Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Rebuttal

     I exhort you to patience, Gentle Reader. This rant will be rantier than most.

     Francis Turner has a good piece up on the virtue-signaling “Sons of Mary” versus the get-it-done “Sons of Martha.” Rather than excerpt it, I’ll simply direct you to it, as it’s more than worth your time. (There’s a bit of Kipling in it, too.) It got me to thinking about the least discussed of all disjunctions among men: the impassable cleft between those who take responsibility and those who disdain to do so.

     “Responsibility for what?” you may well ask. And that is, indeed, the question. Allow me to provide a little more stimulus to thought. Regard this piece from Ammoland:

     Sadly, no Thomas Jefferson has appeared among us (yet) to articulate and encourage the Constitutional faithful and our message wide and far enough to shut these fools down.

     With subversive scum like George Soros, the morons in the entertainment industry and the willing idiots in the media pushing this insanity, our resistance to this plague of lies, distortion, and hostage-taking of ignorant youth has to be strengthened and elevated nation-wide....

     I want many more of you, whether having served, fought, or simply are a loyal American, to begin to stand up, be articulate, put forward logical and sensible arguments, and give these ignoramuses some lessons in truth and honesty.

     The author of the above seems to think that our right to keep and bear arms is endangered because we haven’t argued for it strenuously enough. I’d ask him what planet he’s from, but I probably wouldn’t like his answer.

     What’s the missing element here? The Constitution of the United States, specifically the Second, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments thereof, explicitly guarantee the right of the people to keep and bear arms against infringement. That’s inarguable, though the Left will continue to throw mud at it on various specious grounds. Still, the relevant text remains as it was from the ratification of the original Bill of Rights. So what’s missing? Anyone? Bueller?

     Compare the two pieces cited above. What would Francis Turner say to Timothy V. of Springfield, Oregon?

     Here’s another tidbit: Ever since Andrew Breitbart opined that “politics is downstream from culture,” conservative commentators have bemoaned the paucity of conservative cultural contributors. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to any of these wordsmiths that they could take a hand in the thing – that they could employ their oft-demonstrated eloquence in a fictional setting. Oh, there have been exceptions. William F. Buckley wrote a number of novels. Kurt Schlichter has written two books that have been fairly well received. And of course there’s this hack, though why anyone should pay attention to his crap, no one can say.

     The rest of them simply sit on their fat asses, collect fees for their columns and articles, and bitch.

     Finally, one from the domestic front: My wife Beth (a.k.a. “the C.S.O.”) complained for several months about a habit Zoe, one of our cats, had formed. Zoe likes to “bomb” Beth: i.e., she mounts the hutch above Beth’s desk and throws things down at Beth with a flick of her paw. Beth griped about that for quite some time without doing anything about it. I said nothing. I knew she’d bitch at me if I were to tell her what to do about it. As is the way of women, she wanted sympathy, not solutions.

     However, just two days ago, Zoe flung a small statuette that landed dead-center in Beth’s coffee. One of the consequences was a ruined keyboard. That finally moved Beth to implement the solution to her complaint: she cleared the top surface of her hutch of anything small enough for Zoe to use as ammunition. The bombardments have ceased, and only Zoe appears unhappy about it.

     “Sons of Mary,” indeed.

     There is exactly one person your decisions and actions can command. It wouldn’t matter if you were the Emperor of Earth; anyone could defy you if he were willing to pay the price. The implication “should” be “obvious:”

If you want it done that badly,
Get off your ass and do it yourself.

     Of course, if you’d rather whine about it, that’s your option. It’s our option to ignore you – or to mock you.

     It’s mind-boggling how little there is to know about ourselves that we don’t know already. I keep coming back to these hoary old maxims, these “sturdy wisdoms,” this folklore. It’s all there, Gentle Reader. If there’s anything new under the sun, it doesn’t include any brilliantly original ways to get other people to do what you want them to do so you won’t have to do it.

     What’s new – to Americans, at least – is the proliferation of bitchers and whiners. “We want this!” they scream, and expect that the rest of us will deliver it to them gift-wrapped. Maybe it’s tied up with the (relatively) new notion that you can make something into a “right” by demanding it loudly enough. Whatever the genesis, it’s made our relations – especially our relations with our progeny – near to unendurable.

     Allow me a citation from one of my novels. Christine D’Alessandro is preparing to go to war: a war her late mentor Louis Redmond could have made unnecessary, but didn’t:

     “How do you think he’d feel about this, Chris?”
     She sighted along the blade of the K-Bar, saw no burrs or chips, and sheathed it carefully in her boot.
     “I don’t know, Malcolm. Probably, he’d hate it. For all that he could whip a whole regiment with nothing but a handful of pine needles, he didn’t like himself better for it. He said he let Tiny live to send a message to the rest of them. I always figured it was just as much because he didn’t have the heart to kill him, once the bastard was down and helpless.”
     The old warrior nodded. “He was a good man.”
     “Oh, the best. There’ll never be a better one, take it from me. But he let Tiny live, and now I have to do this. I figured something out today, Malcolm. Want to hear it?”
     Loughlin’s head came up, and she looked him in the eyes.
     “Once you know a man deserves to die, you have to kill him. If you don’t, you’re committing a crime against everyone who doesn’t deserve to die. If you get him down but can’t bring yourself to do it, and he gets up off the mat and kills you instead, you’re only getting what you deserve yourself.”

     Tattoo this on your eyelids – on the inside of your eyelids:

If you know that it needs to be done,
Do it yourself.

     Tattoo it on the insides of your kids’ eyelids, as well.

Friday, March 30, 2018


     There are some events whose full significance a man can never appreciate. Indeed, there are some events a man can barely allow himself to acknowledge. They tend to overwhelm him. He loses control of his responses.

     Quite a lot of ink and pixels have been expended on human atrocities. We’re regularly reminded of the most recent of them: the September 11, 2001 Islam-powered destruction of the World Trade Center and nearly 3000 human lives. We’re almost as regularly reminded of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombing, though those events were instrumental to the ending and winning of a world war. Among atrocities more protracted over time, we have the Holocaust of the Third Reich against European Jewry, Pol Pot’s slaughter of an eighth of Cambodia’s people, and Stalin’s use of an engineered famine to decimate the Ukraine. The further back into history one marches, the more terrible events one can unearth – the great majority of them brought about by conscious decisions and consciously undertaken human actions.

     Any one of the above, contemplated in its full horror, is enough to overwhelm one of decent inclinations. But note the characteristics they share. They were huge, reaping thousands of lives. They were the actions of some men against others. And they were the consequences of hatred and / or a lust for power.

     But not all awfulnesses arise from those geneses.

     Homo sapiens is a bloody-handed creature. Over the quarter-million years we’ve roamed this ball of rock we’ve shed enough blood to refill the oceans several times over. Damned little of that bloodshed could be defended as somehow “necessary.”

     Most of us behave badly toward one another more often than not. It’s not just the killing. We have a lot of ways to mistreat one another. Our propensity for interpersonal violence and deceit is the worst aspect of human nature. However one might choose to rationalize any particular instance of it, we’d be better off as a species if we were shorn of the capacity for it.

     That won’t happen, of course. Man has free will: the ability to choose consciously how to act in any given situation. Man also has individual consciousness: the perception of oneself as distinct and separate from all others. With individuation and free will inevitably comes the capacity for evil.

     There is only one countermeasure. Two thousand years ago, a Man came to provide it to us:

     But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
     Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

     [The Gospel According To Matthew, 22:34-40]

     A simple dictum, is it not? Love the Lord your God, and love those around you as you love yourself! Thank and praise Him who gave you life, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you! How much plainer could the instructions for a good life be?

