the same, you can hear it in the undercurrents beneath their deflections. You can also hear the unvoiced implication: “And it’ll keep on happening.”

     The recent indictment of Paul Manafort on federal conspiracy-to-defraud-the Treasury charges isn’t on all fours with the Hollywood sex scandals. That is, not quite. Oh, it’s front-page news, but mainly because the political Left is pressing its media allies to promote it. What’s more newsworthy is the use of the indictment to push another, far larger scandal back under the rug where the Left wants it to remain: the Uranium One deal and what it says about corruption in the Obama Administration, most notably former Secretary of State and failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

     Here’s an interesting case where We the People are willing to grant that “everybody does it,” but the key aspect of the thing isn’t corruption. It’s partisanry. When a conservative or a Republican (NB: Not necessarily the same thing) is embroiled in a corruption scandal, the media is all over it like a cheap suit. Manafort, who was at one point a high official in the Trump for President campaign, gets the front-page-above-the-fold treatment from the media. Yet the far larger and politically and institutionally more significant Uranium One scandal has received virtually no air time or column-inches – because the perpetrators are Democrats and favorites of the media.

     Perhaps in this case, the “everybody does it” mantra applies more specifically to the media, which have picked political favorites and used their immense clout to promote them for more than a century. “Why else own a printing press?” they might say. Today the most precious possession of any “journalist” is access. To get access they must give something. As most “journalists” are on the Left, they know what to give and to whom to give it. Manus manum lavat, as the Romans liked to say.

     The worlds of politics and mass entertainment are structurally similar for several reasons. One of the most telling is how internally dependent both are on personal connections and favors. Ascent in politics and ascent in entertainment both require that someone already in the firmament look upon you with favor. In the usual case, that Established One will select from among those importuning him according to personal criteria: “What can I get him to do for me? Can I get something I want more from someone else for the same favor?”

     If you don’t think this is how politics operates, you’ve never attended a major party steering committee meeting. Quid pro quo is the operational guideline. The readiness of the media to offer assistance and the ability of the party to exploit its media connections are critical. Party platforms are unimportant. Principles? Don’t make me laugh.

     How did it get this way, when the Founding Fathers were men of such high principle and repute? Slowly, gradually, by easy stages, as with any transformation the transformers would prefer that you not notice until it’s irreversible. The degeneration from a constitutional federated republic to a demagogic pseudo-democracy took about a century and a quarter. There were a few visible signposts along the way, but most of the critical developments went unnoticed. Those that received public attention were magicked away by the media of the time, or exculpated by reference to some supposed necessity: e.g., “There’s a war on.”

     I could go on, but I think the point has been made. I hope it’s clear that what lit my boiler this morning, when I ought to be tacking up Hallowe’en bunting and performing desultory “quality control” on the goodies to be distributed, isn’t the scandals themselves but the distribution of finger-pointers and minimizers according to the political, ideological, and partisan connections of the players.

     Private citizens have good reason to suspect that everyone in both politics, entertainment, and the news media is at least a little soiled. It’s not true, of course, but as a working assumption it won’t often lead you wrong. Maybe not everybody in those fields “does it,” just as not everyone steals from the office supply cabinet. However, enough people do it, and enough other people dismiss the incidents that come to light with some variety of “everybody does it,” that the entire country is slowly but steadily being convinced that we’re all equally venal and equally rapacious.

     An important but generally overlooked novel of the Seventies, The Wanting of Levine, begins with a similar observation. I don’t have the book near to hand, but the opening passage notes that ordinary Americans, though they knew themselves to be good people and their neighbors to be good people, had been led by their media to believe that everyone, from high to low and including the reader himself, was venal and cruel – that “everybody does it,” for whatever tawdry, grasping, or vicious value of “it” you might care to apply.

     But not “everybody does it.” I don’t do “it,” and I’ll have nothing to do with anyone who does. I certainly won’t vote for him or patronize his news or entertainment medium. I suspect that my Gentle Readers feel much the same.

     To those who would dismiss the misbehavior of their favored ones with “everybody does it,” I maintain that the appropriate reply is “Really? Because I’m part of ‘everybody,’ and I don’t do it. Is this your way of telling me that you do?

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Political Hail Mary?

Paul Manafort is apparently going to be - if not already - indicted. For what?

No idea, but probably the usual catch-all for political prosecutions - lying to the investigators.

Why am I calling it a Hail Mary? Because it strikes me as a desperation move - for God's sake, get the attention off Clinton and the Dems!

Eh. It might work.

Ultimate Concepts

     Yes, Gentle Reader, it’s another of those philosophical Mondays, when the news simply doesn’t inspire the spleen and Ye Olde Curmudgeon must reach into his bag of “reserve topics” for an essay. Not that I feel obligated to produce an essay every day, mind you; it’s just that there’s a rhythm to it. It’s a habit that’s easier to maintain than to break.

     In the world of physics, we bandy about terms such as matter and energy and law without troubling to define them too rigorously. We know what they are, you see. We don’t have to engage in Aristotelian hair-splitting to use them effectively. Why waste the time and effort? There’s work to be done!

     But some of those terms have rather interesting implications. Here’s one that I recently spent awhile pondering: What is energy?

     A sophomore physics major has already learned various things about energy, when and where to find it, how to calculate it, and some of the transformations it can undergo. But aside from the situational and effectual aspects, he doesn’t know what it is. It’s not a failing in his knowledge or comprehension; we’re all in the same boat with him. It’s the consequence of the habitual use of an undefined term.

     I’m cheating a bit, here. There are two forms of acceptably rigorous definition:

  1. Intensive: This sort of definition possesses a genus and a differentia. It describes the category of entities being defined as a subset of a larger category – the genus — and then states a distinguishing characteristic – the differentia — that entities in the category being defined must possess, but which other entities in the genus do not.
  2. Extensive (alternately, Tabulative): A definition of this sort merely lists all the entities that belong to the category being defined. It does not attempt to group them in the ways intensive definitions require.

     If the term energy has a definition, it’s more akin to an extensive one. We recognize it situation-by-situation and law-by-law. For example, in mechanics we recognize kinetic energy, potential energy, and work. In electromagnetics we recognize the energies that arise from interactions between charged particles and magnetic dipoles. In atomic and nuclear physics we recognize binding energy and energy of decay.

     Given the above, the question “What is energy?” divorced from any better specified situation becomes impossible to answer. Though the term is a highly useful placeholder in our analyses and computations, giving it a firm, intensive definition appears to be beyond our capabilities.

     Energy is an example of an ultimate concept: a concept we “know” to be true and useful, but beyond which we cannot see, at least at present.

     An old gag popular among philosophers runs thus: “Define the universe. Give two examples.” This is plainly an absurd request. Definitions pertain to categories, and the universe, by postulate, is above categorization. It contains everything “real.” But that merely raises another, more fundamental question: “What do we mean by real?”

     Real is yet another ultimate concept. It’s useful, it its way. At any rate we “know” what we mean by it. But it can get rather slippery when invoked in an argument.

     Perceptual variations can cloud the meaning of real. There are many problems in special relativity in which observers in equally valid inertial frames perceive events quite differently. Some of those problems can be quite troubling to him whose working definition of real is “what I can see, hear, smell, taste, or touch that doesn’t go away when I turn my back on it.” The twin paradox is probably the best known, but there are many others.

     Douglas Hofstadter, in his landmark book Godel, Escher, Bach, offered a neat twist on the “define the universe, give two examples” gag. He proposed what we might call the “inverse” question: “Define an entity. Give a counterexample.”

     Real, reality, and entity are all useful placeholders beyond which our human limitations forbid us to see.

