Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Debt: Voluntary Slavery

As a long time reader of Liberty's Torch, and before that, Eternity Road, I had to think carefully on my first post here. I am convinced, despite our curmudgeon's probable protestations to the contrary, that Francis is one of the most important minds of our time.

The reasons for this are many and varied, but if I were to attempt to grasp the essence of the thing, it would be this: Francis has a rare ability to get to the root of the truth, and power through all the unpleasant roadblocks that are often in the way. In my experience, most people I've met have difficulty wrangling with an unpleasant truth. Remember when Donald Trump referred to Haiti as a shithole? Liberals, and many nominal conservatives with them, decried Trump's language as a grave and wrongful insult.

True, it was impolite. And true, it was insulting. Was he wrong, though?

Liberal protestations filled the airwaves about how Haiti's people were good and righteous, and Haiti was such a wonderful country, with rich history and culture. One reporter even exclaimed that his trip to Haiti had been wonderful and posted pictures of himself swimming in a tropical paradise.

Francis, I'm sure, could have told them they were all fools for trying to bury the truth behind pleasantries and polite fiction. Certainly I thought as much upon reading the gushing love stories for Haiti. Ah, but where did I learn this ability?

In part, from Francis himself.

It's a story I've told on my own blog more than once, but many moons ago I happened upon a screed where Francis warned against assuming debt. Any debt. Even mortgage debt, which went against all conventional wisdom then (and much of it now, even). At the time, I disagreed with him rather vehemently. Of course, in those days, before the big bubble burst, real estate was the sure thing. Get a mortgage, make a profit just by sitting around doing nothing. Better get it before you're priced out forever! It's so idiotic in hindsight, but at the time nearly everyone believed it. Collective insanity is a strange thing.

Francis wasn't fooled. I was. The idea that one should steer clear of debt for things we all desire strongly was exceedingly unpleasant. The mind - mine, at least - recoiled from it.

I'm a believer, now. If you have debt, rid yourself of it as quickly as is practical. Oh, I still hold a mortgage - I don't like it, and I conspire to rid myself of it. But I have no other debt, and even this debt I have 40% equity in, and pay extra toward. Four or five more years and it will be gone, too. Then I will never have debt again. I've come around to viewing debt as a fundamentally bad thing, perhaps a necessary evil in a Scylla-and-Charybdis situation (though most often, not even that much), but no more than that.

The thing about debt is that it puts boundaries on your decisions that wouldn't otherwise exist. It forces some of the very polite fiction people spout on the news and on social media. Consider the many examples of people fired from their jobs because of a tasteless joke on Twitter, or a bit of political incorrectness on Facebook. Consider businesses boycotted because somebody figured out one of the owners wasn't in the gay marriage fan club. If you have no debt, and decent savings, these things are relatively minor problems. You won't lose your house, your car, your furnishings, possessions, and property. 

If you have debt, the fear of being blacklisted, of being a viral social media scapegoat, is palpable. Indeed, it can be utterly terrifying. So, rather than speak truth, there is a social pressure to speak polite lies. Haiti, of course, is a wonderful and beautiful country. And if its people have problems, those problems are clearly the fault of privileged white Americans. Am I right? Of course I'm right, because it sounds nicer than saying the place is a shithole. All lies, of course. But speak otherwise publicly and risk getting fired.

The connection between debt and polite Leftism is quite real and, amusingly, is one of the reasons the Left did not see Donald Trump's 2016 victory coming. The voting booth, at least, still remains anonymous. How many people spout Leftist platitudes in public, but don't believe in them in the slightest?

Debt stifles freedom of speech and freedom of action. In a sense, it becomes a sort of voluntary slavery. Which isn't as bad for some as it first seems, because fact of the matter is, some people prefer slavery to freedom. Nineteen Eighty Four has this concept covered quite well. Freedom is slavery, the Party says. Thus slavery is also freedom. Slavery supplies freedom from certain responsibilities like taking political and moral positions. These are chosen for you. You don't have to worry about them. Slavery also provides you with basic provisions. Food. Shelter. They may not be very good or, in the case of many American debt-peons, they can be as palatial as a king's mansion. But they are provided for you if you want them.

Do not worry. If you do as you are told, think as you are told, and obey your masters in all things, you will be taken care of, in accordance with their will and their estimation of your value.

This wouldn't be as bad as it sounds if people were aware of it. I have one last mortgage to extinguish. When I do, I will have bought my freedom. Roman slaves did this all the time. They would save up their money, and buy their own freedom. The average American who walks into a car dealership and signs up for a $36k note (roundabout the average new car purchase cost) doesn't realize that he's signing away some portion of his freedom.

People will protest that it's better to get the low interest rate, then invest funds elsewhere for a higher rate of return. Fine, fine. If you have the money and you want to do something like that, by all means. If your freedom of speech, action, and thought is not impaired, by all means, do as seems best to you. But in my experience, most people who say this don't have the money, and invest nothing anyway. So it's a meaningless excuse.

This was a hard lesson for me. I've never been a spendthrift, but even I had succumbed to a very wrong way of thinking about things. And it is in part due to Francis that I rid myself of it. It's an unpleasant truth, delivered from a curmudgeonly Yankee. Debt is like the financial equivalent of Haiti. It's a dump, but we all pretend it's just fine because it feels better that way.

But the truth doesn't care about whether or not it is pleasing to our sensibilities. It either is, or is not. That is a lesson many Americans need to brush up on, and that's why this blog, and others like it, are so important.

Quickies: A Problem In Natural-Language Processing

     A famous example of how much context matters to the interpretation of a “simple” communication goes like this: A standard “nuclear family” – husband, wife, two minor children – is depicted with the wife saying to the husband, “We’ll have cake as soon as the children wash their hands.”

     To whom is the wife really speaking? What is the actually intended audience, and what is the true intended consequence?

     That one is fairly obvious, yet it would be difficult for a software language processor to decode. A lot of context is required to make sense of it, yet we Mark One humans would have no difficulty figuring out what’s really being said and to whom. That includes the postulated minor children.

     Here’s another from just this morning. While getting ready to leave for work, the C.S.O. said to me, “I’ll get my contacts after work.”

     I can think of three different ways to interpret that statement, only one of which is consistent with the context. How many ways could you interpret it – and what are the odds against a program getting it right?

The morally-debased United States.

Al-Qaeda’s presence in Idlib isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s an established fact that even US State Department’s Special Envoy, Brett McGurk, made clear when he said: “Look, Idlib province is the largest Al-Qaeda safe-haven since 9/11. Idlib now is a huge problem, is an Al-Qaeda safe-haven right on the border with Turkey.[1]
To which Partisangirl responded:
The US admits that #Idlib is run by #AlQaeda, AND that they are prepared to go to war to defend AlQaeda.[2]
When she says "go to war" I presume you're familiar with our crack-addled, Turtle Bay banshee-in-residence and her recent escalation from "we'll attack you if you dare use chemical weapons again [?]" to "we'll attack you if you dare to try to clean out the scum of the earth from your own Idlib Governate." If we are endowed with special regime-change goggles, couldn't we topple the regimes in Germany, France, Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands instead? Syria is led by a popular leader who's done an amazing job of keeping Syria together while under attack from 70 countries and tens of thousands of jihadi filth from every country on the planet except Lapland. The aforementioned Western countries are led by traitors intent on destroying their own countries. Who is it that's in need of an ass whoopin' here?

I’m from America and I’m here to help you.
ISIS was a certified horror according to the State and Defense Departments though any “war” against them was a phony baloney war from the git. A more comprehensive treatment of this point would be a righteous project. But, ok, we were initially in Syria to destroy ISIS and, after 9/11, we all know what a mortal enemy al-Qaida is.

Except it’s not and Partisangirl makes the not-too-subtle point that the U.S. is morally debased for making defense of the al-Qaida Idlib sanctuary/statelet a cornerstone of our new and improved Syria “policy.” The American political elite approach Syrian policy like a homeowner coming home after a week with no power and expecting his freezer to be packed with tasty morsels of food. Earth to Donaldo -- there are no good options left except departure. Our absence from Syria would be your gift to the world.

