Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Was Quite A Year

     I’m not going to do a event-oriented wrap-up of the year about to end. I think my Gentle Readers have had enough of that already. Besides, I’m sure a lot of other Web writers will produce good ones. That frees me to write about what I prefer.

     Does anyone else remember reading about the “Era of Good Feelings?” The sentiments of national unity and good will President Monroe sought to foster weren’t unanimous, but they were sufficiently widespread to give a defining color to his years in the White House. However, it wasn’t a good time for limited government:

     The era saw a nationalizing trend that envisioned "a permanent federal role in the crucial arena of national development and national prosperity." Monroe's predecessor, President James Madison, and the Republican Party, had come to appreciate – through the crucible of war – the expediency of Federalist institutions and projects, and prepared to legislate them under the auspices of John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay's American System.

     Madison announced this shift in policy with his Seventh Annual Message to Congress in December 1815, subsequently authorizing measures for a national bank and a protective tariff on manufactures. Vetoing the Bonus Bill on strict constructionist grounds, Madison nevertheless was determined, as had been his predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, to see internal improvements implemented with an amendment to the US Constitution. Writing to Monroe, in 1817, Madison declared that, "there has never been a moment when such a proposition to the states was so likely to be approved." The emergence of "new Republicans" – undismayed by mild nationalist policies – anticipated Monroe's "era of good feelings" and a general mood of optimism emerged with hopes for political reconciliation.

     “Internal improvements” – public works projects conceived, funded, and managed by Washington – have long been an entering wedge for federal incursions upon the reserved powers of the states and the wallets of Americans. They were not contemplated by the Founders. They were not authorized by the Constitution. Yet they were generally popular. They took on a momentum of their own during the Monroe Administration.

     Federal involvement in “internal improvements” has become a “but of course” matter. Indeed, the state governments are generally allowed no voice in such decisions. But their popularity remains as it was in Madison’s time.

     Given the booming economy, the removal of a great many intrusive regulations, and the relaxation of various international tensions, the Year of Our Lord 2018 could have inaugurated a new Era of Good Feelings. However, the Left, especially as regards its political arm the Democrat Party, was determined that it should not be so. Leftist mouthpieces have exerted themselves to the utmost to fan the flames of division. At this time hostility among Americans over political differences is more intense than it’s been since the Civil War.

     The great irony here is that by every objective measure, Americans are more tolerant and accepting of differences other than political stances than we’ve ever been before. Political postures are an irrational exception to that tolerance. But then, there are many persons for whom politics has displaced every other kind of affiliation and loyalty. As politics is about the quest for power over others, the malignity of that orientation “should” be “obvious.”

     The paradox frustrates me. If Smith wants to be left alone but Jones wants to control various aspects of Smith’s life and behavior, it seems plain that Jones has a dangerous psychosis. It doesn’t matter whether Jones wants to wield the whip himself or is willing to delegate it to the State. The desire to control others is a sickness. It should be treated as such. Indeed, its extreme form, megalomania, is regarded as a matter for psychiatric treatment.

     But when we mix in the delusion called “democracy,” which many treat as a sacred principle that overrides all other considerations, including rights and justice, we get the bizarre condition we suffer today. That the would-be dictators of the Left can’t produce the majority support they claim to possess makes it stranger still.

     Hatred is easy to inflame, especially among the envious and avaricious. It’s a lot harder to quench.

     And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will. [Luke 2:13-14]

     Peace is only possible to men of good will. Good will excludes hatred. It forbids the use of violence or intimidation. It is the fundamental requirement of social harmony – i.e., of “good feelings.”

     Good will demands the severest possible limitation of the use of coercive power – and therefore, of the reach and power of governments.

     We could have it again. We could be a nation of free, tolerant, prosperous and peaceable men once more. We could enjoy our various vines and fig trees in harmony: the sort of harmony that accepts that we’re not all alike, and that there’s no need to be so. But we can’t have those things without the renascence of good will, with everything that implies.

     I’m a Catholic. I appreciate the importance of hope, and not merely in matters of faith. I refuse to allow the rampant cynicism that has afflicted so many of my countrymen to reave me of my hope. Hope is what makes it possible to look forward. Good will is what makes it possible to move forward.

     Happy New Year, everyone. I’ll see you in 2019. May God bless and keep you all.

That rubbery concept of “climate change.”

A combination of drought and frost brought about by climate change related factors have damaged many of the olive trees [in Azraq, Jordan].[1]
Heat drying up the water and frost damaging the olive trees, all happening at the same time. Excessive heat AND cold together. Yep. “Climate change”!

[1] Caption of photo no. 7 at "'s Best Photos of 2018." By Euna Park,, 12/20/18.

A comment upon which I cannot improve on.

My Mother was a teacher for 40 years.

Very intelligent, bright woman who encouraged kids to think for themselves.

She finally quit\retired early this past year.

Want to know what she told me on her last day?

"The kids today are out of control spoiled brats!! Uhhhhhhhhggggg. They are little selfish monsters. They have no social skills and are rude, arrogant little shits. Good luck with the future, I'm glad I'll be dead."

"Comment by Kurpak on 'I Had To Quit For My Sanity': Teachers Resigning At Highest Rate Ever Recorded.” By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 12/31/18.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Deserving Versus Entitled

     One of the mad fantasies of the post-World War II era is the notion that employees “deserve” an annual raise, irrespective of what they do, how well they do it, or how well the company is doing. Belief in this lunacy is so widespread, and is defended with such vitriol, that even persons who know better normally keep silent about it. But silence, as you know, is not my way.

     To say that you “deserve” something is identical to saying that you’ve “earned” it. But how does one earn more than the wage one has already agreed to accept for his labors? It seems inescapable that it’s a matter for negotiation with one’s employer. That explicit negotiations about it seldom occur these days doesn’t vitiate the argument.

     Earlier this year, President Trump announced that he planned to freeze the pay rates of federal workers other than those in the military. Yesterday he signed an executive order that does so. And of course, the Democrats, the government workers’ unions, and all their allies are up in arms. Their mouthpieces demand to know why federal bureaudrones can’t have the raises they “deserve.” Seldom does anyone challenge the embedded assumption.

     It’s entitlement syndrome from top to bottom: the attitude that because the employee is still “on the job,” he “should” get a raise regardless of any other consideration. Considering how seldom a federal employee actually leaves his job (retirement excepted), that amounts to a claim on a perpetually escalating salary just for remaining at one’s desk, other developments and considerations notwithstanding.

     We private sector types ought to know better. However, in my experience, few of us do.

     Some matters have always struck me as self-evident, a bit like the right to life. But nothing is self-evident to one with entitlement syndrome. Government employees, whose jobs are heavy with opulent benefits, tend toward the extreme of entitlement. Whether because of the incentives involved or more nebulous factors, this employment cohort displays a degree of arrogance about what it “deserves” that would get the lot of them fired from any non-union billet.

     The federal government is bankrupt. Massively insolvent. Unable to service its existing debt without incurring even more debt. An employer in that condition that blindly gives out raises would be regarded as corporately insane. Washington gets away with it through the evil magic of the Federal Reserve system.

     President Trump is not a career politician. As far as I know, he’s never worked for a government of any level. When he sees a huge and steadily increasing debt, he has the rational reaction of any private sector employer: cut costs. And employee salaries are always the biggest cost.

     What drives the spear home is that a great many federal employees are officially classified non-essential. It’s a designation I’d have hated to wear when I was working for wages. How can a “non-essential” employee be entitled to a raise as a matter of right? It makes approximately no sense...which, at least, is consistent with the degree of sense 90% of federal activity makes.

     Just now, those “non-essential” employees are on furlough due to the partial government shutdown. We in the private sector haven’t so much as hiccoughed over it, but of course the Democrats and the government workers’ unions are in a state of apoplexy over it. Clearly there’s a “problem” to be “solved” here, and as the Curmudgeon Emeritus to the World Wide Web it naturally falls to me to solve it. My prescription?

Ignore them.
They’re entitled to nothing.

     Happy New Year.


CSO: Tomorrow, no deodorant, no powder...
FWP: Hm? Why no deodorant?

CSO: I’m going for my annual boob shots. [NB: That’s how Beth refers to her yearly mammogram.] Boob shots and ultrasound.
FWP: That would be a great name for an all-girl band, you know.

