Thursday, February 28, 2019

To Strive, To Seek, To Find, And Not To Yield

     Did you recognize the title line? Are you familiar with the mighty poem it concludes? It can be found here. If you’re unfamiliar with it, please take a few minutes to read and savor it before continuing on here.

     Ulysses – Odysseus in the Greek versions of the two relevant myths – was the king of Ithaca, one of the great men of Greece who set off, along with many other Greek heroes and soldiers, to reclaim Helen, queen of Sparta and wife of King Menelaus, from Paris of Troy. Unlike many others who participated in that conflict, narrated in Homer’s Iliad, Ulysses survived to return to his home, his queen, and his throne. However, his return voyage was not without adventures, about which we read in the Odyssey.

     Tennyson’s poem Ulysses speaks of the mythical hero later in life, when his great deeds are supposedly past and done. But great men don’t take kindly to the suggestion that their days of greatness are behind them. Indeed, one of the tests of greatness is endurance: to go further than before; to try new paths and chart new seas; never to accept stasis, or irrelevance.

     A truly great man’s life is an unbroken series of self-betterments: to go further than before, to do better than before, and always “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

     “Not to yield to what?” I hear you cry. That, Gentle Reader, is the meat of this essay.

     Along with these essays I write fiction, as you’re surely aware. It takes me about a year to produce a novel. The length of that interval displeases some of my fiction readers. They want more and faster. In an ideal world I’d oblige them – nothing so cheers a writer as an expressed hunger for more of what he writes – but this is not that world. It takes me a great deal of time and effort to produce novels that meet my standards, and I’d bet a dollar to a doughnut that were I to hurry the process, the very readers who clamor for more of my crap would turn to asking “Did you really write this, Fran? It doesn’t seem up to your usual standard.”

     Contemplate, I entreat you, the last three words above. “Your usual standard” – meaning my usual standard – was set by me. No one else has the authority to do so. To satisfy me, what I write must meet that standard. I’m sufficiently a perfectionist not to release anything that strikes me as sub-par, not meeting the standard my earlier works have set and met.

     My standards are a component of my personality: what I regard as appropriate to my abilities and my record of achievement. I cannot water them down...and believe me, at times the temptation has been strong.

     Are there costs attached to a high standard? Of course. The higher and more exacting a standard one sets for oneself, the longer and harder one must labor to meet it. The consumption of a great amount of time to produce a single item also involves an opportunity cost: the other things one might have produced in that time do not exist. This is practically a tautology.

     High or low, we all set standards for our undertakings. Those standards determine when our works are finished. Nothing else does – or can.

     I have a particular sensitivity to the misuse of words. When I detect it, I feel compelled to respond, sometimes with an acerbity that might better have been restrained.

     Consider the word perfect. What does it mean? What, therefore, does it mean to be a perfectionist?

     According to my Webster’s Unabridged, to perfect a thing is to complete it:

     perfect: v, to bring to completion; to finish.

     That does not sound – to me, at least – like an objectionable thing. We want our efforts to be finished, to go to completion, and therefore to be perfect, and are unhappy when their path to that is truncated. But what does it mean to say that a thing is finished, complete? Doesn’t that mean that it meets the standard set for it a priori? So the relevant question about perfection is: For specified item or undertaking X, what is the applicable standard? Who set it, did he have the authority to do so, and is there a way to determine when the standard has been met?

     Once we have determined that the standard for item X was set by one who had the authority to do so, and that it was relevant to the sort of thing X is intended to be, all that matters is conforming to its dictates. If X conforms in all particulars to the standard for it, then it is perfect. Moreover, its maker has achieved perfection in the only sense that pertains to enterprises under the veil of Time.

     This piece was triggered by Sarah Hoyt’s diatribe against “perfectionism:”

     Perfectionism should be classified as a disability.

     It has blighted more lives than autism, destroyed more potential work than brain damage, stopped more achievement than miss-education. It can devour entire civilizations, and arguably has....