     Plain or not, mostly we ignore them. A shocking number of persons not only disbelieve in God, but mock the idea of Him and drip contempt on the rest of us for holding fast to it. We persist in treating others as means to our own ends rather than as persons with ends of their own, to which they’re fully entitled. When caught in the act, we immediately seek to rationalize our deeds and exculpate ourselves. We seldom feel sincere contrition for our sins, whether against one another or against Him.

     But as bad as all that is, it’s not the worst of it.

     I’ve had several exchanges with other Christians concerning the Passion of Jesus. The point of contention was whether it was “necessary.” I take the negative position. The idea of “necessity” arises from the passage of time and the finite capacities of men to achieve their aims. Only human beings, who live in time and conceive of goals to be achieved and calamities to be averted, can feel “necessity.” God being omnipotent and supra-temporal, “necessity” does not apply to Him.

     Yet He allowed His Son to suffer and die in the worst fashion the humans of that time could devise. Why?

     Jesus Himself said that His blood would be shed for the remission of sins, so we must accept that it was so. The Jews of classical Judea had a tradition of remission of sins by animal sacrifice – “no remission without the shedding of blood” – which made Christ’s sacrifice of Himself an analogous continuation of Judaic practice. But that doesn’t mean it was “necessary” in any sense that applies to God.

     It was, however, very useful.

     To go willingly to one’s torture and death rather than recant one’s pronouncements indicates a supreme degree of seriousness about what one has said. Think for a moment about the fates of so many Christians remaining in Islam-ridden lands, compelled to face exactly that choice: to stand fast by their beliefs and die, often by torture, or to renounce Christ and accept Islam so they might live. Could Christ have asserted His New Covenant more emphatically by any other method?

     And then there’s the Resurrection. It fulfilled a number of Biblical prophecies, which is impressive enough. Yet above and beyond that, it demonstrated Christ’s authority to proclaim His New Covenant and the remission of Man’s sins. Not only did He “mean it,” it was the Way, the Truth that would govern Man’s affairs until time itself is no more.

     To accept the Resurrection as factual is to be a Christian in all its essentials. It could not be otherwise. That one historical event, the testimony to which was carefully recorded and propagated down the centuries, is ultimately all that matters.

     Today Catholics and most other Christian denominations commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ. Viewed in isolation from all that preceded and followed, it would seem a horrible event, certainly not one we should call “good.” Yet we do; we call it Good Friday, for that isolation is impossible to maintain. What preceded it was His ministry among men, including His proclamation of the Kingdom of God and the rules for admission. What followed it was His Resurrection, His Ascension, and the Great Commission of the Apostles to “go and teach all nations” what He had taught them.

     When the isolation falls away, the day becomes good indeed. Overwhelmingly so, for none of it was necessary: not His birth as a Man among men, nor His ministry and miracles, nor His Passion and all that followed it.

     “What is Man, that Thou art mindful of him?” What, indeed? For the Son of God to don the flesh; to embrace travel’s hardships; to preach endlessly; to minister to the poor, the lame, the blind, and the devil-stricken; to be scoffed and scorned and plotted against; to be betrayed; to endure ignominy; to suffer horribly and die? Can any man argue that we fallen ones deserved any of those sacrifices?

     Neither was it “necessary,” for God knows no such thing. It was an act of love – the ultimate such act, never to be surpassed.

     That’s what makes it overwhelming.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Getting Back to Normal

Well, as normal as I ever get.

Physically, I'm feeling much better. Mentally, I'm finally getting out of that funk I was in.

My life is no less complicated - more so, it appears - but, I'm no longer feeling indecisive and paralyzed.

I've even re-activated my old blog, Right As Usual.

Forward, Ho!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Queering The Pitch

     History teaches. History reminds. And history is falling into desuetude.

     I think of World War I as “my” war – not because I fought in it (I’m not that old), but because I put more than twenty years’ free time into studying it. Its fascination for me is of several kinds, but above all, this: the generals of all the combatants were absolute idiots.

     Of course, it’s easy to play Monday-morning quarterback about a war that ended a century ago. But other students of World War I have come to approximately the same conclusion, though they tend to state it in gentler terms.

     Thing is, we of the Year of Our Lord 2018 should strive to learn from their mistakes. Some of them have application to contemporary political battles. Take this brief snippet from Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, concerning the early failures of the French forces:

     [General] Ruffey blamed his defeat in the Ardennes on the last-minute removal of the two reserve divisions that [Supreme Commander] Joffre had transferred to the Army of Lorraine. If he had had those 40,000 fresh men and the 7th Cavalry Division, Ruffey said, he could have rolled up the enemy’s left and “what a success for our arms we might have won!” In one of his terse and mysterious remarks, Joffre replied, “Chut, il ne faut pas le dire.” [“Hush, don’t say that.” -- FWP] His tone of voice has been lost, and it will never be known whether he meant “You are wrong, you must not say that,” or “You are right but we must not admit it.”

     It’s the latter interpretation I have in mind this morning. It’s the sort of thing politicians and activists say to one another when one of their number has expressed a wee bit too much truth.

     A Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch will likely already have read about retired Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens statement that the Second Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed. Stevens, an appointee of President Gerald Ford, was believed to be a conservative at the time of his elevation. It appears that, as has been the case with so many other politicos and office-holders, he’s decided to seek a little more publicity in his dotage (he’s 97). Of course, the easiest way for such a person to get media attention is to say something outrageous. It helps if the statement is radically at odds with some widely shared belief, especially if the speaker could reasonably have been assumed to share that belief.

     Stevens is not the only person saying it, of course. A considerable number of activists have done so before a live camera or microphone. And of course we have this example of cheerful villainy to remind us that the anti-gunners deem themselves so morally superior to us that they need not respect our rights to our lives.

     What’s significant is the chorus of “Chut, il ne faut pas le dire” from other major Leftist mouthpieces in reply to Stevens’s blunt admission of their ultimate aim. How often have we heard such figures say “Of course no one is talking about repealing the Second Amendment,” or alternately, “No one is going to take away your guns” these past few weeks? Just a bit too quick and too earnest, aren’t they? Especially while Stevens’s remarks (and the conformant statements made by others) are still in the news. Anyone who has a passing knowledge of the history of gun prohibition exercises will know it at once.

     Stevens and the other vocal anti-Second Amendment types are doing great damage to the Left’s “salami tactics” assault on the right to keep and bear arms. The strategists and major luminaries of the Left are frantic over it. You can practically read it from their faces.

     Deciding whom to believe isn’t much of a challenge.

     I must now borrow a complete post from the esteemed Brock Townsend:

     Generally speaking, conservative Americans don’t particularly care to hear Europeans weigh in with their opinions on our Second Amendment and gun laws, but an Italian woman recently stated something so simple yet profound that it simply must be shared.

     “Americans, I’m watching the #GunControl protests from Italy,” tweeted a user by the name of Redeemed Goddaughter.

     “Take a European’s advice: Last century our governments disarmed us. Now, in Germany & the UK they arrest you for Twitter & FB posts. Lesson? “If the gov’t takes your 2nd Amendment, one day it’ll take your 1st,” she concluded.

     Stunning: concise, arrow-straight to the point, and absolutely irrefutable. Words and statements being quasi-censored today via “political correctness” and “anti-hate speech” crusades will become baldly illegal, and prosecutable in a court of law.

     Needless to say, the Left would prefer that we pay “Redeemed Goddaughter” no attention.

     Why worry? What the hell, it’s only the last vestiges of Americans’ freedom that are at stake, right? Right?