     One more, to epater les mathematical bourgeois. I used this one in On Broken Wings:

     Louis drew three pentacles in one corner of the sheet. "What do you see, Chris?"
     She glanced at him suspiciously. "Three stars."
     He nodded, and drew three rhomboids a little distance away. "And what do you see here?"
     "Three diamonds. What does this have to do with computers?"
     "Patience, Chris. I'm trying to lay some groundwork, here." He drew a large numeral 3 and pointed at it. "And this?"
     "Come on, Louis, get serious."
     He said nothing.
     "It's a three."
     "Three of what?"
     "Huh? Three of anything."
     "Is 'three' a thing, Chris?" He was grinning now.
     "Well...isn't it?" She was beginning to feel confused.
     He shook his head. "Go anywhere you want, in this house or anywhere else, and find me a 'three.' I'll pay big time for it. I've been looking for more than thirty years."
     "All right, what is it, then?" Confusion and frustration were beginning to blend.
     Louis shook his head again. "You're going to tell me. I'll ask a related question." He wrote "Christine" below the 3. "What's this?"
     "It's my name...wait...it's a lot of other people's name, too. It's not me, but it's used to refer to me." She frowned. "Louis, what does this have to do with computers?"
     He declined to acknowledge the question. "What do you call something that's used to refer to something else?" He waited, eyes and grin wide.
     She thought furiously. "A name? A label? A...symbol?"
     His grin blossomed into a brilliant smile. "A symbol. These are both symbols. Nearly pure, too, since they have no use except to refer to other things." He appended "Marie D'Alessandro" to her first name and pointed to it again. "That's a symbol, too. A more specific one, the symbol for you. Now, how does this symbol differ from that symbol there?" He pointed to the numeral again.
     She thought a moment. There had to be a point. She would find it.
     "That," she pointed to her name, "refers to something specific. This," she pointed to the digit, "refers to an idea."
     He laid his pencil down and brought his hands together in three sharp claps. He appeared to be both surprised and pleased.
     "You're on your way, Chris."

     Mathematics, the realm in which propositions can be proved or disproved, constitutes an ultimate. As its rules are unconstrained by “reality,” we can create fanciful situations that have no referent in the world around us. Indeed, high school geometry is exclusively about such situations: two-dimensional situations with absolutely precise mathematical entities in them that follow rigid rules.

     I’m not downplaying the utility of mathematics; I’ll leave that to the “pure” mathematicians, who disdain to have anything to do with concepts that can be applied to practical situations. Indeed, that mathematics of certain varieties can be usefully applied is why it originated...but not why “research” into mathematical systems persists.

     The concept-systems mathematicians explore are ultimates of a unique sort: their explorers don’t expect to find analogues to them in the “real world” (and some of them would be offended if they did). But even the simple stuff, the stuff we all use daily and think we understand completely, possesses an ultimate character. Ponder Louis’s insistence upon three and what it “is” in the above. The “atomic” concept of “three” conceals a foundation that exists only in our minds: cardinality. Only we conceptualizers count. Only we are concerned with enumeration. The objects – hey, another ultimate! – we enumerate are there, self-demonstrating, and indifferent to their “number.”

     I toy with questions of this kind frequently. The intellectual exercise helps me to keep a good grip on my humility. Given Man’s ever-expanding capabilities, humility is a slippery thing in our hands. But we can recover it by reflecting on the tenuous, contingent, and often disputed ultimate concepts on which all our “knowledge” rests.

     Hoc scio, nihil scio might not have been Socrates’s exact words, but it’s a nice formulation...one we should clasp close at all times. It might help us to avert another Tower of Babel – and you know what became of that.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Seizing The Platform

     I don’t have a lot to say this morning, but one article at Breitbart deserves special mention:

     The Guardian called the rise of free-thinking, LGBT conservatives “troubling” in an article on Thursday. The article, written by Arwa Mahdawi, criticized popular LGBT conservatives, including former OUT Magazine employee Chadwick Moore, who was fired after coming out as a conservative, and the Log Cabin Republicans, attempting to paint right-wing LGBT men and women as an “influential group of gay, white, and financially well-off men,” made up of Nazis, white nationalists, and misogynists.

     Moore has faced repeated discrimination since coming out as a conservative; losing his job, and even being warned by Scruff, a dating app for gay, bisexual, and transgender men, for being openly pro-Trump on the platform.

     “We are less than merely second-class citizens in the gay community, we are reviled, much like black conservatives and any other minority group that says ‘no’ to the Left’s victimhood politics,” Moore previously declared to Breitbart News.

     This is an important development in the war for freedom of expression. The SJWs’ attempts to delegitimize the voices of black conservatives and libertarians began decades ago, targeting figures such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Glenn Loury. Many attempts have been made to “de-platform” them: i.e., to use vilification and threats to “persuade” those who provide them an outlet for their views to retract it. Some of those attempts were successful, but not enough of them to squelch all conservative sentiment among blacks. Yet the efforts continue.

     No doubt the Left was confident, having “owned” the “LGBT rights” issue practically since inception, that it could do a better job of keeping those folks on the plantation. But as James Hogan has told us, a strong sense of confidence is always misplaced. A swelling number of LGBTers are looking at the evidence and doing their own thinking – and evidence and reason are the Left’s bitterest enemies.

     SJWs have effectively seized control of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They’ve contrived to intimidate major Internet corporations such as Google. They hope to conquer the Internet, the foremost communications channel of our time, as thoroughly as they did the printed press and the major television networks. Their drives in these regards will not cease any time soon.

     The LGBT community has special problems in this regard. For one thing, its media are tightly focused: explicitly oriented toward the LGBT audience, with little that would appeal to normal heterosexuals. For another, those media were born from the “LGBT rights” movement and are integral with it. Therefore, they are already the “property” of the Left; the Right is unlikely to win them away. Finally – and not to be discounted, as little as we might like it – many on the Right do exhibit disdain, even contempt, for sexual deviates.

     If we want to provide a “safe place” for LGBT conservatives and libertarians, we have quite a lot of work to do – and some of that work must be on ourselves.

     As it happens, today’s Gospel reading was one I consider supremely important to rational Christian thought:

     But the Pharisees, seeing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together. And one of them, a doctor in the law, asked him, tempting him: Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets. [Matthew 22:34-40, Douay-Rheims translation]

     “Thy neighbor” is anyone who has come near you. That is the exact meaning of the word. There are no exceptions. To the extent that homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals approach us in any dimension, they become our neighbors, to be loved and protected: yes, from hostile outside forces, but equally from any inclination of our own to despise them.

     Their sexual preferences and tastes are not yours; you do not have to answer for them and you never will. But you will be called to answer for your treatment of your neighbor, whether his nearness is geographical, spiritual, or political. Indeed, willingness to accept him whose sexual preferences you regard as distasteful or sinful, so long as he harms no one, as a valued neighbor and an equal partner in the community may count heavily in your favor at the Bar of Judgment.

     Christ said as much. You don’t want to argue with Him, do you?

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Some Music For Your Saturday Evening

     Amy Lee is one of the most talented composer / performers of her generation, and the following is, in my wholly personal opinion, her best song:

     Here's a little extra:

     May God bless and keep you all. Have a nice evening.

Americans In The Year Of Our Lord 2017

     Courtesy of Ace of Spades, I just heard this remarkable statement, made in the Seventies by Canadian journalist Gordon Sinclair, for the first time:

     Forty years have passed since Sinclair issued that statement. Has anything changed? Why, yes: Americans have gotten rather tired of being expected to right all the wrongs of the world while being castigated as oppressors and exploiters. We've become irritated with the global assumption that we will defend right, uphold justice, and lift up the downtrodden whenever and wherever necessary, regardless of whether anyone else lifts a finger to do so. And for the first time since the Wilson Administration, there's a rising, possibly majority sentiment in favor of keeping to ourselves.

     After all, we've got troubles, too. Violence at political rallies and appearances by conservative spokesmen. A government riddled with corruption and time-servers. Major executive departments that use their unchecked powers for political purposes. An economy just beginning to awaken from a ten-year slumber. A middle class that can barely pay its bills. Significant public movements openly opposed to Christianity, private property, national sovereignty, the national borders, the traditional family, parental rights, historical memory, freedom of speech, the right to defend oneself, even the right to life. Untrustworthy news media. Major channels of communication increasingly monopolized by a few, highly intolerant corporations with a political agenda. An educational establishment hostile to knowledge and rational thought. Entertainment media that deluge us, day after day, with ill-concealed propaganda.