     If you’re an artist or even just a “creator” or worker: a writer, an artist, a programmer, a cook, holy heck, even a house cleaner, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

     There’s this odd tendency to be more dissatisfied with our work the better we do and then to decide not to do things because, what the heck, it will never be good enough.

     Forgive me, Sarah, but you’ve hared off after a phantasm, which might serve to explain your own state of “being permanently trapped in insecurity.” You have failed to understand the meaning of perfection and therefore the variety of perfectionism appropriate to an artist or craftsman – which means just about everyone who ever undertakes to do anything.

     A perfect thing meets the standard set for it. The perfectionist, like Tennyson’s Ulysses, vows “not to yield.” He is determined to meet his self-defined standards. He seeks and finds imperfections, and corrects them, but always with reference to that aforementioned standard. Does he accept that he’s fallible – that he might miss something? Of course. That has nothing to do with his commitment to perfection, which is an ideal to be striven toward.

     My entire life I have striven for perfection: in mathematics, in software, and in fiction. Perhaps I’ve achieved it on occasion; perhaps not. The ideal has not paralyzed me, as Sarah has suggested:

     There’s this odd tendency to be more dissatisfied with our work the better we do and then to decide not to do things because, what the heck, it will never be good enough.

     The way it blights lives is…interesting. As in I’ve seen perfectionists utterly ruin themselves by doing nothing. Oh, you want to write/create/climb your work ladder? But you look at your work and you know you’re not good enough because you can see flaws, so why even try. And then you do nothing.

     That’s not perfectionism; that’s the behavior of the loser, he who cannot believe in himself and his powers, and surrenders to despair.

     Perfection is achievable when the standard set for the undertaking in question is clear and unambiguous. He who sets his own standards has no excuse for falling short of them, no matter how high he set the bar. I say that even though I know several of my most cherished works contain flaws, for when they’re drawn to my attention, guess what? I fix them. For the striving for perfection is not a thing that ends. In some cases it continues right up to death.

     It is vital, perhaps even civilizationally critical, that we understand perfection as it should be understood, and that we make it our pole star. There was a sign hung over the office in which I worked that asked two questions:

  • Are you doing the right thing?
  • Are you doing the thing right?

     Those are vital questions regardless of one’s specific enterprise. They compel you to be clear of mind about what you intend to produce, and to understand as completely as possible what’s required of it. And unlike most generalizations, they do apply validly to many things.

     Ask the wrong question and you’ll get a useless answer every time. “Is this perfect?” according to an irrelevant or an under-defined standard is always a wrong question, the sort that drains the meaning from the quite useful word perfect. Quoth Sarah once more:

You don’t know what is perfect either.

     Wrong, dear. It’s you who don’t know. I do know. Regardless of past failures, and of the certainty of future failures, I strive, I seek, and I find...and win, lose, or draw, I do not yield.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Making The Right Enemies

     It’s easier to assess a man, or an institution, according to who assails him / it than by any other method. Gab, the completely-free-speech Twitter competitor, has the Social Media Establishment and their enablers in something of a panic. Their condemnations of Gab have been many, lurid...and almost entirely untrue. But Gab, it develops, was only the first chapter in an increasingly dramatic story.

     The Gab development team recently released Dissenter, a commenting system not unlike Disqus except for one critical feature: whereas a Web page must add Disqus to itself for Disqus comments to appear there, Dissenter takes the opposite approach. One registers a URL – any URL – with Dissenter and it becomes possible to post comments about the page at that URL!

     For the moment, logging into Dissenter requires a Gab account. There are two ways to make use of it: directly, through the Dissenter Website, or through a browser extension. Extensions are available for Chrome, Brave, Firefox, and several other browsers. Once installed, the Dissenter extension permits the user to bring up the Dissenter comment stream for whatever URL has caught his interest. In neither case can the proprietors of a URL that has been registered with Dissenter do the least thing about it.