CSO: Hm?
FWP: “Boobie Shott and the Ultra-Sounds.” Sort of a futuro-psychedelic RiotGrrl sound. The Bangles in foil jumpsuits and laser bras.

CSO: I like it, I like it! Let’s spread it around. Maybe someone will use it!
FWP: Hell, I might use it!

     And I have, as you can see here.

Yours for a mere $500,000.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Technological Obsolescence

     [A short story for you today. Do any of my Gentle Readers remember the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Printer’s Devil?” It aired on February 28, 1963, so you can easily be forgiven for not remembering it. In it Burgess Meredith played Smith, a linotypist who saves a failing newspaper. He does so by enchanting the paper’s linotype machine, such that any story it formats will come true. It develops that Smith is actually Satan himself.

     The recollection got me thinking: What would Satan do today, linotype being an obsolete, all but forgotten technology used by very few papers?

     (Copyright (C) 2018 by Francis W. Porretto. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.)

     J. Walter Housely had no pride. Those who knew him well often jibed that he’d had it surgically removed, lest it interfere with his chosen occupation. It might well have been so, for Housely was the proprietor and editor-in-chief of the Midnight Clarion, a publication whose contents could not have been produced by a staff, nor approved by an editor, that possessed a scintilla of pride.

     The Clarion, you see, was not a newspaper in the traditional sense. It was an entertainment tabloid, a paper for those who like their entertainment...lurid. And lurid the Clarion most dutifully provided, every Saturday morning.

     A typical issue would feature a four-color “photo” of events that that had not happened, had never happened, and hopefully never will happen, over a headline that screamed in 120-point font. Some of its more recent proclamations:


     It promulgated these headlines as “news.” Perhaps some of its readers took the claims as honest. Given the facility Americans have developed for lying to interviewers and survey takers with a perfectly straight face, no one could know for sure.

     Housely had a problem. The Clarion’s subscriber base was dwindling. The mechanism was old age: the average age of its readers was 78, and had been advancing for almost a year per year for a decade. Present trends continuing, another year would reduce the Clarion’s paid circulation below the point at which Housely could afford to keep it running.

     It wasn’t about pride. It was about money. Housely was barely fifty and had no skills outside those required to run the Clarion. Though single and not unattractive, he was unlikely to find a single, marriage-minded millionairess willing to keep him in the style to which he’d become accustomed. So his future comfort depended on keeping the Clarion afloat.

     The problem wasn’t Housely’s alone. The Clarion’s two competitors in the scandal and fancy industry, the Weekly Star and the World Examiner, were up against the same demographic stops. The three could coexist only because a reader of any one of them was almost guaranteed to be a reader of the other two. All of them dangled from the same slender threads of irreplaceable antique equipment, imaginative content producers, rapidly aging subscriber lists, and hope.

     The problem was much on his mind when the visitor appeared before his desk.


     “Mr. Housely?”

     The visitor’s voice was soft, gently inflected. In another era it would have been called cultured. It pulled Housely’s attention away from his balance sheet for the first time that day.

     The visitor was unremarkable of appearance...except that something about him spoke of power. He appeared to be in his middle fifties, stood a little below average height, had brown eyes and a full shock of brown hair. His waistcoat, baggy slacks, and plaid bow tie belonged in the 1930s at the very latest. He stood with his hands clasped at his waist.

     Housely swiftly assessed the man. Perhaps he’s got money. He donned his editor-in-chief smile.

     “Yes, can I help you?”

     “Perhaps,” the visitor said. He returned the smile. “My name is Smith. I notice that your paper still uses linotype. It’s heartening to find a publication that still produces itself that way. You see,” he said, “I’m a linotypist. The best in the world.”

     Damn. He’s looking for work.

     “Well,” Housely said, “I’m pleased that you’re...heartened, but I already have a linotypist, and I’m afraid I have no need for another. But thank you for your interest.” He started to rise.

     Smith raised a hand. Nothing more, just the usual little flip that says give me a moment longer. Housely sat as if compelled by an irresistible force.

     “I’m not exaggerating my prowess, Mr. Housely. I’m the best. So much better than anyone else who’s ever sat before a linotype machine that there’s no comparison. It’s not just a matter of speed or accuracy, though I excel at both. I have an extra skill that no other linotypist has ever had or ever will.”

     Housely was used to bombast. It was his stock in trade. Smith’s self-exaltation was new only in the occupation of the man who professed it. He smiled and shook his head gently.

     “Unless your...extra skill can bring the Clarion legions of new readers, I’m afraid it would be of no use to me. So you see—”

     Smith smiled. “But it would. Would you allow me to demonstrate it?”

     He’s persistent, give him that. Oh, what the hell. It’s not like I have a hot date waiting.

     Housely rose and ushered Smith into the production room.


     Smith stood admiring the old linotype machine for a moment before settling in on its operator’s seat.

     “A venerable but excellent example of the technology,” he said as he cracked his knuckles and surveyed the controls. “Many of its contemporaries are in trash heaps today. A great pity, really. There should be an old-machines’ home for them. Perhaps,” he said as he smiled over his shoulder at Housely, “with the extra revenues my skill will bring you, you’ll be the one to found it!”

     Housely restrained his impatience, smiled and nodded. “Please proceed.”

     “Ah, but first we need a story, Mr. Housely. Something juicy, as is the Clarion’s métier. But not too juicy. Just enough to convince you that I’m not kidding about my special skill. Say, what’s the name of that young Scotsman who’s currently tearing up the Ryder Cup competition with his incredible putting? Ian Westlake, isn’t it?”

     “I believe so,” Housely said.

     “If I’m not mistaken he’s on the links at St. Andrews as we speak, isn’t he?” Smith said. “Wouldn’t it be something if his putting skill were to desert him right now?” And he set his fingers to the keys.

     It seemed to Housely that only a moment later Smith pulled a proof sheet from behind the linotype and handed it to him. The headline was Clarion screechy:

Westlake Can’t Putt!
     Ian Westlake, who has dominated the previous rounds of this year’s Ryder Cup with his amazingly accurate putting, has suddenly and inexplicably lost his touch. His last four attempts at a putt that would have been easily within his demonstrated skills haven’t just missed the cup; they’ve been embarrassments. One flew nearly seventy yards past the cup. Another rolled in the opposite direction. The third and fourth took veering, wobbling courses that circled the cup before making right-angle turns and rolling off the green.
     When Westlake lined up his putt at the sixth hole, the shaft of his putter snapped, apparently from hitting the green. He straightened, announced his immediate withdrawal from the match, and has not been seen since.

     “Now,” Smith said to the incredulous Housely, “where’s the nearest television?”


     SportsChannel covered Westlake’s momentous embarrassment in real time. There was no possibility of a spoof or put-on. The Scots phenom had failed in the most humiliating way any sportsman could suffer. The commentators speculated openly about the possibility that he might leave golf for good.

     Housely could only gape.

     “Your special” he croaked.

     Smith smiled. “Yes. Exactly. With me as your linotypist, the Clarion would become a true newspaper. Everything it reports would be accurate down to the smallest detail. And your stories would be more up-to-the-minute than anyone else’s. You’d scoop the Times and the Post with every story you publish, each and every day!”

     He spread his arms in celebration of journalistic glory to come. “And imagine the fun your content people would have! These stories they produce would go from absurd flights of imagination to hard, cold reality! They could write about earthquakes in Brazil, or massive bird attacks in Prussia, or a real alien invasion in Fairlawn, New Jersey, and whatever they wrote would come true! None of your competitors—” Smith halted and studied Housely’s expression. “Oh, excuse me, you’re not used to thinking of other papers as your competitors, are you?”

     Housely shook his head.

     “Well, you will from now on,” Smith said. “And they’ll think of you as their ultimate nemesis. Every minute of every day.” He smiled. “Will you have me as your linotypist, Mr. Housely?”

     “Salary?” Housely croaked.

     Smith shook his head. “By now you should have realized that I don’t require any such thing.”

     Housely thought furiously.

     He could save the Clarion. He could destroy every other news medium in existence. He could make me the emperor of journalism. He could—

     “Mr. Smith,” he said slowly, “would you mind giving me a day to ponder your...offer? I’d like to sleep on it, if you can stand a brief delay in taking a position here.”

     Smith spread his hands in acceptance of the request. “Of course, Mr. Housely. Shall I return at the same time tomorrow?”