     Always remember this classic citation from the late Clarence Carson’s The American Tradition:

     [W]e are told that there is no need to fear the concentration of power in government so long as that power is checked by the electoral process. We are urged to believe that so long as we can express our disagreement in words, we have our full rights to disagree. Now both freedom of speech and the electoral process are important to liberty, but alone they are only the desiccated remains of liberty. However vigorously we may argue against foreign aid, our substance is still drained away in never-to-be-repaid loans. Quite often, there is not even a candidate to vote for who holds views remotely like my own. To vent one's spleen against the graduated income tax may be healthy for the psyche, but one must still yield up his freedom of choice as to how his money will be spent when he pays it to the government. The voice of electors in government is not even proportioned to the tax contribution of individuals; thus, those who contribute more lose rather than gain by the "democratic process." A majority of voters may decide that property cannot be used in such and such ways, but the liberty of the individual is diminished just as much as in that regard as if a dictator had decreed it. Those who believe in the redistribution of wealth should be free to redistribute their own, but they are undoubtedly limiting the freedom of others when they vote to redistribute theirs.

     Effective disagreement means not doing what one does not want to do as well as saying what he wants to say. What is from one angle the welfare state is from another the compulsory state. Let me submit a bill of particulars. Children are forced to go to school. Americans are forced to pay taxes to support foreign aid, forced to support the Peace Corps, forced to make loans to the United Nations, forced to contribute to the building of hospitals, forced to serve in the armed forces. Employers are forced to submit to arbitration with labor leaders. Laborers are forced to accept the majority decision. Employers are forced to pay minimum wages, or go out of business. But it is not even certain that they will be permitted by the courts to go out of business. Railroads are forced to charge established rates and to continue services which may have become uneconomical. Many Americans are forced to pay Social Security. Farmers are forced to operate according to the restrictions voted by a majority of those involved. The list could be extended, but surely the point has been made.

     It’s possible that no more scathing indictment of omnipotent government has ever been written. Only one item of consequence need be added:

The Omnipotent State can force a disarmed people to suffer anything it pleases.

     And isn’t it funny, now that the sole remains of our once-majestic freedom are freedom of expression and the “right” to vote, how the Left is determined to destroy those things as well – the former through the canard that “hate speech is not free speech,” and the latter through the steady corruption of the electoral process?

     In closing: Pay your best and fullest attention to those on the Left who openly speak against the right to keep and bear arms. The desire of their “moderate” colleagues to shush them and hustle them offstage is highly significant. Speaking too candidly will queer the pitch. As C. S. Lewis told us in a different context, “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Plumbing and Civilization

I'm not the first to expound on the tremendous value that plumbing brings to civilization. Nor to suggest that the improvement in public health is LARGELY due to those unsung, little-appreciated, and much derided workers known as plumbers.
As American activist John W. Gardner noted: “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because it is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
Victor Hanson has written about the value of water from the perspective of a farmer (which, he is, in addition to his other job as a Classics Professor). He also wrote about the importance of understanding those who labor physically, and suggests several ways our society could increase their young people's knowledge of work, by having them spend some time working alongside those who do spend their days laboring with their bodies.

That's certainly one good idea - that college students might learn from having put their time in cleaning, repairing, and maintaining their campus.

Here's one other suggestion: ALL high school students must demonstrate their competence in some aspect of what used to be called "shop classes". They may either take a course in school, or learn on their own. But, they will be tested by professional tradespeople as to their knowledge. Their practical education will terminate in a completed project, which they will be expected to present to their examiners, answering any questions, as needed, to verify their own part in that experience.

Additionally, that examination would have some hands-on components:

  • find the shorted wire, and re-wire the circuit
  • pin the pattern on the material, cut it out, and sew the clothing
  • find the source of a plumbing leak, remove the damaged part, and put in a new section
  • identify and remedy the soil deficiencies, prepare the garden bed, and plant the seeds
This is important, not just for the student not going to college, but also for those who will. They need to develop a humble appreciation of the accomplishments of those without that expensive degree.

Popularizing the madman theory.

Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity, speaking to Sputnik:
Daniel McAdams: The whole thing is that it doesn't make sense and it's not supposed to make sense. What reason would Putin have for poisoning a has-been, washed up former double agent who was living out his retirement in the UK, having not only served his time in a Russian jail, but been sent to the UK by Russia?

There's no logic in it; it doesn't make sense, and I don't think it needs to make sense, because essentially what the media is doing is propagandizing the population in favor of the madman theory. That's critical to do when you're trying to start aggression against a country. We had it with Gaddafi, we had it with Saddam Hussein, with Assad, with Kim Jong-un. 'These are madmen who are irrational. We cannot do business with them. We cannot make a deal with them. They do crazy things that make no sense.'

* * * *

It's about isolating Russia, it's about Syria and what's going to happen next in Syria. How [else] do you justify the US to continue to occupy 30% of the country when ISIS* is defeated?[1]

[1]  "Russia's Mistake in Skripal Case Is Hoping to Deal With Honest Players." By Daniel McAdams, Russia Insider, 3/29/18.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

It's My Birthday, So, I'm Gonna Have FUN!

Starting off the party with the famous Footloose - which was recreated by Kevin Bacon on the Tonight Show:

Now that you're in a Party Mood, let's crank up the music, and Get the Party Started.

Did you ever wonder? Facebook's Liberal Logic 101 does, too. Too many good and provocative memes to mention.

I can see NO Problems for This.

At Last! Young people will begin to learn about the foul miasma that the Kennedy idolatry spawned. Maybe they will start questioning other Liberal Tropes and 'Heroes'.

Maybe I'll rethink my policy of not buying lottery tickets. This might be my day!

Speaking of re-thinking, look at this video of actors reading gun control facts. What I find interesting is that the person who holds an opinion contrary to what he is reading begins to think about what he is saying, and - surprise! - has doubts. Or, even, changes his mind.

As one of them says, "Facts are facts."

What, to me, was interesting, was that having people speak the words themselves may have had much of the impact on their thinking. Maybe oral recitation of Bible verses, maxims, reading aloud moralizing stories - like the old nursery tales, might have had that same effect on previous generations.

The passive listening approach might not be as helpful in changing minds. I'd love to see some research on that.

A Blast From The Past: Means And Ends

     [I’d like to put my flagging energies to fiction today, so – yup, you got it – here comes another reprint. This one first appeared at the old Palace of Reason on May 15, 2003. In rereading it for the first time since then, I find myself wondering at some of the logic, and whether I still agree with it. Perhaps my Gentle Readers will have opinions. -- FWP]

     The most heavily abused word in the political lexicon at this time is "rights," but "justify" is only a step behind it.

     A few days ago, your Curmudgeon delivered himself of a tirade on decency in political discourse. Some of the feedback from that rant suggested that the disconnects in our political language are even more fundamental than that essay suggested. A huge fraction of them involve conceptions of means, ends, and justification.

Do The Ends Justify The Means?

     In either case, why?
     Do you feel competent to tackle this question? In either case, why?
     Is the question important? In either case, why?
     Take a few moments to think it over.

     A recent episode of the television drama Law And Order, not known as a bastion of libertarian or conservative opinion, showed Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy arguing that "Man has only those rights he can defend." This compact statement about the nature of rights is both important and subtly misleading.

     If you have to defend it -- and against whom? That matters too -- is it a right? What if you lose?

     Concepts of rights emerge as a consequence of participation in society. Robinson Crusoe had no need to think about rights...well, certainly not before Friday appeared. But once people group together and interact, they're compelled to address the subject, even if only by surrendering to the will of a dominant ruler who recognizes no rights.

     Claims of rights are always invocations of the same thing: the legitimacy of using force in defense of something. If one must actually mount that defense, whether successful or not, the claim of rights comes to nothing. It was rejected by a sufficient number of persons to establish that the right is not conceded by the people who, by virtue of their position in space, time, and circumstance, matter most to the claimant.

     The abstraction we call rights is a social convention that must command overwhelming assent to have practical value.

     All justifications of anything, legally and politically speaking, make recourse to a concept of rights.