     The ability of tendentious, biased Websites to exclude commentary, whether selectively or in toto, has been destroyed forever. Dissenter doesn’t need anyone’s permission to establish a comment stream for a registered URL. And as you might expect, the Left’s bastions on the Web, which depend on their ability to exclude unfavorable commentary, are furious. They’re calling Gab, Dissenter, and those associated with them “everything but white.” Here’s an example:

     Gab, the social network of the far right, has extended its free-speech platform with a tool that allows users to bypass “rampant corporate censorship” and comment on almost anything, the company said Tuesday.

     Called Dissenter, the new service lets users comment on news articles, YouTube videos and even individual social media posts — even if those sites don’t have comment sections or have comments switched off.

     The article is worth reading to grasp the degree of hatred VICE has for anyone to the right of V. I. Lenin. And of course, Dissenter users are having a blast lampooning the VICE article in Dissenter’s comment stream.

     Get yourself a Gab account, even if only to have access to Dissenter. Registration is free. You won’t regret it.

Gramsci - Part 2

I'm attaching a link to the second part of the Gramsci chapter that I've finally finished. Clicking on the link will bring up a pdf.

The next chapter will deal with Leftists in Education - that's one that I can really sink my teeth into. I'd like to say that it will be done in around 2 weeks, but it may take longer. If it goes much over 2500 words, I may split into 2 or more parts.

I found this post in The Federalist, which also hits some of the same themes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Only Idiots Demand Saints In High Office

     Just a quick observation: It’s been said by many persons, on many occasions, that “Donald Trump is no saint.” What an incredible surprise! Are you a saint? Am I? (The answer to that latter query is “No and hell no!”) Besides, as Val Kilmer’s “Simon” character said in The Saint, “You have to be a very good, and usually very dead person to become a saint. And more importantly, you need to work three miracles.” Donald Trump, whatever else one might have to say about him, is not dead. So: no sainthood for President Trump...yet.

     But President Trump, as we say in the vineyards where actual work occurs, is getting the job done. He’s making good on his promises, to a degree that no previous Republican president has equaled since Warren Harding. Do his accomplishments as president rise to the miraculous level? Perhaps not quite, but they’re impressive nevertheless. Still and all, this crap about “sainthood” needs to be disposed of, lest we lose sight of the valid reasons to support a man for high office, which are as follows:

  • You approve of the policies he advocates;
  • You believe he will work to implement them.

     Now we have an idiot with a perch in the media – an idiot who wants to be taken for a conservative, mind you – saying the following:

     I’m not on Twitter; I regard it as the sewer into which all the dregs of “social media” have drained. But if I were, I would pose the following questions to Mr. French, in the hope that I might jar a few of his brain cells into functionality:

Do you know any saints running for high office?
Did you take Barack Obama for a saint?
Were you to be persuaded that Obama is a saint,
Would that make you approve of him as president?
What about Bill Clinton – or Hillary?

     French is sufficiently full of himself that he’d probably disdain to answer any of those questions as beneath the dignity of One Who Pontificates From A Height. But then, he’s full enough of another substance to need a hot, high volume enema. Two or three, even.

     And there’s also this saying, well known among Catholics:

Every saint has a past.
Every sinner has a future.

     Think about it.

The Original Dream

     I found this on Gab and had to steal it:

     That was the original idea. George Washington himself said so: “Steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.” Thomas Jefferson echoed the sentiment: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” The Old World, whence America had been born, was a quarrelsome, strife-riven place. The New World had the potential to be free of that nuisance – but only if it could remain aloof from the Old World’s quarrels.

     So what changed? What was it that caused the United States, once referred to by European statesmen as “the Great Neutral,” to immerse itself in the troubles of all the nations on Earth? Never mind the wars we’ve fought; we operate military bases in dozens of other countries. Uniformed Americans stand posts around the globe. How did this come to pass?

     Harry Browne is of the opinion that by 1914, America had developed a governmental class, or power elite, that was eager to be recognized as such by the power elites of other nations:

     By then, the U.S. government resembled the typical old-world governments, and was anxious to take its place as a “world power.” This was facilitated by entry into the European “World War.”

