Wednesday, February 28, 2018

New Post

At Right As Usual.

Facebook Is At It Again

     Facebook has prevented me from posting under the “Louis Redmond” identity or the groups that identity maintains. It appears that they’re purging persons in the Right once more.

     Typical, eh?

Cowards With Badges?

     Time was, Americans took pride in what we called “the forces of order.” The police were prominent in that group of public servants. We believed that they existed to protect the rest of us. We understood their jobs to include the obligation to accept risks, including mortal risks, under certain circumstances. We believed that they understood that as well. And perhaps it really was so.

     It doesn’t seem to be that way today. Indeed, police actions in recent years suggest exactly the opposite: that police forces are characterized by an aversion to risk that the rest of us would deride as cowardice.

     Everyone is risk averse to some degree. No one accepts any and every risk he confronts without consideration of its upside and downside. Certain occupations are kind to the extremely risk averse. Others are not.

     The rash of reports about police not venturing into active-shooter confrontations, police shooting unarmed and unresisting citizens, police shooting dogs, and police intimidation of nominally peaceable citizens suggests that some of our cops are more risk averse (and less respectful of Americans’ individual rights) than the occupation should tolerate. Certainly the situation is worse for Americans in regions where the police are frequently active.

     A number of commentators have opined that the typical citizen is better off not involving himself with the police to any degree. You say your house was burglarized? Let the insurance company handle it. Your car was stolen out of your driveway? Same advice. You were mugged on the street? Same advice, with the addendum that you should rethink your choice of neighborhoods to walk through.

     Every interaction with anyone carries some degree of risk. An interaction with a policeman is no different, except that the policeman is far more likely to be armed. To depend on the police to protect you and your property, when Supreme Court decisions have held that there is no such obligation, is foolish. If the general level of risk aversion among police is truly rising, it’s even more foolish.

     But is it unfair to view policemen generally as cowards with badges?

     Institutional dynamics, whether in the private or the public sector, are bound by certain laws of valuation akin to Gresham’s Law of monies and currencies:

     "When a government overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation." It is commonly stated as: "Bad money drives out good".

     In point of fact, Gresham’s Law operates in any institution in which two items – and they may be persons — are valued equally by the institution despite differences in their operational value. For example, if Smith and Jones, two employees with equivalent responsibilities, are equally valued by their employer – i.e., in salary, perquisites, prestige, and opportunities for promotion – while Smith consistently outperforms Jones, Smith becomes likely either to leave the company or to reduce his performance to Jones’s level. This dynamic can be seen in operation in many places. Owing to the irresistible power of the SNAFU Principle, it’s the bane of large companies with many levels of management.

     Police departments are not immune to these dynamics.

     Over time, older policemen retire or die and are replaced by younger ones. If the departing policemen exhibited less risk aversion than their replacements, the dynamics discussed above will result in an ever more risk averse police force. Whether that is happening now is a subject for serious study.

     The possibility has been discussed, at Western Rifle Shooters that police are taught today that “the most important thing is to go home safe.” If this is true, and there is anecdotal evidence to support it, then the emergence of extremely risk averse police – e.g., the sort who stood down during the Parkland, Florida school massacre – is only natural. I have no countervailing evidence. Whether there is an opposed effort in progress in police academies is hard to determine.

     Of one thing we may be sure: A highly risk averse police force is more dangerous to law-abiding citizens than to criminals. Criminals are comfortable with violence, and the police know it. The typical private citizen is not comfortable with violence...and the police know that too. Given that a desire to wield authority is a common characteristic of persons who enter law enforcement, that would have serious implications for relations between cops and private citizens, and for much else besides.

Gun grabbers.

Gun control advocates are not in the business of saving lives; they are in the business of exploiting death. They want something entirely different from what they claim they want.
"Gun control." By Sultan Knish, 2/20/18.

Hat tip: Woodpile Report. Remus has an excellent take on the Broward County school shootings. Sheriff Israel does not fare well.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Crisis: The Agar Of Leviathan

     You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. – Rahm Emanuel

     Crisis-mongering has a long history:

     If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.

     With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

     [Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933]

     The underlying idea being promoted is unpalatable in its raw form: “You can’t help yourselves. I can help you. Just surrender your rights to me, and all will be well.” If it were presented that way, very few Americans would go for it. We’ve been too deeply steeped in the traditions of limited government and individual rights.

     Wait, what did I just say? If that’s so, then how has the federal government grown so large over the century past? Is it possible that when convinced that a crisis is upon us, we’re just as susceptible to the siren call of dictatorship as the people of any other land?

     Maybe so:

     “Even the iron hand of a national dictator is preferable to a paralytic stroke.” – Alf Landon, governor of Kansas and 1936 candidate for President, in a letter to newly elected president Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933

     “If this nation ever needed a Mussolini, it needs one now.” – David Reed, United States Senator of Pennsylvania, on the floor of the Senate, 1933

     Those two gentlemen were Republicans. One of them ran against FDR in 1936. Ponder that in your spare moments.

     Francis Turner at L'Ombre de l'Olivier notes – and makes absolutely plain – the most disturbing pattern ever to intrude on American political discourse:

     Step 1: Something must be done.
     Step 2: This is something.
     Step 3: Therefore we must do this.

     Let that sink in for a moment. Doesn’t every call for gun control over the past hundred years conform perfectly to it? Doesn’t the current drive to ban “assault weapons,” afloat on the blood of the victims in Parkland, Florida, conform perfectly? What does it suggest about the attitude of the gun-controllers – people-controllers, really – toward the American electorate? And what does it suggest, given that the Democrats propose the same anti-freedom strokes after each and every “crisis,” about the true, covert motives of the American Left?

     It’s time we drew the moral.

     I’ve done this before, but now is a good time to repeat it: I cannot recommend Professor Robert Higgs’s superb book Crisis and Leviathan highly enough. The amount of information and insight Higgs compresses into a reasonably compact treatment, written for the intelligent layman, is simply stunning. To the best of my knowledge, no other scholar has approached the thesis Higgs advances – i.e., that the general perception of a crisis creates the best possible grounds for the expansion of State power – in an organized fashion. Yet once presented with Higgs’s lucidity, it becomes, if you’ll pardon the choice of terms, too obvious to be overlooked afterward.

     Crises as promoted by politicians and their handmaidens are seldom real. That is, they seldom threaten as greatly or as widely as the promoters would have you believe. But with the media as assistants, they can often convince enough persons to believe...and the media loves nothing better than a crisis. Crises sell column-inches and air time. Indeed, they're even better for circulation than sex crimes.

     Some years ago, a phrase appeared in our political lexicon that achieved considerable resonance: compassion fatigue. Americans, we were told, had grown tired from being harangued about feeling sorry for every group the Left chose to promote as “oppressed” or “underprivileged.” That might have been the case, but it didn’t cause an appreciable reduction in Americans’ charitable action, and none at all in the size, extent, and expense of the welfare state. Though I hoped otherwise, no reductions in government-modulated welfarism occurred.

     Perhaps it’s time to start promoting the concept of crisis fatigue: the reaction to being overburdened with shouts that “something must be done.” It has a sound psychological basis: a man overloaded with fear ceases to act on his fears; he becomes enervate. Further attempts to flog him with the lash of crisis have no least, none that would repay the effort. Might it be possible to elicit a degree of crisis fatigue deliberately, by a shift in rhetoric? If the effort were successful, might we provoke, at long last, Arthur Herzog’s recommended remedy for political overreach: the mass yawn?