     Rights are the political bounds around the use of force. The State, if sufficiently powerful, can impose its will on any individual or subgroup. Many States have been powerful enough to override all opposition from below. However, a State will nonetheless refrain from doing so in certain cases, even if to do so would be greatly in its interests, if it recognizes rights.

     In a constitutional republic such as the United States, every exertion of government power must be consistent with the established concept of rights. If that concept is flawed, the government or private felons will be permitted to do some things that cause objective social deterioration of measurable kinds. If the legal and political system is adequately equipped with feedback mechanisms, that deterioration will cause revisions to the concept of rights, hopefully that will halt and reverse the decay.

     When one person transgresses against another, that portion of the State where private parties' rights are protected from one another -- the justice system -- is expected to act. Other mechanisms, such as elections, referenda, and revolutions, are required to haul down a State that's gone beyond its proper sphere. In either case, the trigger is the public perception of violated rights, an injustice having been done.

     We can only justify -- square with justice -- an action of the State if it's compatible with the consensus on rights. Inversely, actions of the State that violate someone's rights are unjustifiable, no matter who might benefit from the violation.

     Means and ends in the American political venue are brilliantly clear. The only legitimate end of State action is the preservation of rights. All other prescriptions, proscriptions, and exertions are means, nothing more.

     (Obviously, when private parties undertake some nonpolitical project -- fixing the birdbath; remortgaging the house; starting a business -- they seldom do so with rights in mind. In those cases, everything is a means. The only end is happiness, which Aristotle defined as "that which we seek as an end in itself and for no other reason." But we're here to talk politics.)

     At this point, it's necessary to address social-improvement programs such as poverty relief, government-subsidized medicine and housing, government-run schools, and so on. For surely the ends of these things are not bound up with rights of the above-discussed kinds.

     But recall that rights are a consensus, not a standard independent of human opinion. If the people of a society believe, to a sufficient degree of concurrence, that there's a right to be sustained by the State -- food, clothing, housing, medical care, education, and so forth -- then these things become part of the conceptual bundle in whose name the State may exert itself. Thus arises the problem of clashing rights. The right to keep one's honorably acquired property collides with the State's use of eminent domain to acquire that property for its affordable housing complex. The right to retain one's honestly earned income collides with the State's use of the taxing power to acquire funds for its redistribution programs.

     The consensus concept of rights is ill-equipped to resolve these clashes in the near term. Typically, the relief of such tensions is fitful at best. Stability only arrives after a long period of adjustment, if at all.

     The screams of the Natural Lawyers wail in the distance.

     The Natural Law community within political and legal theory dislikes the consensus concept of rights. It clashes with their desire that rights should be objectively knowable and uniform, a desire your Curmudgeon ardently shares. As an abstraction, their concept of natural rights -- that rights arise from the nature of human beings, rather than from any explicit or tacit consensus agreements among them -- is just as defensible as any other, if not more so. But abstractions only have force in the material world to the extent that living persons adopt them and pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to defending them...which transforms the abstraction into a consensus. If the consensus is lost, the abstraction becomes powerless.

     There are other problems as well. In a column at today's Front Page Magazine, Tammy Bruce makes passing note of an area in which consensus has created a right that could never be justified by Natural Law theory: the right of subhuman animals not to be tortured. Despite the absence of any theoretical argument for it, the consensus on this subject is far stronger than that for an impenetrable right of private property.

     Take note: animals are legally regarded as property. To act against animal torture, the State must logically be empowered to brush that claim aside, and others of equal stature as well. Yet an owner has a recognized right to kill any animal he owns, without undue pain, and without any requirement to justify the decision to others.

     The right of animals not to suffer at human hands arises entirely from magnanimous sentiment. That doesn't invalidate it. Natural Lawyers are part of that consensus. They would never violate that right -- even though they deny that it exists.

     The above probably looks to some like a brief for pure majoritarianism. It isn't.

     Majorities can assert their will in the short term, but the thinner the majority, the shorter that term will be. An enduring consensus with few dissenters can maintain its concept of rights over the long haul, if that concept squares with the underlying realities that refuse to defer to human opinions.

     There is an underlying reality to all political matters. A brilliant commentator whose name has been lost to history has declaimed as follows:

Nevertheless, in the inexplicable universal votings and debatings of these Ages, an idea or rather a dumb presumption to the contrary has gone idly abroad, and at this day, over extensive tracts of the world, poor human beings are to be found, whose practical belief it is that if we "vote" this or that, so this or that will thenceforth be. Practically men have come to imagine that the Laws of this Universe, like the laws of constitutional countries, are decided by voting. It is an idle fancy. The Laws of this Universe, of which if the Laws of England are not an exact transcript, they should passionately study to become such, are fixed by the everlasting congruity of things, and are not fixable or changeable by voting!

     Our great problems arise from the disjunctions between our desires and the constraints of our underlying reality: what the commentator above called "the Laws of this Universe." Nature gives nothing for free. Everything any man wants requires that he combine effort of some kind, physical or mental, with ingredients that will permit him to shape the object of his desire -- the classical economic recipe of labor plus materials.

     But some are more capable of making what they want, or trading for it, than others. Consequently, some will be more satisfied with the results. That troubles a lot of people, enough to add a fuzzily defined right to the consensus.

     For example, attempts to use organized force in the form of the State -- what Franz Oppenheimer called "the political means" -- to redress economic desires, including desires for the well-being of others, have almost all come to ruin. Our magnanimity has propelled us repeatedly into schemes for the relief of privation that have instead increased it, or perpetuated it at maddening expense, while providing a nutrient bed for other, far worse social ills. Yet we are indisposed to abandon the effort. The message that political solutions to poverty, if any, will be difficult to find and implement is one we're not inclined to hear.

     This isn't a denigration of our impulses to generosity, even when expressed through the State. The desire to help less fortunate others is a credit to us. We've created, by consensus, a right to a certain minimum level of affluence. We've tried our best to establish and defend it. Whatever they are, the ultimate natural laws that govern human behavior and social evolution have decreed that we haven't got it right yet. Possibly (but not certainly), we never will. The same can be said of many other public campaigns mired in failure mode despite the best intentions and efforts of thousands, sometimes millions, of perfectly good people.

     Failure is not necessarily a verdict on our ends. Sometimes it is; were we to legalize murder and theft, the consequences would quickly demonstrate the unviability of a society that doesn't protect life and property. We can be certain of this because it's been tried. However, that's an extreme case of the rarest kind.

     Failure normally argues for a change in means.

     The overwhelming majority of Americans are good and decent people, whose desires, both for themselves and for one another, are close to uniform. Liberals don't want to see large-scale degeneracy in the streets; conservatives don't want to see the poor locked into inescapable ghettoes and left to starve. Both communities of thought would love to see everyone live as well and happily as kings. If you disbelieve this, we have no chance of conversing agreeably.

     We have many differences about means -- about those policies which would best redress our social and economic ills in an enduring way, and without unpleasant side effects. We have few differences about ends; that's the nature of consensus.

     The dominant means of the century past has been politics. The failure of political solutions to most social problems should be beyond argument. In a few cases, there's a good case to be made that our ends -- the rights we strove to instantiate or defend -- were misconceived. In most, it's far more likely that we can more reliably get to where we want to go by changing trains: by getting clear of political techniques, with their inherent centralism, inflexibility, and invitations to corruption, and by adopting the methods of freedom. Let individuals and voluntary associations work to make their parts of the world more what they want it to be, while respecting the equal freedom of others with divergent priorities and abilities to do the same.

Rushing about smartly.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, referred to people who were very, very busy with trifles as people who are “rushing about smartly.” A similar idea is expressed in the so-far-as-I-know apocryphal story of the WWII U.S. bomber pilot in the Pacific who radioed that “We’re lost but making great time.”

Charles Hugh Smith makes a similar point about our 15-year war in Iraq:

As for Iraq, the implicit gain was supposed to be access to Iraqi oil. As near as I can make out, the U.S. imports about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Iraq, a relatively modest percentage of our total oil consumption of 19.7 million barrels a day.