But, there we are. Kissing the ass of jihadi scum and making the world safe for wahhabism. Woodrow, that demented sack, said we were making the world safe for democracy. With the benefit of hindsight or no illusions about America’s being “the indispensable nation,” one, we can see that it didn’t turn out that way. Not even close. But, never fear, no lessons learned here. Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Iraq can be turned into killing fields just because we, lawless and arrogant as only Haley and Pompeo can demonstrate, don’t know our ass from Superglue and think that, a la Agent 007, we have a license to kill. Which we have done. Not just a few thousand, but hundreds of thousands. America is besotted by war and wages it free of any constraints imposed by the U.N. Charter.

If we had any moral authority from our role in the Cold War, it is now exhausted. The Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and "Russian collusion" spasms, along with a stinking layer of MSM partisanship and dishonesty and the wholesale evisceration of the constitutional scheme for the role of the federal government, are indicators of the depths to which we have sunk.

Notes
[1] "Nikki Haley, Favours War over Peace while Promoting the 'Cause' of Al Qaeda in Syria." By Eva K. Bartlett, 21st Century Wire, 10/12/18.
[2] Id. (Twitter links removed.)

The Futility Of Argument With The Left

     Sarah Hoyt has an impassioned piece at PJ Media about “trickle-up poverty:”

     The discussion was about charter schools funded by government, i.e., tax money.

     The argument against them was the same it’s always been: it privileges a few kids, while the rest remain mired in failing standard government schools. I’d heard it a million times. I’d just never actually stepped back and taken a look at how ridiculous that is.

     Look, there is no comment about the charters costing more (they usually don’t) and no argument about the fact that government schools are failing.

     There is just this outraged screeching that not every kid can get the same thing. Which is kind of amazing when you think about it. Presented with a dysfunctional school system that has resisted every attempt at reform and that turns out increasingly worse educated children every year, the outrage is not that we aren’t coming up with enough ways for children to escape it, but that one of the pathways for escape should be blocked because not every child can leave.

     The same arguments are adduced against homeschooling – when the advocates of government scholastic prisons aren’t shrieking that home schooled children are maladjusted and ignorant – because – and this is almost a verbatim quote from that facebook discussion – a divorced mother of two, making minimum wage can’t give them an appropriate education at home.

     Uh? What?

     So, what you’re saying is that if you can’t rescue everyone from, say, a house fire or the path of a hurricane, you should shoot those trying to escape, so that everyone can die?

     Sarah easily refutes the “argument” – I’d have expected no less – but argument and evidence are irrelevant to the Leftist’s opposition to charter schools. It’s powerfully relevant to the Left’s conception of itself as intellectually and morally superior to the rest of us.

     The Left – include all Democrat Party-aligned voters in this – can be partitioned into three groups:

  • Bottom Level: Persons who uncritically accept what they’ve been told and vote on that basis.
  • Middle Level: Activists, passionate about their “causes” regardless of all arguments or evidence.
  • Top Level: Strategists and tacticians, coldly and exclusively focused on gaining and holding power.

     It’s easy to imagine these ideologically and emotionally distinct categories as a single undifferentiated mass. Yet there are important practical differences among them. The Bottom folks hardly think at all about the “issues” the Left has made center-stage this week; as for “caring,” they tend to leave that to others. The Middle folks believe they’ve done all the thinking they need to do, and can just shriek until they get what they want. The Top folks, who largely hold the Middle and Bottom groups in contempt, are solely concerned with what works to win elections and weaken the opposition.

     Where’s the “thinking” Where’s the “caring?” The Bottom group doesn’t exhibit much; it merely votes. The Middle expends its time and energy on “protests” and “demonstrations;” seldom will you find a Middle Leftist actually arguing for his “cause,” or personally doing anything to advance it. The Top cares about power and nothing else; it concentrates on the activities of political combat and the dynamics of coalitions. If there’s any “thinking” or “caring” in there, it’s invisible to me.


     Persuasion specialist Michael Emerling told a tale about a conversation he had with a passer-by. He had expressed, off-handedly, the opinion that convenience stores ought to be free to sell alcoholic beverages without government interference. The passer-by disagreed; he said that when that was last tried, the rate of assaults on convenience store clerks shot up. Emerling then asked the passer-by a critical question: If he could produce evidence that that was not the case – that the assault rate of convenience store clerks did not rise when alcohol licensure was removed – would the passer-by be willing to re-examine his convictions?

     Put yourself into that dialogue as the passer-by. Were you to answer “No,” what would it say about your conviction that alcohol licensure is necessary for the safety of those clerks? Yet in Emerling’s experience, about 90% of persons would answer “No.” In such a case, the passer-by’s real issue clearly lies elsewhere...possibly not anywhere in the realm of rational argument or evidence.

     Therein lies the “problem” of the Left.


     Rational persuasion is only worthwhile when the object thereof is open to being persuaded. That is: his position must be based on argument and evidence, and thus be addressable with those methods and tools. If his position is founded on something else – e.g., a desire to be included in some group, or the hope of advancement in some hierarchy – there’s no hope of persuading him away from it by arguing against it directly.

     I could sit here all day enumerating the Leftist “causes” whose Bottom and Middle allegiants are entirely unpersuasible by rational means. (The Top group is never persuasible by rational argument. It should be regarded as a surgeon would regard a cancer: rip it out and toss it in the scrap bucket.) The particular case Sarah Hoyt has cited is one of many. Moreover, the current state of affairs arises from the success of persuaders in the Right in previous decades.

     The Left’s proclamation of intellectual and moral superiority is in fact a defense against the Right’s rational arguments. In effect it says to the Middle and Bottom groups that “the thinking is over and done.” There are no longer “two sides” to the “issue;” there are only the anointed who possess superior wisdom and virtue and express it by their Leftist political affiliation, and the benighted who must be dragged toward the light, if necessary by main force (Thomas Sowell).

     Which is why I no longer argue with Leftists, once they’re clearly and unambiguously identified as such.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Social Justice, Social Democracy, Democratic Socialism...?

     It’s been said, and truly, that to insert the word or particle social into a phrase negates its prior meaning. Now that averred socialists are a conspicuous element of our political fracas, it’s time to examine the contention closely. When you start to unpack a political nostrum, you can never be perfectly sure what you’re going to find.


1. “Social Justice”

     This au courant phrase has been applied to innumerable political and quasi-political causes. Every such case alleges that one group has violated the rights of another. But how could such a claim accord with objective reality?

     Groups do not possess rights. That’s an American fundamental. Neither, it can easily be observed, does a group ever do anything; all actual deeds are done by individuals. So we must begin by asking how the concepts of rights and justice could ever apply to “group rights” or “group action.”

     The essence of the “social justice warrior’s” allegation is always statistical. Some demographic exhibits a statistical characteristic the SJW uses to claim “systematized injustice.” Here’s a ludicrous example: Dwarves are under-represented in American legislatures! Going entirely by the statistics, by now several dwarves should have been elected to federal or state legislative positions. Therefore there has been a systematic exclusion of dwarves from legislative office. We must act at once to redress this injustice; there’s no time to lose!

     The non sequitur here is the notion that a particular cohort “should” be statistically represented in some other cohort, regardless of any other facts of the matter. In the case above, the question that would put paid to the idiocy is “How many times has a dwarf run for a legislative office?” Similarly dispositive questions can be asked of virtually any other assertion made in the name of “social justice.”


2. “Social Democracy”

     The term social democracy is often used to describe various European nations. The underlying intent is to feature such a nation’s welfare-state / “social insurance” provisions as a key part of its political arrangements. While this term is less dishonest than “social justice,” it nevertheless conceals certain important aspects of the situations it purports to characterize.