     “Yes,” Housely said, “that would be entirely adequate.” He fought down a tide of terror and offered the linotypist his hand. They shook.

     Housely waited at his office window until Smith was nowhere in sight, then summoned the entire Clarion staff to his office and waited until all thirty-five of his employees had crowded into the room.

     “Friends,” he said, “I’m afraid a terrible moment is upon us. A moment I had hoped to avert: the closing of our beloved Clarion. Today was our last day of operation, and the last issue was the last we’ll ever print. You’ll each be paid in full for the current pay period, and I’ll provide you—any of you that wants one—with my warmest recommendation and assessment of your skills. I can’t express how sad I am that we’ll be parting company, have forced my hand.”

     The faces were uniformly dismayed.

     “No white knights, boss?” one of the content boys said.

     “Sadly, no,” Housely said. “Not that I haven’t searched high and low for one. But it’s not to be.” He came out from behind his desk and methodically shook the hand of each of his employees. “In fact, I’ve arranged to dispose of the building with all its equipment. Tomorrow morning it will all other hands. So make sure you’ve gathered up all your personal possessions before you make your exit. This is the end, my friends. Godspeed to all of you.”

     He sent them on their way with the most sincere smile he could manage.


     The ten five gallon jerry cans made a snug fit in the back of Housely’s Explorer. He rubbed his lower back two-handedly from the strain of filling and stowing them, then mounted the driver’s seat and ignited the engine. The pump attendant watched him curiously as he drove away.

     The Clarion comes first, of course. I can probably do the Weekly Star immediately after, but the World Examiner will have to wait until tomorrow. Thank God no other rag still uses linotype, just us scandal and fancy peddlers.

     I just have to hope that Paul and Wes will forgive me. I think God will.

     Strange to have an attack of ethics so late in life. Better late than never, I suppose.

     He pulled into the Clarion’s parking lot, parked and debarked from his Explorer, unloaded two jerry cans from the rear, and toted them to the building’s front doors with the stride of decision.


The Oldest Trick Redux

     During the confirmation hearings over then-Justice-nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I wrote this:

     One unverifiable allegation of misconduct from a dubious source hasn’t been enough to sink the Kavanaugh nomination. However, it was enough to delay proceedings, temporarily keeping Kavanaugh off the Court. The Democrats consider that a sufficient success to be worth repeating the tactic. And why shouldn’t they? Delay sufficiently prolonged is indistinguishable from defeat.

     Once again, the late, undervalued though immeasurably insightful C. Northcote Parkinson is on the case:

     The theory of ND [Negation by Delay] depends upon establishing a rough idea of what amount of delay will equal negation. If we suppose that a drowning man calls for help, evoking the reply ‘in due course,’ a judicious pause of five minutes may constitute, for all practical purposes, a negative response. Why? Because the delay is greater than the non-swimmer’s expectation of life....Delays are thus deliberately designed as a form of denial and are extended to cover the life-expectation of the person whose proposal is being pigeon-holed. Delay is the deadliest form of denial.

     As regards Judge Brett Kavanaugh, endless delay would be the Democrats’ grand prize, effectively preventing his nomination from ever receiving a vote. However, they can’t rely upon any single stroke toward delaying the vote as “conclusive.” They must mount a barrage of nebulous accusations, each of which can “justify” demands for further investigation, negotiations over the terms of testimony, and the like. This will ensure that when the steam has bled out of the current “controversy” there are other shots in the magazine, ready to be fired.

     It really is the oldest trick in the book. Don’t say “no,” outright; that sounds stubborn, unpleasant. Say “Just wait a minute,” and keep saying it until your adversary throws up his hands and walks away. Then you can claim the field by default.

     It’s shocking how many people have to be told that, rather than grasping it intuitively. But “the trick” is so widely applicable that it can crop up almost anywhere.

     Have a little more “denial by delay:”

     Josilyn Goodall is suing the Worcester School Committee, Superintendent Maureen Binienda, and the state Department of Children and Families after police entered her home, handcuffed her, and arrested her over what amounted to a paperwork dispute.

     According to the lawsuit, Goodall is seeking unspecified compensatory damages for the violation of her Constitutional rights and for the “mental pain and suffering” inflicted upon her and her son.

     The lawsuit details Goodall’s multiple attempts to contact the Superintendent after filing paperwork in January saying she was going to homeschool her son. She said she never got a response to any of her phone calls or emails.

     In Massachusetts, parents who wish to homeschool their children must submit an education plan to the superintendent of the local school system for approval. However, according to Care and Protection of Charles (1987), the court case upon which homeschool legal precedent was established, the burden of proof is on the school to show that the homeschool program is insufficient.

     The lawsuit further alleges that the Worcester School Committee’s homeschool policy is unlawful, in that it requires students to continue attending public school until the education plan is approved. Charles allows for homeschooling to begin as soon as the plan has been submitted.

     [Emphases added by FWP.]

     State educrats are unanimously hostile to homeschooling, and not just in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. Money and power are involved, and no one in any bureaucracy lets those things slip away without a fight. But the relevant court decisions, especially Pierce v. Society of Sisters, affirm the right of parents to determine who shall educate their children, regardless of educrats’ contentions to the contrary.

     So Massachusetts’ educrats adopted delaying tactics to prevent Josilyn Goodall from exercising her right to homeschool her son. They simply declined to issue the legally required approval or disapproval of her submitted education plan. Then they invoked one of the State’s most ominous weapons – intimidation by cop – to attempt to frighten Miss Goodall into returning her son to their “care.”

     What’s most angering about this case is how unlikely it is that any individual in the Massachusetts educracy will suffer even the slightest penalty for such terror tactics. That’s in the nature of delay as a form of denial. Those who practice that tactic can always plead that “we were overloaded and hadn’t managed to get to it yet” as an exculpation of their blatant malice.

     The Left is big on denial by delay, and getting bigger by the second.

     I have a good friend, an entirely respectable fellow who owns and operates a successful construction firm, who applied for a handgun permit more than three years ago. He hasn’t heard a single word from the police bureau responsible for acting on such applications over that period. At this point he’s ceased to expect that he ever will.

     New York State is hostile to the private ownership of weapons, as anyone familiar with our firearms laws will attest. But there’s that nasty Second Amendment to cope with, so the police can’t simply refuse a permit application. Neither can they arbitrarily reject one without giving a reason. So they practice denial by delay. Apparently there’s no countermeasure.

     Moreover, he who naively applies for a handgun permit here on Long Island will be told to expect a long delay. The delay usually cited to a new applicant is “at least eight months.” Why “eight months?” The “at least” part really means “you could be in the grave before we decide on your application,” so why bother to cite any particular interval at all?

     Without the permit, a New Yorker who dares to acquire a handgun is immediately a felon, regardless of what he might then do with it. Even keeping it locked in a safe in his home would be illegal under New York State law. Using it to defend himself or his spouse against an intruder would expose him to even worse legal hazards.

     Now read this story about a fearful young mother and the off-duty cop who aided her. That heartwarming encounter couldn’t happen in New York...but the home invasion that young mother feared is getting more commonplace every day.

     Ultimately the problem is one of accountability. Governments have many techniques by which to shield the individuals they employ from being held accountable for their misfeasances, their nonfeasances, and their malfeasances. As long as those techniques protect the guilty, denial by delay, along with many other specimens of government misbehavior, will flourish.

     What, then, must we do? I have no answers on this 363rd day of 2018. Do you?

Friday, December 28, 2018

Quickies: This Is Why I Always Go Armed

     On the day after Christmas, a couple of black savages decided to start an altercation in a Connecticut mall, with a couple of white girls who, it seems, were merely attempting to shop at a Journeys store. It escalated into a gigantic fight, involving 200 to 300 people, that required police intervention.

     Don’t take my word for it. Watch the video.

     Black parents resolutely refuse to take their young in hand, teach them the decorum required to survive in a predominantly civilized society, and discipline them when they transgress. Then this sort of thing happens...and when the young thugs are arrested, suddenly it’s an “overreaction” by the police.

     Yet people continue to ask me why I call myself a racist.

Quickies: Not A Passing Grade

     If you want people to accept you as a woman, you had jolly well better appear and sound to them like a woman:

     This...person, who apparently wants to be accepted as female, has not put in the study or effort required to pass as female. The clerk’s reaction is quite natural. So he / she / whatever gets on his / her / whatever’s high horse about it, when all the fault properly belongs to him / her / whatever.