     Food for thought.

The next propaganda wave in Syria.

You can hear the propaganda engines wind up like a jet rolling to take off. This time it’s E. Ghouta in Syria that is the locus of brutal, Assadian, dictatorial, ophthalmological perfidy. Is there no end to the evil wrought by this man?

Jihadi scum are holding the civilian population hostage, at least those who aren’t their family members. Leaflets have been dropped over the area to advise civilians where safe passage out is guaranteed by the government. Those who don’t leave want to stay or are being held against their will as human shields. Don’t expect any of this to be covered by the Western press. Nor will that press tell you how the jihadis operate out of hospitals and schools. It’s win-win if the Syrians and Russians don’t bomb them and fuel for the jihadi propaganda engine if they do.

The terrorists in Ghouta won’t surrender because they are pinning their hopes on the West to help them out.[1]
There’s good reason for them to entertain such hopes.

Never forget. The jihadi animals are there and armed and dangerous because of American, Saudi, and Qatari money, arms, equipment, and supplies. The reason there is a jihadi enclave in Damascus is because of the connivance of Western and Gulf animals. The Russians and Syrian Arab Army are going to do something about that enclave to win the war that has been waged against Syria. But sure as shootin’ it’s going to be all Assad all the time. How dare he fight back. How dare he seek and accept help from his own allies.

But watch for the breast beating about E. Ghouta:

When questions were asked, the answer was always the same – civilian casualties are unavoidable in war. But if that’s true, then why has the spotlight been turned on the operation in Eastern Ghouta, which is being described as a human tragedy, while the civilian casualties inflicted during the US-led operations in the Iraqi towns of Ramadi, Fallujah, Mosul, and Raqqa received quite different coverage in the Western media? Huge numbers of civilian casualties have been described as “collateral damage” and the unfortunate, yet inevitable, side effect ofurban warfare. This double standard could not be more blatant.[2]
More from Eva Bartlett on fake E. Ghouta humanitarian “concern.”

[1] "Russia Blamed For The Eastern Ghouta Crisis: The West's Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds." By Peter Korzun, By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 2/26/18.
[2] Id. Formatting removed.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Distaff Contingent

     [As I’m feeling a bit cranky this morning, I thought I might revive one of my crankier pieces from the old Palace of Reason. The one I’ve chosen first appeared there on July 28, 2004. -- FWP]

     This column is likely to piss a lot of people off. I wrote it while pretty well pissed off myself. Therefore, so as not to offend unduly, I'll issue an Early Warning:

  • You are a militant feminist;
  • You are an abortion-rights fanatic;
  • You are enraged by the suggestion that there are significant differences between men and women;
  • You think differences in "representation" in a particular field are, of themselves, evidence of discrimination or oppression;
  • Your political priorities revolve around sex.

     If you possess one or more of the above characteristics but read this column anyway, don't waste your time writing to upbraid me about it, as I'll simply ignore you.

     Today at Fox News Online, is an article about the political desires of feminists and women generally. It's an interesting look into the sort of wishful thinking that demands cats that bark, Haagen-Dazs®-quality ice cream that contains no calories, freedom of speech that doesn't extend to one's opponents, an infinitely generous welfare state that doesn't weaken the work ethic, wars that don't kill anyone or break anything -- in short, a perfect right to do and have whatever one can imagine without having to endure any nasty consequences.

     The usual liars and idiots are out in force at the Democratic National Convention. For example, Senator Blanche Lincoln (D, AK) has accused the Bush Administration of setting back "women's reproductive rights" 30 years. Why? Because President Bush reinstated President Reagan's ban on United States Treasury funding to international "aid" organizations that promote abortion in other countries.

     Hm? Does a "right" to do something include the "right" to have someone else pay for it? Doesn't that sound just the least little bit contrary to our understanding of responsibilities, property rights, and all-around justice? And when did the federal government of these United States become responsible for the "reproductive rights," however conceived, of women other than Americans?

     If Senator Lincoln is sincere, she's an idiot; if she knows better, she's lying to advance her political agenda. Speaking only for myself, I'd prefer that neither idiots nor liars be represented among America's legislators.

     From the same Fox News article:

"I don't think the feminist movement is over, particularly while [President] Bush is in office," said Becca Gerner, who with co-volunteer Judy Grant was handing out stickers and signs for NARAL: Pro-Choice America that read "Pro Kerry. Pro Edwards. Pro Choice."

     "He's clearly not interested in women's issues," she added about Bush.

     Oh? Which "women's issues" do you mean, Miss Gerner? The Taliban's executions of women who left their homes without male accompaniment or incompletely covered up? Odai and Qusai Hussein's rape rooms and nightly street-shopping for involuntary concubines? The prevalence of "honor killings" in Islamic countries and Palestinian terrorists' coercion of "dishonored" women into becoming suicide bombers? The use of rape as a weapon of war by the Sudanese militias?

     Where does would-be-president John Kerry stand on these things? Would he act to oppose them, regardless of who stands in his way? Or would he insist on a United Nations endorsement before sending anything more than a strongly worded note?

     But it's all froth anyway. Only one "women's issue" matters to the National Abortion Rights Action League, whose cachet has become so offensive to most Americans that it no longer spells out its real name. That issue is abortion on demand for all women everywhere, regardless of age, regardless of the stage of gestation or the state of the developing baby, regardless of the father's wishes, and at a taxpayer-defrayed cost. To claim the mantle of defender of women's rights, while supporting a presidential candidate who'd defer to other countries about mass rape and genocide and a vice-presidential running mate who made his fortune suing obstetricians out of business, is some sort of ultimate in deceitfulness for a cause, no matter what one might think of its justice.

     If we go strictly by percentages, women are under-represented in politics. The percentages haven't changed dramatically in a long time. Given the frequent, strident claims that "women's issues" are slighted by male legislators and executives, it's worth asking: Why aren't there more women in political office?

     This is a case of A Fact That Dare Not Speak Its Name. There are so few women in high office because:

  1. Very few women contend for elective office in the first place;
  2. Those that do offer themselves to the electorate tend to be shrill, monomaniacal, and generally unappealing.

     Why don't more women present themselves as candidates for elective positions? Because women's drives and priorities differ from those of men. They're biologically predisposed toward pursuits that involve less aggression and less risk. This isn't something to be ashamed of. It's the result of eons of natural selection, a requirement for the survival of our race.

     Women who do contend for elective office are frequently single-issue harridans. Their entire campaign focus is on one issue, usually either abortion rights or gun prohibition. Even if we discount the natural tendency of the single-issue fanatic to be boring and irritating, the single-issue harridan goes beyond the male norm by claiming moral superiority over her opponents, and quite frequently by coloring them as agents of evil simply because they disagree with her policy preferences. This is unpalatable to the majority of American voters of both sexes.

     If women's representation percentage in high office is to improve, their politics must cease to revolve around their gonads.

     There's a great irony here: it's men who are forever being accused of "thinking with the little head." Yet what other verdict could we pronounce upon the "women's rights" activists and groups when they drone monotonously and offensively on about the "right to choose" -- a "right" asserted at the price of the life of a developing baby, whose father is completely disenfranchised from the decision, and which is frequently exercised at the expense of the taxpayer?

