Thursday, May 31, 2018

Is Engineering for Safety a BAD Idea?

Just read an article about safety engineering, and why, when designers try harder to incorporate safety features, people paradoxically act in less-safe ways.

It used to be that even daring kids had some limits to them. Oh, they might try to climb a tree that was too high, or tease a dog behind a fence. But, most often, even the most reckless kids had limits to their daring. They didn't deliberately tempt fate to the fatal, or near-fatal point.

Science is finding that risk-taking may have a genetic component.

However, the average kid had the ability to stop short of stupid. Sure, there were always the kids who played around the tracks, and died at a young age. There were the kids who fell from heights, and suffered severe injuries. And, as teens, those with the reckless gene would drive fast and engage in sex before marriage - with predictable results.

Shooting up schools? In my youth, just didn't happen. Despite the wide availability of guns in homes, that activity was unheard of. It took media to get that going. And, social media is a powerful goad to such over-the-top actions.

One researcher makes a point about risk.
Researchers who study risk-taking, particularly in the context of HIV infection, also struggle to find clear definitions. "You can't put shooting up with drugs and having sex with your husband in the same ballpark," says Mitch Katz, San Francisco's public health director. Many married people use no protection and society does not consider that risky, but if a partner injects drugs, a line gets crossed. "Early in the [AIDS] epidemic, one of the things we learned about women was that they were much more likely to become infected from their steady partners than their casual partners, because they were, from a medical standpoint, taking higher risks," he explains. But Katz does not necessarily put those people in the same category as high risk-takers, such as those who engage in backstreet racing or abuse alcohol.
The pill lead to a much higher level of risk for women. In the past, women with a greater tendency to take risks faced a greater chance of an unwanted pregnancy. Some married their partner. If they did not, very few kept those children. Most went away for a few months, after which time they returned, having learned a sad lesson. Welfare generally would NOT support them. If they kept their baby, they were on their own.

Even today, for women, the men they chose to associate with constitute one of their most important risk factors. If you chose a man who is a risk-taker, you have a much higher chance of being infected with diseases that can cause sterility, lifetime illness, or even death.

Even if a woman escapes that fate, the children that she bear may have a higher likelihood of engaging in similar risky behaviors. In the end, all of the actions for protecting people from the consequences of their actions might be increasing the percentage of risk-takers in our society.

Other findings from that article show that:
Bryan says that twin studies have revealed that impulsivity and high sensation-seeking run in families.
Now, THAT'S a surprise!


Some call the consequences associated with risky behaviors "Natural Consequences". In other words, as my Daddy would have said, "You shouldn't oughta done that. Serves you right."

What Becomes The Thinker

     The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. – Bertrand Russell, Mortals And Others

     The famous allegory of “Plato’s Cave,” while its aim is fanciful and unattainable, does tell us something of importance:

     To do anything of consequence, thinking included, we must make certain assumptions. The first of these is the assumption that the evidence of our senses is trustworthy. Thinking – the use of data to formulate abstractions and reach further conclusions from the use of those abstractions – requires data. Moreover, the data must be reliable: an accurate report on some aspects of the objective state of reality.

     But our sense organs aren’t our only source of data, and a good thing, too. We include in our data stores:

  • What we’ve been told by others;
  • What we’ve read, or heard on some medium that conveys information;
  • Earlier conclusions we’ve drawn, or that trusted sources have drawn and conveyed to us.

     To the extent that we employ data provided by those sources in our thinking, we tend to treat them as essentially equivalent to our sense impressions. But there’s a problem there: the statements and conclusions of others might not be reliable. It can take quite a lot of work to determine whether those others have conveyed accurate information to us...and whether they intended to do so in the first place.

     Men believe in the professions as they believe in ghosts: because they want to believe in them. Fact-blindness – the most common sort of blindness – and the resolute lying of respectable men – keep up the illusion. – George Bernard Shaw, Dramatic Opinions and Essays
     “There are indeed, in the present corruption of mankind, many incitements to forsake truth: the need of palliating our own faults and the convenience of imposing on the ignorance or credulity of others so frequently occur; so many immediate evils are to be avoided, and so many present gratifications obtained, by craft and delusion, that very few of those who are much entangled in life have spirit and constancy sufficient to support them in the steady practice of open veracity.” – Samuel Johnson

     The gulf between accidental misinformation and deliberate disinformation is infinitely deep. It’s carved by motive: the desire of the person on the other end to inform or to deceive. Determining which of those motives is at work can be difficult approaching impossible.

     Many are the good-hearted and well-intentioned who innocently propagate falsehoods: usually, falsehoods originally pressed upon them by others. But the not-good-hearted and not-well-intentioned are out there as well. This makes it critically important that we create a division, in our minds at least, between what we’ve personally witnessed and what others have reported to us. We deem data from the former sources trustworthy ab initio, though illusions and hallucinations are possible. We must not grant 100% credence to the latter group.

     This is much on my mind because of an exchange I had just yesterday with someone I like and admire. I mentioned a historical figure, relatively minor as such figures are reckoned but nevertheless a player in an important event, who seemed to me to be an example of high character in a dark place and time. My interlocutor differed on the basis of sources he did not name. When I said that my own reading seemed to differ from his, he replied rather snippily that I should “contemplate the word ‘whitewash.’” I was somewhat taken aback, but in the interests of amity I pursued the subject no further.

     Now, this is an unimportant matter in the grand scheme of things. However, I consider myself extremely well read; at least, the 13,000 volumes steadily forcing me out of my own home should count for something. But my interlocutor has a good claim to that status too – and we differ on a point of historical interest to both of us. We have different sources for that point. Whose sources are closer to the objective facts?

     That question, not its answer, is the point of this essay.

     Historians are human. They have their own biases and their own axes to grind. Some have the unholy habit of dismissing and discarding sources, including first-hand witnesses, whose accounts clash with their own preconceptions. Now and then, as with Michael Bellesiles, one such is discovered and discredited, but not always.

     It’s likely that some, at least, of what I’ve read and taken to be accurate history is false-to-fact. I do try to remember that when one reads a history, he’s not really looking and listening to the past, but rather absorbing an account written by another – quite possibly someone who has himself been misinformed or deceived. It would be well if everyone who writes op-ed for others’ consumption would keep that in mind.

     The Bertrand Russell quote at the head of this essay strikes me as transcendently important, even vital to the serious thinker. We must retain a measure of doubt about anything we have not personally witnessed. It’s an ethical obligation. Not to do so is to join the “cocksure,” and perhaps to take part in “the resolute lying of respectable men.” That’s a role I don’t want to play.

     Anyone can be wrong – and when he’s been misinformed or deceived, he surely will be, at least for a time. Keeping that firmly in mind is a great aid to the maintenance of modesty.

     Allow me to recommend yet again Jean-Francois Revel's masterpiece The Flight From Truth, one of the most important works of the Twentieth Century.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Free Fiction (Pre-Announcement)

     On June 8, 2018, my Onteora-Hollywood romance novel Love in the Time of Cinema will be free of charge at Amazon.

     Jana Tyrell, a world-famous yet lonely actress looking for "substance," spontaneously descends upon Tim Beaufort, an unsuspecting middle-aged engineer from Onteora County, NY. They discover to their mutual surprise that they belong together despite the differences in their ages, stations, and trades. It changes both their lives in ways neither could have anticipated.

     I’ll repost this announcement the morning of June 8.

Josh Billings Was Right

     What’s that you say? Who the BLEEP! was Josh Billings? Why, none other than the man who first said this:

     “It’s better not to know so much than to know so many things that aren’t so.”

     I’ve heard that statement attributed to every historical figure from Ronald Reagan to Attila the Hun. You might have done so yourself. But you probably consider yourself educated.

     Here’s another one for you:

     “Nothing is more terrifying than ignorance in action.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

     I’ve heard that multiply misattributed, too. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, as I’m reasonably sure Goethe would agree. The sentiment is what counts...which makes the abysmal ignorance of so many arrogant “educated people” as ironic as it is terrifying.