     This is not what I would call a compelling advertisement for the necessary tolerance of those “whom the finger of Allah hath touched.”

     Tolerance can only extend so far.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Maddest Fantasy

     Good morning, Gentle Reader. I’m in an economic-history mood just now, so I hope you’re prepared to go a little further off the beaten track than Liberty’s Torch usually goes – though let it be said that I and my Co-Contributors aren’t exactly “mainstream commentators” even at our staidest moments.

     The word for the day is mercantilism. Have you ever heard it? Do you know what it means? If so, do you know the historical context in which it arose?

     The usual answers to those questions are all negatives. Mercantilism as a subject of economic inquiry died out a couple of centuries ago, though the mercantilist attitude resurfaces every now and then, to the detriment of men and nations. Here’s a pretty decent definition:

     [A] system of political and economic policy, evolving with the modern national state and seeking to secure a nation's political and economic supremacy in its rivalry with other states. According to this system, money was regarded as a store of wealth, and the goal of a state was the accumulation of precious metals, by exporting the largest possible quantity of its products and importing as little as possible, thus establishing a favorable balance of trade. [Emphases added by FWP.]

     I must inject that modern in the above definition should be read as post-Westphalian. Mercantilism as national policy had no advocates before the emergence of the modern nation-state. That required the agreements in the Treaties of Osnabrück and Münster, which are the foundation of the contemporary conception of sovereignty.

     For the great powers of post-Renaissance Europe to agree on the cuius regio, eius religio principle, the absence of which had kept them at war for many decades, certain significant changes had to be made to the most fundamental of all political matters: what institutions shall have the privilege of making war. The Westphalian agreements established that only sovereign powers – i.e., the agreed-upon monarchs of nations – would have that privilege. Private armies would henceforward be outlawed, and the use of military force by lesser nobles would be treated as treasonous.

     With the elevation of sovereignty to an internationally recognized condition came something that could not have been practiced before it: state interference in commerce. Monarchs began to meddle in production and trade, usually at the behest of commercial powers that had ingratiated themselves with the royal house.

     Return for moment to the definition of mercantilism above. Review the first emphasized clause. I did that for a reason.

     Economic thought from Smith and Pareto all the way to contemporary Austrians and Friedmanites has emphasized the value of absolutely free trade. And indeed, in no case imaginable is absolutely free trade inferior to any variety or degree of government intrusion. Yet government intrusion in international trade has been the rule. It’s the rule today. Why?

     The simple answer, which is entirely adequate, is that sovereigns have been induced to look upon international trade as a win-or-lose proposition. That requires a static view of such trade: i.e., the ability to “halt the carousel and declare that the ride is over,” without regard for the relentless continuation of time. It also requires a considerable myopia about the nature of money.

     As I’ve written innumerable times, money is a medium of exchange and a store of value. Simple words, but what do they mean in the context of international trade?

     Money, regardless of whether it’s commodity-based or fiat, is not wealth. That is: the possession of a great quantity of money does not automatically make the possessor well off. There must be goods and services available for purchase with that money – and unless the possessor is willing to make those purchases, his money is valueless. The “favorable balance of trade” sought in mercantilist theory neglects this aspect of money.

     Instructive in this regard is the story of Hetty Howland Green, “the Witch of Wall Street.” This woman amassed an enormous monetary fortune in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries...but lived in a degree of penury almost unimaginable today. She was unwilling to spend a penny she could not somehow contrive to retain:

     Hetty Green's stinginess was legendary. She was said never to turn on the heat or use hot water. She wore one old black dress and undergarments that she changed only after they had been worn out, did not wash her hands and rode in an old carriage. She ate mostly pies that cost fifteen cents. One tale claims that Green spent half a night searching her carriage for a lost stamp worth two cents. Another asserts that she instructed her laundress to wash only the dirtiest parts of her dresses (the hems) to save money on soap.

     Green conducted much of her business at the offices of the Seaboard National Bank in New York, surrounded by trunks and suitcases full of her papers; she did not want to pay rent for her own office. Later unfounded rumors claimed that she ate only oatmeal, heated on the office radiator. Possibly because of the stiff competition of the mostly male business environment and partly because of her usually dour dress (due mainly to frugality, but perhaps in part related to her Quaker upbringing), she was given the nickname, the "Witch of Wall Street".

     She was a successful businesswoman who dealt mainly in real estate, invested in railroads and mines, and lent money while acquiring numerous mortgages. The City of New York came to Green for loans to keep the city afloat on several occasions, most particularly during the Panic of 1907; she wrote a check for $1.1 million and took her payment in short-term revenue bonds. Keenly detail-oriented, she would travel thousands of miles alone—in an era when few women would dare travel unescorted—to collect a debt of a few hundred dollars.

     Green entered the lexicon of turn-of-the-century America with the popular phrase, "I'm not Hetty if I do look green." O. Henry used this phrase in his 1890s story "The Skylight Room" when a young woman, negotiating the rent on a room in a rooming house owned by an imperious old lady, wishes to make it clear she is neither as rich as she appears nor as naive.

     Her frugality extended to family life. When her son Ned broke his leg as a child, Hetty tried to have him admitted to a free clinic for the poor. Mythic accounts have her storming away after being recognized; her biographer Slack says that she paid her bill and took her son to other doctors. His leg did not heal properly and, after years of treatment, it had to be amputated.

     Regardless of her bank balance, no sane man would regard Hetty Green as “wealthy.”

     Compare the above story of Hetty Green to mercantilism in international trade. When all the monies of the world were backed by some commodity – usually either gold or silver – the mercantilist approach to economics regarded “a favorable balance of trade” – i.e., the quantity of money in “the nation’s” hands – as its “score” in the game of international trade. The objective was to maximize that “score.” Once again: why?

     He who holds a static view would argue that a large national monetary balance equates to economic power: the ability to secure favorable terms on future purchases. But what does that mean? And what are its implications for the mercantilist policy of “export lots, import little” that preceded such purchases?

     The lunacy of mercantilism’s premise that “money is wealth” could not be plainer. Yet nearly every country on Earth nods to such thinking to some degree, usually with import tariffs. The greatest demonstration of such thinking and its consequences arrived with the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. This extremely punitive tariff affected a great many imported products, and provoked retaliatory tariffs from America’s international trading partners. Those tariffs guaranteed a worldwide depression.

     Yet the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was by no rationale “necessary.” It was not itself a retaliation for tariffs imposed by other nations. Rather, it was at base an attempt to protect the relatively young Federal Reserve system from exposure for its fraudulent nature. As an analysis of that dynamic would take thousands of words, I’ll save the subject for another day.

     A tariff must always be answered with a counter-tariff. The failure to do so creates an imbalance that can destroy the affected industries in the-non-retaliating nation. That can put powerful upward pressures on both inflation and welfarism. Ironically, both those measures deepen and prolong the problems they purport to address. For testimony, we have the New Deal.

     To sum up this brief exposition: Money is not wealth. The belief that money is wealth is a species of insanity. Neither is “a favorable balance of trade” favorable to anyone except the companies whose products are “protected” by mercantilist policy. Those companies make out like bandits at the expense of the rest of us. That a government should put itself in league with such companies says nothing good about the policymakers within that government. Either they know nothing about economics or economic history, or their decisions are driven by corrupt, venal motives.

     More anon.

Back From Tech Siberia

I've been visiting family, and too busy for getting online, except for brief periods. Mostly, I've used my phone to check mail, messages, etc. The place we stayed for most of the holiday is one in which the homeowner still uses dial-up.

AOL, I think.

Most of my news came filtered through the standard media - for 3 days, HARD COPY.

I know. How retro.

Big changes at my house. My husband is changing his job (going to work in SC). By doing so, he will secure his retirement, and vest it, within a month or so.

We're looking at getting our house ready, over the next year or two, to be put on the market. He wants to move back to the general Cleveland area.

And, I did, after all, read from the Book of Ruth at our wedding - "whither thous goest," and all that. Who knew it would take me to over 25 moves in my married life?

I have a lot of practice in making new friends. He was the one who had the easy "work friends". I was the one who had to accommodate to new neighborhoods, helping my kids adjust to being the "new kid" again, and unpacking - a LOT of unpacking. Sometimes, I would not get to the stuff I would stash in an attic, basement, or garage, before it was time to pack up again.