     Even if we discount their disregard for the plight of women in Islamic theocracies and other Third World hellholes, if "women's rights" groups were more involved with:

  • Getting women access to guns and other implements of self-defense;
  • Lowering income taxes, so that fewer couples would need two incomes and fewer children would be relegated to the physical hazards and emotional callousness of paid day care;
  • Ending the privilege of Child Welfare Services departments to break up a family on an anonymous hint of abuse by a hostile neighbor;
  • Promoting strict educational standards, objective grading, and performance-based rewards for "educators" in "public" schools;
  • Lowering property taxes and campaigning for school choice mechanisms that would allow mothers to move their children out of consistently dangerous or low-performing "public" schools;

     ...they'd become much more credible. They'd also become Republicans.

     In her rejected column for USA Today from the Democratic National Convention, Ann Coulter notes that the "pretty girls" -- the women who have more to offer than strident slogans and a shrill demand for "the right to choose" regardless of all other considerations -- are overwhelmingly more often conservatives, who recoil in horror from the "women's rights" types. Even when they sympathize with some part of the activists' agenda, they'd rather be found dead in a ditch than be identified with an activist group, because they don't want to be associated with that degree of callousness, incivility, and general unattractiveness.

     I would not be surprised if, in some not-too-distant year, "women's rights" activists were to demand political preferences through gerrymandering, as has been practiced to award "safe" legislative districts to black politicians. Given the prevalent characteristics of the class, it could be the only way they'll ever get their numbers up.

     As matters stand, "women's rights" activists are on the verge of becoming irrelevant...and they did it to themselves.

Bad Russians.

Ray McGovern describes his first day on the job if he is ever appointed CIA director:
Nor am I inclined to take seriously former National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s stated views on the proclivity of Russians to be, well, just really bad people — like it’s in their genes. I plan to avail myself of the opportunity to discover whether intelligence analysts who labored under his “aegis” were infected by his quaint view of the Russians.

I shall ask any of the “handpicked” analysts who specialize in analysis of Russia (and, hopefully, there are at least a few): Do you share Clapper’s view, as he explained it to NBC’s Meet the Press on May 30, 2017, that Russians are “typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever”? I truly do not know what to expect by way of reply.[1]

It’s a bit disquieting (he said by way of understatement) that a man such as Clapper was the most senior official in the U.S. intelligence community until recently. Just the sort of man you want advising the president on matters affecting Russia. Policy formulation based on laughable caricatures.

[1] "My First Day as CIA Director." By Ray McGovern, Russia Insider, 2/26/18.

Correct application of U.S. principles.

The Russians should set up a fire base in Detroit to assist moderates there.[1]
Principles identified from U.S. operations and available to other actors:
  1. Send troops to any country in the world if you feel like it.
  2. Support political factions of your choosing to bring down government not to your liking or to the liking of regional powers. In Detroit context, work with Canadian malcontents and pissed off Navahos.
  3. Kill local civilians or troops if necessary.
  4. If government troops must be killed, concoct "accident" explanation in advance.
  5. Finesse departure date issue. If pressed, say departure is certain but that local “concerns” about new constitution and broad representation in government must be addressed first.
  6. Amplify any local complaints to justify presence. "Police brutality," "patriarchy," and "neo-colonialism" work in any known culture or nation. "Roll back Iranian juggernaut" probably poor choice in Michigan, USA context.
[1] Comment by General Fuster Cluck on "Pentagon: US Troops Will Stay In Syria 'As Long As We Need To.’" By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 12/5/17.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Transfiguration: A Sunday Rumination

     Although 2018 is a “Year B” / Gospel According to Mark year in the Catholic liturgical cycle, I’ll cite the passage from the Gospel According to Luke:

     And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
     But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
     And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen. [Luke 9:28-36, King James Version]

     As Jesus neared Jerusalem, where he was to be condemned, to suffer, and to die, the demonstrations of His Divinity became more pronounced. Yet the Transfiguration, the event that made it utterly clear, was reserved to His Apostles, and only to three thereof. Moreover, of the three Synoptic Gospels, only Luke makes any mention of what Christ, Moses, and Elijah were talking about:

     ... and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

     Moreover, according to Mark, Peter, James, and John were puzzled by His next words to them:

     And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean. [Mark 9:9-10]

     Bear in mind that according to Mark, the following had occurred only a few days previously:

     And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
     And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
     And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.
     And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
     But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. [Mark 8:27-33]

     Even Peter, who was to be the first Bishop of Rome, would not accept what Christ must face. If it was so unthinkable to him, then how much more so to the other Apostles?

     Some time ago I had several long discussions with other Christians about the Passion. Their position was that it was necessary for the Redemption of Mankind. I could never square that with the omnipotence of God. How could anything be “necessary” to an omnipotent Being? Surely He could redeem us all by simple ukase. To say the least, those discussions often became heightened.

     In these latter years, I’ve come to wonder if the semantics of the thing might conceal a necessity not of God but of Man. In other words, was the necessity ours? Would we have believed in Him and accepted His New Covenant as authoritative if not for the Passion and the Resurrection? We humans have always wanted more evidence of religious propositions than we’ve been given. Perhaps only the Passion and Resurrection would suffice to ignite the Christian fire sufficiently that it might enflame the world.

     There’s this, too: Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. He was capable of feeling fear, pain, loss, and sorrow. His time in the Garden of Gethsemane makes it plain that He did not relish the fate in store for him:

     And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
     And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
     And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
     And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. [Mark 14:32-38]

     This is a tremendously important passage, especially in combination with the ones above. Jesus feared to suffer and die. Even though He knew what He was, His human side quailed in terror from the agonies to come. No doubt those fears had been with Him for some time...which helps to explain the conversation He had with Moses and Elijah during His Transfiguration.

     If the Passion was not necessary, as we understand the word, for God, perhaps it was necessary for Man. Certainly Christ didn’t go to Golgotha for His own sake. But being divine as well as human, He would have known that for Him to suffer and die, to rise from the dead, and to be seen again among the living would be an irrefutable demonstration of the authority He wielded. And ever obedient to His Father’s will, He went to His Passion to die and be Resurrected as had been foretold.

     Religious charlatans are a well-known species. They differ in many ways, but they are united in one all-important characteristic: They do not give; they take. Indeed, they demand as much as they think they can get away with. Only he who gives, asking nothing for himself, should have any claim on the attention of a man of faith.

     Jesus of Nazareth gave more than any mere mortal would have contemplated giving in his highest moments: His life, preceded by suffering of the greatest amount and intensity the torturers of His era were able to inflict. His Passion and Resurrection made it plain that He had not come for any purpose of His own, but to point the way for fallen Man.

     We have several weeks more of Lent before us. The season, along with its culmination in the Passion and Resurrection, should be seen as indivisible. Pondered as a whole, its import rises above that of any single event narrated in the Gospels. We can see it for what it was: the greatest event in human history, the axis around which all of history will turn, until time is no more.

     May God bless and keep you all.

The Syrian Revolution.