     Charlie Martin provides a case for us today:

     I recently had a little argument that started with someone — no, I'm not going to say who, except to say a respected scientist who may have been in Boulder too long — announced that if people really knew how meat was produced, they'd think twice about eating it.

     That struck me both arrogant and odd. I grew up on a cattle ranch; later in life, I cut meat for money. I'm pretty clear on the process from bull covering cow, to bull calf, to steer, to feedlot, to abattoir, to butcher. So my immediate reaction was "heh, city folks."

     My second reaction, almost as immediate, was to be annoyed.

     The truth is that the people who actually do know from childhood how meat is produced are the least likely to have qualms about it. It's the people who grow up thinking meat comes from the meat factory on a styrofoam tray, already wrapped in cling film, who never thought about the connection between steer on the hoof and steak on the table.

     In one sense it’s merely a manifestation of the “coastal bubble:” the deep divide that separates the coastal-urban “elites” from “heartland America.” There is some crossover, but the divide is more real than not – and it manifests itself in important socioeconomic and political attitudes more vividly than in any other venue.

     I’m a product of the coasts. I’ve lived in New York State, and close to New York City, my whole life but for two years. However, owing to fortunate developments of which I will decline to speak, I’ve also had the advantage of exposure to the heartland. I’ve made use of it now and then in fiction:

     As usual, she was up before him, but this time he found her in the kitchen, coffee made and mugs steaming at their respective places. She looked up as he entered and smiled.
     It was the radiant smile of the morning before, when she’d shown him the first visible sign of the life she’d nurtured, but it was more. It compounded discovery, triumph, love, and peace into a single visible expression of joy. He could hardly believe he was its object.
     He sat at his place and stretched out his hands. She took them in hers.
     “What now?” he murmured.
     She shrugged. “Breakfast, a quick shower, then I guess I’ll weed and water.”
     “Come on!”
     She leered. “Got something else in mind?”
     “From where I’m sitting, everything’s great, Allan. What’s got you so wound up?”
     “I might have impregnated you last night!”
     “You think I’m not aware of that? Farm girl, remember? Oh, excuse me, farm woman. I know what semen is for, Allan. I’ve inseminated cows.” She looked off briefly. “Now that’s really grotty. The bull semen comes in this turkey baster thing. You have to wear these long lubricated gloves, because one hand goes all the way up the cow’s—”
     She giggled little-girl naughtily.

     That’s from “Farm Girl,” a novella in my collection Romance A La Mode. Kate is modeled on a young woman I had the great good fortune to know and love when I was a young man: a mathematical genius who came from the “tall corn” of Kansas. She had a pronounced Kansas accent – yes, there is such a thing – that immediately marked her as not from the coasts. I sometimes think she deliberately exaggerated it to provoke a reaction – a reaction she would quickly and humorously crush. She refused to allow anyone to make derogatory assumptions about her, her home state, or its people.

     The left-liberal “#Resist” nonsense is essentially a manifestation of the “those ignorant hicks” attitude Charlie Martin has fingered. These self-nominated “elites” have decided that the only reason we aren’t allowing them uninterrupted and unbounded power over the rest of us is that we’re too stupid to know that it would be for the best. So they’re striving to reverse the results of a wholly legitimate election with false accusations – indeed, with accusations they know to be false — on the grounds that “it’s for your own good”...buttressed, of course, by their underlying assumption that “the end justifies the means.”

     No lie is quite as pernicious as a lie about moral principles. It’s infinitely more so when one is lying to oneself.

     Self-exaltation is bad enough: the famous capital sin of vanity. But the reason vanity is a capital sin is because it has a capital nature: i.e., a productive nature. It produces the sort of behavior we see from the Democrats and the NeverTrump Republicans determined to impede and ultimately destroy the Trump Administration.

     But you can’t tell any of the “elites” that. They’ll sniff you aside, dismiss you as “one of them:” an uneducated and unsophisticated hick. You probably went to a state college, if you went to college at all.

     These folks consider their origins, intellects, educations, and connections to be a skeleton key to the corridors of power. They refuse to acknowledge the appropriate limitations of power, because folks “as smart as we are” should be under no limitations whatsoever. Yet they are baffled by how and why a majority of Americans could reject them and the hegemony to which they’re so obviously entitled.

     I could go on. Perhaps I will at another time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Day Late - But Worth It

An SF Memorial Day story - you need to read this.

Monocultures: An Observation

     I’m sure my Gentle Readers have heard quite enough about the lockstep liberalism of the major media, the dumbed-down puree that emerges from our schools and universities, and the brown-goo culture that dominates every one of the federal bureaucracies. These are well known monocultures: places where a single strain of convictions has succeeded in marginalizing (in some cases totally driving out) every other variety of belief or thought. In each case the dominant strain has also erected high, thick barriers against re-penetration by competing beliefs and agendas. The conquered turf seems impermeable by anything that might threaten its monopoly.

     But there is nothing without a weakness – and a monoculture, when its weakness is targeted by an adequately efficient competitor, tends to decay and collapse with startling swiftness.

     The American Right has fussed over the media, educational, and bureaucratic monocultures for decades without being able to do anything much about them. Some chinks appeared in their protections – homeschooling, online education, talk radio, the Internet – but the competitors have proved insufficiently efficient to bring down their opponents. Indeed, the defenders of the educational and media monocultures have succeeded somewhat in counter-infiltrating the competitors and weakening them before they could pose a significant threat. As for the bureaucratic monoculture, nothing has seriously threatened it.

     Until now.

     A monoculture’s defense mechanism is almost always a “grass roots” phenomenon. The “bottom-level” organisms deny invaders access to light, space, and nutrients through their sheer mass and solidity, preventing any incursion from making progress. Thus, the attacker has a logistical problem that can prove impossible to solve.

     In the case of the federal bureaucracies, the Right’s hopes have always been pinned on the election of conservative presidents who would direct their political appointees to reduce the ranks of the bureaucrats who nominally report to them. That approach ran full tilt into Civil Service job protections, the power of the public-employee unions, and the bureaucrats’ ability to infect the political appointees with a contrary agenda. In the usual case, the political appointees became as immovable in defense of “their” departments as the lowest-level bureaucrats therein. Presidents have discovered, to their sorrow, that such a “top-down” approach to thinning the bureaucracies were doomed from the start.

     Recently, President Trump took a different approach: he attacked the defense mechanisms themselves. He’s just simplified and eased the procedure for terminating a Civil Service employee, while federal court decisions have ruled against compulsory unionization and dues collection by withholding. The former move makes it possible both for political appointees to fire those under them who fail to cooperate; the latter creates inroads and protections for entrants not in sympathy with the monoculture, giving the appointees beachheads of support beneath them.

     However successful it might ultimately prove, it will take time for President Trump’s approach to reap results. Even so, the change in direction is a promising one. The increasingly shrill attacks on the Trump Administration from the media, the Democrats, and the rest of the Left suggest that at last they know real fear. Their most important bastion in federal power might finally have met an enemy it cannot easily deflect.

     We can hope.

The tightening screw – Part II.

Usually most of the focus in on the national debt, which is now 21 trillion dollars and rising, but when you total all forms of debt in our society together it comes to a grand total just short of 70 trillion dollars. Many people seem to believe that the debt imbalances that existed prior to the great financial crisis of 2008 have been solved, but that is not the case at all. We are living in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble in history, and with each passing day that mountain of debt just keeps on getting bigger and bigger.

"Why America Is Heading Straight Toward The Worst Debt Crisis In History." By Michael Snyder, ZeroHedge, 5/27/18 (formatting removed).

Monday, May 28, 2018

The WWII Battle on the Mainland

I did not know of this battle before - the write-up is incredible, and needs to be shared.

When Enough Is Too Much

     The bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it. – Martin Sheen’s “Captain Willard,” in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now

     I have a few things to say this morning. I’m certain that they won’t be popular. But I’m getting tired of all the bullshit. The only way to counter a tidal wave of bullshit is to speak plainly what one believes, regardless of how unpopular it may prove to be.

     And you, my Gentle Reader, don’t have to like it.