     But let some pestiferous concentration of violent savages on the other side of the globe suffer a flood, a volcano, or an earthquake, and at once the cry arises: "Where are the Americans?"

     It is rather wearying, isn't it?

     In February of last year, I wrote:

     There are reasons why the United States, as large, wealthy, and mighty as it is, cannot save other nations from their miseries. Those miseries are the logical consequence of the erroneous intellectual and emotional baggage toted by the denizens of other lands. Any aid we send to such places, whether or not it’s accompanied by our armed forces, will be dissipated without lasting effects, as surely as the morning dew will vanish under the caress of the sun. The most dramatic examples, such as Somalia, have been very bloody, yet these are not the most instructive.

     Some Americans, though as yet not a sufficient number, have absorbed these truths. That’s why there’s been a retreat from reflexive interventionism among private citizens. But the implication that hasn’t yet been widely enough acknowledged is that just as we can’t go there and solve their problems for them, we’ll become hosts to those problems to the extent that we allow them to come here.

     In that essay I was principally concerned with the tide of illegal immigrants we suffered. Though it's attenuated somewhat this past year, we continue to bear a large burden brought on us by decades of laxity about border enforcement and the demise of the assumption of assimilation. This morning I'm looking at the syndrome in a different light.

     The very peoples that expect the U.S. to save them from whatever ills might befall them are equally strident about their "right" to come here – and to bring those ills with them by refusing to assimilate. Peoples that feel no charity toward suffering others – peoples that have been known to cheer when others suffer! – seek to come here and remake our nation into a facsimile of theirs. Do you think any of them have pondered, even briefly, what that would mean for America's future attitude toward the troubles of their homelands?

     Americans' charity is an essential component of our national identity – our Americanism. It partakes of our Christian ethics, our sense of personal and national well being, and our predominant good will toward others. It cannot outlast the loss of those things. Yet the major sociopolitical and economic trends of our time have eroded all three of them.

     Allow me another self-citation:

     I also remember a truly bile-stirring denunciation of the Bush Administration’s response by Leftist critic Robert Rivkin:
     Why hasn’t the Bush administration shown some imagination in convincing the world that Americans really care and are prepared to make a small sacrifice to help victims of this astonishingly destructive natural calamity? In the wake of the administration’s default, why hasn’t the Democratic “opposition” proposed something that will demonstrate to the world that Americans want to help and are not “stingy”? Especially these days, a dramatic proposal to assist victims of mass catastrophe might also improve our country’s tarnished image in many places in the world.

     Here’s a simple proposal that would capture the world’s attention, and which a majority of Americans would almost certainly support. President Bush should announce that because of the colossal losses suffered by millions of people in Southeast Asia and East Africa, he will make an exception to his promise not to raise taxes. Bush should propose a Tsunami Disaster Relief Surtax for 2004 and 2005, with very simple components that everyone can understand.

     For example, the president could propose a flat $50 surtax applicable to every American tax return with an adjusted gross income of between $25,000 and $40,000; a flat $75 surtax on every tax return with an adjusted gross income between $40,000 and $80,000; $100 for incomes over $80,000, and so on. This small assessment for two years would produce many billions of dollars, which could be placed into a fund which would support infrastructure repair and development over a period of at least 10 years in the stricken countries.

     (The original article is no longer reachable. The above is a transcription that appeared in a 2004 article at Eternity Road.)

     Yes, Gentle Reader, you read it right. Rivkin was actually proposing a tax on Americans specifically to benefit – drumroll, please -- non-Americans! If memory serves, we fought a bloody war to be free from that. Of course, I wasn’t around that long ago, but the histories all agree on it.

     But I want to draw your attention to one specific phrase in that disgusting article:

     ...a dramatic proposal to assist victims of mass catastrophe might also improve our country’s tarnished image in many places in the world.

     In other words, Americans should be saddled with a tax specifically so that non-Americans will like us more!

     Yet Leftists wonder that we want no more of them.

     Dystopic would immediately recognize the principle operating above. In giving it a memorable name, he's done the nation a service it does not yet appreciate. Yet the unarticulated recognition of how our generosity is used against us is a great part of what put Donald Trump in the White House.

     And now for a complete swerve: a few mildly good words about our "allies," those endlessly sniggering Europeans.

     To the best of my knowledge, the nations of Europe haven't demanded anything much from Americans lately, other than our submission to insane "carbon taxes" to combat the imaginary hazard of "climate change." Moreover, when they belittle us, it's usually about one of two subjects: American cultural exports, and our love of firearms. At this time, given the Islamic invasions they're suffering, many of them are probably bitterly regretful that they gave up their firearms. Concerning American cultural exports, I can only say, once more and with feeling, chacun a son gout.

     So at least they don't expect anything from us...at the moment. Okay, Euroweenies; laugh at our expense. You don't think much of us; we don't think much of you. But here's a friendly suggestion for the broadening of your viewpoint: Every now and then, look to the East. Take a good look at the nation that lies just beyond the former Soviet satellites. Think about the ruler of that nation and what he's done geopolitically these past ten years. Try to forecast his next moves and how the governments of your nations would respond. I'll say nothing more.

     As you can see, I'm no fan of the "world policeman" role the U.S. tacitly undertook after World War II. Now that the mission appears essentially impossible, a lot of folks yearn for those halcyon days of yore when it appeared that we were the world's power, that nothing we chose to oppose could stand against us. However, few of those yearners would willingly pay what it would take to regain that status...if, in fact, we ever possessed it.

     Besides, there was a lot of deceit built into it: a covert agenda of expanding the scope and heft of our political class under the overt one of maintaining "world peace." "Public men" will always want as large a "public" as they can muster. The "public men" of postwar America were merely more ambitious than any of their predecessors. They had mastered America, at least in their own minds. Next stop: the world.

     It wasn't businessmen fantasizing thus. American products and services had already reached every continent and had won approval from persons of every land. Our commerce really was ubiquitous. But politicians and their clients aren't much interested in commerce, except as a useful adjunct to their schemes.

     Popular sentiment found something agreeable in the idea of America as the world's guardian. Our political class marshaled it (excuse the pun) to its own purposes. And the blood and treasure of the greatest, most generous nation the world had ever seen was made to flow outward, to others' benefit and for others' use.

     An outward current not balanced by an inward one of equal magnitude cannot be maintained for long.

     Seventy years of outward flow, propelled by the frequent, strident suggestion that Americans have an obligation to help those of other lands, have weakened our nation and wearied our people. We're tired – and a portion of the fatigue arises from being often belittled, seldom appreciated.

     Americans' private generosity still exceeds that of any other nation. Yet like any effort that reaps unsatisfactory results, it can be quenched. Many of us have decided to redirect our charitable impulses back toward ourselves and our neighbors. There's a lot of good sense in that; charity really should begin at home, where the giver can observe the results and make whatever changes they mandate.

     It's at the national level that the problem is most acute. Our "public men" are unhappy with our desire to look after our own interests and let the rest of the world cope with its own problems. It limits their scope. It could mean that their names will receive a brief entry in the history books, if any. Besides, why should we have any say over the expenditure of our sons' lives and our hard-earned treasure? Where do we get off claiming a right to be left alone in peace and privacy?

     Perhaps this is all just an old man's ranting. Perhaps the weariness that comes with age is just too much with me this morning. All the same, I want no more of the world beyond our borders. Keep it away. Build the wall. End all foreign aid. Stop sending American military assets and troops to every canker on the globe. And for the love of God, stop treating the effusions and maneuvers of other governments and their satraps as something with which we should concern ourselves. Until they send expeditionary forces to our shores, let them kill, plunder, and oppress one another without our interference.

     That way, maybe we can all get some sleep.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The End of the Organized Left?