Yes, modern-day snipe hunting.
In reality, you could not locate a revolution in Syria using the Hubble space telescope — unless, that is, you are persuaded that groups such as Nusra and Jaysh al-Islam carry with them the hopes and dreams of the Arab Spring, along with the human heads they've been harvesting over the course of this conflict.

* * * *

The moral outrage of these champions of regime change is of course, and in time-honored fashion, selective — although no less egregious for all that. But making it even more contemptible is the fact they betray not one tincture of evidence of having learned any lessons from Iraq or Libya, previous and recent examples of regime change wars, resulting in both countries being pushed into the abyss of societal collapse and chaos, and out of which, in the case of Iraq, the monster of Salafi-jihadism emerged.[1]

The idea of a Syrian revolution is as fatuous as the idea that there’s a “civil war” going on in Syria. What’s been afoot in Syria since 2011 is a putsch financed and organized by outside powers, the U.S. included, to bring down “the brutal dictator, Assad.” Clearly, Assad is popular and will easily prevail in any future election. By most accounts, life in Syria was decent and free of the sectarian enmity that that jihadis brought to the table.

Moreover, when does the descriptor "civil war" become laughable? After the first 30,000 foreign jihadis join the fray? In truth, I don't know what the total foreign fighter contingent is in Syria so that number's kind of vaporous at this point. I do seem to recall reading that there were several thousand of Uighurs in Idlib Governate alone and its undeniable that fanatics and fools have arrived from Britain, France, German, Sweden, Tunisia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to name a few places of origin. So substantively, far from a civil war. In fact, Syria's a lot like the Spanish "civil war" of the 1930s. Every pathology adrift in the world was focused like the sun through a magnifying glass on an obscure conflict but behind it came the terrible evil of WWII. What Western official acts like he or she has the least understanding of the parallels at work here, let alone the terrible slaughter of WWI that, in one view, involved just drifting into war?

The eventual result of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt was a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood but it fortunately gave way to a saner arrangement. Trying to make the war of aggression on Syria seem like some kind of hunger of the people for relief from the mad dog ophthalmologist is rank dishonesty. Rank dishonesty being, let it be said, the U.S. stock in trade in Syria. A good example: the Coalition attack on the Syrian Arab Army near Deir ez-Zor that the U.S. claimed was a mistake. It wasn't.

Mr. Wray focuses on the aftermath that would exist in the event of a jihadi victory:

It does not require you to be a fulsome supporter of the Syrian government to recognize that the alternative of Nusra or Jaysh al-Islam in power in Damascus is one that does not bear thinking about.[2]
A gift from Ms. Lindsey and Mad Dog McCain.
That's a bit in the category of damned by faint praise but it's good enough. As has been wisely observed, "The best is the enemy of the good." And "pretty damn good" is a fair description of Baathist Syria. Especially when you understand the doctrine of unintended (?) consequences, who can quibble with that characterization? It is indeed wonderful for the people who have been affected, especially if you consider the horrific war damage in Syria that would never have happened had not the U.S. and its Saudi and Qatari "allies" waged war on Syria.

The death and destruction is unquestionably our responsibility as we have been enthusiastic supporters of the attempt to bring down Assad. If we had devoted 1% of our efforts to supporting Assad, vaporizing ISIS and al-Nusraqaida, and cutting off Saudi and Qatari aid, the putsch attempt would have been over in a month.

What comes after these Western dabblings in regime change is treated cavalierly in Western chancelleries if it's not ignored completely. In one instance, Libya, the attitude displayed revealed a deeply diseased mind. And that was a very senior U.S. official indeed, one who was not acting on her own. The U.S. was clueless in Libya and it's clueless in Syria. Calling something a "revolution" doesn't hide the grim realities.

[1] "Regime Change Propaganda on Syria Now in Overdrive.” By John Wight, Sputnik, 2/22/18.
[2] Id.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Weaponizations Part 2: The Understratum.

     The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. – Edmund Burke

     Among the least pleasant events of life is a visit to a medical professional: doctor, dentist, orthopedist, urologist, gastroenterologist, ophthalmologist, what have you. Such trips tend to be postponed a number of times, even when the (eventual) patient knows he should stop farting around, get off his ass, and go. In a seeming paradox, the reason for postponing the visit is often the same as the reason for agreeing to it: fear.

     Fear is one of the two reasons for consulting a physician. Pain is the other. These are strong motivators, yet we frequently attempt to talk ourselves out of acting on them: “It’s probably nothing.” “Maybe it will go away.” “Fred had this, and he got over it.” And so on.

     I’ve done this a number of times. On one occasion it nearly cost me my life. Clearly, a superior power of reasoning doesn’t automatically defend one against it. Similarly, there is no automatic defense against the fears those who wish to enslave us attempt to instill in us.

     A mentally healthy human being can usually discriminate between that which he should fear and a conjured-up phantasm. So our would-be masters do all they can to make us mentally unhealthy. In particular, they labor to weaponize our fears: to direct them away from true dangers and toward imaginary or improbable threats, to intensify them, and to harness them to their agenda.

     “The State is based on threat.” – Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, Illuminatus!

     A politically useful fear is always a fear of something larger than oneself. It’s usually kept from being linked to a namable individual who could be approached and confronted one-on-one. There are exceptions, of course, but the pattern is a strong one. Thus, fear of a particular neighbor could not be made politically useful, but fear of the possibility of an unrecognized maniac who just might go on a killing spree can be used for political purposes, if it can be made widespread and strong.

     That unnamed maniac might not seem larger than oneself at first blush. After all, should such a person spring into action, he’ll be a man like other men. He won’t have the strength of Hercules or the speed of Mercury. He’ll have weapons, but then, don’t we all, at least potentially? America has many gun stores, many shooting ranges, and many instructors qualified to teach the skills required for the effective use of a firearm.

     No, the unnamed maniac is fearsome – and politically useful – because he’s unnamed, and therefore unpredictable. He could be anyone. He could arise from any point of the compass. He could select his targets on any imaginable basis, including none at all. How does one defeat the fear such a conjuration inspires?

     Today we have a name for Nikolas de Jesus Cruz. Before he acted, we had only the unnamed maniac-to-be. The political operators of today are striving with all their might to make us fear the next such before he acquires a name, a locale, and a target. It’s their best shot at getting us to surrender more of what little freedom remains to us.

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

     Our would-be masters usually work with several supposed threats at a time. “Global warming.” “Loss of species.” “Air pollution.” “Natural resource exhaustion.” “Automation.” Those are just the ones that come to mind this morning. There are surely others.

     The common characteristics of those threats are size and nebulosity. Each of them presupposes a large danger. In no case is the imputed source of that danger localizable and identifiable, such that ordinary Americans could address it without political interference. That is by design.

     Our capacity to fear can only be weaponized against us by the invocation of such phantasms. Fortunately, there’s a limit: when our fear energy is exhausted, we tend to dismiss all such bugaboos as a batch. Recent developments suggest that Americans might be nearing that threshold.

     More anon.

Pearls of expression.

On that CALPERS fiasco.
No one could have seen this coming. . . .[1]
Other comments excellent, as usual.

[1] Comment by American Psycho on "'CalPERS Is Near Insolvency; It Needs A Bailout Soon' - Former Board Member Makes Stunning Admission." By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 2/24/18.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Day Off

     Perhaps you suspected one of these was coming. In any case, I’m swamped, and feeling a bit under-powered as well. I expect I’ll be back tomorrow.