     Americans are agog over the news from the United Kingdom, supposedly the “cradle of liberties,” that anti-jihad activist Tommy Robinson was arrested for...journalism. If you haven’t yet read about his arrest and confinement for live-streaming a news broadcast outside the U.K.’s trial of a Muslim rape and grooming gang, you haven’t been paying attention to the news. I envy you that. The news has gotten to be more than I can stomach as a regular ordeal, but one who writes about current events has an obligation he can’t slough to stay abreast of it.

     What makes Tommy Robinson’s persecution so newsworthy is that it was conducted in full view of the cameras by official agents of the State. We don’t see censorship that blatant here in the U.S. Our Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent State has contracted the job out to the media, both legacy and online. What, you thought Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were working diligently to suppress voices from the Right out of a corporate sense of mission? Get real.

     There’s more, of course. Disapproved but entirely legal businesses, such as those that make or sell firearms, are under extreme pressure to surrender. The constriction of their finances by institutions under the thumb of federal regulators has been reasonably well publicized. However, that vise is assisted by several other organs of the State, most notably the courts, which continue to entertain suits against firearms makers for murders performed with their products, in blatant violation of federal law.

     The American version of censorship is an advanced one. It leaves the Deep State’s hands clean. Indeed, it gives our elected whoremasters something to rave and campaign about. Very valuable stuff, from the perspective of our political elite. Best of all, we sit still for it instead of taking the musket down from the mantel.

     It’s impossible not to be aware that there’s a campaign of calumny being waged against President Donald Trump. Now, I’ll remind you that before his election I was dubious about Trump’s fitness for the presidency. To say the least, I’ve come around since then. And I am appalled that the Left, the NeverTrump PseudoRight, and the media have been allowed to get away with their sustained efforts to besmirch his name and accomplishments.

     Yes, Trump is a womanizer. Yes, he’s had three wives and divorced two of them. The standards that have legitimized that have been in place for decades. Moreover, only a successful Republican president is ever castigated for conforming to them – and Donald Trump, going strictly by his record in office to date, is the most successful Republican president since Calvin Coolidge. Even the much-beloved Ronald Reagan couldn’t hold a candle to Trump’s first sixteen months in the Oval Office. So obviously, he must be destroyed. The political elite cannot abide actual effectiveness on behalf of America’s citizens.

     Franklin D. Roosevelt was a womanizer. John F. Kennedy was a womanizer. And does anyone else recall the philandering career of a certain William Jefferson Clinton? But those men were Democrats, so they got a free pass.

     You may not like it, Gentle Reader, but when it comes to sex and marital fidelity, the rules are not what they were in our grandparents’ time – and they must be applied evenhandedly or not at all. Special note to the NeverTrump PseudoRight in the Punditocracy.

     I’m getting really BLEEP!ing sick of sanctimonious assholes who don’t want to acknowledge the obvious. I don’t care whether the subject is racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination. There is a God-given right to choose one’s own associates, and it extends to every area of human life, including every sort of commerce. Be damned to any law that says otherwise.

     A knot of young black males loitering in front of a shopping center is a warning sign. It’s a good predictor of bad things to come – not perfect, but better than any other indicator that there’s about to be trouble from the “youths.” If a security guard challenges such a cluster, he’s acting proactively to protect both the interests of the merchants and the well being of the legitimate shoppers. We’ve had enough flash mobs, looted stores, “knockout games,” et cetera for one century.

     The same logic applies to gatherings, whether spontaneous or organized, of Hispanics or Muslims. Time was, we could be naive about such things; we could say to ourselves that “they’re Americans just like us.” Today we’re enduring earnest campaigns to colonize the United States from both demographics. The time when naiveté about them was tolerable is long past.

     For a realist, it doesn’t take more than one MS-13 murder to bring certain lessons home. Do there remain parts of the nation where realists are few in number? Give them time; they’ll get to you.

     This is the part you’ll really hate. I can’t say I blame you; I hate it myself.

     “Kings used to lead their own armies. They used to lead the cavalry’s charge. For a king to send an army to war and remain behind to warm his throne was simply not done. Those that tried it lost their thrones, and some lost their heads – to their own people. It was a useful check on political and military rashness.
     “It hasn’t been that way for a long time. Today armies go into the field exclusively at the orders of politicians who remain at home. And politicians are bred to believe that reality is entirely plastic to their wills.”

     [From On Broken Wings]

     I have a great respect and admiration for America’s military men, both veterans and those currently serving. These are men who’ve consciously put their lives on the line, trusting that their commanders, and the political controls over those commanders, will use them wisely and to the service of good ends. It hasn’t always been that way, of course, but that’s not something for which the common soldier, sailor, or airman can be blamed.

     In the “fat century” since the beginning of World War I, approximately 645,000 American men at arms have died in combat or from wounds sustained in combat. That’s a lot of blood, even for a nation as large as ours. The remembrance of those lost lives, and of the damaged bodies and souls of fighting men who didn’t die of their combat experiences, is a worthy and honorable thing. But of those conflicts:

  • World War I
  • World War II
  • The Korean War
  • The Vietnam War
  • The invasion of Grenada
  • Operation Just Cause
  • The Gulf War
  • Operation Enduring Freedom
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom cannot be accurately claimed that any of them were fought “in defense of Americans’ freedom.” Indeed, the consequences of a couple of those campaigns included substantial incursions into Americans’ freedom, through conscription, increased taxation, economic centralization, suppression of important news, and other mechanisms.

     The political elite benefits greatly from the respect our fighting men have earned, and to which they’re justly entitled. But politicians don’t send those valiant men to war to “protect Americans’ freedom.” They haven’t for at least a century. Rather, our men go to war, sacrificing life, limb, and liberty, to further the objectives of the political class. Sometimes those objectives are morally worthy and sometimes they aren’t. In any case, Abraham Lincoln’s famous epigram:

     Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.

     ...remains as accurate as ever...especially the part about the source of our true danger: those who labor among us to subjugate us.

     By all means remember and venerate America’s fallen this Memorial Day. Indeed, they deserve our respect and affection every day of every year. But have a care to distinguish their valor and sacrifices from politicians’ exploitation of them for causes of which we’re not always accurately or sincerely informed, and from the political propaganda that’s perennially layered onto them.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Negotiations And Dogs

     “You can always get an agreement if you’re willing to give enough away.” – Robert Dole, formerly U.S. Senator from Kansas

     Among the minor differences that distinguish humans from dogs is this one:

     The dog is aware that there’s a tasty treat just out of his reach. He wants it – oh, most definitely! – but the fence is in his way. What he will not do, in all probability because his mental horizon is far too short, is to back up and go around the edge of the fence. That would increase the distance between him and his goal. He is unable to resist the need to get as close to it “as he possibly can,” despite the palpable limit to his approach.

     This is called an approach-avoidance conflict. Human beings can resolve it, owing to our wider band of perception and our ability to reason out a course of action over time. Dogs cannot.

     You could easily get the feeling, from reviewing the “negotiating” approaches previous administrations had taken with North Korea, that those administrations were staffed entirely by dogs.

     President Trump’s recent moves in his parleys with North Korea indicate that he understands the importance of being ready to back away from a bad deal. He wrote as much in his early book The Art of the Deal. He also understands that sometimes there’s no other move available to a realistic negotiator.

     The North Koreans succeeded in extorting a great deal from prior administrations. They did this largely by behaving badly: making threats against South Korea, a client state of ours, and after their acquisition of nuclear explosives, by extending their threats to a far larger sphere. The U.S. State Department, owing to the ingrained institutional belief that “we have to be nice to them to get them to like us” for damned near every conceivable value of “them,” responded to the Norks’ bluster with offers of freebies – oil, technology, and a light water nuclear reactor – in exchange for essentially nothing. Historians will eventually note these episodes as the ultimate in international folly, akin to allowing Hitler to annex Czechoslovakia in exchange for a feeble, soon to be broken promise of peace.

     At least one other commentator viewed these episodes as America “training” North Korea to behave badly. That’s a pretty accurate assessment of the thing.