(Note that the U.S. was importing around 700,000 barrels a day from Iraq before Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in March 2003 -- and imports from Iraq declined as a result of the war. So what was the energy-security gain from launching the war?)

To my chagrin, I bought the WMD justification for invading Iraq. But the “Axis of Evil” deal from Bush was just too ridiculous even to my credulous soul. That bit of juvenile nonsense was launched and then just slipped beneath the waves. But it did shine a light into the geostrategic mindset of George W. Bush. Run that by me again, George. I swear you just said "Axis of Evil."

N. Korea sat there ever since developing its nuclear program with some very stern finger wagging on our part during this period. And, of course, our doing all in our power to enrich China, N. Korea’s No. 1 protector and enabler. Some evil you just leave well enough alone.

Fast forward to Son of Iraq War where we added Bashar ("the mad dog ophthalmologist") al-Assad to the list of really bad people whose grip on state power is a direct threat to the people of Memphis. He’s got to go, that's sure, and if over 400,000 Syrians have to die, millions be turned into refugees, and thousands of GIs be killed or wounded to make that happen at immense cost, well, that, a la Madeline Albright, is just not too high a price to pay. No, it isn’t.

It’s the same mindset at work now as when Bush was bringing light to the world (and keeping those borders wide open). And it’s no better now than back then. Here’s a superb article by a former special operations guy wherein he describes the stunning confusion and absence of strategic vision involved with the DOD and CIA efforts in Syria to defeat ISIS and, respectively, bring down Assad. Nothing like spending millions to fight ISIS while you also also expend millions to bring down the one force absorbing the blows from ISIS and taking the fight to them, namely, the Syrian government.

It’s the first account I’ve read where you can actually get a close look at the thinking of our troops involved in this tragedy in Syria. The Special Forces guys come off looking good for their realization that they were being asked to train future jihadis – and their admirable contempt for that mission. Also, Delta Force distinguished itself by, say it isn’t so, executing mssions for which they are trained. What will they think of next?

The article is remarkable as well for the light it shines on the sentiment one sees in a lot of comments on the web, namely, that military people are stupid and nothing but former ghetto rats. Read it an ask yourself who’s stupid exactly.

Well, enough of my usual “it’s all lunacy” ravings. On the question of where America has gotten after more than 200 years of its grand experiment in self government you just can’t find a better way to sum it up than this title to one of Caitlin Johnstone's articles:

"Dear America: Please Stop This Shit. Signed, The Rest Of The World."

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

If They Mean It...

     “The more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers.” – a character in some obscure movie or other

     Certain instances of repression have the perverse consequence – perverse from the standpoint of the repressors, that is – of causing the thing targeted for repression to increase.

     Perhaps the best known example of this phenomenon is religious repression. Historically, this has had consequences entirely opposite to what the repressors intended. Christianity, for example, benefited hugely from the Roman Empire’s attempts to stamp it out. Indeed, Christianity’s growth rate after Emperor Constantine legitimized it actually declined slightly. History does not record whether Constantine intended any such thing.

     We also have the examples of alcohol Prohibition and the War on Drugs. Neither of those nominally public-spirited campaigns had the consequences promised for them. Indeed, there is some evidence that the most significant backer of each of those measures was organized crime, whose masters intuited – correctly – that products for which there’s so large a demand cannot be kept out of the demanders’ hands for long.

     Another example, not as well known, is the attempt to repress weapons ownership by law. This is something Americans have seen at first hand, though the anti-gun flacksters and organizers would prefer not to admit to it.

     When New York State’s legislature passed the Sullivan Act, it was estimated that no more than 5% of New Yorkers went about their daily business with a firearm to hand. Today, a considerably greater percentage of New Yorkers go armed through their days. Most of them aren’t legally armed...but they’re armed. The police know it. Moreover, the police aren’t all that unhappy about it; it gives them a reason to harass anyone whom they can be reasonably sure is carrying a weapon.

     (Is it necessary to mention Chicago in this context?)

     From the above examples, I predict that the recent eruption of yet another spate of anti-gun “protests,” this time the vanguard being composed of children, will not have the effects for which the anti-gun forces hope. Americans are too widely aware that taking the means of self-defense away from the law-abiding citizen will not dampen crime rates in the slightest. Indeed, in some cases we might see the expansion of firearms rights, as the counteractions to the “protests” gain steam and hard information about the uses of privately owned firearms in defense of life and property is publicized.

     Are the funders and organizers of the anti-gun “protests” aware of that possible result? Perhaps. Should it materialize, would they change their strategy? Probably not – but not because they’d be happy about it.

     It would be just one more demonstration of the total failure – theoretical and practical – of the totalitarian Left.

     Perhaps the most thoroughly frustrated persons involved in anti-gun activism are its drum-beaters in the media professions. Courtesy of the esteemed Bookworm, we have the following example:

     Bookworm provides the following observation:

     Bevin also very politely lets those viewing the video know that, in response to his calm, organized, factual response, the woman who asked the question, who is off-camera, is smirking and rolling her eyes. The video therefore encapsulates not just the strong moral and intellectual argument behind simultaneously supporting the Second Amendment and child welfare, but also the lack of good faith and good grace coming even from those Leftists who purport to be temperate and reasoned.

     Indeed. Media types are roughly 90% politically on the Left, and are as violently opposed to private firearms ownership as anyone among its non-media “activists.” Why? Good question, especially considering how many of them live in closely secured buildings and compounds guarded by men with guns. But there it is.

     One can vent about the hypocrisy of it as much as one pleases, just as one can vent about the hypocrisy of anti-gun politicians who go everywhere accompanied by armed bodyguards. No amount of hypocrisy-shouting has made a difference to this point. I doubt it will make one any time soon.

     I keep coming back to the disclosure of Dr. Floyd Ferris:

"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against -- then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can be neither observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted -- and you create a nation of law-breakers -- and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." [Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]

     To make private citizens feel both guilty and vulnerable is the ultimate prize for the power-monger. Whether or not the power-mongers are conscious of it doesn’t matter, for the laws of political dynamics will automatically elevate those whose actions best conform to them.

     The grand champions of the political game have always known this...and they’ve always meant it.

     Food for thought, especially as you prepare to enter a voting booth.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence heroes.

Here’s some insight into the real Syrian civil defense outfit:
So the White Helmets receive more than twenty times the annual financing of the REAL Syria Civil Defence. The White Helmets operate in less than 15 % of Syrian territory that is entirely under the control of terrorist factions. The White Helmets do not appear to provide rescue services for civilians except when the camera is trained on them, they work as “Nusra Front civil defence” for the majority of the time. The White Helmets are the go-to organisation for media in the West, the UN and their State handlers in the US, EU and UK. The reports supplied by the White Helmets, however dubious, are accepted without question by all these entities who diseminate them across as many platforms as possible with a terrifying uniformity.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence is ignored, marginalised, disappeared from view while they are working to rescue civilians in 85% of inhabited Syria now back under the protection of the Syrian state. The RSCD also works on rebuilding and restoring infrastructure in the recently liberated areas yet the rare western media journalists who actually do bother to come to Syria never mention them.

Every time the terrorist factions embedded in the (now liberated) Eastern Ghouta suburbs have targeted civilians in Damascus with mortars, missiles, suicide bombs or sniper bullets – it is the RSCD that races to the scene, not the White Helmets yet those victims and their rescuers are irrelevant to the regime-change-war consent- manufacturing corporate media.