It wasn't a 747?

One or two wrong assumptions in this piece. A bit like: a light airplane crashes into a graveyard. The investigators recover 452 bodies and assume it must have been a much bigger plane.[1]
The comments on this article are a treat.

[1]  Comment by vernier on "Britain's prehistoric catastrophe revealed: How 90% of the neolithic population vanished in just 300 years." By David Keys The Independent, 2/22/18.

Pearls of expression.

Ground breaking research has shown that ground breaking research can be heavily influenced by the political beliefs & agendas of those who commission it, and by those who undertake it.
Comment by andrew65 on "Britain's prehistoric catastrophe revealed: How 90% of the neolithic population vanished in just 300 years." By David Keys The Independent, 2/22/18.

Good question.

Just how long does a body have to be in the ground, before the crime of Grave Robbing, become the respectable science of Archeology?
Comment by Freddie Jones on "Britain's prehistoric catastrophe revealed: How 90% of the neolithic population vanished in just 300 years." By David Keys The Independent, 2/22/18.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Quickies: When The Pustule Bursts...

     Given events like this one:

     Police in Bucks County are searching for a man who is accused of killing a pet dog.

     Hilltown Township Police say they initially responded to a call on the 1400 block of Route 113 on Feb. 3 about a man threatening members of the home, and who had possibly killed the family’s pet dog.

     When police arrived on the scene, the family members were not hurt, but a dog was found dead on the property.

     The Bucks County SPCA says the dog suffered multiple skull fractures due to blunt force trauma.

     Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Rony Arturo Garcia of the 1400 block of Route 113 in Perkasie.

     ...and this one:

     The largely abandoned former seaside resort town of Castel Volturno north of Naples has been taken over by Nigerian gangs who run drug and prostitution rings.

     The town has a total population of around 30,000 people, of which an estimated 20,000 are migrants, French news magazine L’Obs reports.

     Many of the Nigerian migrant women who walk the streets as prostitutes are underage, offering sexual favours for as little as 5 to 15 euros along the Via Domitiana by the sea.

     The rampant petty crime and violence in the city has led to journalists wanting to write about the town requiring police escorts for their own safety.

     The current Italian government, which is seeking re-election on March 4th, has signed a 21-million euro package to increase security in towns like Castel Volturno and offer integration programmes for migrants.

     ...I expect rivers of blood. Some of that blood will be from decent Americans and Europeans, but not all of it -- and the Left. and its relentless promotion of multiculturalism and open borders will bear the odium.

     The West cannot permit this importation of savages from Third World hellholes to continue without fatal consequences for the Civilization of the Enlightenment.


     No forest of hyperlinks today. No citations of news stories about which you’ve already read or heard more than enough. This will be one of my purer tirades, the sort I emit when it all gets to be too much for me -- and in case you’re not a regular Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch, allow me to inform you: that takes one hell of a lot.

     “To weaponize” is one of the more useful neologisms of the past few decades. Its meaning is clear: one weaponizes an item by converting it from its current form, in which it could not be used to harm others, into a new form in which it would be harmful, perhaps lethal. Needless to say (though, in keeping with time-honored tradition, I’ll say it anyway), we don’t speak of “weaponizing” something that’s already a weapon: e.g., a gun, a bomb, or a tank. The item in question must be relatively harmless before the process begins, at least by the standards that apply to normal usage. Weaponization obviously dismisses those usages and standards in the hope of coming up with something deadly.

     The rise of no-prisoners / no-mercy politics has been accompanied by the weaponization of a number of things we once regarded as harmless or benign. A brief list:

  • Sex.
  • Race.
  • Food.
  • The schools.
  • The weather.
  • The children.
  • The churches.
  • The news media.
  • Charity and charities.
  • Other nominally virtuous “causes”.
  • Entertainment, including various sports and their major spectacles.

     Those are the ones that come easily to my frazzled mind at this unGodly hour of the morning. There are probably others.

     In consequence, for any of these matters to occur in casual conversation is enough to ruin that conversation. The widespread desire to avoid any sort of unpleasant confrontation will make most people change the subject at once, if not excuse oneself “on the grounds of a previous engagement.”

     It’s a commonplace that we all have opinions. (“Opinions are like assholes; everybody’s gotta have one.” – Me) However, in earlier times a difference of opinion was safer than it is today. In our hypercontentious milieu, allowing yourself to express a “disapproved” stance can cost you some cases, everything you have. Ask James Damore.

     But a society in which an ever-enlarging sphere of ordinary matters is deemed a minefield where even an angel dare not tread is one that’s in danger of losing its cohesion. What follows is never pretty.

     Perhaps what I mean by social cohesion isn’t intuitively obvious. Nevertheless, it’s the most important characteristic of any society.

     Social cohesion is the prevalence of mutual trust among members of that society. If it’s high, even strangers will assume one another trustworthy, at least in routine matters. I’ve written about this before:

     It might sound implausible to younger Americans, but half a century ago the typical American would reflexively trust the word even of a passing stranger. We trusted one another because we knew ourselves, in the small and in the large, to be honorable men. It was a knowledge forged from experience and tempered by our recognition of a common moral and ethical foundation: the Judeo-Christian code of conduct.

     We believed in the manly virtues. More, we believed that those around us believed in them, too.

     Were there thieves, con men, and chiselers among us then? Of course. But their number was far smaller than it is today. The social-legal environment didn't yet incorporate all the inducements to dishonesty and chiseling that we suffer in the year of Our Lord 2009. Perhaps more important, we didn't yet endure the perpetual hectoring about how cruel, venal, and untrustworthy we are, from institutions that wax upon men's distrust of one another.

     We trusted our merchants and business associates. We understood free enterprise to be an inherently honorable, honesty-promoting thing. We trusted our spouses, knowing that the marriage vow was taken seriously by our communities and that a departure from it would be held against the violator. We trusted lawyers to represent us honestly and capably at need, and courts to return just verdicts and sentences. We even trusted politicians, which was the beginning of unwisdom.

     I was there. I remember. So don’t bother accusing me of hallucinating a fantasy about “the good old days” in defiance of your notions. That having been said, it’s the next paragraph from that article that should focus our attention today:

     Whenever and wherever men decide that they cannot trust one another to behave honorably, to meet their obligations and honor their commitments, or to cleave to fundamental moral principles about violence, theft, fraud, filial duty, and false witness, the sequel is always the same: we recur to the State, the institution whose sole instrument is force. We accede to laws innumerable, expecting them to substitute for trustworthiness in our fellow men. They seldom have that effect, for every law, however well intentioned and carefully designed, creates a black market in the behavior it forbids: an inducement for evil men to sell their willingness to accept the risks of violating it.

     That’s the price of the loss of social cohesion.

     It’s possible you feel confident, as you see a stranger approach, that you’ll walk away from the encounter unharmed. But that’s not trust. That’s confidence in your personal resilience: your ability to weather what’s coming. Trust is the assumption that you and the stranger approaching you share a common ethic: one that protects you from him and vice-versa.

     Some examples might help. Just yesterday morning, I went to Mass at a parish other than my own. It was the first time I’d been to that parish. As I didn’t know where to find the entrance to the chapel, I approached a woman in the parking lot and asked her to guide me. She, having correctly taken me for a fellow Catholic, smiled and did so with no stress apparent. That’s trust in action: a demonstration of the sort of interaction that’s commonplace when social cohesion is high.