     In passing, I will note that as august a figure as Winston Churchill stated on at least one occasion that there was no need for America to enter World War I, and should have stayed out of it.

     When World War I was over and the disastrous Versailles Treaty had been imposed upon defeated Germany, Americans’ natural “mind your own business” instincts reasserted themselves. We reduced our Army back to pre-War levels and remained aloof from the League of Nations. And of course, the eight Harding / Coolidge years were a time of great prosperity and optimism. But as I’ve written before, in the contest for power he who wants it above all other things will have a natural advantage over those who merely see it as a service to be rendered to the nation. And so we had the rise of “The Great Engineer,” Herbert Hoover, and the never to be adequately damned Franklin D. Roosevelt, men who worshipped State power and were eager to expand it – as long as they were at the helm, of course.

     The growth of State power inevitably involves militarization. The 1930s’ explosion of fresh conflicts in Europe and the Pacific could provide our governmental class with a perfect rationale for regrowing a “world power’s” military. However, Americans’ memories of sacrifice in World War I and disdain for involvement in the troubles of other lands remained dominant until the attack on Pearl Harbor – so much so that FDR had to promise, as part of his 1940 campaign for re-election, that “Your boys are not going to be sent to any foreign wars.” As anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge is aware, that was a flat-out lie.

     War has always been an engine by which to expand the State and its powers over private persons and their undertakings. A war that leaves half the world in a state of enervation and defenselessness offers even greater opportunities. Robert Higgs develops this thesis further in his masterwork Crisis and Leviathan.

     And so today we have the largest, most widely spread military in all of human history. Paradoxically, as it’s grown these past few decades, its traditional military capabilities have shrunk. We can no longer dominate other First World nations in conventional wars. (It’s fortunate for the U.S. that there’s no current need to do so.) Our possession of a large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction – almost entirely nuclear – is what makes us a “hyperpower.” While other nations fear to displease us, it’s mainly for our economic potency rather than our ability to invade them.

     The crowning irony is that there’s no going back, at least in the foreseeable future. America’s gigantic military has become a necessity owing to our involvements around the world, many by treaty, from which we cannot easily extract ourselves. Worse, two other large militaries, those of Russia and China, constitute threats that must be counterbalanced, and there’s no one else to do it. Perhaps worst of all, hostility to the U.S. within our own hemisphere is such that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are no longer sufficient protection against invasion. Consider the mess at our southern border in that light.

     I’m acquainted with a number of military men, both veterans and in current service. They’re honorable people doing a necessary task; no odium attaches to them. Indeed, they’re among the best of us. But it would be nice if the need for their service, and all that goes with it, were less than it is. And as I write those words, a great many aphorisms about the pointlessness of wishing come to mind.

From one of the Left's leading sphincters.

I'll just put it all out there without a break, rather than doing a classic line-by-line fisking.
Bill Maher ridiculed red state voters in a segment about Amazon’s HQ2 locations, saying that the rich and educated people of America live in blue states. 
“That’s why red state voters are so pissed off. They don’t hate us, they want to be us,” the Real Time host said on Friday night. “They want to go the party. It’s like we’re the British royal family and they’re Meghan Markle’s dad.” 
Maher quoted Hillary Clinton, who has said that during the 2016 election she won the “places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product.” Clinton has also boasted that she won over voters in areas that are “optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.” 
“Maybe that has something to do with why Trump voters are obsessed with ‘owning the libs.’ Because the libs own everything else,” Maher quipped. “The blue parts of America are having a big prosperity party while that big sea of red feels like their invitation got lost in the mail.” 
The HBO host continued to pile on the insult for red state residents, saying that there are “no red carpets in Wyoming” and no one asks them what they’re wearing because “the answer is always Target.”