This essay, by J. L. Dunn, is one example of why I like American Thinker. It's a potpourri of diverse voices, that is wide enough to encompass most of the non-Establishment Right.

The gist of it:
That is truth of this moment – the influence and networks of the left falling in on themselves out of sheer unworthiness to exist. They appear to be collapsing the way a building does when it undergoes demolition – one floor cascading onto another until nothing remains. The NFL threatens to also take down ESPN, a “sports network” to the left of MSNBC, while the Weinstein revelations have triggered public attacks and accusations against Ben Affleck, George Clooney, and Oliver Stone – the three of them comprising the vanguard of Hollywood leftism.
Yet all attention on the right seems to be focused on a gang of undergrads in black hoodies and Guy Fawkes masks. How can we correlate the two – black-clad militants brash enough to threaten the government itself while their entire political/social superstructure collapses in ruins around them? On the face of it, it seems paradoxical. But there’s actually no contradiction at all. The one follows the other as sure as Stalin followed Lenin. The left has turned violent because it’s falling apart. They don’t have anything else. No plans, no prospects, no leadership. The left has failed, and violence is all that remains.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/10/the_lefts_last_spasm.html#ixzz4w3inekah
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Corn, Old And New

     I am so BLEEP!ing sick of the political news that words fail me. There's absolutely nothing to write about that thousands of other commentators, some better informed than I (though not nearly as handsome, gifted, or modest), haven't already covered. So I'm going to fall back on humor.

     I mean, when "the news is all bad, but it's good for a laugh" (Tom Paxton), what would be more appropriate? So get your Rimshot Generators ready, folks: here comes some corn.

The Same, Only Different.

     Smith and Jones were exploring the Lunar surface, expecting to see only rocks and dust, when they came upon a curious little creature: short, shaped much like a Teddy bear, and thickly furred in a white and black checkerboard pattern. The thing was apparently suited to the Moon's airless surface for it wore no clothing of any kind... except for a propeller beanie. The little creature noticed their interest, waved a hand in greeting, and bounded toward a nearby cave. The two astronauts followed in haste.

     What they found in the cave astounded them. The little creature who had waved to them was lost in a throng of identical short, Teddy bear-shaped figures, each thickly furred in a white and black checkerboard pattern, and each wearing a propeller beanie. The clustered around a large chair, a throne, really, on which sat yet another of their number, indistinguishable from the rest except for his seat. It was this one that beckoned the humans to approach.

     "Welcome! Welcome to the Moon!"

     The astronauts came near and offered polite thanks for the warm welcome. After a few initial pleasantries had been exchanged, including the expected congratulations for having crossed interplanetary space, the Teddy on the throne said, "Now, what would you like to learn about our little society, that you might take home to astonish your Earthly brethren?"

     Smith and Jones looked briefly at one another, and Smith said, "Well, sir, we can't help but notice that all of you are exactly alike."

     The Teddy nodded. "Just so. We discovered long ago that to allow differences among us caused dissension and envy, so we embarked on a eugenics program to eliminate them. Today we are as you see: identical copies of an ideal plan."

     "But I sense that you are in a leadership role," said Smith. "If you are all the same, how are your leaders chosen?"

     "By rote," responded the Teddy. "In an egalitarian society like ours, nothing else would make sense. But I see that the two of you are quite different: one short and one tall, one fat and one thin, one white and one black. How do you manage with all these conspicuous differences?"

     "Well," said Smith, "we manage. On Earth you would quickly meet many individuals different from either of us in uncountable ways. Are you really all exactly alike?"

     "Exactly," replied the Teddy.

     "All of you just so high?"

     "Just so."

     "And all of you have white and black checkered fur?"

     "All of us."

     "And you all wear propeller beanies?"

     "All of us," replied the Teddy. "Except, of course, for the goyim."

The Brass Rat.

     One fine evening a tourist was wandering San Francisco's fabled Chinatown, not looking for anything in particular, when he spied a dimly lit sign that read "Antiquities," over a flight of steps that led into the basement of a nondescript building. Curious, he descended the steps to a rickety door at the bottom. Within was a large, disorderly room closely packed with tables, each one piled with oddments. The sole occupant was a wizened old Chinese man, who sat at the cash register eating rice from a small bowl, chopsticks moving slowly and rhythmically between the bowl and his lips. The old Chinese acknowledged the visitor with a nod, but said nothing.

     The tourist moved casually among the many tables, sorting gingerly through the piles, examining a curio here and there, but taking little interest in any particular item... until he found the brass rat.

     It was an ugly thing, a twelve-inch-long replica of a common rat. Beyond the accuracy of it, it lacked any particular esthetic value. Yet the tourist found himself strangely attracted to it. He toted it to the register and asked the old Chinese, "What's the price?"

     The Chinese glanced at what the tourist held in his hands and said, "For the rat, ten dollars. For the story behind the rat, one thousand dollars."

     Well, for a thousand dollars, our hero decided he could make up his own story, so he whipped out a sawbuck, handed it to the old man, and sauntered out of the shop with his acquisition.

     From the moment the tourist ascended the steps back to street level, things appeared strange. The city around him, which had been quiet, pulsed with a new energy. The buildings seemed to loom over him with an undisclosed purpose. Even the occasional streetlamps cast their yellow eyes on him in a dubious manner. He began to walk faster.

     A pair of rats emerged from behind a pile of trash, sniffed the air, and began to follow him. At the sound, several more rats nosed out of an abandoned car and joined them. Our hero became mildly alarmed, and pushed himself to walk faster still.

     Several more rats emerged from a sewer drain. Perhaps two dozen rose up from a storm grating. These added themselves to the procession behind the tourist. He began to trot.

     From a hole in the side of an old tenement came several hundred rats, each sniffing the air briefly and then adding itself to his train. Another tenement added hundreds more. The rats were now a gray-brown carpet over the Chinatown street, and our tourist, fearing for his life, began to run. The rats pursued him.

     He ran unthinking, heedless of any destination, unconcerned with anything but escape, and the rats kept coming. Their numbers swelled with each drain, each abandoned building, each pile of litter he passed, until a tide of rodents unknown in the history of Man pursued the fleeing tourist into the waterfront area and onto the loading docks.

     At the very end of his wits and physical resources, our hero spied a crane at the edge of the water, its hook dangling just beyond the edge of the dock. With his last strength he sprinted for the hook, the brass rat clutched in his hand. At the edge of the dock he leaped for the hook and threw the accursed brass figure out as far as he could into the waters of San Francisco Bay.

     The hook swung out and back under the impact of his weight, but held fast. From his vantage above the dark waters, the tourist watched as uncounted thousands of living rats followed the brass rat into the bay, diving without slowing and vanishing at once beneath the water, with only a huge spread of bubbles to mark their passing. A moment more, and all was still.

     The tourist carefully jumped back onto the dock, straightened his clothes, and made his way painfully back to the little shop beneath the "Antiquities" sign. The old Chinese looked up as he entered, and smiled.

     "Aha! You have returned for the story of the rat."

     "Uh, no," replied the intrepid tourist, "I just wanted to ask if you have any brass lawyers."

The Prime Directive of Adultery.

     A few years back, in a comments thread on PJ Media, someone asked whether it could be made "safe" to commit adultery. I was feeling a bit whimsical that day, and this is what followed:

     Someone had to ask that question. Thank you!

     The solution, if you’re unconcerned about your prospects in the afterlife and believe that your marriage can withstand an outside involvement, is obeying the Prime Directive of Adultery:

  • If you’re married, he must be married as well.
  • If you have a middle-class income and existence, then so must he.
  • If you have children, he must have children — preferably the same number and about the same ages.
  • If you must travel a considerable distance to your trysts, then he should have to do the same.

     …and so on. Adultery’s potential consequences for the two of you should be well matched. Any kind of asymmetry represents both a source of stress on the affair and a potential lever for one of you to use against the other.