     President Trump has demonstrated that such “training” can be countervailed. The Norks’ recent protestations of willingness to return to negotiations and international decorum are cheering signs that the “training” is easily dispelled. But to return to the earlier theme, the previous administrations acted more like dogs, unwilling to increase the distance between them and their goal, than like men able to see that the fence is bounded in time. American military and economic power is so much greater than that of any other nation that there is never an absolute need to kowtow before some other nation’s bluster or threats. It merely requires the willingness to walk away – in effect, to let unstated threats of military and economic countermeasures hang in the air for our interlocutor to ponder. That’s all President Trump has done.

     Yet there are persons, some with high perches in the Punditocracy, who continue to rave that President Trump is a menace to “peace.” Well, perhaps some old dogs can learn new tricks, but clearly there are some who can’t.

The tightening screw.

Public services are stripmined to meet pension obligations . . . .[1]
And as pension fund investments’ rates of return are adjusted to actual (not held at delusional) levels the call goes out, in California’s case, to local governments to make up the shortfall so payouts remain at Wizard of Oz levels. Don’t touch that dial!

Is it California’s constitution that prohibits reduction in pension benefits? What ever state got that provision approved must have some seriously stupid voters. Really? Retired state employees are precious jewels in our firmament who should not have to tighten their belts? Remus reported on the pension of the officer in the Florida school shooting who stayed outside while shots were being fired inside – almost $9,000 a month! Woodpile Report no. 530, 5/27/18.

Medicaid payments now take up to 25% of tax revenue in some states. Obamacare in its heyday “solved” the “healthcare crisis” by increasing premiums and inflating copays so that the ever-squeezed middle had “health insurance” in name only.

A slight rise in the interest rate increases government debt service costs but abnormally low interest rates favor the banksters, drive savers (esp. seniors) into riskier stock market investments and investors into ever more questionable investments thereby exacerbating the misallocation of capital. Higher interest rates also drain money from overseas markets as holders of cash seek higher returns here, which has the effect of raising the value of the dollar, which harms exports.

God knows what derivative exposure portends for the world financial system but a quart of scotch a day will help you keep from thinking about it. As your correspondent has frequently observed, many things can be ignored but not the iron laws of arithmetic. Someone can take hormones, shave his beard, wear a dress and call himself Daisy Mae but, Pilgrim, no amount of hormones or weed will boost pension fund discount rates into the comfort zone.

Well, that’s today’s dose of economic hysteria. No one seems to be in charge and everyone wants to temporize and pretend. Don’t miss the chart of total debt in Smith’s article referenced in the note below. Always one of my favorite as it suggests a, um, certain fragility to the whole dealybob. And while you’re at it, contemplate that Deutsche Bank is laying off 10% of its employees and that the USG thinks its a great idea to spend $32,000,000 per hour on our overseas bases and activities since 2001. Yessir. That is some seriously important [stuff] going on overseas and it’s good that we’re heavily involved in it. I know we’re safer and more prosperous for waging war on the Syrian nation for reasons that must be kept wery, wery secwet.

The only place in our national life where the iron laws of arithmetic do NOT apply appears to be in the area of immigration and job theft. Apparently, there is NO UPPER LIMIT to
  • the number of foreigners who can be welcomed to our country and given welfare benefits or
  • the number of jobs that can be stolen from American citizens so that foreigners can “make a contribution,” that is to say the contribution that Americans could have made had their jobs not been stolen from them by foreigners and the political filth who run this country.
Pedal to the metal on that one, good buddy. Bienvenido, Abdul, Kwame, and Fernando!

[1] "America 2018: Dicier By The Day." By Charles Hugh Smith, ZeroHedge, 5/27/18 (formatting removed).

Floating around in the ether.

This is from a bunch of clever points that “someone” (not I) circulated on the web:
Just one more thing on Democrats and the Electoral College.

Why is it that Democrats think Super delegates are fine, but they have a problem with the Electoral College?

Saturday, May 26, 2018


     About an hour ago, the C.S.O. and I were making our way back from the Stormville Flea Market – a big, open-air flea market in southern Dutchess County that’s held on one weekend of each summer month – when we started discussing the, ah, sensibilities of the contemporary Left, especially the Social-Justice Warrior. I led off with a gag I found on the Web just yesterday:

FWP: What’s the difference between a social-justice warrior and a suicide vest?
CSO: I don’t know, what?
FWP: Triggering a suicide vest actually accomplishes something.
CSO: (laughs)
FWP: Of course none of them would think that’s funny.
CSO: They don’t think anything’s funny.
FWP: They take themselves much too seriously.
CSO: No, that’s not it. It’s would you describe Stuie? Other than an arrogant SOB?
FWP: Why would any other description be required?
CSO: I’d be satisfied with asshole.
FWP: Not too generic?
CSO: I like it. And his sort of assholian is getting to be really common in America.
FWP: Wait, don’t we have an extradition treaty with them?
CSO: We did, but it’s been violated so many times it no longer matters.

     The laughter went on quite a while after that.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Cancer Has Metastasized

     Quite recently, the following exchange took place at my dinner table:

FWP: What do you think you’re doing?
Dinner Guest: (diddles her cell phone) I’m just answering a text.

FWP: Did it inform you of your impending demise?
Guest: What? No! It’s—
FWP: Because if you don’t turn that thing off and put it down right now, that will be the news of the day.

     “Dinner Guest” was a 67-year-old woman. On the cited occasion, her husband, a retired deputy sheriff, sat across from her. He didn’t say a word. He did award me a barely perceptible nod. He’d given up on retraining his wife in the courtesies. Apparently he was happy to leave the job to me.

     As you can see, I’m not infinitely tolerant. I certainly don’t tolerate cell phone use at my dinner table. I had to “teach” the C.S.O. that, too. Operant conditioning, don’t y’know.

     Just yesterday one of my fellow parishioners brought an un-silenced cell phone to Mass. It rang twice in the middle of the ceremony. On each occasion he left the chapel to answer it. No one else seemed disturbed by it, though the celebrant took conspicuous note.

     I’ve had it with the whole cell phone disaster. Absent a true miracle – say, an EMP attack that only strikes cell phones – we’re not going to recover. We’ve lost too much ground.

     Allow me to quote from a previous essay:

     In one of his most insightful moments, Adam Smith wrote that an individual will regard a cut on his finger as of greater moment than a famine in a faraway place. Moreover, he did so approvingly. That which is near should matter more than that which is far away, even when other things are not nearly equal. What’s near has the greatest potential for affecting you, whether positively or negatively. It should command the greater part of your attention.

     Attention. There’s a word to ponder, Gentle Reader. What is attention? What does it mean to “attend” to something? The Latin root tangere means “to touch” or “to hold.” You cannot touch or hold what’s distant, only what’s near. And if someone is near enough to you to touch – near enough to caress or strike you – ought you not to give him your attention?

     One of a parent’s most important duties is teaching his children to pay attention – and not solely to him. What’s around you is the most important source of all things good or bad. Indeed, the great majority of persons and things are potentially good or bad, or both – and what you fail to attend to can turn bad, perhaps lethal, in the blink of those eyes you can’t detach from your smartphone.

     There’s nothing that transforms proximity to hostility and contempt as surely or efficiently as being ignored.

     Thanks to the cell phone – especially the “smart” variety – spouses are tolerating the crassest of discourtesies from those nearest to them. Yet we gape at the rising tides of divorce, intramarital hostility, and spousal abuse, and ask one another what the reason could possibly be. It is to laugh...hollowly, and with many a tear.

     The cell phone has trained millions of Americans to pay more attention to what is far away than to what is near to hand. The training has been appallingly effective. Indeed, I sometimes wonder whether the engineers who designed and produced the foul things intended that consequence.

     As far as I know, cell phone jammers are only outlawed in public places. If that’s so, I think it might be time to acquire two: one for installation in my parish church, the other for my home.

     Glory be to God! Am I the only person on Earth who actually grasps the magnitude of the danger and is willing to act on it?