“We have chef Wolfgang Puck, they have Chef Boyardee,” he said. “Our roofs have solar panels, theirs have last year’s Christmas lights.” 
Maher said he knows red state voters are jealous of blue states because of the fact that more than 230 cities and regions across the country submitted proposals to Amazon to house a headquarter location in their area. He went on to say those cities were “all desperate for jobs that don’t involve guarding prisons or murdering chickens.” 
Maher then went on to slam Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for choosing the two cities that don’t need the benefits of housing a headquarter location: New York and northern Virginia. The company has since pulled out of it’s deal with New York after facing backlash from local politicians and residents. 
“Bezos, you’re worth $130 billion. Take one for the team! Stop playing cities off against one another and help a dying one come back to life,” Maher exclaimed. He then joked that Amazon could buy the state of Mississippi and rename it “Amazippi.” 
“If we keep leaving the red states behind, they’re going to keep getting angrier and crazier, because if you’re not invited to the party, the next best thing is to throw a turd in the punch bowl,” Maher continued.
Well, which is it, jackass? Is NYC "having a prosperity party," the envy of every slackjawed yokel slouching around Jesusland in his filthy, tattered overalls? Or is it a "dying" city that needs all the help from Corporate America (spit!) it can possibly tax-break-bribe its way into?

The jackass Maher, though, is due a half-hearted thanks from us. The nasty little soup├žon of insults, condescension, and vicious, hateful contempt he hurled in the Common Man's teeth—the very people, remember, that the socialist Left claims to be so very concerned about and so desperately wishes to save from the horrors of capitalism and liberty—is about as useful an example of what our would-be masters really think of us as can be imagined. Not that we didn't know that already, natch.
He had some funny lines in it, but you know what it did? It unveiled a lot of the thinking about people who are among the elite who think they are in the elite. And it revealed a lot about the way that they think. And at the top of the list, they really do consider themselves elitists. It’s unusual for this to be admitted to because most elites try to tamp that down. They try to blur that line. They don’t like being called elites because that’s a minority of people. Therefore it’s not a majority of thought, not a majority of behavior, it’s not a majority of belief and that’s because they’re elites. 
And I don’t know that the jokes and the making fun of red-state voters and conservatives and Republicans was all there, but the end result was that the guy ended up confirming the idea that there are a whole lot of people out there who, just because they’re liberal, think they are much better than all the rest of us and much smarter than all the rest of us and that they do talk down to us and that we’re not offended by it, we’re jealous. We want in. We want to be in that big clique. It’s almost like high school never ended. They remain the cool kids, and we’re not. 
In the process this was all admitted to, that this view of the country and the vast majority of its people are a bunch of hayseeds. Now, you say, “Well, Rush, that’s not news. We already know.” Yeah, but what’s news is they’re finally actually admitting it now.
Precisely so. The masks are finally, fully off, as I've said before. And it's Trump that has driven them far enough around the bend as to make maintaining their phony facade of "compassion," "concern," and "tolerance" unbearable for them to maintain any longer.

The really funny thing here is, I doubt you could find much more than a small handful of Jesusland inhabitants who really regard any of the urban perks Maher mentions as signposts of a live well lived. See, Bill, they don't care a whole hell of a lot about Wolfgang Puck, designer clothing, red carpets, and such. More snide, supercilious douchebaggery from Limbaugh's transcript:
MAHER: They turn on the TV and all the shows take place in a few hip cities. There’s no Real Housewives of Toledo or — 
AUDIENCE: (laughing) 
MAHER: — CSI: Lubbock. 
AUDIENCE: (laughing) 
MAHER: There are no red carpets in Wyoming, and no one ever asks you, “Who are you wearing?” because the answer is always “Target.” 
MAHER: There are two Americas, and it seems like one is where all the cool jobs are, where people drive Teslas and eat artisanal ice cream. We have orchestras and theater districts and world-class shopping. We have Chef Wolfgang Puck; they have Chef Boyardee. 
AUDIENCE: (laughing) 
MAHER: The flyover states have become the passed-over states. That’s why red state voters are so pissed off. They don’t hate us. They want to be us! They want to go to the party.
Umm, I know it bolsters your narcissism to tell yourself otherwise and all,