     To call a polity a “social democracy” is to distort the meaning of democracy in a tendentious fashion. Many such nations are notable for how resistant their arrangements are to alteration by popular vote. The recent case of the “Brexit,” Britons’ referendum against the European Union is especially revealing. The heavy majority in favor of leaving the EU has displeased the United Kingdom’s political class. Were the politicians to get their way, the referendum would either be ignored or repeated until it produced a “remain” result – after which no further popular voting on the subject would be allowed.

     In a “social democracy,” “democracy,” whether in the pure or modified sense, is not allowed to interfere with the “social” agenda of the political class. “Social” in this application denotes a rationale for an agenda, rather than a reified actuality. That agenda may have originated with the general public, but once the political elite have found a way to exploit it, the public had better not change its mind! The parallels with the American political class’s dislike of and resistance to the Trump Administration’s agenda deserve reflection.


3. “Democratic Socialism.”

     Whereas in a “social democracy” the political class must exercise cleverness and evasive maneuvers to avert changes demanded by the general public, the political elite of a democratic socialism need do far less. In such an order, the political class is in irrevocable control of all the levers of power. “Democracy” has been tamed, with the franchise limited, the ballot restricted, and the focus of “elections” narrowed so that a popular mandate sufficiently vigorous to effectuate alterations can never occur. Populist candidates willing to make significant changes to the political order are prevented from running, or marginalized so that they cannot prevail. An effective initiative or referendum cannot occur. The will of the political class is beyond challenge.

     No “social democracy” has long resisted the descent into recognizable oligarchy. For the public to vote the “social democrats” into power is to surrender, de facto, all further voice in the nation’s political order. In Thomas Sowell’s formulation, it amounts to “One man, one vote – one time.”

     Socialist candidates use the term “social democracy” as an aid to the concealment of their actual intentions. That alone should disqualify it from use by the wise and honest.


4. Summation

     The following cartoon from Crozier and Seldon’s Socialism: The Grand Delusion summarizes the points above rather neatly:

     Do not doubt that this is the goal of the “social justice,” “social democracy,” and “democratic socialism” hucksters. The process is always characterized as undertaken with impeccable motives and “for the good of society.” It always eventuates in totalitarian control of the nation and the suppression of dissident views. The many historical examples of this are enough to convince anyone...except, of course, those to whom power is everything and “social” is merely decoration intended to deflect public attention from their true motives.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sad but true.

Like in America, support for immigration tends to correlate with hatred for the actually existing citizens of your country.
"Bavaria Election Devastates Merkel's Coalition; AfD Gains." By James Kirkpatrick, Vdare.com, 10/14/18.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Assorted

     Saturdays continue to be better than the rest of the week. Yea, even for this no-longer-working-for-wages Long Island resident. In part that’s because I no longer have to cram all my non-work errands into Saturday and Sunday. In even greater measure it’s because Beth and I will be together. But please don’t tell her that; she thinks I married her for her cooking, and I’d like to maintain the fiction a while longer. Anyway, here are a few squibs no one of which appears to require a full-length essay.


1. “To protect him from repercussion.”

     Many persons conceal their identities when they write for the Web. I understand the impulse even if I don’t agree with it, but when a Catholic priest feels that need, you know something’s rotten in Denmark:

     From the moment that the Roman Church, and to a certain extent the Byzantine Church, took on the bureaucracy of the Roman Empire as a model for its working structures, there was a foothold for the Devil. In the hands of a Gregory the Great it was safe, but when popes, cardinals, and bishops became worldly and ambitious then there was more than a whiff of danger, there were darkness and a terrible thing. What was this terrible thing? It was nothing more and nothing less than the re-crucifying of Christ, not by out and out sinners such as gangsters, murderers, and heartless dictators, but by Popes, bishops, and cardinals, and by far, far too many priests infatuated with ambition, wealth, power, and sensuality.

     We must reflect profoundly on the fact that the great St. John Chrysostom and the utterly gentle Robert Bellarmine thought that most bishops go to Hell. We priests are in no better state, as witnessed by that other great saint, Alphonsus Liguori, who said that most priests go to Hell. Today the great temptation among Catholics, and the mainstream Protestant churches, is the First Temptation of Christ; namely, to turn stones into bread. As long as we are involved solely in the social Gospel, then that is all that is needed. This Utopian style Christianity best incarnated in Liberation Theology is exactly what Christ speaks against, when Satan tempts Him to assuage his hunger by turning stones into bread. We must in our materialistic age reflect on Christ’s response to Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4: 4). When we become engrossed on feeding and clothing the World’s population and getting everyone jobs, noble as this effort is, it is not enough. There is only one thing that is enough, and that is that we give ourselves totally and utterly to God, holding nothing back. However, because we are human most of us fail miserably, and before long there are programmes put into place that are anything but Christian.

     God does not ask us to be successful, he asks us to be faithful.

     The article is somewhat discursive, yet it pierces like Christ’s crown of thorns. Please, Christians of every denomination, read it all.


2. While we’re on subjects of interest to Christians...

     The Left hates nothing more than Christianity. Christianity gives the lie to every last one of the Left’s claims and representations. When we are baptized, part of what we swear to renounce are “all of Satan’s empty promises.” Smart Christians will note the similarity between those promises and those of the political Left.

     Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a Christian doing Christian work should elicit the Left’s fury:

     Kathy Griffin is triggered once again by a good man feeding the homeless. It is something Justice Brett Kavanaugh has done for years. Griffin on the other hand is a mindless, potty-mouthed, unfunny mean girl.

     TMZ speaks the truth about him feeding the homeless and she goes off the rails. She called him one of “Trump’s monsters.”

     Why do the media continue to pay attention to this bitter, graceless woman? Oh, excuse me: because they’re the media. I forgot for a moment. Never mind!


3. November 6 is looking pretty damned good.

     Here’s Mike Hendrix’s take on it:

     As I always say, there’s only one poll that matters; it happens on election day. But after the Kavanaugh debacle; the endless parade of sad, demented twerps intent on chopping their dicks off and a whole menagerie of other hostile freaks; the off-putting, man-hating bull daggers sneering and cursing at normals; the sniffing, supercilious disdain for the people who keep this country running; spoiled-brat footballers pissing over the flag and the anthem; the violent assaults by AntiFa, the Democrat-Socialists new paramilitary wing in place of the KKK—well, it seems obvious enough to me that the momentum is NOT running their way. Then you throw things like this into the mix:
     Obama in June 2016 told his fans, “When somebody says like the person you just mentioned who I’m not going to advertise for, that he’s going to bring all these jobs back. Well how exactly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There’s no answer to it.”
     President Trump just answered.
     “Job gains for the manufacturing industry in the last 12 months are the most since 1995,” CNBC reported.
     What did you expect?
     Donald Trump is a capitalist who knows business. He gets things done.
     Obama is a community organizer. He hangs curtains.

     Yeah, I believe I’ll stick with my prediction: a shellacking of HISTORIC proportions this November, and an even worse one in 2020. That’s assuming there’s anyone left willing to run under the ragged, sagging Democrat-Socialist standard by then.

     But don’t neglect to vote. “If it’s not close, they can’t cheat.” – Hugh Hewitt.


4. They’re learning!

     President Trump and Justice Kavanaugh have taught their co-partisans to fight:

     Yesterday, the Senate confirmed twelve federal district judges and three circuit court judges (2d, 3d, and 9th Circuits) in very short order. The announcements read like a religious litany....

     According to Politico, the votes were agreed to because vulnerable Democrats wanted to head home to campaign...

     And who contrived this unpleasant choice for the Democrats? Mitch McConnell. That’s right: old Go-Along-To-Get-Along Mitch. If he can hear the drums, I’d imagine that anyone could.


5. What is “a story?”

     I’ve been ranting about this for more than twenty years:

     What is a story?

     A story is change. Always. It is about change in the protagonist. Always. It is the point where the protagonist's life is always and forever to never be the same. It's the point in Raiders where Indy says, "That all depends on how cooperative we're all willing to be. All I want is the girl." Indy starts out looking for the Ark of the Covenant—the entire movie is his quest for the Ark—but in the end, he threatens to blow up the Ark—all he wants is the girl. Indy has changed.