     I shan’t succumb to the temptation to go on a major tirade. I have other things to do, and besides, you’ve heard me rant about this before. But I had to get this out before it festered. It’s become too serious to let it pass unmarked. I’ll close by restating a little epigram from Baba Ram Dass:

Be Here Now.

     Verbum sat sapienti.

Pearls of expression.


Itzig, you should go back to that Breitbart-g@rbage. THAT is the pigsty that fits your profile.


If you act like this to everyone you'll never get a girlfriend.[1]

[1] Comment on "US-Backed Forces Clear From ISIS 21Km Of Syrian- Iraqi Border (Video)." By South Front, 5/13/18.

Globalism crumbling?

Comment by Speak Truth To Power:
I agree with much of what this columnist wrote. However this entire globalist criminal enterprise is rapidly crumbling. This is shown in the rise of patriotic/loyalist and Marxist parties in Europe and the Far Right and Far Left in the U.S. The globalist elite 0.001% empire of the banksters, crapitalists and fingerciers and their lackeys, knaves and varlets, along with their political prostitute puppets, is built on sand. These worthless cretins have loaded down every nation on earth, and especially in the West, with massive, crushing debt. Ditto for individuals and businesses. It is not sustainable. In addition they have off shored much of Western industry into Third World nations and flooded Western nations with Third World proles to hold down wages and depress living conditions. Reaction among the native Whites is building stronger by the day. At some point this volcano is going to blow. When it does all bets are off as to how much destruction will happen.

At this point the super rich and their banks and trans-national corporations can either gradually give way to democratic change and re-industrialize the West, discount all these debts, and stop this Third World invasion and begin swift repatriation of these interlopers and save much of their wealth and power or they will soon face armed revolution and civil/class/racial war in the streets. These worthless elites have fouled their own nests since they have left virtually no Western nation untouched by these triple evils of debt, immigration and de-industrialization. They either never learned the lessons of the French and Russian revolutions or believe it could not happen in the 21st Century to them.

Either way it makes no difference. Globalism is crumbling and going the way of other evil isms: Fascism, Communism, Nazism, Imperialism, Colonialism, etc. Its days are numbered and the writing is on the wall. Meanwhile those nations not controlled by the Western White Collar Mafia, namely Russia and China, along with Iran and a few other Asian and Middle Eastern nations, are building up their economies and militaries and increasingly challenging the Western tyrants. We are definitely in for troubled times ahead. Always remember: Those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable.

Globalism has had its evil day and its black sun is setting. The only questions now are will it go peacefully and quietly or loudly and violently and what will replace it. I hope and pray something good and true. A new world order built that that is God and Christ and not man based with peace, prosperity, and justice for all in a natural order of things.[1]

I think there’s much truth in this. For five decades the “logical” and “natural” option has involved (1) massive immigration of hostiles, unassimilables, and parasites, (2) crushing wage competition from foreign illegals, (3) enormous, unconstitutional centralization of power in the federal government, and (4) the near destruction of the industrial base with, in our case, a magnificent gift to communist China. Even now, it’s utterly impossible to get even anti-immigration activists to speak the words “stop,” “repel,” or “deport.” Even now, the “acceptable” boundaries of any debate on immigration involve mere modest downward adjustments and shinier holsters for the Border Patrol nerf ball guns. We have allowed our dirt bag, sellout elites to grab untold power and inflict their lunatic social and governmental ideas on us all.

Probably it will take real economic pain before Americans realize that there’s only so much of America that can be given away before it’s changed forever. That insight has yet to arrive even now. Someone observed that a liberal never recognizes danger, a conservative only when it's too late, and a reactionary recognizes danger instantly. Enoch Powell in Britain was a reactionary according to this and, while I can't presume to place myself in the same category of such an amazing intellect as Powell, I for damn sure don't need to see but one bleeping picture of invaders coming ashore in Lampedusa, Italy to see that an immense tragedy is unfolding. I don' nee' no steenkin' spreadsheet and 40 years of census and crime statistics to figure things out.

[1]  Comment by Speak Truth To Power on "The Simulation of Democracy." By C.J. Hopkins, The Unz Review, 5/23/18 (emphasis added).

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Indoor Life: A Reflection

     Yesterday, in response to the promptings of the C.S.O., I bought her a grill. It’s a nice grill, a Weber, all stainless steel and (supposedly) easy to clean and maintain. The C.S.O. was exceedingly pleased by the acquisition. As I have not inherited the grilling gene, I was baffled.

     “Why,” I asked her, “did you want a device that would compel you to cook outdoors, among the insects, the ragweed, and the grass clippings, where at any moment your life could be snuffed out by a falling jet engine?”

     The C.S.O.’s reply was typical, and typically brief: “Troglodyte!”

     For those of you who suffered a “public school” education, that means cave dweller. And yes, nearly all of my day is spent under a good sturdy roof. (Our home was built in 1959, when Long Island was the beating heart of the defense aviation industry. if you fail to see the relevance, remember those falling jet engines.)

     But of course, such an exchange is merely grist for a writer’s mill. It caused me to reflect on the changes in American life patterns over the years since the Civil War / War Between the States / Late Unpleasantness. (Choose your regionally preferred expression.) One of those changes is how many of us are, like me, “People of the Roof.”

     It’s expressed in all our institutions and practices. We work indoors. We sleep indoors. Mostly, we eat indoors. We partake of our most common entertainments indoors. The outdoors is now where most Americans go on occasion, whether to go under a different roof, to discharge some obligation, or for a recreational purpose. (I maintain that when you’re in your automobile – convertibles excepted – you’re still indoors...and how, pray tell, do you store your vehicle? In a garage or under a carport, perhaps?)

     The homes of working-class Americans have larger rooms than they did a century ago, in part because so little of life was lived indoors. You don’t need big rooms, or need to pay for them, if you only use them to keep the rain off the kids. Homes with large rooms were the hallmark of the wealthy: the financiers and industrialists, and a scattering of the professions.

     The things we play with have become ever more outdoors-indifferent. Some are outdoors-hostile. And we spend an increasing fraction of our time playing with such devices.

     But the outdoors is still there. (Trust me on this; I checked.) And it still offers its opportunities and pleasures. It would be well for us to enjoy it a bit more than we do – not for any abstract reason, but because if we don’t we might wake up some day to find that it’s all been taken away from us. And I don’t mean by overdevelopment.

     Many years ago, when “in a mood,” I wrote an essay about the nature of outdoor beauty. Beauty, whether one claims that it’s an objective characteristic or solely in the eye of the beholder, is an event: It occurs when a man encounters something upon which he confers a strong positive aesthetic evaluation. “This is beautiful,” he says, audibly or otherwise. But as with all things that occur within a human mind, the beauty event cannot occur unless the beautiful thing is experienced, made perceptible by our sensorium.

     I’ve misplaced that early essay. However, I recall clearly and specifically the thrust at which I aimed it: If beauty is an event that requires an encounter between the beautiful thing and a conscious human being, then it depends critically on the accessibility of the beautiful thing to the human mind. The car one drives and the road one drives along to surround oneself in the beautiful landscape are as important to the beauty event as the landscape itself!

     Human ingenuity has greatly expanded the number of beautiful outdoor things to which men have access. But another sort of human ingenuity is gradually stealing them.

     The green bigots (Thomas Sowell) have gradually eroded the methods and means by which Americans can access outdoor beauties. Ever more scenic sites are being closed de facto to the general public, merely by making access to them too difficult for most of us. Unless you’re a fit-as-a-fiddle hiker or backpacker with oodles of free time, that is. This is a reversal of one of the few positive trends of the Twentieth Century: the opening of access to more places to more Americans.

     The green bigots’ usual rationale is “preservation.” (Note: not conservation.) This, of course, means preservation from normal Americans and reservation to the green bigots. It’s a large-scale form of theft: the theft of our opportunities to experience natural beauty. It’s being carried out under color of law, which makes it doubly vile.