At one point, I fell into a deep depression. I found myself unable to even care about the process one more time. Fortunately, a very sweet lady took me under her wing, and got me back on my feet and functioning again. God love people like that - just pure Christian Love.

In some ways, it will be a good move - towards family, not away. It's just the two of us, and most of my work is portable. It will likely be a harder adjustment for him, if he follows through with his plan to retire.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Scenes We’d Like To See Dept.

     Recently a nominee to the federal bench, Brian C. Buescher, was interrogated by a couple of Democrat senators thus:

     In written questions sent to Buescher by committee members Dec. 5, Sen. Hirono stated that “the Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions. For example, it was reportedly one of the top contributors to California’s Proposition 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage.”

     Hirono then asked Buescher if he would quit the group if he was confirmed “to avoid any appearance of bias.”

     “The Knights of Columbus does not have the authority to take personal political positions on behalf of all of its approximately two million members,” Buescher responded.

     “If confirmed, I will apply all provisions of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges regarding recusal and disqualification,” he said.

     And also thus:

     In her questions to the nominee, Sen. [Kamala] Harris described the Knights as “an all-male society” and asked if Buescher was aware that the Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he joined.

     Responding to the senator’s questions, Buescher confirmed that he has been a member of the Knights since he was 18 years old, noting that his membership “has involved participation in charitable and community events in local Catholic parishes.”

     “I do not recall if I was aware whether the Knights of Columbus had taken a position on the abortion issue when I joined at the age of 18,” he wrote in response.

     Harris raised a statement from Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, who said that abortion constituted “the killing of the innocent on a massive scale” and asked Buescher if he agreed with Anderson.

     Buescher said he was not responsible for drafting statements or policies made by the Knights and that, as a federal judge, he would consider himself bound by judicial precedent regarding abortion.

     Brian Buescher, who might be a superb jurist, has nevertheless disappointed me greatly. He’s a Knight of Columbus and a Catholic – surprise, surprise – which means the above waffling responses ought never to have occurred. Here’s how those questions should have been met:

     Hirono: In 2014, you ran for the Republican nomination for Nebraska Attorney General. In the course of that campaign, you made a number of statements demonstrating your opposition to women’s reproductive rights. In an interview with the Nebraska Family Alliance, for instance, you said that “unfortunately, under Roe v. Wade, it is not possible to ban abortion right now.” During the same interview, you called yourself “an avidly pro-life person” and said that you would “not compromise on that issue,” noting it was “simply [your] moral fabric.”...Do you believe that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided?

     Buescher: No.

     Harris: Since 1993, you have been a member of the Knights of Columbus, an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men. In 2016, Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus, described abortion as “a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths.” Mr. Anderson went on to say that “abortion is the killing of the innocent on a massive scale.” Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?

     Buescher: Yes.

     Harris: Do you agree with Mr. Anderson that abortion is “the killing of the innocent on a massive scale”?

     Buescher: Yes.

     Period. Full stop. END OF SENTENCE. Other answers are unworthy of a Catholic, to say nothing of a Knight of Columbus in good standing.

     The questions, as posed – and I copied them verbatim from the written-questions document – are about Buescher’s personal convictions, not about what he would do on the federal bench. Apparently he’s too avid for the judgeship for which he’s been nominated to be fearlessly candid about his Catholicism.

Abortion and the heterosexual nature of marriage are two of the five “non-negotiables” decreed by the Vatican:
     1. Abortion

     The Church teaches that, regarding a law permitting abortions, it is "never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it" (EV 73). Abortion is the intentional and direct killing of an innocent human being, and therefore it is a form of homicide. The unborn child is always an innocent party, and no law may permit the taking of his life. Even when a child is conceived through rape or incest, the fault is not the child's, who should not suffer death for others' sins....

     5. Homosexual "Marriage"

     True marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Legal recognition of any other union as "marriage" undermines true marriage, and legal recognition of homosexual unions actually does homosexual persons a disfavor by encouraging them to persist in what is an objectively immoral arrangement. "When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time ina legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral"

     Waffling as Buescher did on two “non-negotiable” positions of the Church is tantamount to saying “Well, yeah, I’m a Catholic, but I don’t put a lot of stock in the crazy parts.”

     We have a president who’s fearless and candid about his convictions. Is it too much to ask for judicial nominees who, however bound by Supreme Court precedents they may be, are fearless and candid about theirs? Among other things, imagine the looks on the faces of such Democrat terror-mongers when they get exactly the responses they thought they wanted. Imagine them having to defend their religious biases in light of the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause, or their enthusiasm about the slaughter of unborn children to a nation that’s still 74% Christian. I, at least, would be delighted.

     Happy Boxing Day.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Not something you hear a lot about:
The U.S. Chamber is a massive wrecking ball, bringing destruction to our democracy through its multipronged efforts of lobbying, secret money campaign finance spending. It and other groups representing massive corporate and billionaire funds have caused tremendous damage to our democracy.
The membership of the Chamber is a closely guarded secret if memory serves me. This article explains why.

"Fed Up With the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Anti-Democracy Activities? So is an Ambitious New Coalition." By Craig Sandler, Chamber Watch, 11/13/18.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

So THAT’s why!

3. A key reason for Illinois’ loss in population is its continuous stream of residents leaving the state.
"Illinois Suffers Record Population Loss In 2018: 5th Straight Annual Loss." By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 12/21/18.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Hit Bottom And Keep Digging Dept.

     If I were asked to concoct a program that would permanently extinguish all possibility that American Negroes would ever rise to the attainments of American Caucasians, I would set to work on destroying their ability to communicate with whites.

     If Smith cannot communicate intelligibly with Jones, the two will not be able to interact in any meaningful way. They won’t be able to buy from one another or sell to one another. They won’t be able to collaborate on any project of mutual interest. They won’t be able to resolve any disputes between them. Indeed, Smith will be incapable of telling others anything sensible about Jones, and vice versa.

     It would produce a permanent state of unease between them.

     Now imagine the problem in eight digits: the 40 million or so American blacks unable to communicate with the 270 million American whites. Given that trade in a large and varied market and the ability to get along peaceably with the majority of one’s neighbors are absolute requirements if one wants to prosper and be safe, what do you think would ensue?

     Facility of communication is the basis of a harmonious society.

     Regard the following, which I found at Power Line this morning:

     Grading Ain’t Just Grading: Rethinking Writing Assessment—Ecologies Towards Antiracist Ends

     Asao B. Inoue
     February 1st, 2019



     9:45 AM -11:00 AM
     MGC 3-5

     Open to all faculty who preregister

     This plenary will argue against the use of conventional standards in college courses that grade student writing by single standards. Inoue will discuss the ways that White language supremacy is perpetuated in college classrooms despite the better intentions of faculty, particularly through the practices of grading writing.

     Take a moment to ponder the utter, vicious psychopathy of the notion that the writing of college students of whatever race should not be graded according to a uniform standard. Aren’t the implications of such a policy as plain as mud? Isn’t the outcome of a state of affairs in which black Americans cannot communicate intelligible with white Americans easy to foresee?

     Now ask yourself what the motives of the persons who’ve proposed such a state of affairs must be. Take your time; I’ll wait right here.

     Given Asao B. Inoue’s name, I expected him to be non-white. However, his official photo is ambiguous. So this...person, whose self-description runs thus:

     I do research that investigates racism in writing assessments (e.g. writing programs, writing placement, etc.), which includes classroom writing assessments. About half of my work is theoretical, while the other half is empirical in nature. I've published articles and chapters on validity, classroom writing assessment, grading contracts, assessment as rhetoric, reflection practices, failure in writing assessments, among other things. In the past, I've paid close attention to the Hmong racial formation and their writing and reflection practices. promulgating a development in college writing assessment that would utterly cripple the communications capabilities, and therefore the futures, of American blacks, most of whom reach college with below-par language abilities because of the lack of attention to such things in the government-run schools. He has a doctorate in “Rhetoric and Composition.” He’s published articles and books. He’s holding seminars. He’s apparently getting respectful attention from his “colleagues.” And he’s proposing a change to higher-educational grading standards that would completely isolate American blacks from their white countrymen.

     You couldn’t do as much damage to the prospects of American blacks with tanks and artillery. If I were black, I’d regard him as my race’s worst enemy. I have to wonder: who’s backing him? Who is it who thinks his prescription is a good thing, socially?