     Never, ever assume that something that begins with wine and roses can’t possibly devolve to pistols at dawn. Always equalize the risks!

     (This is not an endorsement of adultery, which remains forbidden by the Sixth Commandment and is still against the law in many jurisdictions. Neither is it an offer to commit adultery, which can only be done by formal prospectus. Adultery’s risks include legal, spiritual, physiological, and emotional consequences, not all of which are completely understood. Side effects include increased expenses on clothes, shoes, and perfume, frequent trips to the salon, aggressive dieting, cosmetic surgery, and excessive gazing into the mirror. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. No spouses were harmed in the making of this feature. We are an Equal Opportunity Employer.)

     It got a lot of laughs at the time, but looking back on it, I'm not so sure everyone took it as lightheartedly as I intended.

One Day, Early In Creation.

     This one came my way yesterday, via email.

     The Garden of Eden was truly a beautiful place, and God could see that Adam was enjoying his time there. But God was troubled, and it took Him some time to reason out why. After long thought, He came to a conclusion:

     "It is not good for man to be alone."

     And with that, God decided that Adam should be alone no longer. He came to Adam and said, "Adam, you have been a loving, loyal and trustworthy man to me, ever reverent and thankful for your life and its blessings. For this I will reward you with a partner. I will call your partner woman. Woman will be loving, loyal and trustworthy to you. She will also be supportive, caring, kind, and understanding. She will never nag, be condescending, complaining, or critical of you. She will have beautiful long flowing hair and a shapely, forever sexy body."

     Adam was stunned. "Wow, thank you God!" But after a moment he became troubled, and thought more deeply. "It all seems too perfect. Will the creation of woman cost me anything?"

     God replied, "A woman like that will require I take from you one arm, and one leg."

     Adam considered for a moment. "What can I get for a rib?"

The Wisdom Of The Aged.

     One more, to satisfy the Law of Fives:

     The young woman had "married well" and in consequence had recently been admitted into the exclusive New York City social circle called The Four Hundred. She decided to cement her position more firmly by throwing a dinner party and inviting a number of city notables. Her husband approved, but suggested – quite firmly – that she include her grandfather. The young lady was worried, for though she loved him, Grandpa was an old backwoodsman who hadn't been out of his cabin in the Adirondacks for several decades. More, he was given to saying exactly what he thought at all times, with no regard for what her socialite friends would call "the proprieties." All the same, she wanted to please her husband – yes, those were strange times – so she agreed.

     The party went off well, and Grandpa was the soul of courtesy throughout, until coffee was served. He picked up his cup and took a large mouthful, discovered that it was boiling hot, and promptly spat it out onto his plate.

     The other guests tried not to look surprised, but the silence made it clear that they were waiting for Grandpa to apologize. It took the old fellow a moment to notice the many pairs of eyes focused on him. When he did, he said quite loudly...

     "A lot of danged fools would've swallowed that!"

     Have a nice day, Gentle Reader.


When Bill so adamantly stated "I did not have sex with that woman", he thought the question was about Cankles.
Comment by All Your Base on "Clinton, Assange, And The War On Truth." By John Pilger, Zero Hedge, 10/24/17.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

White Identitarianism, White Nationalism, and White Supremacy

     The swiftly growing white-identity movement has evoked storms of condemnation and vilification from many sources. I have yet to encounter even one such source that's willing to distinguish between this form of identity affiliation and the darker concept of white supremacy. Accordingly, it's time for a Curmudgeonly discourse on race in its principal venues: biological, anthropological, sociological, and political.

     Time was, anthropologists recognized three races: the Caucasian, the Mongolian, and the Negro. After a while, two more races were added: the Australoid and the Capoid. It didn't take long before other classifications arose. Today the number of races varies, depending on whether you're the United States Census Bureau, a "social justice warrior," or some other variety of misfit.

     Race is a somewhat difficult concept. It began with the recognition that each of the world's major population clusters produced individuals with certain common, visible characteristics: skin color, facial configuration, height and body proportions, and so forth. Because racial classification originated as an essentially visible matter, the edges of the classifications became blurred as we learned more about Man. In particular, the study of human genetics suggests that the characteristics upon which racial classifications were based are little more than visible markers – i.e., that we're all pretty much the same underneath. That conviction is reinforced by the mutual fertility of the members of different races. In light of that, race is considered taxonomically irrelevant.

     In short, the genetic evidence compels us to accept that race-as-biology is meaningless. That doesn't mean that it's meaningless in every way.

     In his landmark book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig argues that our divisions of the world into this and that are conceptual: mental operations that facilitate reasoning, rather than reflections of some essential reality. I allowed my readers' favorite character to note exactly that in Polymath:

     “A very smart man once said that imagination is more important than knowledge.” Redmond guided the truck out of the parking lot and onto NY 231. “It was an overstatement, and context-free to boot. Still, he had an important point in mind. He wasn’t the first to make it, either. What is an outline, Todd?”
     The conversational swerve jarred Todd into a curious state. His thoughts seemed to drift free of mundane reality. He struggled to discipline them.
     “The boundary around an object?”
     “Have you seen any outlines lately?”
     “Huh? I don’t...hm.”
     “In the world outside our heads.” Redmond piloted the truck smoothly down Kettle Knoll. “Did you see anything you could point to and say ‘there’s an outline,’ at any time recently?”
     “I don’t think so.”
     “And why is that? Every object has a boundary, so it must have an outline, right?”
     Todd was overwhelmed by the sense that he was being introduced to a higher realm of thought, a sphere of concepts and relations whose existence he hadn’t suspected.
     He’s way beyond me.
     He fought down his distaste at the admission.
     If I’m going to learn anything more from him, I have to accept it.
     “Outlines are imaginary, then?”
     Redmond pulled into the Iversons’ driveway, stopped, and set the parking brake. “Not quite. It depends on whether you’d say an image—a picture of the world you have in your brain—is imaginary. When we look at the world, we see...things. Objects we take to be bounded and separate from one another. Most of us view the world that way, most of the time. We have to. It makes organized thought possible. And it’s what moved a great writer to write that ‘wise men see outlines, and therefore draw them.’”
     “Who was that?”
     “William Blake. A poet of the late Enlightenment.” Redmond’s eyes twinkled. “He wrote something a bit different a few years later, though.”
     Todd waited.
     “‘Mad men see outlines, and therefore draw them.’”
     Redmond held up a hand for patience. “It was an important insight, centuries ahead of its time. Modern physics tells us that there are no absolute boundaries between things, that boundaries and outlines are only tools of thought.” The engineer’s smooth, solemn face seemed to acquire the weight of centuries. “They exist, whatever that means, only as long as we insist on them. And there are subjects where we can’t make any progress at all unless we refuse to see them.”

     Race is that sort of division: one that lasts only for as long as we insist on it, which cannot be rooted in biological considerations. While anthropologists originated race as a way to tag the geographic origins of particular peoples, another way to look at it is as a summary of statistical differences in degree: i.e., quantitative differences that have no qualitative implications. This race is taller than the others on average; this race is more dexterous than the others on average; this race has darker skin than the others on average; and so forth. Such statistical considerations, while not entirely unimportant, don't refute the fundamentally conceptual nature of race.

     When race left the studies of anthropologists to become a subject of interest to sociologists, the fun really started.

     Sociologists' considerations of race are just as statistical – i.e., summaries of differences in degree that blur at the edges of the classifications – as anthropologists' considerations of race as taxonomy. Each of the conventional races lives under a Bell Curve. Each of them has produced members arbitrarily distant from the mean axis of its curve in every way. When racial classifications are united to social trends and tendencies toward or away from separatism, matters become serious.

     This is the beginning of racial identity as a social force. Anyone who's ever heard the terms "your own kind" and "acting white" has witnessed it in operation. Differences in degree are real and potent social operators. Intergroup tensions arise from nothing else.