     Compare the above to another episode from about three years ago. I’d just parked my Mercedes in a shopping-center parking lot, gotten out of the car, and saw a stranger approaching me. My hand immediately went to my weapon. I was confident that the outcome would be endurable, but my trust in the approaching stranger was zero.

     Today it would be unwise for a visibly well-to-do American in a place where muggings are, if not common at least not unknown, to trust someone he’d never met. Yet fifty years ago I would have trusted that stranger by default. I’d have granted him the “presumption of decency” that characterizes a society with high social cohesion.

     The weaponizations of so many things have put all of us on our guard. It might not be clear to my Gentle Readers what that means for our future. Take it from me: it ain’t lookin’ good.

     I occupy a difficult position: I see things others don’t, especially patterns and threads of causation. I write about them, when I can. (When I can’t, I declare a “day off.” I spend most days off trying to calm down before I pop a brain aneurysm. Harvey’s helps.) But one who describes a problem is often looked to for a solution, and that I cannot give you.

     I don’t know how to reverse it. I don’t know how we could reacquire the amiability and trust we once shared. I don’t know how we could revive the willingness “to agree to disagree” – i.e., to treat differences of opinion (or personal practice) on subjects of widespread interest as tolerable, even potentially educational. It’s wrapped in weaponized threads that are peculiarly difficult to sever, especially as the forces that have already weaponized so much of what’s common among us labor constantly to strengthen them and add to their number.

     I said this would be one of my purer tirades. I hope I haven’t disappointed you.

Start here.

The rest just falls into place.
There is no institution left in America that can be called democratic, and thus there is no internal mechanism to prevent a descent into barbarity.
“The political role of corporate power, the corruption of the political and representative processes by the lobbying industry, the expansion of executive power at the expense of constitutional limitations, and the degradation of political dialogue promoted by the media are the basics of the system, not excrescences upon it,” the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin wrote in “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Why Do We Pray?

A nice piece from Ben Shapiro in answer to Tyson's snarky putdown on prayer.

How Differently Do Libs and Cons Think? A Poll

I'm going to link here to a poll - I'd like to check responses from a random sample (here, on Google+, and on Facebook). If you could answer a few questions, I'd appreciate it - it will be anonymous.

This was prompted by an article comparing the starkly different answers to questions about acceptable/unacceptable speech. If the response is good, I may try other polls to get some sense about how differently Americans feel about current issues.

The poll deals with proper responses to school violence.

Media Manipulation: A First Course

     Robert Spencer has written a fine dissection of an attempt at the manipulation of public opinion by a South Dakota newspaper. It’s too good to excerpt, so I exhort my Gentle Readers to go thence and return after having finished it. As always, I’ll wait.

     Wasn’t that informative? I’ve seldom seen it done as well. But lest we consider the subject closed, allow me to add a couple of thoughts that can aid one in separating out the biases from the reportage.

1. The Narrative.

     A journalist who seeks to shape public opinion through a nominal news piece must first decide on The Narrative to be promoted within the story. This isn’t always obvious, even to the most biased of reporters. At this time there are several narratives contending for promotion by the American Left and its handmaidens in the media. Those narratives fall into a few categories.

  • There are crisis narratives, intended to promote formless fears of forces beyond the capacity of individuals to counter without the “help” of the Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnibenevolent State. Perhaps the best example here is “global warming.”
  • There are enemy narratives, in which John Q. Public is encouraged to see some category of persons, whether inside or outside the U.S., as working in concert to do him harm. During 2017 the “Russian election interference” narrative was most prominent among that sort, though these past few days the “NRA wants to kill your kids” narrative has risen to public attention as well.
  • There are bad person narratives, intended to defame specific individuals by implying low motives on their part. The story Robert Spencer cites in the linked article is a good example.

     (This taxonomy has a mirror image of sorts: stories intended to celebrate or glorify forces, organizations, or persons dedicated to opposing the supposed villains at the foci of the stories above. But that’s a subject that deserves its own screed.)

2. What’s The Story?

     Once the journalist has selected the narrative he wants to promote, he must then choose his tactics:

  • Story selection;
  • Frame selection;
  • Data selection and presentation.

     Story selection – the journalist’s choice of organizations, persons, or events to write about – must come first, for obvious reasons. This, of course, is heavily influenced by the selected narrative.

     Positive selection bias hunts for stories that might otherwise not be reported on at all. Many years ago, a Northeastern regional paper whose editors were determined to promote the notion that anti-Semitism is a rising influence in America chose to dedicate several pages to a story about Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus exercise machines. The story returned several times to Jones’s anti-Semitic views. Happily, the story received little attention and faded out of view.

     Negative selection bias chooses to exclude or minimize reportage on events that would undercut the chosen narrative. For example, if a reporter must cover a shooting-spree story in which the perpetrator was eventually stopped by an armed civilian, he will be motivated to minimize the importance of the good guy’s firearm. He might not even mention it. Similarly, stories in which muggings and armed robberies are halted through the defensive use of a firearm receive little to no coverage.

3. Setting The Frame.

     A photographer, conscious of the limited field of view of his camera, will carefully frame the image or item he wants to photograph so that things he deems irrelevant or distracting will be minimized or omitted. The same goes for the reporter bent upon promoting a particular narrative.

     For example, a reporter determined to bias his readers against the recent tax bill might elect to focus on the benefits the bill confers upon corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Such an emphasis would serve the narrative that the Republican Party, currently in the majority in both houses of Congress, is concerned solely with serving “the donor class.” The frame would be set to omit or distract from the benefits to middle-class taxpayers, which would cross-cut that narrative.

     Similarly, coverage of a “protest” used to silence a conservative speaker would set its frame to omit or minimize the “protesters’” use of violence and vandalism. It would use terms intended to imply that if there was violence, it was minimal (or “from both sides,” regardless of the facts of the matter). Imputations by “protesters” that the silenced speaker was a promoter of bigotry or violence would be reported without comment, whereas refutations of such calumnies would be cast as self-serving and therefore dubious, or would receive no attention.

4. Selecting And Presenting The Data.

     Stories with a compendious nature – i.e., intended to cover an “issue” rather than a particular, time-and-place-delimited event – will present only data that serves the biases of the reporter and his editors. There are always ways to present “objective” data in such a fashion, our notions that “figures don’t lie” notwithstanding.

     Darrell Huff presents several examples of how this can be done in his invaluable little book How to Lie with Statistics. Here’s a good one, in which Huff describes the perversion of graphics to create a false impression of rocketing prosperity. The first graph shows an increase in aggregate American incomes, as reported to the IRS, during a year in the Thirties:

     “Now that’s clear enough,” says Huff, and it certainly is. It’s an honest pictorial representation of a 10% increase in the aggregate of national incomes. The second graph shows the same data – or does it? – but gives a far different impression:

     “That is impressive, isn’t it?” says Huff. “Anyone looking at it can just feel prosperity throbbing in the arteries of the country. It is a subtler equivalent of editing ‘National income rose ten per cent’ into ‘climbed a whopping ten per cent.’ It is vastly more effective, however, because it contains no adjectives or adverbs to spoil the illusion of objectivity. There’s nothing anyone can pin on you.”