     Whoever it is that’s propelling this man’s lunacies, I want him caught and hanged.

     Perhaps you remember the promotion of Ebonics a couple of decades back. It was seriously proposed at some schools on the West Coast that Ebonics be recognized as valid language to be shown respect equal to standard American English in primary and secondary education. While the public foofaurauw died down after a while, as a de facto matter this has been the treatment of urban black street dialect for at least twenty years. It correlates strongly with the amplification of racial tensions in the United States.

     I’ll say it a second time: Facility of communication is the basis of a harmonious society. But our “educators,” the majority of whom deserve to be hung upside-down by their genitals and beaten with staves, have permitted the vulnerable children of American blacks to become isolated from their white coevals. The situation does not improve with age. Rather, it intensifies, because the young black has been confined socially to those with whom he can communicate.

     I’ve seen enough mindlessness in my sixty-six years to persuade me that unthinking stupidity in institutional policymaking is the rule rather than the exception. Recent developments have only strengthened that opinion. But I can distinguish between stupidity and unmitigated evil. The subject of this piece belongs in the latter category.

     Power Line’s Steve Hayward has this to say:

     [N]othing will marginalize a struggling student more than telling them they are exempt from academic canons of excellence and achievement. But this is the Orwellian world of higher education today, where the real racists parade under the banner of anti-racism.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

An Announcement

     Thanks to Chris Blake and Linda Fox, the:

League of Outlaw Bloggers being revived. In support of that effort, I’ll be posting my shorter emissions over there until further notice. (Liberty’s Torch will still be where the interminable essays appear.)

Stark truth in one sentence.

The neoconservative and interventionist borg blew it when it tried to use the temporary U.S. position in Syria against ISIS to goad Trump into a conflict with Iran . . . .[1]
The anti-Iran background noise doesn’t rise to the same deafening level as the anti-Russian foreground noise but it’s a constant, like a burr in one’s sock. Iranians were jerks when the mullahs took over but didn’t then and don’t now have a lock on bad actions. They were not the ones who started a war in Syria that caused hundreds of thousands of lives and great suffering and destruction. We and our putative “allies” did that and not for any reason that had one damn thing to do with any national interest of the United States, vital or otherwise.

It’s not the Iranians who trouble me but the legions of educated fools inside America who despise traditional America and spit on the Constitution twice before breakfast just to start the day off right. It’s they who are flooding the U.S. with resentful, parasitic, criminal, subversive, arrogant, and/or supremacist people from the third-world. Iran has nothing to do with that. They are destroying America, not Iranians.

Note: b contributes a lot with his blog, Moon of Alabama, and would appreciate any financial support you can provide.

[1] "Why Trump Decided To Remove U.S. Troops From Syria." By b, Moon of Alabama, 12/20/18.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

This is ONE Way to Look at the Hardships of Winter

I lived in a Northern climate most of my life. Only after 2005 did I experience the difference that a Southern latitude makes in your life.

First, it's warmer. Duh. Well, that has to be said, as the warm is QUITE warm in the summer - as in, I'm not stirring from my house for days because it's too hot and muggy, and my energy just leaks out when I put a foot outside, even in the evening.

Storms are a MAJOR concern - not just because you might get some damage to your house or car. It's worse - MUCH worse.

The electricity (and the AC that accompanies it) might go down. OMZ!!!!!!!!

Second, you get used to the relatively mild climate. You begin to expect to be able to go outside any time of day in a light t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. So, actual winter weather comes as a really unpleasant surprise.

When I taught high school, I used to delight in pointing out, to the kids coming in complaining that "It's FREEZING!", that, no, until the temperature is 32 F, it is technically NOT freezing. Sometimes, I don't know how they managed not to gang up on me and beat me into a puddle of smirk.

But, they were really well-brought up kids, so they didn't. At least, not outside their dreams.

I did bring a class to a standstill of awe the day I pointed out that I had walked to school when it was -18 F. They REALLY were impressed when I pointed out that this was 50 degrees below the freezing point. Our parents didn't pamper us - we were bundled up, shoved out the door, and told to walk as fast as we could.

We did. Probably accounts for the fall of world records in running during that time period.

Well, maybe not.

This all came to mind today, as I've been complaining about the cold and wet all of the trip to Cleveland. (Aren't you glad you didn't have to be stuck in the car with me?)

Wilder, Wealthy, and Wise has some thoughts on why we should be grateful that mankind endured far worse than their pampered descendants do today. It may be a major factor in the rise of Western Civilization.

BTW, Merry Christmas 3 days early.

Things weaponized by Russia.

E.g., hypocrisy, a 14-legged squid, stupidity.

Complete list here: Moon of Alabama.

Leftist Derangement Syndrome alert.

  • Trump’s War on Children."[1]
  • Trump’s “love of parades and military salutes.”[2]
  • Trump “is a man without principles, a sociopath who’s only real driving passion is his own self-gratification and ego-boosting. He is corrupt to the core, dismissive of democratic norms, and thrives on promoting discord and racial animosity, even to the point of separating immigrant children from their parents and keeping them in dog cages.”[3]
  • Trump: “Everything about this president is a nightmare: his misogyny, his racism, his willful ignorance about history and science, his corruption, his appeal to the basest impulses of the white working class he calls “my uneducated supporters.”[4]
  • “Climate change”: “[O]ur inability to confront the threats of rampaging climate change as evidenced by ever more catastrophic hurricanes and forest fires.”[5] (See "Updated list of things caused by global warming.")
[1] By Christopher Brauchli, Counterpunch, 12/21/18.
[2] “Trump Does Something Right for Once.” By Dave Lindorff, Counterpunch, 12/21/18.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.

Not Quite New Fiction (UPDATED)

     In fact, if you’re a Liberty’s Torch Gentle Reader, you’ve probably read them all already:

     This little collection pulls together the short stories that have appeared only here, and adds a few that previously appeared at Smashwords, from which I am gradually disassociating. Amazon won’t allow me to give it away, so I have to ask a price, but it’s only $0.99, so if you’d like a permanent copy of them, guaranteed to remain yours when the day comes that Google finally chases me off this service, it’s about a third of the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee. Consider it a Christmas gift with a small delivery charge. Also, it’s without the horror of “Digital Rights Management,” so feel free to pass it around.

     ADDENDUM: The Fortress is going into holiday mode this weekend, which is barely distinguishable from hibernation. Also, we’re having a houseguest, so I can’t stay glued to this infernal device all day as is my wont. Accordingly, blogging will be sporadic until the New Year.

     UPDATE: There's also a paperback edition.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Light Bill

     [A short story for you today. Copyright (C) 2018 by Francis W. Porretto – FWP]

     She looked up as he seated himself at the dinette table. The gloom in his face nearly shocked her out of her own seat.
     “What’s the matter, love?” She caressed the back of his hand. “You look like you just ate a whole lemon.”
     “I wish that were all I had on my mind,” he muttered. He picked up his fork and started to address his meatloaf, dropped it and sat back with his arms crossed against his chest.
     I know that look. It’s money.
     Presently he said “We can’t stay here.”
     “Sweetie,” she said, “if we have to cut back on something—”
     “There no way we can cut back any further,” he said. “Not enough to matter, anyway.”
     She waited.
     “The light bill arrived today,” he said.
     Her anxiety surged. “Bad?”
     “Crippling. Over a thousand.”
     It shocked the breath out of her. “For two months?”
     He nodded.
     “What was the previous one?”
     “Seven hundred and some.”
     That was bad enough. I couldn’t get a word out of him for days.
     She looked down at her plate. A scoop of mashed potatoes, a tablespoonful of peas, and a very modest slice of meatloaf. It was the most indulgent meal she’d prepared all month...and with light bills on that order, she wouldn’t be serving it for the foreseeable future.
     He’s right. We can’t stay here. Unless—
     “Sweetie,” she murmured, “why don’t we have a look around after we’ve finished our dinners? There might still be some ways we could bring it down, and once we’re fed—”
     He was shaking his head.
     “You did another sweep already?”
     He nodded. “We’ve done everything we can do, love. There’s nowhere we can tighten up any further, and I’m not willing to live in the dark. It’s not us, it’s the rates. They’ve skyrocketed.”
     She sought her own resolve, found it, and brought it forth.
     “Then we’ll move to Broadville.”
     He looked up sharply. “You’d be willing?”
     She nodded. “If we must, we must.”
     “I remember how thrilled you were to move here,” he said. “A beautiful neighborhood, peaceful and green. Clean streets. Nice neighbors. Everything you wanted for our children to come.”
     “Everything,” she said, “except affordable. The light bill was extortionate even at the outset. Now it’s insupportable. So we move. Besides,” she said, “Broadville isn’t so bad. Pam and I were over there to shop just a few days ago. The community has cleaned itself up pretty well.”
     His gaze was steady. He seemed to be in the process of decision.
     Trying to figure out whether I’m sincere about moving, probably.
     “You sure you’re okay with it?” he said.
     She nodded once, firmly.
     “Then I’ll put this dump on the market tomorrow.”