     Sociologists who have dared to investigate those differences honestly, and to report their findings to the general public, have come in for quite a lot of opprobrium in recent years. It hardly matters that we're all in agreement that the members of all races, however ineptly defined, are human, possess souls, and are entitled to be judged as individuals, on their merits. The mere recognition of differences in the races' various Bell Curves is treated as an implicit demand for political discrimination among them. While it's always unfair and unjust, that sort of demonization has inhibited all but the most courageous scholars from looking candidly at the correlations between race and other socially important characteristics.

     I am not a professional sociologist. Neither do I speak for any sociologist, nor for any sociological school of thought, nor for sociology as such. But I am – just as you are – an amateur sociologist. That is, I recognize the differences among men as I experience them in daily life. I aggregate them over time, place, and circumstance. I correlate them with one another. And I use them to make decisions about my own travels, associations, and interactions, and transactions with those I encounter.

     The racial tensions that afflict us in this Year of Our Lord 2017 arise from race-identity advocates' attitudes toward such decisions and the State's unwise involvement in such matters.

     In an era when "the personal is political," social currents and influences are readily politicized. The "civil rights" movements of the Fifties and Sixties were only the beginning. Legislation to guarantee the franchise to all American citizens irrespective of race proved to be not an endpoint but a trigger. Black-identity politics was foreordained to produce still further political consequences.

     Identity-affiliation groups don't always do that, of course. Chess players haven't agitated for legal preferences. Neither have car enthusiasts nor soccer fans. (Shooting-sports enthusiasts and gun collectors are an outlier, owing to the hostility of "progressives" toward the American gun culture.) Racial-identity groups are another matter.

     The 1964 Civil Rights Act swiftly became a racial-preferences act. "Equal opportunity" laws and regulations made racial posturing and racialist huckstering profitable. Where there is profit, profit-seekers will go. Many will speculate about what other kinds of profit might be available.

     Race eventually became the most politically potent of all sociological classifications. It easily eclipsed "class," the pseudo-conception which for a century the Marxists had proclaimed to be paramount. Today's other sociological hot button, sex or "gender," still doesn't hold a candle to it.

     But Newton's Third Law applies to sociological forces just as it does to mechanical ones. When black-identity politics rose in visibility and potency, it evoked a reaction among whites. That reaction was temporarily inhibited by legal considerations and a perception of popular disapproval. Today it's "out loud and proud." The time has come to acknowledge its validity, which is no greater and no less than the validity of black-identity politics.

     White-identity spokesmen are harshly vilified for their positions, usually through a specious association with legally enforced racial separatism and the old bugaboo of white supremacy. Never mind that the spokesmen for black-identity groups demand racial separation on their own terms, or proclaim blacks' superiority to us "ice people." Apparently that's quite all right with the bien-pensants. At any rate, they've placed it outside the realm of polite discourse.

     But what white-identity groups are doing is merely asserting their right to exist as whites: to live apart from the other races if it pleases us, to work with others of our choosing rather than have "diversity" forced upon us by State ukase, to maintain the values and culture we cherish, to oppose miscegenation among our children, and to be left alone by the other races: in other words, to enjoy the same rights as individuals that blacks have demanded.

     You cannot condemn one without condemning the other. More to the point, you cannot have one without having the other – and in an era when black-identity politics is one of the premier social and political forces at work among us, you will inescapably have both.

     So of course, the bien-pensants and the black-identity groups are determined to invalidate this inevitable reaction. White-identity groups must be demonized as advocates for a return to Jim Crow, if not to slavery. It makes no difference that that's the reverse of the truth. Anyway, political gambits seldom do more than nod toward the truth these days, no matter who advances them.

     There's one more consideration of note: the one you've been wondering whether I'd dare to address.

     The Bell Curves of the conventionally recognized white / Caucasian and black / Negro races differ in a couple of ways that have important consequences for innovation, commercial energy, time preferences, aggression, and law-abidingness. When the races are separate, those differences manifest themselves in faster advancement in commerce, aggregate wealth, and social harmony among whites than among blacks. The differences were painfully visible before the large-scale interpenetration of the races.

     The Twentieth Century brought intense black migration away from historically black regions and localities and toward historically white ones. Leftists and black-racialist activists have characterized this as a desirable move toward "diversity," though the dynamics are anything but isotropic. White-identity spokesmen see it as a drive toward "chasing down the last white person." Which assessment you deem more valid is likely to be determined by your race.

     Now that racial interpenetration is a fact, blacks want what whites have achieved. However, many are unwilling to follow the path trodden by the white societies they've penetrated. They'd rather use the State – actively or passively – to take it. And black racialist hucksters are happy to carry their banner.

     It is massively unfortunate that America, the Land of the Individual, should have been so badly beset by identitarianism: racial, sexual, ethnic, creedal, or otherwise. Yet realism compels us to confront the facts: Once one identitarian political force has arisen and has received even passive approbation, it will compel the emergence of others. The resulting conflict cannot be halted by an appeal to our common humanity, for it is in the nature of political identitarianism that the State has subordinated our common characteristics to more group-specific ones. With the State on the battlefield, the conflict must become absolute. It can be brought to an end only by the absolute triumph of one group over all the others, or by mutual exhaustion and an agreement that the State shall never again be permitted to categorize us, or discriminate among us, according to group membership.

     Note that South Africa has reached the former terminus. The consequences have been anything but pleasant. America's destiny is as yet uncertain.

     Allow me to close with a snippet from an insightful and unfairly vilified commentator, John Derbyshire:

     The default principle in everyday personal encounters is, that as a fellow citizen, with the same rights and obligations as yourself, any individual black is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to a nonblack citizen. That is basic good manners and good citizenship.

     ...coupled to a snippet from your humble Curmudgeon Emeritus:

     Despite the differences among the races, Americans are expected to make a wholehearted attempt to treat one another as individuals, to be judged on our individual merits. This is a vitally necessary enterprise. It's the only way we can share this country in something approximating peace (i.e., "a state of tension that falls short of overt armed conflict"). The sole alternative is a process of racial cleansing after which the United States would be peopled exclusively by whites.

     White identitarianism need not militate toward white separatism or white nationalism. It certainly shouldn't militate toward white political supremacy. If politics and State action could somehow be kept out of identity movements, our troubles would be far less. For individuals this is nearly always possible, regardless of how one feels about the legal and political treatment of the races or which race is best at what.

     And America is the Land of the Individual, after all. Didn't I say that above?


And what alarms "the establishment leaders of both parties" is not Trump's personality, but his forceful dissent from globalism and praise for policies those establishment leaders have long dismissed as relics from "50 years back" or even "the 19th century." But what the upholders of the establishment consensus have not fully reckoned with is that the only reason Americans began listening to Donald Trump is because the globalism that leaders of both parties have offered voters for so long has been a disaster for much of America and many Americans.[1]
This is an insightful observation. Mr. Piatak also reports on some of Bush '43s recently expressed views which reveal him a a globalist putz, absolutely clueless about the land whose president he was for eight too-long years.

[1] "The Blast of the Globalists." By Tom Piatak, Chronicles, 10/23/17 (emphasis added).

The end of life as we know it.

A ruling for the bakery owner in the so-called “cake case” before the Supreme Court could inflict untold harm on gay people, true religious liberty, and civil rights.[1]
Sob! No more cakes!

If we aren't living in a fascist hell I don't know what one is.

[1] "A Baker’s Toxic Recipe for Discrimination." By Dorothy Samuels, The American Prospect, 10/18/17.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Birth Control and A Sensible Solution

Betsy's Page has a link to some sensible ideas about handling BC for women, without having to trample over the beliefs of those who oppose using their money for that purpose. The link is to Reason.com - a libertarian site.

A Wednesday Grab-Bag

     I need a day off from ranting and raving – forever having steam coming out of my nostrils does bad things to the mucosa, don't y'know – so today I'm going the "assorted" route. Let's have a few laughs at others expense, shall we?

     First up, we have friend and longtime colleague Mike Hendrix's citation of Rush Limbaugh:

     “For all the talk of a Civil War in the Republican Party over Donald Trump, 90% of Republicans ended up voting for him.”...