     I could go on, and sometimes I do. But the most important thing is to highlight the trend involved, whereby supposedly “environmentally minded” sorts are depriving those of us with Airstreams or Winnebagos of the enjoyment of outdoor beauties. I doubt we’d be as numb to it as we are, were we not always peering into a smartphone screen or crouched before a keyboard.

     And now, in the troglodytic spirit from which this essay was written, a little music for you...very little:

A Reason to Join Gab

I've been on the fence about it for some time. Mostly interesting people, but - a few real whackos and pseudo-Nazis (they're pseudo, because they don't actually DO anything but post over-the-top racist/anti-Semitic stuff everywhere). This bothered me greatly, and led me to ignore Gab, seldom visiting.

Recently, the site revealed the extent of faked accounts, which were primarily spreading Alt-Right/Nazi-type comment. The site has removed most of these accounts. My guess is that most, if not all, of these accounts were created by Leftists, to 'prove' that Gab was filled with Nazis.

Now, a second front has opened in the Communication War. Trump has been ordered not to block ANY users from his feed. Apparently, the judge believes this to be a violation of First Amendment rights.

Expect a flood of bots to try to drown out his Twitter messages.

I think - in the spirit of the Alinsky rule # 4 (Make the Enemy live up to its own book of rules) we should do the same to other Twittering leaders - LEFTIST leaders:

  • Nancy Pelosi
  • John McCain
  • John Kerry
  • Andrew Cuomo
Add your own suggestions to the comments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Good Advice for Would-Be SJWs

On how NOT to get killed.

The Brutal Truth

The alt-right is the right’s Billy Carter, our Roger Clinton, our Onyango Obama. You know you share a little DNA, but damn, they just ain’t right in the head.

Elusive Reasons Part 2: A Suggestion

     In response to the earlier piece, reader Mark Clausen has submitted a tantalizing note of explanation:

     They simply have to utterly destroy DJT to discourage any future upstart "outsiders" that any encroachment on "their" turf will not be tolerated -- especially by those who have not been vetted by decades of corruption.

     I added the emphasis.

     A corrupt organization must ensure that all its members are corrupt. This guarantees certain advantages, one of which is the ability to destroy anyone who turns on the organization. A passage from Martin McPhillips’s blockbuster Corpse in Armor underlines this nicely. A conversation is taking place between “The General,” who heads a super-secret, officially unacknowledged organization that investigates and thwarts terrorist plots, and Charles Spencer, a multibillionaire who is one of the American heads of a communist-terrorist conspiracy that has plotted to nuke New York City. Spencer, whom the General’s team has just captured, has been fooled into thinking the General, whom he knows as “Edward,” is a member of a higher-level committee in the conspiracy. The General is probing for a way to prevent or forestall the attack:

     “We need to delay the attack and we want you to tell us how to do that.”
     “It can’t be done,” Spencer said. “Can’t be done. Simple as that.”
     “You must have kept a key to delay it, Charles. No one is that irresponsible.”
     “Eddie, I’m sorry, but I had to make it so that nothing could call this attack off. It was my decision. Now we have to prepare for the aftermath. But calling it off, it can’t be done.”
     “I don’t believe you,” the General said.
     “Believe or not as you please,” Spencer answered. “It won’t change the facts. I relinquished control over the nuclear operation.”
     “You’ve never relinquished control over anything, sir,” the General said. “You certainly wouldn’t let go of something this important.”
     “Well, look, Edward,” Spencer said, “maybe there is a thread that could be pulled, but first just get me out of this chair. My damn fingers are numb.”
     “You need to give me that thread first, Charles.”
     “No. I have nothing for you. You want to continue humiliating me, then I’ll let you guess about what I know. Stop treating me like a dog and I’ll be more forthcoming.”
     “Here’s what I’ll do for you, Charles, if you don’t tell me how to delay the nuclear attack. I’ll let you go, get you all cleaned up, back to your tip-top condition and send you on your way back to your life, and as you arrive back at whichever estate, the news will break, here in the U.S. and around the world, that you are a pedophile.”
     Spencer froze. It was as though he turned into polished marble, the transformation was so immediate and complete.
     “Yes,” the General said, “we know all about your secret life. Did you think that you would be allowed to accumulate all that money and power without us retaining methods of control? We don’t care about your habits. But we know how attached you are to your grand reputation in the bourgeois world, and what this revelation would do to you.”
     Decades of cultivated arrogance drained out of Spencer in a matter of seconds. The General had the thing that was worse than death for him.

     The salient thing in the above is that Spencer absolutely accepts that those above his head would have assured themselves of “retaining methods of control,” and that they would use them if it should prove necessary to break him to harness. It’s what Spencer would have done were their positions reversed.

     The corrupt trust only in the corruption of others. Thank you, Mark.

The Word 'Delusional' Seems to Fit

The Anti-Trump 'Underground' Resistance is on the Move! The writer, Diplomad, points out that True Resistance Fighters did NOT proclaim their actions in public. Instead, because they actually feared the actual Hitler and his goons, the Resistance worked in secret. AND, used guns.
It seems odd that many members of the "resistance" want the state to take away all of our guns. The resistance hates Trump so much they want him and his henchmen to have our weapons. I guess the resistance to Hitler did the same thing, no?
Unlike these wankers.

How like the Left to push young females to the front of the crowd,
to protect the Pajama Boys
 from getting their butts whipped.

Literate Ape satirically lays out the Rules for the Resistance.

Elusive Reasons

     People want to understand the things they see, hear, and read about. They want explanations. Motives. The reasoning that would connect the responses to the stimuli. Now and then they get it, but not as often as they’d like...and not nearly as lucid, either.

     Writers of fiction understand this. It’s why we venerate Tom Clancy for his maxim that “fiction has to make sense.” Getting our characters to make sense is the toughest part of our job. We can’t merely model them on real people, because real people often do what they do for no good reason whatsoever.

     An old friend once opined to me that there are really only two reasons for doing anything:

  • “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
  • “I was only following orders.”

     Watch out for that second one. It didn’t save the accused at Nuremberg and it might not save you, especially if the orders were oral rather than written.

     I’m grappling with a “why?” this morning: the “why?” behind the seemingly insane actions of a huge cabal of CIA, FBI, and DoJ functionaries, from the lowest to the very highest, to damage a presidential candidate they believed, one and all, had no chance of winning. As it is now established beyond a reasonable doubt that various CIA, FBI, and DoJ elements did take part in such an effort, there must be some reason.

     A few motives have suggested themselves:

  • To ingratiate themselves with the Clintons;
  • Envy of the “upstart from Queens” who had succeeded so spectacularly;
  • To establish for all time that challenges to the political Establishment will not be tolerated.

     All of these have a surface plausibility. However, when the potential gain is measured against the potential loss – a retribution being enacted in slow motion as the nation watches – it’s hard to accept any of them as truly plausible.

     The enumerated motives themselves deserve further exploration. For example: is it really possible to gain the loyalty of creatures as low and corrupt as Bill and Hillary Clinton? They haven’t evinced a lot of loyalty to anyone over their years in the public eye. Or is it that the conspirators feared that unless they demonstrated a willingness to act as venally and viciously as the Clintons, they would be denied places in a Hillary Clinton Administration?

     Envy is a powerful force, capable of animating a great many evil deeds. Still, virtually every conspirator whose name has come to light has no prior connection, whether good or ill, to Donald Trump. To argue for the envy motive is to suggest that Trump, above and apart from all the other fabulously successful men in America, had somehow earned their specific ire. That’s hard to swallow.

     The third possible motive, to establish that a severe penalty will be inflicted upon any commoner who dares to assert himself against the Powers That Be, is the one that best holds up under scrutiny. Yet the various CIA, FBI, and DoJ conspirators strike me as unlikely to have been animated thus for personal reasons. Such a motive is the sort that’s normally superimposed from above: by the truly High, as orders to their palace guards to see that the gates to the dive are well and truly secured. That makes a certain amount of sense, but it implies direction from above that would be extremely difficult to prove.

     Yet all of these, their relative probabilities notwithstanding, pale against the downside possibility of the ruination of the conspirators’ reputations, their social and occupational positions, even of their liberty. People could still go to prison over this, as unlikely as it might seem at the moment.