See, Bill, here's the thing: most of those flyover clods you so arrogantly derogate don't have much interest in Teslas and artisanal ice cream. Even if they did, it's not as if those things aren't readily available in flyover country too, or within easy driving distance at least. Things have changed quite a bit in the heartland since you last flew over it, dumbass; even smaller cities have such things as hot yoga clinics, spas, nail salons, and even restaurants that serve food more exotic than a heapin' helpin' of fried meat and starches smothered in melted cheese.

Know what we DON'T have all that much of out here, though? Desperately lonely single women haunting those art galleries and theaters hoping in vain to meet someone, anyone, who might be willing to partner up and rescue them from retiring to a cramped, preposterously expensive apartment or condo filled with ten or fifteen cats. See, what people out here have are families: wives, husbands, and children they adore and are devoted to. I know how rare that is myself, having spent five years in NYC; you're more likely to hear bagpipes on the street than you are the sound of a bunch of kids laughing and romping around at play. The kids' moms and dads wouldn't trade you a million and one Teslas or gallery openings for the richness of their family life.

Moreover, you make the mistake of assuming that not a living soul out here in Real America has ever traveled to decaying, crime-ridden, urban nightmares like San Francisco, LA, NYC, or Chicago. Hate to bust any bubbles and all, but—they have. Way more of them than you might think, too. A fair number of them maybe even liked it, and plan to come back again. But not one of them would even dream of moving there. I brought a few friends of mine to New York back when I lived there myself, those I could actually persuade to come visit. They all had fun...and they all couldn't wait to go back home, and said so. The general consensus was always: It's all right, yeah, but how in the world do you STAND it?

The grime, the dilapidation, the crumbling infrastructure, the overcrowding and lack of personal space, the noise, the inconvenience, the expense—don't kid yourself Bill, people accustomed to spacious rooms in their own homes; private, well-groomed lawns; peace, quiet, and tranquility; polite, considerate neighbors; and their own personal transportation parked safely in a garage or driveway envy NONE of those things. Throw in a happy family life, the dearth of filthy, insane, possibly violent crackheads aggressively thrusting themselves well within smelling range to demand alms, a safe and healthy environment for the kids to grow in, and there ain't enough money in the world to induce these people to relocate.

"Envy" you, Bill? Not on your life. Now admittedly we're pissed off at you, for sure. But that's only because you caged urban rats absolutely refuse to do the one and only thing we really, really want from you: leave us alone. Stop nagging us, stop telling us how bad we suck, stop psychoanalyzing us, and above all else: stop trying to tell us how we must live our lives via your authoritarian Left-wing politics. We're fine with our shallow, dismal, plodding, unenlightened existence. We mightily wish you were fulfilled and content enough with yours to lay off lecturing us every chance you get, through your trashy, degrading movies and TV shows as well as other ways.

Go play your pseudo-intellectual, artsy-fartsy, isolated-in-a-crowd, misunderstood-genius schtick on each other to your heart's content. Pat yourselves on the back for your innate superiority, even. Applaud each other's brilliance like trained seals until your hands are bruised and bleeding from it; trust me, we won't care. Just do us one small favor and try to tear your attention away from our boring, benighted land at least occasionally, willya? In return, we promise not to leave any turds in your punchbowls. Not even to put it in a gallery and call it "art," we won't.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


And once again we find the poor old Cold Fury site down, victim of a deadly bouillabaise of negligence and perpetual penury on the part of its raggedy old proprieter. Which, y'know, would be me. Aside: yes, I not only know how to spell "bouillabaise," I know how to pronounce it and what it is, and have even eaten the stuff before. That may seem somewhat non-sequitur-ish now, but it will come into play in my next post.