The RSCD must be brought out of the shadows of NATO-member-state deliberate erosion of Syrian civil society and a light must be shone upon their existence as the REAL Syrians helping REAL Syrians throughout this conflict, giving their lives to help others who are suffering under the weight of economic, military and media terrorism without acknowledgement by those who are inflicting all of this hardship, bloodshed & poverty upon the Syrian people.[1]

As for the “White Helmets,” the putative, real-deal “civil defense” group in Syria, here’s what a woman volunteer for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) has to say about them when interviewed by Vanessa Bealey:
Rania A, a SARC Volunteer for three years in Salamiyah who had worked in both Hama and Idlib on the outskirts of terrorist held areas, told me:

“White Helmets are terrorists. They are specialists in acting and drama, not humanitarian work. The White Helmets abuse the “humanitarian” title to gain trust and to brainwash people in Syria and outside. They are a big lie. There are many foreigners working with the White Helmets[.]”[2]

[1] "EXCLUSIVE: REAL Syria Civil Defence Describe Terrorist ‘Double Taps’ and Chemical Weapon Attacks in Aleppo." By Vanessa Beeley, 21Wire, 3/26/18.
[2] Id. (Formatting removed.)

Monday, March 26, 2018

This Must Go Viral

'Nuff said!

Pearls of expression.

Faeriedust has a great insight on a part of the article[1] by Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations that I recently discussed:
"The rise of populism is in part a response to stagnating incomes and job loss, owing mostly to new technologies but widely attributed to imports and immigrants. " [Haass.]

Note -- I always do -- that there is assumed to be something the matter with "populism", which is fundamentally a mass-movement of the PEOPLE in their own interests as opposed to fawning subservience to the interests of their supposedly-more-worthy masters.

Object to open borders? -- Nativist populist!

Dare to point out that “Dreamer” = guaranteed 800,000+ new foreigners allowed in? -- Populist!

Object to giving your country away to foreigners and kissing every foreign ass to the horizon and beyond? -- Populist!

Object to wildly irresponsible, ridiculous spending bill? -- Populist!

Question why hostile, rejectionist, supremacist, subversive Muslims are enthusiastically imported to U.S.? -- Populist!

Object to black racism and out-of-control black crime -- Racist populist!

Object to tens of thousands of MS-13 gang members brought in from El Salvador and/or allowed to flourish? -- Populist!

Object to Muslim training camps in the U.S.? -- Populist!

Object to war on white people? -- Racist populist!

Object to endless, mysterious foreign wars that advance no interest of the American people? -- Populist!

Object to lunatic feminism? -- Sexist, misogynist populist!

Object to leftist HS on voter fraud? -- Racist populist!

Object to AntiFa street fighters ganging up on patriots? -- Populist!

Object to Black Lives Matter thuggery? -- Racist populist!

Object to leftist propaganda in schools? -- Populist!

Object to economic destruction to favor foreigners? -- Populist!

Object to having homosexual agenda jammed down your throat? -- Homophobic populist!

[1] "Liberal World Order, R.I.P."

Quickies: Take Him At His Word

     Apparently, there’s a candidate for Sheriff of Buncombe County, North Carolina, who would be willing to kill law-abiding citizens who refuse to relinquish their Second Amendment rights:

     [Sheriff candidate R. Daryl Fisher] would enthusiastically enforce forbidding citizens old enough to serve in the military or the “unorganized militia” of U.S. Code from purchasing guns. He would ban standard capacity magazines for everyone (except the “Only Ones”), along with any firearm that has “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia [or] is any part of the ordinary military equipment, or that its use could contribute to the common defense.”

     How far would he go?...

     “What about people that already had weapons? Well, I’m gonna tell you now, don’t buy into the scare tactics, don’t believe the scare tactics, because you’ve heard people say ‘You’ll have to pry my guns from my cold dead hands,’” Fischer admonished.

     “OK, he grinned and shrugged to delighted laughter and applause of the Bloomberg Moms.

     So don’t believe your lying eyes and ears?

     Fisher goes on to trivialize that “joke” by saying taking guns “would be unconstitutional because that would constitute what is called an ex post facto law” and that “responsible gun owners have nothing to worry about.”

     We’ve been hearing the “responsible gun owners have nothing to worry about” BS for long enough that no serious firearms owner is willing to believe it. We only hear it as part of a gun-grabbers’ tranquilization effort:

“Just let us cut off this little bit of your God-given rights. It won’t hurt and you’ll never miss it. We promise! And you’ll get to keep all the rest.
You can trust us.”

     I am put in mind of something the late, great C. Northcote Parkinson said:

     “Do not say ‘Trust me. Rely on my word.’ Only politicians say that.”

     Mr. Fisher is, by his own choice, a politician: a member of the least trustworthy category of persons to be found anywhere in America. Draw the moral for yourselves.

     Frankly, if R. Daryl Fisher were to become the sheriff in my district and were to turn up at my door, he wouldn’t get two words out. I would shoot first and fuss over the paperwork later, and I’m a very good shot.

Still Not Back

I'd been out of town last week - funeral of my son-in-law's mother.

We left immediately after, as reports of an approaching storm were on the news.

A storm.

It was a FREAKIN' SNOWpocalypse!

A trip that normally takes about 9 hours or so, with stops, took over 17 hours. One section of the interstate was closed due to accidents - yes, multiple - and, on other parts, we were stopped cold for times varying from 20 minutes to over an hour - several times.

When we were finally able to exit, we couldn't find a motel with vacancies. We decided to just push on.

By the time we arrived home, we'd been up over 24 hours straight.

I spent most of the day sleeping yesterday.

Ultra-Quickies: Team Toni Anne

     If you read this piece, you may have been waiting for the GoFundMe link for Toni Anne, the leukemia-stricken young woman I mentioned therein. Well, here it is:

Team Toni Tough

     If you’re feeling charitable and have a few dollars to spare, I can think of worse ways to distribute a little largesse.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Reminders: A Sunday Rumination

     Among those who disdain Christianity are some who specifically deride our liturgical calendar. It’s the same from year to year, they say, as if we weren’t aware of that. Such mind-numbing repetition is a form of conditioning, even brainwashing. If you need that to remain devoted to your faith, how much can your faith possibly be worth?

     Usually, the notion that even the most devout Christian can benefit from the occasional reminder goes right over their heads. For that’s one of the major purposes of the calendar: to remind us of why we believe. Indeed, we remind ourselves afresh at every Sunday Mass:

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

     The life, ministry, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ is the indispensable foundation of the Christian faith. The calendar cycles through that story every year as a reminder to us that “being a Christian” isn’t just about supporting your parish, helping to feed the needy, or protesting abortion.

     There is a risk to repetition, of course. The mind has some mechanisms that act to filter out certain patterns of perception. That having been said, he who remains attentive to the Gospels, and to that which the Redeemer commanded us to do “in remembrance of Me,” is well armored against the attenuation of his faith and the possible separation of his soul from the Mystical Body of Christ.

But wait; there's more! To gather with other Christians to celebrate the Mass and to commemorate the various events of the calendar can also provide reminders of other kinds...reminders that might be just as valuable as the reminders of what we believe and why we believe it.

     As I departed the church this morning, I encountered a fellow parishioner named Lauri, a very nice woman with whom I’ve often swapped a few pleasantries and a “how’s it going?” story or two. What she had to tell me proved to be a reminder of a sort I needed rather badly.

     Lauri has a sixteen year old niece, Toni Anne, who had been feeling poorly for some time. Just recently, Toni Anne’s mother decided that it was time for Toni Anne to see a doctor. To shorten the tale a bit, after a battery of tests Toni Anne got some very bad news: she has two forms of leukemia. Apparently she’s in very serious condition, if I can judge from the hyper-aggressive schedule of chemotherapy Lauri told me about.

     It’s actually even a bit worse than that: Toni Anne’s family is financially hard pressed and can’t afford her treatment. They’ve set up a GoFundMe campaign to help defray the considerable expenses. (I’ll post the link as an update, when Lauri sends it to me.) Perhaps that will cover the margin they can’t afford out of savings; at least, we can hope so.