     Whenever the available motives make little or no sense, it’s required that we entertain the ugliest of all possible explanations: the one detectives dislike to the point of nausea.

     Maybe they did it simply because that’s what they do.

     Unless the perpetrator is standing over the body with the bloody knife in his hand, a crime committed simply because the criminal was moved by an inexplicable impulse to commit it is the very hardest sort to investigate – and to prosecute. Any good defense lawyer knows how to attack a weak tender of motive.

     Yet there have been many crimes, and many criminals who were discovered to have committed them for no logical reason whatsoever. And innocent actions performed as a matter of identity fulfillment are not unknown to us. Perhaps these spies, scandal fabricators, and calumniacs did what they did for that reason alone: it’s what they do.

     It’s an ugly mess, one way or the other. In particular, it destroys any nonsensical ideas about “incorruptible” government agencies, not that we should have harbored any notions of that sort in the first place. But in the aftermath of a discovery such as the campaign to smear Donald Trump, what we want most is an analysis that will show us a way to prevent a recurrence. Just now we don’t have one, unless it’s “forbid the erection of government agencies empowered to spy on private citizens.” While that’s a laudable goal, its practical application is as elusive as the motives, whatever they may be, of the conspirators whose actions we’re trying to understand.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Slanders And Slanderers

     Among the most noteworthy aspects of contemporary political combat is the Left’s penchant for attacking personalities: i.e., those individuals who’ve caused Leftists agita by outperforming them. The assaults on Donald Trump are only the most blatant examples of this.

     President Trump, be it said, can be abrasive. He’s had that aspect about him ever since he entered the public eye, back in the late Seventies. Any skilled caricaturist would incorporate that element into his portrayal. That renders Trump susceptible to being twitted.

     But Trump is successful. In spades. (And among spades, but that’s a separate subject.) He’s had several failures, but he’s followed the Scrooge McDuck formula: after each one, he’s picked himself up, set to work afresh, and swiftly recouped his losses. Moreover, he did so in the toughest real-estate environments in America, often against the will and the aims of the political elites of those regions.

     More to today’s point, Trump has outperformed a whole lot of folks the Left practically deifies, including their anointed successor to Barack Hussein Obama. First he defeated Mrs. Clinton in a national election. Then he set about reversing the most egregious policy missteps of the Obamunist regime, including those in which Mrs. Clinton had a conspicuous hand. Indeed, President Trump is on the way to achieving foreign-policy goals that many of the political elite had deemed unattainable. He won’t get the Nobel Peace Prize, of course; that only goes to certified Leftists. But he’s already secured better results than any the political and media establishments would have imagined possible.

     And they hate him for it. So they’ve done everything they can to besmirch his name and reputation.

     As above, so also below.

     Regular Gentle Readers will probably remember the pieces I posted about John Ringo’s and Larry Correia’s disinvitations, over plaintive and entirely fictional complaints from “social-justice warriors,” from events to which they’d been invited as honored guests. Slander was the method; pusillanimity on the part of the event organizers was the target. The unwillingness to face down the slanderers got them the results they wanted.

     Just recently, John Ringo was targeted again, this time about a past event. The story is unbelievably enraging:

     Concerned to walk the halls carrying a Ringo book? Only if you’re an underage girl.
     Story time!
     As an attendee and participant at FenCon in 2013, I had the (mis) fortune of encountering Ringo – first as someone whose story for the writing contest got poor marks because Ringo didn’t like that it had a black protagonist, then sitting behind him during opening ceremonies, and finally watching ConCom repeatedly bring him up short for his behavior.
     Specifically, Ringo and his girlfriend (?) in fetishwear trying to get underage girls at the con to come back to his room for ‘consensual bondage.’ It was stomach-twisting listening to the weedy little jerk cry out ‘if there’s no penetration, it’s not statutory!’ as an excuse not to get thrown out. ConCom was on the ball and kept an eagle eye on him, and the rest of the con went trouble-free.
     I will admit some amusement at Ringo going everywhere in the company of a bunch of jackbooted, identically-uniformed, buzzcutted goons with ‘Ringo’s Roughnecks’ stenciled on their cheap t-shirts.

     John Ringo has replied:

     I suppose I should start with a declaration I really shouldn’t have to make:

     This is an entirely fabricated lie.

     It has no truth to it whatsoever save that I was at FenCon as Toastmaster and I was in the company of a woman wearing Goth clothing.

     Please read Ringo’s piece in its entirety. It’s a bigger eye-opener than six cups of espresso.

     I’ve been told that Ringo is planning to sue the slanderer. I hope that’s so – and I hope he utterly ruins the blackguard. But above all, remember the tactical consistency with other Leftist slanders. It’s their method, and as they have little else with which to attack those more successful than themselves, I doubt they’ll give it up.

     Political combat, which has become a wholly unruly affair, accounts for some of this. Yet in earlier eras in which Left and Right were bitterly opposed to one another, we saw a higher, cleaner standard of thrust, parry, and riposte. Today’s Left has departed from the gutters to swim in the cesspools of discourse – and to dispense poisons from those cesspools to whoever will give them the opportunity.

     The worst aspect of the thing is how very hard it is to punish a slanderer. There are avenues in the law, of course, but they’re very demanding; any one of several possible missteps will cause a court to invalidate one’s claim of damage. Note how carefully plaintiff’s lawyer Louis Nizer had to maneuver to press home Quentin Reynolds’s claim of libel against Westbrook Pegler. Even if the plaintiff touches every base in the right order, a libel or slander defendant can often get off the hook merely by claiming that “I was misinformed.”

     But there’s a bright side as well: one Robert A. Heinlein delineated in Citizen of the Galaxy:

     “A thousand truths do not mark a man as a truth-teller, but a single lie marks him as a damned liar....Lying to other people is your business, but I tell you this: once a man gets a reputation as a liar, he might as well be struck dumb, for people do not listen to the wind.”

     And whether or not their targets manage to exact full justice and retribution for them, the overwhelming majority of the Left’s slanders are easily proved to be lies.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Diffuse Threats And The MYOB Mindset

     The recent, luridly reported school shootings have – surprise! – resulted in a flurry of proposals and counter-proposals for “school safety” in which partisans and communities of interest have exchanged more invective than ideas. The rhetorical temperature is high, as it always is when the “safety” of “children” is the issue. Any one familiar with the current state of American public discourse would simply shrug and say “You expected something different, bubeleh?”

     Me? I’m inclined to laugh at it all. I’d imagine the shade of Aaron Wildavsky is laughing, too. And yes, I know vitriolic Leftists will pour condemnations on my head for daring to be amused over this oh so “serious issue.” But then, I routinely laugh at their idiocies and self-righteous preening.

     There’s a fundamental law of nature at work here, and no one -- literally no one -- has made mention of it up to now. It’s likely that no one has noticed it.

     Geez, it’s gonna be a great Monday!

     Some years ago, writer Marc Stiegler formulated a mantra of sorts for those of us who prefer to think rather than react from our glands. He presented it in his novel David’s Sling, a rather daring fiction that explored several areas of thought and analysis largely through the lens of military procurement prior to and during a major war in Europe.

     The mantra:

You can never do only one thing.

     A great truth is expressed therein. No matter what you do or how or why you do it, there will be side effects. Moreover, the Second Law of Thermodynamics guarantees that at least one of those side effects will be undesirable. The absoluteness of this law can’t be proved mathematically, but I dare anyone to find a counterexample.

     Take the safety of children herded into a large structure with controls at all the entry points. Those controls can be made quite stringent, such that no one can get in or out, and moreover that no one can move a metallic object in or out, without being detected. Put guards at those points to monitor the operation of the detectors and respond to would-be violators, and you’ve solved the safety problem!

     Or have you?

     Straitened entry implies straitened exit. Therefore, anything that happens within the building – e.g., a fire, or a noxious gas emission – will be that much harder to get away from. Stumbling and tripping at the exit points become more likely, with the possibility of a pile-up during an evacuation. Moreover, there are many things some villain could smuggle in that a metal detector cannot detect. Some of them can do a lot more harm than a gun.