     That’s only one of a multitude of deceptive techniques. Tendentious selection of base year is another: What was national income doing before the selected year? Was it lower than $20 billion...or higher than $22 billion? We’re not told. Were large-scale shootings more common before our present day, or less? Did they reap more lives on average, or fewer? My Gentle Readers can surely see the possibilities.

5. The General Degradation Of Human Testimony

     To doubt whether a man of eminence has told the truth about his own birth, in appearance to be very deficient in candour; yet nobody can live long without knowing that falsehoods of convenience or vanity, falsehoods from which no evil immediately visible ensues, except the general degradation of human testimony, are very lightly uttered, and once uttered are sullenly supported. – Samuel Johnson, in his biography of poet William Congreve.

     Deceit begets further deceit. It always has and it always will. When the deceivers, as a class, occupy the pedestals of journalism – they whom we’re exhorted to trust as honest purveyors of objective accounts – we’re in particularly dangerous territory. A misled people can do themselves and others great harm. A people convinced that it has been misled is prone to even greater exertions. The first targets of its fury will be the deceivers themselves.

     And it won’t matter whether they “meant well.”

Fox News descends to joke status.

“Kennedy” on Fox tonight referred to the “filthy, corrupt government” of Russia. You can see why they use the slogan "Fair and balanced."

This surpasses even Ralph Peters’s reference to Putin as a “thug” and a “racist.”

Fox is fully on board with the moronic demonization of Russia. Trish Regan beats the “evil Russian are attacking our democracy and sowing dissension” theme like a rented mule. She can't get enough of Gen. Jack Keane on her regular show. He's a reliable peddler of the "expansionist Russian" nonsense.

The late infomercial marketing genius Billy “Mr. Mighty Putty” Mays was never as good as these Fox peddlers of snake oil.

Fox News-verified photo of Putin leadership style.

Hat tip: The Daily Beast.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ultra-Quickies: 'Nuff Said

...and remember, I started out as a doubter.

Advances In The Art

     As I’m rather old, I have memories of pleasurable past experiences that retain a kind of glow. In some cases the glow is not really representative of the experience in any objective sense. Rather, it derives from my tastes at that time, which were...other than they are now. This is particularly striking when it comes to the science fiction I once read and enjoyed.

     Now, I read voraciously from an early age. A very early age, actually. And it does stand to reason that a child’s tastes will be less well developed – not to say immature, though the word cannot be summarily dismissed – than those of the man he will become. All the same, reacquaintance with the affections of those early years can be seriously embarrassing, even if no one else is around to witness it.

     “What’s this about,” you ask? Simply, an encounter with some old, much loved books that have left me wondering how I could have been so easily pleased, and pondering the considerable improvements in the writing we find in genre fiction today.

     (Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis. Ovid said it, I believe it, and that settles it.)

     There was once a science fiction writer, much beloved by his readers, who wrote long series of novels that vaguely prefigured the interminable series of today, except for one thing: they ended. Apparently this writer, a widely knowledgeable man who was highly accomplished in his chosen field, was able to create the conditions for an extremely long and complex plot, and foresee how it must be resolved six or seven novels down the road. Anyway, that’s what he did in his two best known series, to which many thousands of young readers thrilled in his heyday.

     I’m not going to name that writer. I don’t want to besmirch his reputation any more than necessary to make my point. But it’s possible, if you’re near to my age and have been reading SF for a comparable length of time, that you have his name in mind already. That writer deserves credit for his strengths. He was very imaginative, and took risks in scientific and technological speculation that other SF writers of his day elected to avoid. He also dared a political speculation the possibility of which few today would be willing to entertain even for the sake of an entertainment. In short, he was no lightweight or pansy.

     However, if you were to put his writing alongside recent, widely approved examples of the genre, you would be hard pressed to rule it competent, at least by contemporary standards. By those standards he committed a number of mortal sins:

  • Uncontrolled narrative viewpoint;
  • Frequent narrative intrusions not bound to a character’s viewpoint;
  • Dialogue exchanges poorly suited to the context;
  • Quite a lot of unbelievable dialogue, as in “people don’t talk that way and never have;”
  • Wildly excessive, cloyingly florid descriptive passages;
  • Habitual use of far too many adjectives and adverbs, especially in their superlative forms;
  • Exclamation points a outrance.

     He never, ever relented from those practices. They can be found throughout his major series. And in reading his books with fresh eyes, I find myself embarrassed as much for his sake as for my younger self.

     We might think of him as science fiction’s own John Galsworthy, an early Twentieth Century English writer of great renown. Galsworthy’s best known novels are soap operas about the Forsyte clan and its offshoots. They were amazingly popular; indeed, they made him one of the most popular writers in the world. He got the Nobel Prize in Literature for them. But they’re not well written, at least by the standards of our time.

     Such is the natural condition of an infant genre.

     As a genre matures, so do the skills of its practitioners. No one could get away today with writing like that of the SF writer I left unnamed above. Even the allegiants of the “Pulp Revolution” and “Pulp Revival,” movements which are demonstrating considerable vitality, don’t allow themselves such liberties and extravagances. They hew to contemporary standards and contemporary tastes.

     This is all to the good. While it’s commendable to mine past treasures for their virtues, it’s equally important to recognize their flaws and to move beyond them. SF, fantasy, and horror writers are more proficient today, in part because their readerships are more demanding. It could not have been otherwise. Our fictional forebears wrote for smaller and younger audiences that had self-selected according to their preferences for imaginative speculation. Indeed, it’s possible that many of those younger readers were thrilled by extravagance, floridity, and narrative intrusions that embellished earlier extravagances.

     But we grew up. We heeded God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” In the process we bequeathed portions of our reading tastes to our children. But as the audience for speculative fiction grew, and the writer’s prospects for becoming established in one of those genres expanded, it became more demanding. After all, there were other things an adult could some cases, that he had to read. His tastes became more discriminating. In the everlasting nature of things it was inevitable that he would discriminate.

     And the writers of old who had delighted us with their less disciplined but highly imaginative works were slowly but inexorably left behind.

     We hope to get better as we age. We hope general conditions will get better as time passes. In a free society, this is usually the case. But as with all other things, there is a price.

     The price is the recognition that one’s childhood loves weren’t up to the standards of today. When one elects to revisit those loves, the reverie will be mixed with considerable embarrassment: “How could I ever have thought this was great storytelling?”

     Well, perhaps that’s a bit unfair. It certainly pleased our younger selves. That’s what it was intended to do; therefore, it was a success. And perhaps the right perspective on those early genre delights, for those of us acquainted with more disciplined and refined writing, is simply to say, “That’s the way it was.” (Alternately, “Ah! Those halcyon days of yore!” If you want to confuse those who have no idea what you’re talking about, anyway.)

     (Cross-posted at my fiction site.)

Pearls of expression.

Even though, after more than a year of constant, saturated media coverage on the so-called Russiagate story there is an embarrassing paucity of any supporting evidence. More reliable observers like Princeton Professor Stephen Cohen have cogently argued that the real story is US “Intelgate”, not the media sensationalized “Russiagate”.

"Deep State and the FBI – Federal Blackmail Investigation." By Finian Cunningham, Strategic Culture Foundation, 2/20/18.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Dam is Leaking...