     Your high school English teacher most likely called this the "climax." That's close, but not quite accurate. Climax implies a rise in the action, and it's fine for pornography. The events change. Things change.

     I tell my writing classes that there are secret languages. They have been around since "Shibboleth," and they are used to tell one class of people from another. Musicians still use them. Bass players—at least the good ones I worked with—never call their instrument a guitar. It's always their axe. A drummer never says "drum set." It's always their kit. If I'm playing in a club and someone tells me I have a nice drum set, I thank them. If they say I have a nice kit, I know I'm talking to another player. The conversation changes because I'm talking to one of my own.

     Writers do it, too. If someone talks about the story's climax, I know they are a reader. There's nothing wrong with that. I love readers. If it wasn't for readers, I would have to find a real job. Readers are my heroes. But I know from that one word, who I'm talking to.

     In shorter words, John Brunner’s Two Laws of Fiction:

  1. The raw material of fiction is people.
  2. The essence of story is change.

     Mix well for best results.


6. “Oh my God, he’s succeeding!

     I’ve never had much regard for Andrew Sullivan, but now and then he manages to connect:

     [T]here was evidence that some of the culture war issues the Democrats are relying on may not be so win-win. Yes, a focus on sexual assault and harassment in the workplace and elsewhere is important in its own right — and it strongly resonates with suburban women who may decide the midterms. But it can also energize conservative and moderate women in defense of what they see as threats to their own husbands and sons; it can further alienate more traditional working-class men from the Democrats; and it could cement a worrying shift among young white men toward the GOP since 2016.

     To which Glenn Reynolds deposeth and sayeth:

     Yeah, weird how when you constantly attack and denigrate a group of people, they start voting for the other side.

     Yeah, a real head-scratcher, there.


7. I’d advise taking them at their word.

     They’ve tried it before, remember? Why not take a second swing at it?

     Liberals are so accustomed to getting their way that they cannot control themselves. They fear an era is coming to an end, and they want to prevent this. So before the newly reinforced, John Roberts-led court has heard a case or issued a single ruling, they are already doing everything in their power to delegitimize the institution they once looked upon as almost God....

     The Democrats who caused and put on the entire Kavanaugh farce are already promising to abuse their power further, if the voters will only give more of it to them. They are promising a scurrilous impeachment of Kavanaugh, and also to pack the Supreme Court if given the chance. Why? Because they are angry, and they don’t respect the rules and norms of government, and they are not mature or clever enough to wait to reveal this until they have power.

     I can’t think of a better reason to turn every elected Democrat out of federal office. Surely the urgency is plain, especially as regards the Senate.

     “When a man tells you who he is...believe him.” – Maya Angelou

     The same goes for a political party.


8. WANT!

     The C.S.O. couldn’t resist showing me this article:

     Diehard Auburn football fans Rick and Susan Turner hold season tickets on the 35-yard line at the university’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. But when the Tigers are on the field, the Turners are in the parking lot.

     Every home game, the Birmingham, Ala., couple tailgates from their 45-foot 2016 Tiffin Zephyr, a luxury motorhome. The Zephyr offers an entertainment center and a full kitchen with solid-surface countertops and stainless-steel sink, as well as a range, microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator. And unlike the stadium, there’s no line to use the Zephyr’s bathroom. Most important, electrical hookups and an automatic generator ensure that the motorhome is fully air-conditioned.

     “It’s hot in Alabama in September,” says Mr. Turner, 64, senior vice president of Greenbrier Rail Services, a company that makes freight railcars and equipment....

     Recent retirees Doug and Dani Stiebeling found their happy place in Petoskey, Mich. The couple’s full time home is in Orlando, Fla., but they wanted a summertime destination to escape the Florida heat. In June they paid $250,000 for a 42-foot 2014 Itasca Ellipse, and drove it to Hearthside Grove, a luxury motorhome resort in Petoskey exclusively for Class A models. Their wooded lot, purchased in “the $250,000 range” measures one-fifth of an acre and includes a paved driveway with electrical, water and sewer hookups. Like many of the lots at Hearthside, the Stiebelings also have a 200-square-foot bungalow on their property where guests can stay when they visit.

     The Stiebelings, along with their dog Pumpkin and cat Sammi, make Hearthside Grove their home base for much of the season, which runs from mid-May to mid-October. They hitch a car to the back of their motorhome to use for trips to the grocery store and other errands.

     “There is so much to do in northern Michigan,” says Mr. Stiebeling, 65, who retired in April after a 35-year career selling medical devices and artificial skin to burn centers. “The water is so clean, and there’s trout fishing, golfing, restaurants galore—and not the typical chain restaurants. They’re ma-and-pa places.”...

     Spending time with his wife, Linda, was one of the main reasons Nicholas Grimaldi purchased his 45-foot 2017 Entegra Anthem.

     The Grimaldis live in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., and are retired from the family’s canvas and upholstery business. Mr. Grimaldi, 64, also works for an insurance company in claims, and he had Wi-Fi installed in his RV so he could work while on the road.

     But the real driver behind the decision to buy is Linda Grimaldi’s bucket list of destinations—the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and Minnesota to see the aurora borealis. “Because of my wife’s medical condition, she can’t fly. She has a hard time breathing,” he said. In the RV with portable oxygen, “we can go out and not skip a beat.”

     Yet Beth wonders why I keep asking her when she’s likely to retire.


     That’s all for today and tomorrow, Gentle Reader. Allow me the luxury of a non-digital weekend. I need to think hard about the next novel, and there hasn’t been much time for that lately. Until Monday, be well.

An inconvenient question.

An inconvenient question. A Washington Post article by Josh Rogin describes one man’s tragic descent into the “transgender” self delusion and has this lead in: “The conservative national security community in Washington is not known for its enlightened thinking on gender identity.“ He said that because the person in question had been a male national security analysts at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

A Freeper comments:

enlightened thinking on gender identity

I thought part of "enlightenment" had to do with accepting the evidence provided by hypothesis testing and reproducible results, rather than believing in things as true because you wish it to be so.

In that sense (you know, the English language sense), who's "enlightened" with regard to gender "identity"?[1]

This reminds me of some graffito in the New York subway during the initial wave of AIDS in America: “Gay is sad.” This poor person is not homosexual but under the rubric of “Giselle Donnelly can finally be herself” "she" can enjoy a new lifestyle where a party invitation requests (since normal people will be invited) “no fetish attire, please.” Does “transitioning” necessarily involve entry into a community where “fetish attire” is part of the scene? BDSM is in there as part of the picture as well. How is that something to be celebrated?

I have no desire to harm this person and include her name only because “she” has herself chosen a very public announcement of her “change.” God bless people with different inner wiring and if they want to tell themselves and each other that it’s all good, then normal people need not add to their difficulties.

One is entitled to take note of the self delusion, however, and refuse to be a part of the requirement for obsequious pandering. Good manners are sufficient to handle interactions with this person, as the AEI management demonstrates. Self delusion, however, is a problem of national dimension and we are not required to affirm every new absurd wrinkle.

Sadly, the entire public life of America is anchored in make believe. Objecting to the reduction of whites from a 90% majority to something like a 77% majority – with whites proceeding to “majority minority” status, SHMG – merits one the accusation that one is a “white supremacist.” Observing decades of general black academic failure, social breakdown, urban destruction, and through-the-roof criminality, a white person dares not ascribe this to genetic differences or debased culture. No. The magic phrases relating to causation one must use are only “white privilege,” “white racism” and “legacy of slavery.” End of story.

Deranged females are held up as the highest expression of womanhood. Illegal immigrants are treated like the Second Coming and American citizens are expected to foot the bill for their illegal entry and its consequences. Black incarceration rates are a problem of “the prison system.” The MSM can be owned by six, and only six, megacorporations and that is a robust free press and not a violation of the anti-trust laws. Rational efforts to purge voter rolls and ensure proper counting of votes are “vote suppression” and the center trembles at the thought of gainsaying that. AntiFa thuggery is not a criminal offense but the legitimate exercise of First Amendment freedoms.