     Many a “Safety Nazi” (P. J. O’Rourke) would simply double down. Hire more guards, he would say. Have them roam the building looking for suspicious activity and potential hazards of other kinds. Give then the ability to open more egress routes at need. But that introduces a new hazard: hiring a guard who has nefarious motives. If those guards are armed, it also increases the likelihood of a mistaken use of a weapon, or an accidental discharge.

     Try it yourself. Imagine whatever “safety provisions” you like, and apply them as stringently as you please. Then look for the side effects. Be honest about them. They’ll be there – and in the usual case, they’ll introduce hazards of their own.

     There is no way to make any human activity or institution absolutely safe.

     Safety is always a relative matter: Is this arrangement safer than that one? Parachutists pack two chutes, not because that renders them absolutely safe, but because it improves the odds at an acceptable cost. Cars incorporate various safety-enhancing provisions not because that renders driving absolutely safe, but because we think they’ll reduce the probability of an accident, or the likelihood of serious injury should an accident occur. Most guns incorporate a “safety” that prevents the trigger from being pulled, not because that eliminates the possibility of an accidental discharge, but because it gives the operator a way to prevent one if he remembers to use it.

     Besides, there’s the MYOB mentality.

     I’m sure my Gentle Readers are all aware of the “If you see something, say something” campaign that was supposed to get travelers to report suspicious behavior. It’s not a wholly bad idea, but it has two side effects of importance. Both have the effect of preventing overall safety from being absolute.

     The first is the common tendency to resist invasions of privacy, especially by total strangers. If the target is minding his own business and expects others to do likewise, he could be seriously offended by even the gentlest inquiry about what’s in his duffel, backpack, or briefcase. Blows could result. So could lawsuits, especially if the gendarmerie should involve itself.

     The second is the tendency even among nervous and suspicious types to mind their own business. Let Smith see a backpack left unattended. Let him wonder about its provenance, its contents, and the intentions of the person who left it there. Will he act? If so, how swiftly and to what end? The probabilities might be higher than before September 11, 2001 that he will inform a responsible person about the pack and thus trigger appropriate measures, but they aren’t nearly 100% — and the authorities have become somewhat overconfident that private citizens monitoring one another will suffice to provide for safety against a bombing in a public place. Americans still prefer to go about their own affairs without minding others going about theirs.

     You can get safer...maybe. You can’t be absolutely safe.

     Our lives have always known hazards, and they always will. What’s relatively new is the diffuse threat: the possibility of malicious acts that could arise at any time, in any venue, and from any actor. Indeed, the threats we face today are so diffuse that I can’t imagine how they could be more so.

     When people cluster together, it creates an opportunity for the evilly minded. Shall we no longer cluster together, then? There are arguments for it in particular cases, but there are counter-arguments for it in others.

     Contemporary technology has made it possible for a villain or an accident to take many lives swiftly. What can we do about that? There’s no way to put the genie of knowledge back in its Solomon bottle. More, to do so would be to forfeit the safety-enhancing attributes of our level of technology. Yes, airliners can fall from the sky, but air travelers are measurably safer per passenger-mile than passengers on any other form of transportation, including walking.

     You can’t win absolutely. More, once you’ve reached a certain safety level, attempts to decrease the probability of harm still further will carry a ruinous cost...and will introduce hazards you hadn’t anticipated.

     You can never do only one thing.

     I no longer gave a damn about three-car garages and swimming pools, nor any other status symbol or "security." There was no security in this world and only damn fools and mice thought there could be.
     Somewhere back in the jungle I had shucked off all ambition of that sort. I had been shot at too many times and had lost interest.

     [Robert A. Heinlein, Glory Road]

One-note ukulele.

President Trump has said he won't rule out military action against Maduro.
"Maduro Wins Vote Boycotted By Opposition As US Threatens Sanctions." By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 5/21/18.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


     As I wrote yesterday, change is upon me. I’m going to try to reduce the amount of blathering I do about political subjects, to make room for others. It seems appropriate that that should start today, Pentecost Sunday 2018, the anniversary of the birthday of Christ’s Church. If my Gentle Readers should decide that the new balance of material is not for them, I’ll understand.

     It’s an old word, I know. Its meaning “should” be fairly “obvious.” And it describes a condition from which I suffer at predictable intervals.

     There are many kinds of fear, and many sources for each. For an old man whose final horizon is drawing steadily nearer, it’s common to fear that he’ll die before he’s “ready.” Let’s leave aside for the moment what it means to be “ready” to meet one’s Maker.

     My principal fear in these latter days is of deterioration. Aging brings that with certainty. We lose strength, endurance, agility, flexibility, and – most unfortunately – we lose mental acuity. These deteriorations can be slowed, in some cases even halted, by the right sort of effort and enough of it. But the effort becomes harder to maintain as one ages and grows wearier.

     There’s one fear about which I try not to think and of which I seldom speak, because it affects the core of my usefulness to others. It’s the fear that my abilities as a writer are diminishing.

     I’ve been cranking out op-ed drivel for more than twenty years. Occasionally the impulse seizes me to revisit older pieces: my archives from Eternity Road and The Palace of Reason. Some of those older pieces are a lot better – more sharply focused, more neatly phrased, and overall more powerful – than anything I’ve posted at Liberty’s Torch. The recognition draws a graph I dislike to face.

     But I’ve also been cranking out fiction over that interval. Now and then I get the urge to reread one of my earlier novels or stories. I don’t always resist it. I’m beginning to wonder if I should.

     Op-ed writers are plentiful. (Some would say we suffer an oversupply.) But good storytellers, despite the recent surge in fictions available to the reading public, remain pretty rare. My current sense of whatever enduring value my efforts have for others is that it resides mainly in my storytelling.

     And I’ve become afraid to continue it.

     You’ll seldom hear a writer with a substantial oeuvre speak of a fear that he’s losing his powers. At least, I can’t remember the last time I read any such thing from a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only writer who’s ever suffered from that fear.

     My most recent three novels, Love in the Time of Cinema, Statesman, and Innocents, cost me agonies to complete and further agonies to release. From cover to cover of each, I worried that I’d lost my chops – that I could no longer tell the kind and quality of story I’m known for. That fear made me sensitive to reviews and reader email. A review such as this one:

     A superior wordsmith by far than many better known authors, he has a unique ability to write believable characters with extraordinary depth. But the storytelling! My goodness. He holds a near-unique ability to mix religious themes, challenging moral situations, relationship, and some good ol' fashion butt-whoopin' all in one. This text is no exception.

     ...would lift my spirits and (temporarily) reassure me that I was still firing on all twenty-three cylinders. A review such as this one:

     Unsatisfying mil action, unrealistic romance. Marty Sue hero who ends up forced to do the thing he wants but knows he shouldn't.

     ...would leave me in a funk for days, wondering whether I had any business polluting my own record with fresh tripe. And in the nature of things the negative reviews and the negative emails weigh more heavily on the mind than the positive ones. (The average review for a work of fiction at Amazon is slightly over four stars; think about what that implies.)

     The result is an increasing reluctance to start a new story. In case you’ve wondered why the books are being spread further apart in time, now you know.

     I’m not fishing for reassurance here. I’m mostly doing something I think isn’t done often enough. I’m articulating a besetting fear of the old: the fear that one has transitioned from an asset, valued by others, to an encumbrance they’d as soon be rid of. I think more of us older folks suffer that fear than is generally admitted.

     The marvelous recent movie Act of Valor has something to say about this, as well:

     Before my father died, he said the worst thing about growing old was that other men stopped seeing you as dangerous. I've always remembered that, how being dangerous was sacred, a badge of honor.

     Being dangerous is the critical requirement of a soldier. Every occupation has a critical requirement...and every one of us must fear that a time will come when he “just can’t cut it any more.”

     If you have older relatives or friends, and you sometimes see them mired in an unexplained gloom, this could well be the reason. If you’re still in the prime of life, you will probably know that fear soon enough for yourself.

     Food for thought.