     They got an entirely satisfactory offer almost at once. The buyers were a young married couple with no children. They were obviously very well off. He told them frankly about the light bills they could expect. That didn’t seem to matter to them. The man immediately wrote a check for half the stipulated down payment and suggested a closing that very week. They left smiling.
     She retreated to her little home office, pulled her crocheting project out of the wicker basket beside her armchair, settled herself and set the needles to clicking.
     I can’t believe it was that easy. There has to be a catch.
     But there wasn’t. When he came home he assured her of it.
     “The check cashed with no questions,” he said. “We’ve got twenty-five thousand dollars in the bank, with another twenty-five coming on Friday.” He crouched before her and took her hands. “We’re going to move, and we’re going to be okay!”
     She smiled broadly. For the first time in months she felt her anxieties lift. An impish thought took her.
     “Let’s celebrate,” she said. “Let’s splurge.
     He cocked an eyebrow. “What do you have in mind?”
     She rose. “Come with me.”
     She pulled him to the living room and gestured at the windows. All were tightly covered with blackout shades, just as they had been from the day they’d moved in.
     “Open them all,” she proclaimed. “All the way to the ceiling.”
     His mouth fell open. “The university—”
     “Damn the university. Damn the astronomers! Let’s have ourselves a revel. Just for tonight, sweetie!”
     Her wildness seemed to infect him. A wolfish grin formed on his features.
     “As you wish, my love.” He bared his teeth at the instrument of retribution. “We’ll just ignore them!”
     They went from window to window, raising the shades to their highest stops, often with a jerk nearly strong enough to rip them down. For the first time in months, light streamed freely through those windows, illuminating the otherwise pitch-black neighborhood they would soon leave behind.
     The phone began to ring almost at once. They let it ring.

     They found a suitable home in Broadville after a very brief search. They noticed at once that the windows were covered by venetian blinds, rather than the heavy blackout shades they’d endured for so long. They paid the entire down payment at once and demanded an immediate closing. The owners were happy to oblige them.
     The moving van had departed only minutes before, and they were in the process of unpacking, when the doorbell rang. She went to answer it.
     The man at the door was nattily attired. He carried the sort of briefcase one might see dangling from the hand of a lawyer. His smile was polished and impersonal.
     “I see that you’re new to Broadville,” he said with a gesture at the piles of half-unpacked boxes, “so you might not be aware of some of the most recent developments. May I have a few minutes of your time?”
     She glanced back at her husband. He nodded. She stepped aside to admit him. The three sat around their coffee table. Their guest set his briefcase on the table and popped the catches.
     “You’re in a tightly restricted zone,” he said, “so your application will be more demanding than most other Broadville residents.” From the briefcase he drew a segment of thick foam rubber. “This is the filling used in our wall hangings. Guaranteed to establish a twenty-eight decibel attenuation of secondary sound emissions. A number of attractive cover designs are available. Our products come with a five year warranty, with no pro rata and no return shipping charges. We also offer a liberal payment plan, thirty-six monthly payments at only three percent annually.”
     There was a brief silence. The salesman smiled calmly, as if their reaction were no more than he’d expected.
     “Anti-sound hangings?” she murmured.
     The salesman nodded. “You should get them up as fast as possible, Ma’am. The local seismographic institute will be on your case at once if you don’t. Fortunately, we have a crew working the neighborhood already, so I can pencil you in for the day after tomorrow.” He reached into his briefcase again and pulled out a clipboard loaded with blank order forms. “What credit card would you like to use? We accept all the major ones.”
     She turned to her husband. He stared open-mouthed, clearly in shock.
     He must not have known.
     “I think,” she said at last, “we should take some time over this.”
     “I understand,” the salesman said. He returned his sample and clipboard to his briefcase, fastened it closed, and rose. “But I’d advise you not to take too long. You don’t want to leave your house un-attenuated. Even for a properly shielded house, the sound bills in this district can be murder.”


Tone-deaf elites: French version.

The [French] ruling caste clutches its privileges. The president practices public charity. They distribute a few euros to the poorest, yet they don’t touch anything. They leave intact a system that produced nine million poor and four and a half million unemployed and destroyed more than half of the industrial potential. They don’t lower public spending. They don’t lower the expenses that are strangling the country. They change nothing. They continue to head right for the wall. Without the slightest reflection. Without the slightest discussion. Or the slightest debate.
"The unfolding disaster (or miracle) in France." By Tiberge, Gallia Watch, 12/18/18 (emphasis added).

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Thought About Cars And Driving

     Time was, reaching the age of sixteen was celebrated for more than one reason. At sixteen years of age, a youth could start taking driving lessons, with an eye to winning a driver’s license and achieving that ultimate badge of American independence: auto-mobility!

     (Yes, yes, it helps to have a car, but that’s a separate subject.)

     I’ve read several times that today’s young Americans are far less interested in learning to drive and acquiring the means than were the teens of my generation and the following one. A few other commentators have mused in pixels over what this might mean. Needless to say, opinions vary.

     But consider that pattern a backdrop to another set of developments: specifically, the emergence of the self-driving car.

     Here’s a rather impressive story about a cross-continent trip in a self-driving car. The engineer who claims to have accomplished the feat said he only touched the wheel and pedals out of biological necessity:

     Anthony Levandowski, the controversial engineer at the heart of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, claims to have built an automated car that drove from San Francisco to New York without any human intervention.

     The 3,099-mile journey started on 26 October on the Golden Gate Bridge, and finished nearly four days later on the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan.

     The car, a modified Toyota Prius, used only video cameras, computers and basic digital maps to make the cross-country trip.

     Levandowski told the Guardian that, although he was sitting in the driver’s seat the entire time, he did not touch the steering wheels or pedals, aside from planned stops to rest and refuel. “If there was nobody in the car, it would have worked,” he said.

     Let’s assume that this actually happened as described above. What does it mean?

     For one thing, it suggests that the practical significance of being able to drive is decreasing, and that it could conceivably drop to zero in the future. For another, it indicates that there’s one hell of a lot of highly detailed information available about the national road system: available, moreover, to a vehicle in motion. And for a third, it implies that we’re approaching a state of affairs in which it will become feasible for the federal government to demand that all cars be self-driving.

     At that point the privately owned automobile would become an endangered species. Indeed, it might be abolished by law. For why, after all, would anyone need to own one? Just dial up the nearest depot, have one toddle over to your location for whatever jaunt you have in mind, and have it return to the depot when your errands are complete. No muss; no fuss; and no garage needed.

     The special variety of competence and self-assurance required to pilot a moving car would disappear within a generation. Add it to the list of other competences our hyper-specialized economy has made scarce.

     A dear, departed friend often lamented to me about the disappearance of basic competences. That friend was so ultra-competent, and in so many ways, that I’d have bet my savings that he could start from the forest primeval and rebuild American civilization to about the 1950 level. I can’t imagine what he’d think of a society in which true independent mobility over distances longer than a mile or two was uncommon.