Our fantasy is your reality.
The Supreme Court can make law and turn the Constitution on its head by enabling the grotesque federal government we have – a sick joke of a government compared to what was intended by the plain language of the Constitution of 1789. Five votes on the Supreme Court git’s ‘er duhhnnn. Never mind the requirements of Art. V.

The U.S. can engage in aggressive and unconstitutional war against Syria and that’s “legal” and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is an “animal” for allegedly killing or injuring a few thousands of Syrian civilians in jihadi area with gas. Emphasis on the word “allegedly.” But . . . it’s perfectly fine, even noble, for the U.S. to lead the anti-Assad coalition that has massacred over 500,000 Syrian civilians. Maybe it’s not a “massacre” if you just kill a few hundred here and there and the numbers just add up over time. A new twist to the meaning of “the new math.”

Well, onward into the life of total fairy tale. If you thought total war was bad, just wait.

Notes
[1] Comment by Jim Noble on "Giselle Donnelly can finally be herself." Posted by 4Runner, Free Republic, 10/13/18.

UPDATE (without comment) :

Women’s March organizers are moving away from the iconic “pussyhat” because it may be offensive to trans women who don’t have female genitalia.
"Women’s March Ditching Pussyhats Cuz of 'Men.'" By Steve MacDonald, Granite Ggrok, 1/11/18.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Bitch I Must Bitch

     Gentle Readers, if you intend to purchase something from Amazon and look through the products in your target category to find the one you want, for the sake of your sanity always heed the following advice:

Read The One-Star Reviews!

     When a product is sound, it will have very few, and they’ll concern themselves with marginalia: options the purchaser wish he had, or something about how badly it fits his decor scheme, or the like. When a product is unsound – unreliable or otherwise guaranteed to give you serious trouble – the one-star reviews will be many, and will talk about the worst faults you can imagine.

     I write this because I failed to pay attention to the one-star reviews of an expensive product, and I’m paying for it today.

     The product is a NETGEAR X4S R7800 Gigabit router with 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz wireless support. When I went shopping for said router, it looked to be the best of what’s available in the consumer price range. It had over 3200 reviews against it. More than a hundred of them are one-star reviews.

     Yes, I read a few of the one-star reviews. What I didn’t do was note the similarities among them. They should have draped me in red flags:

  • Unreliability
  • Extremely difficult configuration
  • Effectively no support without a purchased support contract.

     I should have immediately turned aside. I didn’t.

     To make a long story short, NETGEAR managed to disable one of my routers – I have two of them – with a “firmware upgrade.” The thing no longer supports either speed of WiFi. I can’t get the thing to re-enable WiFi – and believe me, I’ve tried.

     Being the naive and trusting sort I am, I went to the NETGEAR support site hoping to learn how to undo the damage, or at least, undo the firmware upgrade in the hope of restoring the previous functionality. No dice; not without purchasing a support contract. So I pulled out the meager documentation that went with the router. No dice there, either.

     I’ve spent three fruitless hours over this piece of...technology. I’m ready to chew girders and spit rivets. What I think I’m going to do is buy another router, this time at a retail establishment that guarantees both support and refunds. But it most assuredly won’t be a NETGEAR.

     It’s not just that the company crippled the product by remote control. It’s not just that the documentation was unhelpful. It’s even that NETGEAR won’t support its product without a purchased support contract. No, there’s even more flavorful icing on this turd.

     The router’s listing at Amazon will not accept any more reviews.

     The one-star reviews ripped NETGEAR up and down for poor support and service. That strikes me as the most likely reason no more reviews are being accepted. I should have paid more attention. So this plaint is what I’m left with – this and the immediate purchase of another router, so my beloved wife can use her office set-up as she intends.

DON’T BUY NETGEAR PRODUCTS.

An Intelligent Business Plan for Africa

From this CNN report:
Tecno cameras have been optimized for African complexions, explains Arif Chowdhury, vice president of Transsion. "Our cameras adjust more light for darker skin, so the photograph is more beautiful," he says. "That's one of the reasons we've become successful."
 I'd noticed this years ago. In most digital cameras, the default is best for Caucasian complexions. When I had a mixed class, this frequently caused a problem, as if both Black and White kids were in the same photo, either the White kids were washed out to a ghost-like appearance, or the Black kids features disappeared into a dark, undifferentiated blur. The problem is worse when the Black kids are very dark, and the White kids are Irish/Scandi White. Over the years, I got better at post-photo processing on the computer.

Any company COULD have done this - but only Transsion saw the opportunity, and took advantage of it.

One Week Free!

I've set both of my short stories as free, for one week.

Guilty Coffee

Millennial Lottery

Cat’s Paws

     The following short clip is of something you’ve probably heard about already:

     This is a link in a chain:

     ...but no doubt you’ve already heard about those other two incidents, as well. Couple them to the utter refusal of any Democrat with a national platform to condemn, or even to demur from, those calls to violence, harassment, and intimidation, nor to allow that such rhetoric might be causally connected to the increasingly frequent violent assaults on Republicans, conservatives, and supporters of President Donald Trump.

     The chain has other links that reach further back. You needn’t have been paying attention for long to remember the threats lodged against Brett Kavanaugh and his supporters. It’s only about a year since failed comedian Kathy Griffin displayed the simulacrum of Donald Trump’s severed head in a video. Quite a few Right-leaning speakers have been harassed or threatened out of speaking engagements these past two years, too. You only have to have taken a passing interest in the 2016 Presidential campaign to remember the threats and harassment of Trump supporters at his rallies. And remember Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Hussein “If they bring a knife, we bring a gun” Obama?

     Correlation is not causation, but it can be awfully suggestive. It gets more so when the media stoutly and steadfastly refuse to allocate the blame for left-wing mob violence, even when the assaults are captured on multiple video recordings. And what are we to think when no one to the left of center is willing to peep the slightest criticism of the masked, violent thugs that call themselves “AntiFa?”

     Makes you think, doesn’t it?


     The rhetoricians of violence, intimidation, and harassment may be stupid – they were certainly self-deluded enough to lose “the most winnable presidential campaign in history” – but they’re not stupid enough to believe that no one will take their exhortations literally. When the eruptions of left-wing mob behavior are as numerous, as public, and as well documented as they’ve been, there can be no serious doubt that that’s exactly what’s happening. It started on Inauguration Day. It’s only grown worse since then.

     We have to assume that they know what they’re doing. We have to assume that they intend the consequences. And we have to allow them no smallest, thinnest shred of concealment from the odium they’ve earned. They must be made to wear it – in some cases, all the way to prison. What else, pray tell, are laws against incitement to riot meant for?


     A few brassy persons on the Right have said things to the effect that if a real civil war should erupt, the Right will prevail, because “we have all the guns.” This is foolishness on a potentially catastrophic level. Guns don’t matter nearly as much as the willingness to accept risks to self and loved ones, or the will to fight and win regardless of the cost. What evidence do we have that the Right is adequately supplied with those things? As Right-leaning Americans tend to be rather older than their putative adversaries – men with wives, children, homes, and workplaces to worry about – the matter admits of considerable doubt.

     And while we sit here complacent about our preparedness, the chain grows link by link. One end lies in the hands of men and women who are determined to return to power, and never again to be removed from it. The other is connected to the thugs and harassers, and they follow their masters’ exhortations willingly.

     Counteraction is required. Perhaps it must be of the sort Mr. “If they bring a knife, we bring a gun” has prescribed for his allegiants. Perhaps something less tawdry will suffice. But we cannot preserve the Republic when only our enemies, would-be totalitarians entirely devoid of scruple determined to regain power at any price, are willing to fight.

     Time to pray.

Proof of Russian manipulation!

My brother-in-law’s barber’s cousin said he heard from a woman in the check-out line that her best friend's daughter had seen a FaceBook post that made her question Hillary’s honesty, while also making her feel strangely sad for Vladimer Putin. I swear this is 100% true.
Comment by Brazillionaire on “Debunking The Idea That Russia Manipulated Social Media To Tip The 2016 Election.” By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 10/11/18.