     “Again, Trump is a symptom of widespread disgust, not the head of a carefully crafted ideological movement with a checklist of issues.” Now, some of you may disagree with that. Some of you may say, “No, no! Trump has an agenda, and he announced it every campaign appearance. There’s five or six items. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. Everybody knows what his issues were.” What Mr. Hanson is saying here is that he doesn’t have an ideological agenda based on ideological principles and so forth.

     He’s got an agenda, but Trump is a symptom of much more.

     To which Mike adds:

     He damned sure is. I’m coming to believe, though, that, far from failing to grasp why Trump won, the NeverTrump fools, knaves, and blackguards know full well how and why he trounced them…and it scares the establishment shitweasels to death.

     In the end, it still comes back to just the one thing: draining the damned swamp. Nobody ought to be surprised at how the alligators—or swamp rats and mosquitos, more like—feel about that.

     While this isn't news to anyone who's been listening as Establishmentarian commentators wail their chagrin over their minions' unsuccess at "controlling" Trump, it highlights the dynamic of partisanry: no matter what the original objective of a political party might have been, if it lasts long enough its real objective will become to advance the fortunes of its office-holders and office-seekers.

     This is merely a particular case of Robert Conquest's Second Law of Politics.

     Laughter really is the best medicine, friends – and articles such as this are surely justification for a belly-laugh:

     Feminist Professor at the University of California-Davis, Sara Giordano, writing for the Catalyst, titled a recent article, Those who can’t, teach critical science literacy as a queer science of failure.

     She argues that “traditional science” relies on a “colonial and radicalized form of power” and must be replaced with an “anti-science, antiracist, feminist approach to knowledge production.”

     She plans to “challenge the authority of Science” by “rewriting knowledge” through a feminist lens.

     Perhaps it's cruel of me, but I get a huge kick out of the pretensions of feminist "scholars" who write things such as that. They're probably aware that the problem lies within them – i.e., that they don't have the intellectual capacity to comprehend the sciences or the willpower to work at them until they do – but feminism uber alles, don't y' know. Can't betray the Sisterhood by admitting that most women can't or won't do mathematics. That would be wrong.

     I am reminded of an observation I saw in Roger Kimball's book Tenured Radicals: "One wonders whether feminist airplanes will stay aloft for feminist engineers." Really.

     It seems that the Deep State goes very deep indeed:

     The National Park Service told the Washington Free Beacon it is no longer providing funding for a controversial project "honoring the legacy" of the Black Panther Party after outrage that the agency would spend taxpayer dollars to memorialize a group that murdered a park ranger in the 1970s.

     The Free Beacon revealed last month that the Park Service gave roughly $100,000 to the University of California, Berkeley for a research project on the Marxist extremist group to "memorialize a history that brought meaning to lives far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area."

     "Committed to truthfully honoring the legacy of [Black Panther Party] BPP activists and the San Francisco Bay Area communities they served, the project seeks to document the lives of activists and elders and the landscapes that shaped the movement," the National Park Service stated in the grant awarded for the project.

     California, the Land of Fruits and Nuts! But more to the point, this is the sort of thing the Deep State has made a specialty: funding grievance groups that will sue the government and produce a rationale for "settling" in a fashion that increases government power and evokes more grievance groups. The EPA is notorious for it, but I hadn't known that the Park Service had been infected. O tempora, o mores!

     (I almost wrote "O tempura." It must be time for breakfast.)

     I simply must get Duyen's opinion of this:

     Today in big-picture problems: We may be getting a new footwear emoji, because, apparently, the ones we have are sexist.

     The Emoji Unicode Consortium’s Emoji Subcommittee will vote on a proposed ballet flat icon today, reports shopping site Racked.

     Proposal author Florie Hutchinson thinks adding this classic commuter shoe to the emoji keyboard will “help pave the way to a more gender non-sexualized pictorial representation of the footwear category.”

     My little Vietnamese-American sweetie would be in danger of asphyxiation from uncontrollable laughter. She owns one pair of non-high-heeled shoes: a pair of Adidas trainers. All the rest are four or more inches above the common run of Man. She made a point about it to me, some years back: American prosperity makes women's going about in leg and figure-flattering high heels possible, because American women don't need to walk long distances.

     Feminism is just as anti-woman as it is anti-man. In combination with the "gender fluidity" madness, it's plainly certifiable.

     Next we have some sour grapes from a departing (albeit not soon enough) Republican Senator:

     Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tore into President Trump in a speech on the Senate floor minutes after announcing he will not run for reelection in 2018.

     Flake began by describing Trump but not naming him, saying that the "reckless provocations" of the executive branch "most often [happen] for the pettiest and most personal reasons."

     Flake said none of President Trump's actions or behavior should be regarded as "normal," saying the president disrespects the "institutions" of America by acting in a "flagrant disregard for truth and decency."

     "Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that degradation of the politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal," Flake continued.

     Not only did Flake not name President Trump, he didn't bother to specify which of Trump's "actions or behavior" display a "flagrant regard for truth and decency." I'll allow that that would be very difficult, as nothing Trump has done is untruthful, indecent, or disrepects American "institutions." For such behavior, Flake should look to Trump's predecessor in the Oval Office, whose deceits and arrogations of extra-Constitutional power were egregious. But Flake's real problem isn't with Trump; it's with American voters, who appear disinclined to return Flake to the Senate for another term.

     Still, one must allow oneself a grin, at least, over a senior federal politico throwing a tantrum on the floor of the Senate. "If you won't give me what I want, I'm going home." Have a pleasant trip, Senator.

     Finally for this morning, to honor the requests of readers who've asked for a paperback edition of Innocents, yesterday I navigated the minefield of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to produce one, and you can purchase it here.

     Unfortunately, I seem to have run afoul of something in the KDP system. It doesn't believe that "Francis W. Porretto" is the same as "Francis Porretto." Most disturbing. But perhaps a quick note to Amazon will straighten that out. Tomorrow, that is; today is for other undertakings. Until then, be well.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Ultimate In Nihilism

     Today, via the esteemed Dystopic, we have an example of the sort of nonsense that spews from the terminally hangdog. If approached in the right frame of mind, it's an incredible spur to hilarity. Here's the meat of the writer's thesis:

     In 2006, I published a book called Better Never to Have Been. I argued that coming into existence is always a serious harm. People should never, under any circumstance, procreate – a position called ‘anti-natalism’.

     Author David Benatar, a "professor of philosophy at the University of Cape Town," is also billed as the "director of the Bioethics Center." One can easily guess what sits at the core of such a "thinker's" bioethics: death. Not that Benatar is alone in his sentiments:

     The idea of anti-natalism is not new. In Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, the chorus declares that ‘not to be born is, beyond all estimation, best’. A similar idea is expressed in Ecclesiastes. In the East, both Hinduism and Buddhism have a negative view of existence (even if they do not often go so far as to oppose procreation). Various thinkers since then have also recognised how pervasive suffering is, which moved them to explicitly oppose procreation: Arthur Schopenhauer might be the most famous, but others include Peter Wessel Zapffe, Emil Cioran and Hermann Vetter.

     It's obviously not a new idea if it was expressed by Sophocles, who wrote five centuries before Christ. But insanity roared from many mouths is still insanity. And who are these other "thinkers?" What have they done for you lately?

     But let's treat with the essay itself, rather than Benatar's attempt to adduce authority to it by citing unknown "thinkers" who agree with him. A few snippets:

     Given how much misfortune there is – all of it attendant on being brought into existence – it would be better if there were not an unbearable lightness of bringing into being....

     Life is simply much worse than most people think....

     [I]t’s obvious that there must be more bad than good....

     Injury occurs quickly but recovery is slow....

     Many desires are never satisfied....

     We have to expend effort to ward off unpleasantness....

     The actual (almost) always falls short of the ideal....

     [I]t is difficult to escape the conclusion that all lives contain more bad than good, and that they are deprived of more good than they contain.