Sorry about the inconvenience, everyone; I let the hosting service bills get behind again, along with all the other ones, the blame for which rests entirely on my own shoulders. Working on Making CF Great Again! now, but it will likely take me a couple of days yet. Meanwhile, Fran is kind enough to offer to let me hang my shabby shingle here for the nonce, as is Bill Quick—two good old friends I never yet met face to face but couldn't think more highly of nonetheless, and to whom I am grateful for a whole long list of things besides letting me stop by now and then to sully their own homebase when times get lean at my own little websty.

Thanks to all y'all who e-mailed wondering if I was in the hoosegow again sleeping one off, fleeing justice and the long arm of the law, or just what the hell. No worries, just the usual Casa Hendrix clusterfuck again. All will be put right shortly. Once things are fixed, there's a chance I may have a somewhat major announcement to make too, something I've been mulling for a while now. I'll let ya know.

Update! After looking into things a bit, particularly the URL of that "suspended account" page and where the link therein leads, I'm getting very suspicious that some Lefty idiot has hacked the site. I sent an email off to the folks at Hosting Matters; we should know soon enough.

Price Dynamics: Two Vignettes

     It takes actual real-world experience at making at selling things to become aware of the influences that actually guide product pricing. As I’ve already written, the costs of production are insignificant contributors to such matters. Governmental intrusions can play a part, of course, as can other factors not under the control of the maker / seller of the product. But in a truly free market, the price of good X will fluctuate according to those two old devils:

  1. Supply: The amount of X available within the acceptance horizon of RWA purchasers;
  2. Demand: The number of RWA purchasers.

     Above and henceforward, RWA shall stand for:

  1. Ready: The purchaser is ready to transact on current terms;
  2. Willing: The purchaser is willing to meet the seller’s current terms;
  3. Able: The purchaser is able to meet the seller’s current terms.

     The sole mysterious phrase in any of the above is acceptance horizon. That’s the length of the interval between two points in time:

  1. Tcommitment: The point in time at which the purchaser and seller agree to transact;
  2. Tacquisition: The point in time at which the purchaser acquires what he purchased at Tcommitment.

     The seller has a veto power over the price he will accept. However, the purchaser determines his acceptance horizon. The seller may attempt to influence it, as for example in the case of a car to be built to a custom order, but the last word belongs to the purchaser.

     Even if the terminology looks a little abstruse, this is essentially simple stuff: Beginning Economics for the Uninitiated. The underlying phenomena are about property: specifically, the rights that a property owner will possess and exercise in the absence of coercion. Among those rights, the most important one is the owner’s right and power to exclude others from using or making off with his property. It’s the attribute that distinguishes goods that can be owned from public goods, which lack it.

     As time passes, every aspect of the various factors mentioned above will fluctuate, and so also will the supply, demand, and price of good X in actual transactions. The classical supply-demand equilibration graph suggests that as the supply of a good increases, the price it commands will decrease. However, if the good proves to be in substantially greater demand than the maker / seller originally expected, the price of that good will rise rather than fall even if the supply of the good increases concomitantly. Our first vignette addresses this phenomenon.

     Yet at no time does the cost of production of a unit of X, however it might be determined, do more than discourage the maker / seller from lowering his price “too far.” I must emphasize this point: To discourage further production for sale is all the cost of production can do. Our second vignette addresses this factor.

     Thorstein Veblen, a “dissenting” thinker of the early 20th Century, attempted to shoot holes in classical economics by asserting that it makes claims that don’t hold up. For example, he lampooned the supply-demand equilibration dynamic by showing that even though the supply of a particular luxury automobile had increased steadily over a period of months, its price was rising as well. That, he claimed, was enough to refute classical microeconomic theory.

     Veblen’s contention fails in two ways. First, he neglected to extrapolate his own assertion, specifically thus: Could the price of the popular auto continue to increase indefinitely? The answer is plainly no; over time the market would saturate and the price would fall to a holding level. The second fault in his argument is that he was shooting at a straw man: classical economics doesn’t insist that as supply rises price must fall. Indeed, the dynamic nature of demand – i.e., the number of RWA purchasers at any given instant – makes such a notion ludicrous on its face. The demand for a good can increase because of factors completely disconnected from its supply: publicity, fads and fashions, or a rapid increase in general prosperity are only a few.