When is a mob not a mob?

When the MSM goes all out to shut down that the use of that kind of rude terminology.
Leftists continue to redefine words so they can continue to feed their growing gaggle of useful idiots. "Mob" is just the latest to fall, and "shame on you for using that word in reference to us".

Other notable words they have redefined, to the confusion of many who are 'not in the club', are fascist, nazi, racism, sex, tolerance, diversity, bigot, fair, free, marriage, respect.

“First they steal the words, then they steal the meaning.” --George Orwell

"How strangely will the tools of a tyrant pervert the plain meaning of words!" –Samuel Adams.

"Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society." --John Adams

"Comment." by Bryan on “GOP Seizes On Left's 'Unhinged Mob' Mentality In Viral Video.” By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 10/12/18 (formatting removed).

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Of What Use is a Library?

In a time of instantly accessible information, libraries are often low on the list of needed government services. Here's one viewpoint on the value of libraries, even today.

Here's a few pictures of MY library, growing up. It's the Lakewood Library, which I try to visit a few times a year, when I'm back in OH.

How the Library looked when I was growing up

Today's library - the small part to the right is the original

View from an upper floor - the rooms - North, South, East, and West - contain reading rooms, stacks, and specialty rooms

Just ONE of the reading rooms. They are completely connected to the Internet, with lots of plug-in sockets on the tables, and are quite conducive to work and research.

To Look With Better Eyes: A Midweek Rumination

     Among my favorite movies of recent decades is James Cameron’s movie The Abyss. Among its virtues, it numbers a compelling premise, a fine script, several excellent performances, and convincing special effects. This morning one particular bit of dialogue from that film is stuck in my head. Lindsey Brigman, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, is trying to persuade her husband Bud, played by Ed Harris, to see a particular alien-contact occurrence her way, as a harbinger of a friendship-to-be, rather than in the “assume hostile” fashion of SEAL Lieutenant Hiram Coffey:

     “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”

     The line is both sappy and a little Pollyannaish. There are hostile forces in the world, and when events indicate that one is moving against us it would be foolish to strain to see it as “just friends we haven’t met yet.” Yet Lindsey’s statement has power. It counsels an optimism about others that’s warranted more often than not.

     I’ve written on other occasions about the decline in recent decades of the ethic of trust. The ongoing deliberate cultivation of identity politics, particularism, and the associated distrust is a terrible thing, which I continue to believe is at the root of our greatest social maladies. Yet the willingness of Americans to believe in the decency of the individual stranger unless and until he demonstrates hostility – giving him “the benefit of the doubt,” as it were – remains more or less as it was. We tend to approach one another from an optimistic premise. We’re wrong sometimes, but more often we’re right.

     I like that. There’s something inherently Christian about it –not “Judeo-Christian,” but Christian. It comports with what C. S. Lewis has called the Law of General Benevolence, which Christians find in the Redeemer’s most famous preachments:

     You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? [Matthew 5:43-47]
     But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together: And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?
     Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets. [Matthew 22:34-40]

     There are at least two kinds of optimist. First we have the “cockeyed” sort, who cannot even conceive of a negative outcome from assuming the best and proceeding from it. He gets taken too often for my tastes. Then we have the “critical” sort, who accepts that we are both fallible and flawed and therefore remains observant, but is still willing to give “the benefit of the doubt.” Just don’t make him doubt you, and all will be well.

     In the maintenance of a critical, observant optimism about our fellow man I find the essence of what it means “to look with better eyes.”

     We have been told that each of us, be he as handsome as the young Brad Pitt or as deformed as Quasimodo, is made in the image of God. That doesn’t mean that God is a hominid biped, of course. It means that each of us has been equipped with an immortal soul – and the soul comes with an indispensable attachment: the conscience:

     “What am I, then?”
     Ray took his time over it. She watched him intently as he composed his answer.
     “A superwoman,” he said at last. “That is, a human woman with powers beyond what other humans possess. And according to the Nag, you have a mission to go along with them. Does something about that bother you?”
     She sat back and let her eyes slide closed.
     “I’m a made thing. Not like you or anyone else, except...my mentor. Maybe I have a couple of extra abilities, and I’m not ready to argue about the mission.” Her eyes opened and stabbed into his. “But what about what I’m missing?”
     “What would that be, Chris?”
     She looked away as if in thought. Ray steeled himself to wait patiently. Presently she spoke the most plaintive words he could have imagined.
     “A soul.”
     Ray gasped. “Why would you think you don’t have one?”
     She frowned. “Frankenstein’s monster didn’t.”
     “That’s your standard for comparison? Christine, that was fiction. Anyway, Frankenstein was a man. He assembled his monster from bits of corpses. Your maker created this entire universe. He just got around to making you a little after the rest of it. Why should you think you have no soul?”
     “Because—” She halted, plainly baffled by the seeming contradiction. Ray reached across the table and took her hands again.
     “Christine, I’m a priest. I have to work from certain postulates. According to those postulates, the soul is the seat of conscience, of an individual’s real and unalterable identity. Creatures without souls are also without moral choice. They act strictly from innate drives, motivations built right into their flesh. You can’t have a moral nature, the ability to know right from wrong, unless you have a soul. You can’t love, or be grateful, or understand loyalty or duty or justice. So either those postulates are wrong, or your soul is as real and valuable as mine.”
     An intensity Ray hadn’t felt since his ordination flowed into him and through him. He pressed her hands together between his own and chafed them gently. “A very wise man once said, ‘You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.’ The soul is the individual, the only part of you that really matters. Let’s imagine for a moment that your maker—Evoy?—didn’t possess God’s power to make souls. Actually, that’s a good assumption: the soul eventually returns to God, so it would make sense that it must be from God, not from any lesser source. All the same, God gave Evoy the power to make you. Can you really believe that once Evoy was done designing your flesh, God wouldn’t step right in and take care of the rest? Would a God Who sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die for our sakes—Who allows us to exist at all—be so cruel?”

     [From Shadow Of A Sword]

     Let it not be thought that Man, whom God has also invested with free will, cannot deliberately ignore his conscience. Indeed, some men are able to silence theirs lifelong. But it’s part of the soul ab initio: OEM equipment, as it were. Most of us can hear it speak, albeit not always as a herald’s trumpet...and most of us conform to its prescriptions and proscriptions nearly all the time. Were it otherwise, how could a coherent society exist?

     To “look with better eyes” is to remain aware of the conscience: that each of us possesses one, and that nearly all of us obey its dictates nearly all the time. If we give “the benefit of the doubt” and are sometimes disappointed by what follows, well, some people just don’t live right. That’s free will for you. That will be the case until Judgment Day.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Quickies: Are We Forgetting Fundamentals?

     It seems so. Either that, or we’re being deliberately miseducated about them. The following “tweet,” by a legacy media functionary, is what’s currently stuck in my craw:

     [The tweet image above was provided by Mike Hendrix.]

     It’s possible that this...person has no agenda. As he works for NBC, that’s dubious, but we must allow for the possibility. But do you think he’s ever read the Constitution of the United States?

     ARTICLE V: The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate. [Emphasis added, as the Framers knew very little HTML]

     The presence of that clause in Article V, the Amendment Article, excludes the equal representation of the states in the Senate from the possibility of amendment. This is beyond dispute. The Senate, in other words, was created to guarantee that each state would have a voice in the Senate equal to any other state. The electoral system for choosing a president reinforces this oft-neglected aspect of the Constitution: it was intended to protect the small states from abuses perpetrated by the large ones.

     The phrase “checks and balances” should come to mind at this point. My Gentle Readers have no doubt been muttering that phrase for some time already. Lesser intellects might consider suing their civics teachers.

     The Framers knew full well what they were doing. The very last passage of the Constitution emphasizes the importance of the states as elements in the Constitutional design:

     ARTICLE VII: The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

     The Constitution was conceived and ratified as a compact among the states. The states retained nearly complete internal sovereignty. Their equal representation in the Senate was intended, in part, to preserve that sovereignty, the exclusions in Article I, Section 10 being the sole exceptions. This aspect of the Constitution’s design is sometimes cited as an argument for a state’s power to nullify federal laws on the grounds of federal overreach.