     The point of this? Other than the importance of charity toward those in need through no fault of their own? Well, it’s rather personal, so please bear with me.

     I’ve been moping about recently: feeling sorry for myself, mainly over a minor health problem I’ve borne for a few weeks that’s been stubborn about going away. It’s irritating – itchy, mostly – but no worse than that. Certainly no reason to bitch and moan and cry veh ist mir. Nevertheless, I’d been pretty self-indulgent over my sorrows.

     Then I learned about Toni Anne.

     “I wept that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” There’s just about always someone worse off than oneself. And while a bit of grousing can be excused on the grounds that even a minor misery is a misery still, wallowing in sorrow over something of which it can be confidently said that “It won’t even make you miss a meal” is disgraceful in the literal sense: it displays a lack of grace. It suggests that one’s perspective is badly skewed, that one’s perseverance meter is pinned against the left peg.

     Reminders can be valuable, especially when they’re this timely. If you’ve been treating some trivial misfortune as if the weight of the entire Solar System has landed on your shoulders, a reminder of how fortunate you really are can be most salutary. Psychologically corrective. Spiritually salubrious.

     You have to pay attention, of course. These days that can be something of a challenge. However, it’s not impossible.

     Today is Palm Sunday: the day on which we commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, shortly before His Passion. It reminds us that the very crowds that sang hosannas at His arrival would, only a few days later, be gathered about Pilate’s balcony shrieking for His blood. “Give us Barabbas!” they shouted, openly preferring the pardoning of a murderer to that of One who “came to call not the righteous, but sinners;” One who, even as He suffered on the Cross, would say “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do;” One who would endure the most ignominious death known to that era in irrefutable testimony that He meant every word He said.

     May God bless and keep you all.

The failure of self government.

Pick any area of public life and the evidence of the failure of self government abounds. AntiFa street thuggery, university suppression of free speech, pointless foreign wars justified by blatant lies, black criminality and academic failure, open borders. Take your pick. Everywhere you see government failing to do its job and citizen indifference.

For me, the blatant dishonesty and manipulation of the Supreme Court in enabling the complete destruction of the scheme of decentralized government is Exhibit A. The Court destroyed that wonderful scheme and this betrayal slipped into the history books like the name of the last winners in the Superbowl. No big deal.

Steve Malanga figures that local finance is cooked. I’m the one talking about the implications for self government:

Over the last decade, the Nutmeg State’s Medicaid program, including federal spending, has nearly doubled in size, to $3.7 billion, a compound annual growth rate of more than 7 percent; the state’s general-fund revenues have expanded by just 1.7 percent annually in that time. With a poverty rate under 10 percent, Connecticut enrolls more than one-fifth of its residents in Medicaid.

Exploding Medicaid costs are being felt in many other states. In its early days in the mid-1970s, Nevada’s Medicaid program covered about 23,000 poor residents. Today, 638,000 Nevadans get insurance through the program; officials had underestimated by more than 130,000 the number of residents who would apply for the subsidy once the state expanded it under the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid costs twice as much in Nevada as it did ten years ago, and the state’s contribution of tax dollars has swollen by more than two-thirds over that time period. . . .

* * * *

An immense pension crisis also looms over local governments. . . .[1]

The likelihood of state and local governments making needed reforms is zero. Once conferred, government benefits cannot be reduced or eliminated. This will play out to the bitter end.

[1] "States of Siege. The worst recovery in decades has changed the way local governments tax and spend." By Steven Malanga, City Journal, Winter 2018.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Racialism Begets Realism

     Courtesy of InstaPundit, we have this remarkable racialist rant from a major politician in a nation whose black government has decided to dispossess its whites:

     As violence against white farmers continues, following the South African parliament's decision to seize all farmland from whites without compensation, Julius Malema, leader of the Marxist-Revolutionary Economic Freedom Party, continues to spew hateful rhetoric against South Africa's white citizens....

     [Malema continued] “A racist country like Australia says: ‘The white farmers are being killed in South Africa.’ We are not killing them. Now Australia says: ‘Malema, EFF want to kill white farmers, they must come to Australia.’"

     “If they want to go, they must go. They must leave the keys to their tractors because we want to work the land, they must leave the keys to their houses because we want to stay in those houses. They must leave everything they did not come here with in South Africa and go to Australia.”

     Reynolds also reminds us of this Nick Kristof piece from thirteen years ago:

     The hungry children and the families dying of AIDS here are gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing is this: Many, many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970’s.

     “If we had the chance to go back to white rule, we’d do it,” said Solomon Dube, a peasant whose child was crying with hunger when I arrived in his village. “Life was easier then, and at least you could get food and a job.”

     Mr. Dube acknowledged that the white regime of Ian Smith was awful. But now he worries that his 3-year-old son will die of starvation, and he would rather put up with any indignity than witness that.

     An elderly peasant in another village, Makupila Muzamba, said that hunger today is worse than ever before in his seven decades or so, and said: “I want the white man’s government to come back. Even if whites were oppressing us, we could get jobs and things were cheap compared to today.”

     His wife, Mugombo Mudenda, remembered that as a younger woman she used to eat meat, drink tea, use sugar and buy soap. But now she cannot even afford corn gruel. “I miss the days of white rule,” she said.

     Nearly every peasant I’ve spoken to in Zimbabwe echoed those thoughts.

     Note that the responses he received “depressed” Kristof. Note also that those quoted in the Kristof article insist that the white-dominated government “oppressed” them...but they still want it back.

     I have three questions:

  1. Did white Rhodesians enslave black Rhodesians under Ian Smith’s government?
  2. Supposing, entirely for the sake of argument, that they could have a white regime back on the condition that black Rhodesians would forever after be denied the “right” to vote, would they take that bargain?
  3. Again, entirely for the sake of argument, were black Rhodesians to accept the bargain outlined above, what would Western liberals have to say about it?

     It was, after all, black Rhodesians who brought about the transformation of prosperous Rhodesia into Robert Mugabe’s hellish Zimbabwe. Once blacks were enfranchised, they voted for it en masse. The destruction of Rhodesia’s prosperity was also accomplished by black Rhodesians / Zimbabweans. Now that they lament the fruits of their willfulness, would they recant on their demands? And would Western liberals, ever oh-so-sensitive on matters of race and “self-determination,” let Rhodesia Reborn go its own way without trying to interfere?

     Food for thought.

“Deep State” Part 2: Further Thoughts

     Bearing always in mind that headline writers instinctively go for the most lurid imaginable phrasings, nevertheless this article, in which media figures react to the Monmouth University poll I cited here is extremely revealing:

     “The attacks against the so-called deep state … by the president and some Republicans actually might be taking hold,” said co-host Mika Brzezinski. “More Americans now believe that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a deep state. That according to the newest Monmouth university poll. Six in ten Americans believe that un-elected or appointed government officials have too much influence in determining federal policy. Twenty-six percent say the right balance of power exists between elected and un-elected officials.”

     Playing the embedded video gives a better sense of Brzezinski’s disdain for the concept of a “deep state” and for Americans’ affirmation that it exists and has unprecedented power. But it appears that media denigrations and dismissals are having ever less of an effect upon Americans’ convictions and opinions.

     About BLEEP!ing time, ain’t it?

     An observation made in the middle of a hyper-fanciful novel of conspiracies, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! trilogy, proves to have much real-world impact:

     Communication is only possible between equals. – Hagbard Celine’s “SNAFU Principle”

     The examples usually given in support of this pithy observation use differences in authority for the demonstration. But the Deep State works on a different, although similar, basis: differences in vulnerability.