     Needless to say, Benatar has no objective basis for his proclamations. His entire essay ignores the question behind all evaluations: By what standard?

     But the fun doesn't end there.

     The inescapable implication of life inevitably being more bad than good, once that conclusion is reached, is suicide. But Benatar will have none of that:

     Asking whether it would be better never to have existed is not the same as asking whether it would be better to die. There is no interest in coming into existence. But there is an interest, once one exists, in not ceasing to exist.

     And whence does any such "interest" spring? Might it be...from life? But asking a "thinker" a direct and unambiguous question that demands a direct and unambiguous answer is considered dirty pool in "philosophers'" circles. At any rate, Benatar provides a substanceless evasion for the charge of cowardice:

     It can be the case that one’s life was not worth starting without it being the case that one’s life is not worth continuing. If the quality of one’s life is still not bad enough to override one’s interest in not dying, then one’s life is still worth continuing, even though the current and future harms are sufficient to make it the case that one’s life was not worth starting.

     There's that "interest in not dying" again. What's the basis, Professor? If "all lives contain more bad than good, and that they are deprived of more good than they contain" – your own words – what imaginable interest is there in continuing on to experience all that "bad?" The possibility of writing inane essays about the subject? No, no! Benatar tells us that "death is bad." If we leave aside this fresh, standardless evaluation, we are still compelled to ask: What makes death bad? The loss of life, no?

     Of course, the "100% mortality rate" attached to being born is a component in Benatar's landscape of doom:

     Death is the fate of everybody who comes into existence. When you conceive a child, it is just a matter of time until the ultimate injury befalls that child. Many people, at least in times and places where infant mortality is low, are spared witnessing this appalling consequence of their reproduction. That might insulate them against the horror, but they should nonetheless know that every birth is a death in waiting.

     But death is the price we pay for life. If there were no death, life would be impossible. What Benatar has argued here is that because life must end, therefore it should not begin – yet another standardless evaluation to which a sane man, equipped with some sense of reality and necessity, could never agree.

     Being a university professor, Benatar must include a nod to the less explicit anti-natalists:

     It is presumptively wrong to create new beings that are likely to cause significant harm to others.

     Homo sapiens is the most destructive species, and vast amounts of this destruction are wreaked on other humans....The optimists argue that prospective children are unlikely to be among the perpetrators of such evil, and this is true: only a small proportion of children will become perpetrators of the worst barbarities against humans. However, a much larger proportion of humanity facilitates such evils. Persecution and oppression often require the acquiescence or complicity of a multitude of humans.

     Here, Benatar refutes his own argument, though he would never admit it. If there is evil, then there is also good. By Benatar's unspoken standard, the evil outweighs the good, despite the non-mensurability of those things. But that billions of people embrace the concept of good and are willing to work to achieve its comparative form, "better," makes possible human progress. You know, the dynamic that has us living in houses with roofs, walls, windows, and floors instead of caves?

     Perhaps sensing the weakness of the above, Benatar then drones on about our "environmental damage" and "the immense harm that humans do to animals." But I think we can pass that by in safety. He has nothing new or substantial to say on the subject, and what he does say is quite as standardless as his evaluation of the worthiness of life.

     Howler after howler, all of it couched in the sort of pseudointellectual terms required to frame an insane argument as one worthy of consideration, and all of it adroitly constructed to evade the fundamental question: By what standard?

     If it weren't for a single consideration, Benatar's essay would be only one more specimen of the sort of garbage today's universities pay such persons hard cash to produce. But that single consideration looms appallingly large: Benatar's "reasoning" will be applauded, echoed, and used as a justification by the forces I've termed The Death Cults.

     The countermeasure is to laugh. He who can laugh at such pretentious, circular bullshit is armored against it. He who can get others to laugh at it is one of Mankind's unsung benefactors.

     Live, laugh, love, and be happy. Beget others who will live, laugh, and love you for having done so. Remember that you read it here first: as the Curmudgeon Emeritus to the World Wide Web, I decree it to be Immutable Law. "You can trust me, because I never lie, and I'm always right." (Firesign Theater)

     If the universe has any purpose more important than topping a woman you love and making a baby with her hearty help, I have never heard of it. – Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, October 23, 2017

Definitions Of Winning

     The above is probably Donald Trump’s most famous campaign moment. The people at his rallies loved it – and they loved him for it. He had proclaimed a standard by which to judge whether America was advancing that they could understand. It was one that included them, their families, their communities, and the futures of their children.

     Yes, it was extravagant. Yes, it was bombastic. It’s Trump’s rhetorical style...and much to the dismay of his opponents in the Democrat and Republican Parties, the public didn’t turn up its collective nose at his “vulgarity.” Rather, it installed him in the White House.

     Trump had accomplished something that had eluded a great many career politicians: he had tapped the national spirit and embraced it. He had told the voters, “I see winning the way you do, and I’m committed to it.”

     The political class’s media handmaidens were massively unwilling to show the public the excitement Trump had generated:

     Those rallies were a refutation of all their political masters held dear. They could not bear it. More, they could not understand it.

     Trump didn’t have a record of failure for his opponents to run against. He had a record of doing what he said he’d do. He had scored repeated successes in one of the most difficult real-estate markets in the world. Yes, he had suffered losses, but he’d always recovered from them. He was able to make big promises and be believed. That, coupled with his embrace of what the voters hold to be winning, was the fuel that propelled him to the Oval Office. Since he got there, he’s been doing just about exactly as he promised, despite the contrary prognostications of the Establishment.

     In reflecting on the above, please remember that I was dubious about Trump.

     As everyone has his own values, goals, and priorities, everyone has his own definition of winning. Each of us knows pretty well:

  • What matters to him,
  • What he wants that he doesn’t yet have,
  • What he has that he wants to be rid of,
  • And what he’s willing to do, to pay, and to sacrifice to advance toward those goals.

     That’s the nature of individuality. Regardless of what Most People might say, we really are individually motivated and actuated. Yet our commonalities are pretty common.

     For decades Smith has listened to politicians’ promises, and then has watched them fail at best, go back on their words at worst. He’s grown thick calluses over his credulity. His neighbor Jones feels much the same, even though Smith calls himself a liberal and Jones calls himself a conservative. “You can’t trust ‘em” is their shared conviction about the political class.

     One of the consequences has been the diminution of the fraction of the electorate that bothers to vote:

Year % Voter Participation
1900 73.2
1912 58.8
1920 49.2
1932 56.9
1940 62.5
1952 63.3
1960 64.0
1972 55.1
1980 52.8
1992 55.2
2000 61.6
2012 53.8

     The voter unenthused about either of the presidential candidates has a strong chance of staying home. The syndrome is even more pronounced in non-presidential election years, which suggests that the conviction that "they're all thieves" is even stronger at the state, county, and municipal levels.

     What the careerists who make up our political Establishment have banked on is the belief that party alignment matters more than anything – "If you don't elect me, you'll get him." While it does matter somewhat, the perception that the candidate can be trusted to keep his promises and to achieve the results he's promised is far more potent.

     The careerists have come up against a man with a habit of keeping his promises and making good on them, and it dismays and disgusts them. Who does this upstart think he is, anyway?

     For at least a century, the political careerist's definition of winning has been:

  • Get elected.
  • Get re-elected.

     As long as "everyone plays by the same rules," it kept the careerists in power. When an outsider with a track record of success entered the game and defeated them, the Establishment went to its fallback definition of winning: Thwart Trump and his agenda, so that his "trick" would never be used against them again. When you read something mealy-mouthed about how "senior staff" ought to "control" Trump, that's the key to it.

     The elections of 2018 and 2020 are likely to turn on how well Trump resists the attempts to control, block, and defeat him. The careerists, with their quite different definition of winning, have a lot more to lose than he does. They'll play hard. They'll cheat. Some of them are already doing so. But they're fighting uphill. The electorate likes what it's seen so far from the 45th President.

     They're not yet tired of winning. Not at all.