     The federal government has done many unConstitutional and extra-Constitutional things since the Wilson Administration. Some of them have been undeniable encroachments on state sovereignty. (Where, for example, is Congress given the power to legislate a federal penal code? But that’s a subject for another day.) This latest talk – of amending a part of the Constitution explicitly protected against amendment! — merely indicates how far Americans’ knowledge of the deliberately designed-in features of our Union has slipped.

     Perhaps I should hold classes.

Don’t hold your breath.

The late Sam Francis coined the term “anarcho-tyranny” to describe how the managerial state torments the law abiding and ignores the lawless. Thus, as antifa openly conspire to use violence against Americans’ First Amendment rights, the federal government, under an ostensibly “conservative” president, cracks down on groups that fight back. Unless the federal government begins prosecuting antifa groups, this looks like a quiet endorsement of them.

This latest indictment follows in the spirit of S.J. Res 49, passed unanimously by the Republican Congress in September 2017, which called on the President to use all available means to combat the “hate groups” that brawled in Charlottesville. It specifically mentioned white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazis—but not antifa.[1]

Jeffy is full of righteous fury over pot, though. And the Republicans in Congress are, as usual, scared of their own shadow. That faint ray of outrage from them during the Kavanaugh travesty was gratifying but late in the game.

Notes
[1] "FBI Arrests White ‘Serial Rioters.’" By Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, 10/8/18.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Clinton Foundation 1.0.

Soon after FDR was inaugurated, [Eleanor Roosevelt] she began a major round of very well-paid personal advertising for corporate consumer products such as soap and took all sorts of other large payments over the next few years from various businesses, especially those crucially dependent upon government regulatory decisions. Imagine if recent First Ladies such as Michelle Obama or Laura Bush were constantly seen in TV ads hawking cars and diapers and fast food. The payments Eleanor personally received over the course of the FDR’s dozen years in office allegedly came to an astonishing $150 million, again relative to current family incomes.
"American Pravda: Our Great Purge of the 1940s." By Ron Unz, The Unz Review, 6/11/18.

Pacifying The Proles

     The aim of the High is to remain where they are. – George Orwell, 1984
     "Government's a dubious glory...You pay for your power and wealth by balancing on the sharp edge of the blade. That great amorphous thing out there -- the people -- has turned and swallowed many governments. They can do it in the flash of an angry uprising. The way you prevent that is by giving good government, not perfect government -- but good. Otherwise, sooner or later, your turn comes." [Frank Herbert, The Godmakers ]
     The moral dimension of arranging the assassination of a popular politician didn’t trouble Wriston at all. Living in the public eye had always entailed increased risk. Historically, whenever some troublemaker had roused the rabble to a greater pitch than the Establishment of that time and place could tolerate, it had disposed of him with no compunction and extreme prejudice. There were parts of the world where that was still the inevitable price of rising to power—places where a dismissal from high office was always administered with high-velocity lead. Power seekers in such lands arrived in their palaces with their death warrants already signed and sealed; they merely awaited delivery. [Shadow Of A Sword]

     However they represent themselves, and whoever their true beneficiaries may be, all political Establishments must take care to do one crucial thing: to keep “the proles” in their place. To fail at this is to fall to the scythe.

     Perhaps the most curious feature of Orwell’s great dystopian novel is his paucity of elaboration on how The Party kept the proles from rising against it. Clearly there had to be some mechanism for keeping them pacified, but the only thing Orwell mentions is a lottery upon which the proles are encouraged to focus, and whose largest prizes always seem to go to persons no one knows. Aldous Huxley, in his dystopian vision Brave New World, makes use of a drug, “soma,” which has both euphoric and tranquilizing properties and which is distributed freely to the Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon classes.

     The emperors of classical Rome famously employed a panem et circenses technique: “bread and circuses,” to keep the plebes fed and diverted. Free grain was distributed regularly, without any attempt by the Empire to determine whether the recipient was in need. Spectacles in the Coliseum and lesser regional arenas were used to entertain the plebes and exhaust their energies. It worked to an extent, but to maintain its effect it had to be increased as time passed. Toward the end of the Empire, grain distributions and Empire-sponsored spectacles were held on 220 of the 360 days in the Roman calendar. It was one of the influences that ultimately crashed the Roman order.

     Suzanne Collins’s dystopian Hunger Games trilogy, whose totalitarian state is named Panem in obvious homage to the Roman technique, portrays an almost perfect parallel approach to the pacification of the masses – but with a difference: those outside the ruling caste cannot become prosperous. The State’s exactions limit the commoners to little better than subsistence, and sometimes less. The theory behind that approach would be that a people barely able to feed itself would not have the time or surplus energy for political restiveness. It doesn’t work out that way in Collins’s books. Neither did it hold for long in the U.S.S.R.

     In Western societies of our time, the tranquilizers and pacifiers must be more subtly engineered. Moreover, a variety of them must be provided. The Establishment cannot allow their function to be too obvious. Neither can it ensure that a sufficient fraction of the common folk will fasten on any particular one. Yet the underlying pattern hearkens back to Rome.

     America has a luxurious welfare state, in theory a compassionate effort to relieve the extremes of poverty but in practice a mechanism for binding its supposed beneficiaries to the State’s teats. The giveaway here is how the definition of “poverty” has mutated over time. Today a “poor American,” entitled to the State’s generous “benefits,” would be about equivalent to a member of the working class in other Western societies. He’d certainly be in no danger of starvation or death by exposure. Little to nothing is asked of him in return for the State’s largesse. The arrangement suggests that the point is not to get people out of poverty but to enroll as many welfare clients as possible.

     America also has its spectacles. They’re not provided by the State, but they function similarly to those once held in Rome’s Coliseum. Various forms of inexpensive entertainment, many of them provided to us in the comfort of our homes, occupy a large fraction of Americans’ free time. Over time those entertainments have steadily increased their emphasis on the two indispensable elements of anything intended to hold a commoner’s attention: sex and violence. The barons of the entertainment industry have been careful to maintain close relations with the political powers that be, a point that should not be lost on the reader.

     And it works. For decades the combination succeeded in diverting a sufficient fraction of the populace from any serious degree of attention to political goings-on: sufficient, that is, that the Establishment has managed to retain control of the fraction that bothers itself over such things. Only in the most recent years has its grip begun to slip.

     Why? How is it that so meticulously designed and carefully maintained a system for keeping us proles in our place should have begun to lose its purchase? Have the giveaways and the spectacles lost part of their savor? Have they who engineered the system become incompetent or negligent? Or has the passage of time actuated influences of power great enough to countervail our contemporary bread and circuses?

     There are several candidate explanations. Some involve grand socioeconomic theories of history. Others rely on a Hegelian / Marxian dialectical account, despite the crudity of such an approach. A few posit the importance of world-historical individuals credited with the power to shape events by their personal force, a theory that recent events support to some degree.

     We cannot be certain which of these explanations is at all valid. What we can know, with a confidence approaching certainty, is that the pacification system of the century behind us is failing. The masters of our Establishment will strive to buttress it, for the alternative – from their perspective, of course – is worse. Attention to developments will pay as never before.

     Be watchful. Keep your powder dry.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

People Are Speculating About Nikki Haley's Resignation

They just can't imagine why it is happening.

I can.

She's wrapping up her Washington life, in preparation for establishing her SC residence again, and firming up her political relationships in the state. Why?

Because, after the election, an SC Senator is going to vacate his seat, allowing the governor to replace Graham with Haley.



I'm guessing that Trump has plans for Graham, in his administration. And, for the first time in a long time, he will have someone in that slot that will have his back.

I'm not sure who is going. It may be Rosenstein. It might be someone else. But, I'd bet on it.

And, as the daughter of a gambler, I NEVER bet - unless I'm absolutely SURE that I know the outcome of it.