     As I mentioned in the previous article, government employees enjoy important privileges under current laws and circumstances:

  1. Federal employees are protected from termination by Civil Service law.
  2. Voluntary resignations by federal employees are vanishingly few in number.
  3. Many layers of supervisors stand between the bureaucrat and the elected government.
  4. A supervisor-bureaucrat who fails to argue consistently for the expansion of his pyramid of subordinates (and, of course, the funding for it) will not survive. This is well known to career bureaucrats.
  5. As the funding for the bureaucracy is extracted by force from millions of persons who have no say in the matter, the top-level bureaucrat – e.g., a Cabinet Secretary – will have no qualms about championing the expansive desires of his subordinates. (Remember that by Item 4 above, Cabinet Secretaries also have an interest in expanding their departments and funding.)

     The combination of those factors renders the Civil Service bureaucrat far less vulnerable than his appointed and elected superiors. He can get away with virtually anything, all the way from goldbricking up to outright defiance of those superiors. There have been numerous examples of this in the recent past. And bear always in mind that no one enters government at any level without an agenda.

     This startling difference in vulnerability is the foundation of bureaucratic intransigence. Short of an open felony, the employee-bureaucrat can do whatever he pleases. As many of them are in government service out of a desire to wield power, that’s what they do. Congressional and Constitutional constraints are, in practice, no constraints at all.

     The situation is made worse by what is sometimes called the vertical stroke: the practice of assigning responsibility to (and inflicting penalties on) appointees for the nonfeasances, misfeasances, and malfeasances of Civil Service employees. Due to the near-perfect invulnerability of the bureaucrat under Civil Service law, a Cabinet secretary or deputy secretary has no effective authority over him. As Robert A. Heinlein has told us, a responsibility without the authority to enforce it is impossible to discharge.

     The SNAFU Principle guarantees disaster from such a configuration.

     An additional factor, wound deeply into our contemporary politics, must be mentioned at this time: the Deep State functions indirectly as an ally to the elected legislator. The relevant phenomenon is legislators’ practice of “constituent service.”

     With the intransigent, immobile, and faceless bureaucracy to rail against, any ersatz “reformer” can score campaign points by promising to “cut the red tape.” Voters want exactly that, though given how many times the taming of the bureaucracy has been promised us, we’ve gradually been catching on that it’s no sincere part of the “reformer’s” intentions. However, once the miscreant has been elected to Congress, those in his district will naturally see him as a weapon against whatever bureaucratic action has harmed them – and they will go to him seeking relief. To the extent that the legislator provides such relief on request, he will benefit come election time from his provision of “constituent service.”

     Note that “constituent service” is made not merely necessary but possible by the bureaucracy. Few men canny enough to attain high office would fail to conclude that the bureaucracy is an asset to their ambitions, rather than something they should seek to dismantle or reduce.

     In discussing the ObamaCare disaster and the prospects for undoing it, Glenn Reynolds has suggested that “Irish democracy” might be the most effective approach to neutralizing that pernicious enactment:

     Now, as February draws near, things don't look much better. Far fewer than half the number needed by March 31 have signed up. And, as it turns out, most of the people signing up for Obamacare aren't the uninsured for whom it was supposedly enacted, but people who were previously insured (many of whom lost their previous insurancebecause of Obamacare's new requirements). "At most," writes Bloomberg's Megan McArdle, "they've signed up 15% of the uninsured that they were expecting to enroll. ... Where are the uninsured? Did hardly any of them want coverage beginning Jan. 1?" It looks that way.

     In fact, there seem to be more uninsured than there were before Obama took office, leaving Jonah Goldberg to ask, "So what was the point of Obamacare again?"

     If the program fails, it won't be because Republicans stopped it, despite all the House votes and defunding efforts. It will be because millions of Americans' passive resistance brought it to its knees. Irish Democracy, indeed.

     Meanwhile, on the marijuana front, the people of states like Colorado are engaging in an odd, 21st century variety of nullification. Unlike the 19th century John Calhoun version, state laws legalizing marijuana don't purport to neutralize the still-extant federal laws banning cannabis. But the state, and millions of Coloradans, are simply ignoring the federal law and, in essence, daring the feds to do something about it.

     “You gonna make me?” if pronounced by a sufficient number of Americans, might be the only effective way of negating the Deep State’s power, regardless of the issue. That wouldn’t clean out the bureaucracies in a single stroke, of course. However it would materially affect the incentives that draw the would-be power-wielder into government employment in the first place. That would be a net gain from the limited-government perspective.

     I might return to this subject yet again. Stay tuned.

“Facts Are Facts”

     The following video might be the most important of all strokes in the battle to retain the rights we’re guaranteed under the Second Amendment:

     Make it go viral!

C.F.R. Derangement Syndrome.

Not to be missed is this article by Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations: "Liberal World Order, R.I.P.."

Every lunatic idea dreamed up by liberal fruitcakes is laid out in this article. I would be embarrassed to write such drivel. It’s a tour de force of distilled liberal delusion and arrogance. Every thing you can think of that is wrong-headed or a vicious lie about the world order today is laid out in it plain as day.

I gotta give it to this guy. Yes, “'America First' and the liberal world order seem incompatible.” What was his first clue?

He ladles out the current garbage about the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons – a lie – and moans about the crumbling of the liberal order. The keystone provision of that “order” was the creation of the United Nations. It was to preserve the peace by forbidding war except under certain limited conditions, none of which conditions apply to the U.S. and its present war of aggression on the sovereign state of Syria.

The U.S. wages aggressive war -- a war crime. We are allied with and support the scum of the earth in the form of al-Qaida and ISIS. We are directly responsible for over 400,000 civilian deaths and creating millions of Syrian refugees all the while we speak of Syrian “rebels” as a band of decent citizens driven to oppose Assad the Butcher, a laughably false caricature of a decent and popular leader. But this maroon wants us to believe that the threat to peace is Russia’s use of “armed force to change borders in Europe.” Yes, he said that. How exactly did the borders of Serbia change if not by the application of American “armed force”?

And if you think Russia changed the borders in Europe by “armed force” -- which it didn’t -- get a load of what Syria will look like after the U.S. gets finished with carving it into Syria Dismembered, Israel Plus, Kurdistan, ISISville, E. Texas Oil Patchi, and Turkey Plus.

The rise of populism -- detested by Haass -- is anything but “a response to stagnating incomes and job loss.” It is solely is response that millions of Westerners have to understanding what it is exactly that utterly delusional people like this man have done to destroy our countries. They have guaranteed us a future in which our fundamental liberties will be undermined by courts and in which we will be attacked by Black Lives Matter and AntiFa street gangs and prosecuted if we object. We will now have to fight millions of Muslims and third-world enemies invited into our countries by them just to regain what they have stupidly given away. They have destroyed our hopes for peace and virtually guaranteed the destruction of Western civilization, but gibbering fools like this guy clutch their pearls and sing hymns to the “liberal world order.”

It would be criminal not to comment on Haass’s observation that “Parties of the political extremes have gained ground in Europe.” Surely he means the CDU/CSU parties in Germany that have imported over a million Muslims and Africans who have raped German women and turned public swimming pools and flower gardens into places of defecation. Or does he mean the ruling party or parties of Belgium that arrested the unresisting Flip Dewinter of the Vlaams Belang party with the highly effective testicle hold? Or surely he must mean the Conservative Party in Britain whose prison officials arranged for Tommy Robinson to be doused in boiling sugar water while in one of Her Majesty's prisons. Just what does this man want us to believe about the immigration-crazed established parties of Europe and Britain? That they are not extremist parties?

Liberals are slave to fantasy and an unrelieved hostility toward their own kind and their “liberal order” is rotten to the core. There’s hardly a sentence in this pathetic article that doesn’t illustrate perfectly the inability of the elites to deal with the eternal realities of a world in which civilization is closer to an accident than an achievement. There’s but a thin wall between decency and barbarism and these fools have done all in their power to weaken and destroy it.