...the persons responsible for building it are frantically patching and slapping on duct tape.

To no avail. The Awful Truth hidden behind the dam - that Obama's DOJ CONSPIRED to commit CRIMES against Republicans/Conservative - is leaking out.

Look. I'm not a lawyer. But, even I can see that this all CAN'T be legal.

Follow the Gateway Pundit link to get Cernovich's Twitter account - he's got a LOT of information about this (or, use this link).

I think they may have found the Smoking Gun.

Actual gun not used to avoid "Triggering" people.

BTW, that old Sen. Ted Stevens "bribery" case? It's beginning to look as though that was a put-up job, too. Failure to disclose evidence that might help a defendant's case - that's what is called exculpatory evidence - is not only unethical, it's a CRIME. A prosecutor can lose his law license - and probably SHOULD - if he is guilty of hiding such evidence.

Ultra-Quickies: Scandalize ‘Em!

     Do you remember the “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE” campaign? It might still be going on in a few places, but I’ve heard nothing about it for a few weeks now. Well, the general theme has been picked up and adapted by, shall we say, another interest group?

     Make sure your local feminist harridans get an eyeful!

This is a Frightening Thought

I'd not thought of this, but it does make some sense (from the comments).
Predicted along with flying cars (still waiting!), mars colonies, and single pill dietary needs was the "super learning" drug. Take a pill and you only need to be told something once to retain it forever. 

We didn't stop to think the corollary to "super learning" was "instantly convinced" of anything you are told.
 I'm out of town on an extended stay in Cleveland - will be back by Thursday, if not sooner. I'm also avoiding my revisions. Right now, I'm just doing a lot of thinking - not all that much writing things down. I've done that before, right before diving into work. I can't force it, right now.


     Forgive me, Gentle Reader. It was a strenuous weekend, and my current tail-dragging condition will not support the production of a typical essay. So have a few tidbits from the recent past.

1. How It’s Done Dept.

     The true test of a writer’s skill is his ability to unearth a timeless truth in a novel setting. Today’s expositor is Andrew Klavan:

     I don't care about super hero movies. They tell me they represent an American mythology, but it's a childish mythology: heroics without tragedy — and there are no heroics without tragedy.

     And they’re just the first two sentences of a wholly remarkable piece.

2. Behind The Glib Phrases And Oily Assurances.

     Never, ever believe a gun-controller who says that “we don’t intend to take your guns:”

     In an appearance on NBC’s Sunday Today early that morning, moderator Chuck Todd lambasted Republicans for being the reason gun control efforts were making no progress since they were in control of the House, Senate, and the Presidency. Todd ratcheted up his anti-gun stance during Meet the Press by promoting radical calls to abolish the right to bears by repealing the Second Amendment. And he did it by highlighting the writings of Bret Stephens, a never-Trumper turned liberal.

     “Isn’t the difficulty here legislatively, the constitution,” Todd lamented to his largely liberal panel. “Which is Bret Stephens' point in The New York Times, he’s calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.”

     The one and only reason to repeal the Second Amendment is to facilitate federal laws mandating the registration of every firearm owned by any American citizen, other than a designated exception category of “grandfathered” firearms owners. And of course those designated exception categories will all be employed by the State or one of its mandarins.

     First registration, with serious penalties for unauthorized acquisitions and transfers. Confiscation would follow shortly thereafter. The ultimate consequence would be a tyranny undreamed of by any living American. Doubt this at your peril.

3. A Test Of The Democrats’ Motives.

     Rush Limbaugh remains one of the most incisive commentators and thinkers on the Right. Here’s a recent example of Rush as his best:

     Nationally-syndicated radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was a guest on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, who asked him about how he would deal with DACA and illegal immigration.

     Limbaugh said he would agree to permanent citizenship for illegal immigrants under one very important condition … they would not be eligible to vote for 15 to 25 years.

     Never mind that this would require a Constitutional amendment. The Democrats’ caterwaulings against the “unfairness” of it would lay bare their insincerity and faux compassion, making plain their true reason for wanting to keep illegal aliens streaming into the country.

     Note also that the Democrats’ opposition to a border wall is currently founded on cost-benefit: i.e., they claim that it would cost a fortune and it wouldn’t stem the tide. This makes two subjects on which the Democrats suddenly become cost-conscious. The other, of course, is the military.

4. The Endless Inventiveness Of The Warmistas.

     The invaluable Joanne Nova brings us the latest ignore-the-data self-exculpation from the promoters of man-caused global warming:

     … “according to a scientific study published this month, the Southeast’s colder winter weather is part of an isolated trend, linked to a more wavy pattern in the jet stream that crosses North America. That dipping jet stream allows arctic air to plunge into the Southeast. Scientists call this colder weather a “hole” in overall global warming, or a “warming hole.”

     “What we are looking at is an anomaly,” said Jonathan M. Winter, an assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth College and the principle investigator in the study. “The Southeast is the exception to the rule.”

     Joanne provides the required snark:

     Coming soon, new discoveries will show that the Little Ice Age was not cold, just part of an isolated trend that happened all over the world.

     If neither of us were married and we weren’t half a world apart...!

5. The Past Speaks To Us, Did We But Listen.

     Longtime friend and colleague David De Gerolamo provides a historically relevant quotation:

     If Professor Reynolds will allow: Heh. Indeed.

6. Hungary’s Viktor Orban Leads The Way.

     ...and the way forward is Christianity:

     BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's prime minister says that "Christianity is Europe's last hope" and that politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris favoring migration have "opened the way to the decline of Christian culture and the advance of Islam."

     Viktor Orban said Sunday during his 20th annual state of the nation speech that his government will oppose efforts by the United Nations or the European Union to make migration acceptable to the world.

     He conjured the image of a Western Europe overtaken by Muslims, saying that "born Germans are being forced back from most large German cities, as migrants always occupy big cities first."

     Orban claimed that Islam would soon "knock on Central Europe's door" from the west as well as the south.

     Leaders of insight and courage are arising just as we need them. May they be enough!

7. I Can’t Not Mention This.

     Mike Hendrix has been unbelievably generous in promoting my fiction:

     [I]f any of you haven’t already, get on over to Francis’ place and buy his books. I promise you you won’t regret it, and your appetite will be duly whetted for the sequel to Innocents as an added bonus. Having made a go at writing a novel myself a few years back—and failing miserably at it, too—I can only tip my hat in humble admiration to a guy like Francis, who manages to produce such extraordinary work again and again (I was gonna append something like “seemingly effortlessly” at the last there, but I know better than that).

     Thankfully, the fruits of Poretto’s toil in the gardens of lit’rachure are easily available to us lesser lights in this the Age of the Innarnuts, and at a bargain price. He also has a variety of (mostly) shorter novels available here, along with one on his thoughts about the nuts and bolts of writing, all for the astonishingly low, low price of…FREE. Do yourself a favor and go get yourself some. You’ll be supporting one of the good guys, with the added benefit of helping a worthwhile alternative to a world of creative endeavor dominated by lugubrious dreck salted heavily with liberal proselytizing to flourish.

     The man has a talent for making me blush. Thank you, Mike, most sincerely.

     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. I hope to catch a few badly needed Zs between now and tomorrow’s tirade. See you then.