Quickies: “Democrats Are More Moral”

     If you have a few minutes, please view the following video:

     First, note that the “questioner” isn’t an American citizen, as he states plainly before rambling on into his “question.” Yet he has an opinion about morality in American political alignments. If nothing else has done so, this should convince you, Gentle Reader, of the efficacy of the Democrats’ “stupid or evil” tactics, and of their cleverness in targeting those too young to have an adequate grounding in the rules of rational inquiry.

     Second, note how D’Souza ripostes the “question:” by asking why “global warming” should be considered a moral issue, and drawing an appropriate analogy to theism versus atheism. For anyone in the audience who was listening with an open mind, this should have been stimulus to a huge range of thought: What aspects of a public-policy question qualify it as “a moral issue?”

     Morality and ethics, as the West has understood them for many centuries, are founded on a conception of the individual as a moral agent and possessor of rights. These concepts are inapplicable to collectivities. A nation, no matter how defined, cannot possess rights. Neither can it posture as a moral agent; the deeds done in its name are always the deeds of individuals. Those individuals may represent themselves as acting on legitimate authority – indeed, agents of the State nearly always do – but that does not excuse them from the moral and ethical constraints on them as individuals. Consider this passage from the Gospel According to Luke:

     And the people asked him [John the Baptist], saying, What shall we do then?
     He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
     Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
     And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
     And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

     [Luke 3:10-14]

     In those years, the publicans of the Roman occupation and the soldiers that accompanied them were much given to brutally extorting the Jewish people: mulcting them for far more than the appointed tax and keeping the difference. That they represented themselves as agents of Rome did not free them of the moral-ethical burden they bore.

     But that Rome had the power – not the “right,” but the power — to lay and collect taxes, John the Baptist did not dispute. The State does that sort of thing, and the individual’s alternatives are to accept it as legitimate, to rebel in one fashion or another, or to flee. That will be the case for as long as there are States.

     Moral and ethical considerations and evaluations are like that.

Our false sense of ourselves.

Theological error is at the root of all other errors of the Modern Age. The idea that man’s most fundamental nature is that of a homo economicus, a rational agent whose chief end is material possession, is the common basis of both economic liberalism or capitalism and socialism. At its heart it is a denial of the classical and Christian idea that man has a spiritual as well as a physical nature and that the spiritual ought to rule the animal nature. The idea that most or all of human suffering can be eliminated by reorganizing society economically, socially, and politically is rooted in the ancient heresy of Pelagianism for it is a denial of the fact that since the Fall, human nature itself has been afflicted with the flaw of Original Sin, which is the true source of all human suffering, an affliction for which there is no economic, social, or political cure.[1]
Deluded mankind made pride the keystone of the modern age. Skepticism respecting savior government would go a long way to restoring sanity to the world but few exercise it. Tragedy chastens people in a way that reason cannot but, until it strikes, men still think they are bulletproof and willingly listen to deceivers. Antibiotics and other wonders of science and technology fuel the perception of infinitely capable mankind. And deception wins out. So long as that is the case, Western man is mostly in the grip of insane delusion. Exactly how did Bruce Jenner think his first date was going to go after things got interesting on the couch?

Even in the 18th century, Samuel Johnson understood man’s limitations:

How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
Not being a man of faith the idea of original sin seems flawed on its face, as it is a plain injustice to afflict subsequent generations with the sins of the ancestors. HowEVerrrr, it captures well some part of life that is beyond our control or understanding and is as good an explanation as any for why some things just can't come together. It’s impossible to understand how the filth who murdered Shannon Christian and Christopher Newsome in Nashville could have such savagery in their souls. But, they did and we’ll never understand that evil or extirpate it from such two-legged brutes.

We can only understand that it is there and prepare to inflict savage punishments that eliminate such people from society in one way or another. It not necessary to understand them, only to understand that they chose of their own free will to transgress the boundaries of decent society. Unlike ourselves, people in medieval England understood the concept of outlawry. Transgress the norms and the protection of the law is removed from you. It's quite different to enlightened modern Americans -- if someone else transgresses, the protection of the law is removed from the victim. Good luck with that bulletproof self defense argument.

I always say, when you want theological enlightenment this is your go-to blog!

Notes
[1] "Assorted Reflections." By Gerry T. Neal, Throne, Altar, and Liberty, 9/17/18.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Probabilities And Prerequisites

     In my morning ramble around the Web, I’ve encountered several disbelieving voices, all of them wondering “out loud” why any of the Senators who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would call the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford “credible,” or would feel sympathy for her. In all probability Ford, who has been shown to have lied on several counts, made her story up. She might have believed it – a pathological liar can convince himself of anything – but the likelihood that Brett Kavanaugh was involved in an assault on her (or any other woman) is effectively zero. So why all the comments to the contrary, especially from those who chose to believe and support Kavanaugh?

     Simply stated, it’s become a prerequisite of contemporary politics that if a woman claims to have been abused by a man, you must never, ever call her a liar, even if she’s in the very act of telling you that the Sun shines black. Moreover, no matter how convinced you are that she’s lying consciously and with malice aforethought, you must express sympathy for her “pain.” That much perversion of our political culture, the feminists have already achieved.

     The ironies run deep here, but that’s a subject for another day.

     Women were granted the franchise in 1920. Since then, American political tendencies have trended ever more toward the absolute prioritization of women’s emotions: acknowledging them, sympathizing with them, and assuaging them, regardless of the truth or falsity of the underlying claims. This has been the rule even in some cases where a national interest of great importance was at stake – and that interest had to be demoted to second place to pander to the feelings of women.

     There are more women than men registered to vote in these United States. No politician can afford to forget that, even for an instant.


     This very morning the great Chris Muir has allowed one of his premier characters – a man, of course – to express the logical conclusion that arises from the above observations:

     This is becoming a widely shared sentiment. That has nothing to do with the love or hatred for women. It’s a statement about the correlation noted in the above segment.

     The Left, being interested in power and nothing else, has made it a guiding principle of its strategy to cultivate and enlist:

  1. Women’s groups;
  2. Groups dominated by women.

     Special interests that display either of the above characteristics have been fodder for the Left’s political machines. Few such groups concern themselves with some issue fundamental to the health of a Constitutional republic. Nearly all are emotion-dominated. They’ve done considerable harm, most of it through their support for left-liberal political agendas.

     Politicians on the Left are quick to promise you what you seek. They’re not always as quick to deliver. While the Progressives of the early Twentieth Century did make good on their guarantee to the Suffragettes that women would be granted the franchise, that was probably the best they’ve performed on such a promise. Consider the failure of the “Equal Rights” Amendment campaign for contrast.

     Public education is a good case for study. For some time women, being naturally more involved with the nurturance and upbringing of children, have displayed a greater interest than men in the improvement of primary and secondary education. They’re legitimately concerned with the travesty that’s called a “public school,” and have repeatedly backed politicians who’ve claimed to have that as their highest priority. But the connection is plainly an emotional one rather than a rational one, for what have politicians done to improve public education? They’ve increased the funding for public schools. Yet there has been no improvement in such systems. Indeed, the flood of dollars has been a contributing factor in their ongoing deterioration as interest groups squabble over the take, diverting attention and effort from the only legitimate purpose of juvenile education.

     Have women withdrawn their support of the aforementioned politicians? They have not. Quite the contrary: as the problems of public education have ramified and intensified, women’s support for left-wing politicians who promise to prioritize them has only increased. That should tell us something.


     There are no panaceas, and we should not imagine otherwise. Removing the franchise from women would not solve many, if any, of America’s persistent political problems. Many of those problems have embedded themselves in our national subconscious, in this fashion: “But we can’t!” That is to say: we can’t even entertain the possibility that this or that “compassionate” government initiative might have worsened the problem it purported to address. It would make us feel bad. Especially the women among us.

     No, today I’m here merely to note the correlations and to murmur “My, my! How strong they are!” About as strong as the correlation between socialism and impoverishment, or Islam and terrorism, or Democrats and the abuse of women. But those, too, are subjects for another day.