     Specialization has two faces. One of them is economic efficiency. The other is a level of social interdependence that implies an equal degree of individual helplessness. I wrote about it in Freedom’s Scion:

     As they exited the tree-lined corridor from the commercial strip and turned onto the pathway to Morelon House, Althea halted her husband and turned to face him. “I can’t figure out what he’s planning, can you?”
     Martin gazed at her ruefully. “I’ve been thinking about that and nothing else, love. But I’m dead certain it’s nothing we’d enjoy.”
     “So what now?”
     He grimaced. “I don’t know. Postpone the trip, for sure. How to get our initial load up to Thule? Frankly, I don’t think we have much choice. Our clan had heavy-lift capacity at one point, didn’t it?”
     She nodded. “Yeah, but we sold the plane when Adam’s dad set up shop here. Charisse said she was happy to get rid of it. It made more sense to hire it out, so we wouldn’t have to maintain a plane and train pilots.”
     She glanced at the entrance to Morelon House. The old mansion looked as sturdy as ever. It presented an appearance of immutable strength to all who saw it. Yet it had begun to seem to her that the clan had undermined that strength in several ways, with several decisions. None of them had been fatal; indeed, when each was made, it had appeared to be the obvious choice. Yet in combination, they had rendered Clan Morelon massively dependent upon the wills and skills of a multitude of outsiders...persons who might not be as available or dependable as one would hope.
     —That’s the downside of the division of labor, Al.
     Yeah. I can see that, Grandpere. But how could we have avoided it?
     —By resisting all the temptations to specialize and to make use of specialists. By purchasing absolute self-sufficiency at the price of economic advantage. Which, incidentally, no clan or society known to history has ever managed to do.
     The incentives are too strong, aren’t they?
     —Judge for yourself, dear. Put yourself in Charisse’s place at the point when Jack Grenier moved into the area and started offering his services around. Would you have done as she did, knowing only what she did at the time?
     Probably. If there’s a lesson in this—
     —If there is, Al, no one has ever drawn it. The division of labor is the one and only path toward general prosperity. It can go to an incredible depth. A
frightening depth. And it is utterly reliant upon the character and good will of the specialists. Let one critical specialty be corrupted by political forces, or conceive of a grudge against some other group, or even decide that it can rape its customers without fear of reprisal, and the destruction spreads faster than anyone can act to check it.

     When mastering the skills required to drive was a rite of passage toward adulthood, the young American could claim at least one “merit badge” for having won a license. What happens if that’s taken from them? What would replace it – if anything?

     Oh, never mind. It’s too early in the morning for such pessimism. Besides, my digital auto-grinder / brewer has just texted me that the coffee’s ready, so it’s time to power up my electric scooter, have it zip me over to the kitchen, and let the waldoes pour me a cup of java. Yeah, yeah: I still have to add the milk myself, but no doubt someone is working on that. See you later.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


FWP: That GoFundMe effort for the border wall is nearing a million dollars pledged already.
CSO: Good!

FWP: But it will take at least $5 billion to get a decent start on the wall.
CSO: That’s not all. Trump has to find someone to build it.

FWP: Well, yeah. But he was in real-estate for a long time. He must know someone.
CSO: For a wall? No apartments? No shopping center? No casino?

FWP: Hm. Well, we could give him Tony’s number. [Tony is our general contractor.]
CSO: But Tony would want to do it all in white vinyl! You know, so it would look nice.
FWP: Yeah.

     Ah, marriage. What a wonderful institution! (Are you ready for life in an institution?)

Honest. I Was WAY Too Busy to Waste Time, But...

...well, you know how that goes - good intentions and all that.

But, I did find a new blog (well, new to me) - pointed, funny, references Animal House and Star Trek.

What could be better!

Quickies: The B[W]all Is Now In Our Court

     If Congress won’t fund the border wall, President Trump’s signature issue and one of his highest priorities, then we must:

     Like a majority of those American citizens who voted to elect President Donald J Trump, we voted for him to Make America Great Again. President Trump’s main campaign promise was to BUILD THE WALL. And as he’s followed through on just about every promise so far, this wall project needs to be completed still....

     “If the 63 million people who voted for Trump each pledge $80, we can build the wall.” That equates to roughly 5Billion Dollars, even if we get half, that's half the wall. We can do this.

     Democrats are going to stall this project by every means possible and play political games to ensure President Trump doesn’t get his victor. They'd rather see President Trump fail, than see America succeed. However, if we can fund a large portion of this wall, it will jumpstart things and will be less money Trump has to secure from our politicians.

     This won’t be easy, but it’s our duty as citizens. This needs to be shared every single day by each of you on social media. We can do it, and we can help President Trump make America safe again!

     Needless to say, there are plenty of detractors – but they can’t stop this effort merely by disparaging it. Nothing can, as long as GoFundMe doesn’t arbitrarily kill it off. This is Americans rising in defense of America – and what could express our national character better than that?

     If you can participate without harming your finances or breaking a promise to your family, please consider it.

The Priority Schedule Of An Elite Part 2

     Regard, if you will, this brief snippet from the recent Congressional interrogation of disgraced former FBI director James Comey:

     It could hardly be clearer that Comey, who has demonstrably lied to Congress on more than one occasion did not “believe it then.” He was determined to see Clinton walk, and made sure of it with the wording of his report on the investigation. Why else would he have written the memo exonerating Clinton nearly two weeks before Clinton was first interviewed?

     But Comey did not respond to Congressman Ratcliffe as he did because he “believed it then” and “believe it now.” Hundreds of persons – admittedly, none of them a former First Bitch Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State – have been imprisoned for long years forexactly what Clinton and her aides did. When I was in defense engineering, I was warned of what would happen to me – not what “could” happen, mind you – if I were to disregard the classified material handling provisions of the National Security Act and the Espionage Act. I know a former engineer who was prosecuted for such violations.

     Comey was flaunting his status as a member of The Elite. He believes himself protected under Rules 5 and 6. Given recent events and trends, he’s probably right about that.

     The Feral Irishman has posted a few words on the subject:

     james comey is bragging about how he suckered mike flynn into a perjury trap….he’s running around in the main stream media bragging about it….bragging about how he took advantage of the confusion of a new administration…bragging about how he broke the rules because there was no one to notice he was breaking the rules in place yet…..why is he still free???….why is he not locked up..???

     he’s running around admitting he broke the law…and he’s free to keep running around admitting he broke the law…and no one gives a shit…..he laughs about it, and brags about how smart he was…..yeah, right…..

     because he’s a hero of the resistance, and also because he has some kind of job security and/or pension protection on account of bean a government employee….

     but mostly….


     Having weathered President Trump’s initial assaults, Washington’s swamp-dwelling Elitists are thumbing their noses at the White House, at the remaining decent persons in Congress...and at Us the People. The victory dance may be premature, but it’s no less blatant for that.

     Yes, they believe there is “nothing we can do about it.” Are they correct?

     Regardless of the image it projects, the federal Department of Justice is just as much a bureaucracy – just as much a part of the Washington Swamp – as any other federal agency. Its employees are protected by the Civil Service Acts. Its appointed functionaries mostly arise from its employee ranks. And as is the case with any bureaucracy, its primary priorities are survival and growth. It is observably in perfect conformance with Parkinson’s Lemmas:

  1. An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals;
  2. Officials make work for one another.

     Note that despite the blatant malfeasances of Comey, McCabe, Strzok, and Page, there have been no indictments. Without indictments there will be no prosecutions. But who would bring indictments against accused members of the DoJ? The Attorney-General...who was until recently former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, a Trump backer and ostensibly not a Swamp creature. Yet Sessions did nothing. What about his successor, acting AG Matthew Whittaker? Is he a Swamp creature...or does the Swamp “have something on him?”

     From outside the corridors of power it’s effectively impossible to know, unless you can get one of its doyens drunk enough to confess. What we do know is that the above-named miscreants, each of which was a principal collaborator in a scheme to overturn a presidential election, continue to walk free.

     Is there truly “nothing we can do about it” -- ?

     The Elite will protect its members and their privileges with every available weapon. It will lie. It will conceal. It will coerce potential witnesses, whether by blackmail or outright threats to their lives and loved ones. It will punish those members who succumb to attacks of conscience. And every time it succeeds in thwarting an assault against it, it will do a victory dance in our faces. That’s how an Elite revels in having demonstrated its immunity to punishment. No matter how we hoi polloi suffer at their hands, what matters is that their priorities have been well served.

     The Germans have a word for it: Schadenfreude. Shadow-joy. The pleasure evil persons derive from the misfortunes of the good. Elitists would never admit to it in so many words, but then, they don’t really need to.

     That’s enough for the present, as I feel my blood pressure cresting from this subject. Perhaps I’ll be back later with something less exercising. But if you’d like a few more fulminations on it, enjoy this Kurt Schlichter column. What Schlichter suggests might be the only possible rejoinder to the Elite’s caperings at our expense.

     May God protect and preserve us and these United States.