     Veblen, an early “progressive” socialist who disliked the very idea of profit, could not cope with this refutation of his thesis. He attacked personally those who pointed it out to him, most notably H. L. Mencken, who never saw an overinflated ego he would not immediately strive to puncture.

     In the late Seventies and early Eighties, with the microcomputer revolution just gathering steam, a number of companies that were “late to the party” attempted to enter it by introducing computers that mimicked the more successful existing manufacturers. Unless you were part of the scene back then, you probably won’t remember North Star Computers, the most successful of the CP/M-80- based machines of that time. I worked for a “late to the party” company which produced the Multivision, a computer broadly modeled on North Star’s offering.

     There was nothing wrong with Multivision. It was an example of the state of the art, though it broke no barriers and explored no unexplored frontiers. But for one reason or another, it didn’t sell. Over time the inventory of Multivisions had to be disposed of at prices well below their cost of production, merely to free up inventory space for other products. There was no help for it, and nothing to be done but to recoup what few dollars could be had by liquidating the supply on hand. This is a common phenomenon in a marketplace that’s departing its “innovation” phase and moving toward “maturity.”

     Benjamin M. Anderson also provides examples of this kind in his book Economics and the Public Welfare. He’s quite explicit about how pricing behaves: “Right prices are prices that will move goods.” For there is often a cost to not pricing a good below its cost of production. Ask any business owner who’s ever needed to fight off a bankruptcy action or clear some warehouse space.

     The above are merely a few gentle pointers into a realm of great complexity. The mysteries of economics are essentially the mysteries of human behavior. Price dynamics cannot be decoupled from the elusive dynamics of human decision making. And of course, given that the State will nearly always intrude into the market, and that “social justice warriors” will egg it on to do ever more of that, the relative simplicity of supply-demand microeconomics can seem unrelated to the world in which we live. But one must start somewhere, and dismissing the essentially Marxist canard about how “cost of production should determine price,” uncritically accepted by far too many, is a good place to start.

Monday, February 25, 2019

I Needed This...

     ...and maybe you do, too. Hearken to the greatest of all American Catholic preachers and men of faith, the Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen:

     Perhaps one or two of the things Bishop Sheen excoriates are obiter dicta. The rest of his Jeremiad is purest gold, as relevant today as it was in 1965 when the above broadcast first occurred. It’s what Americans need to hear in these dark times...yet too many “Americans” would condemn Bishop Sheen’s statements as “intolerant,” “unacceptable,” and of course “uncompassionate.”

     Choose for yourself.

     "Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent." -- Adam Smith

They Never Quit...

     ...and they never give delivery dates in the proximate future:

     Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.
     Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).
     Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).
     Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).
     The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations' projections).
     How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?

     It startled me to see this kind of absolutely fallacious anti-capitalist doom-shouting in Forbes. (Capitalist Tool!) Drew Hansen raves as if he were the reincarnation of Thomas Malthus – the young, stupid Thomas Malthus. Do you think he’s heard of Norman Borlaug? Is he aware that it’s the Third World nations that are suffering the net loss of forests and arable land, whereas the First World countries are replenishing them as fast as we exploit them? Is he aware that the “extinctions” are nearly all of unimportant micro-organisms, and that they’ve been going on for millennia?

     I could go on, but there’s little point. You’ll never find a leftist doom-shouter who can cope with the arguments and evidence in Julian Simon’s The Ultimate Resource, or who’s willing to answer simple questions about the priority of human well-being over resource “consumption” or environmental “destruction.” Every one of them is an Eric Pianka or a Pentti Linkola at heart, slavering for mass death. The environment is their deity and capitalism is their devil – and by “capitalism,” I mean you and me, Gentle Reader.

     Mentioning that resource prices have dropped in real terms over the past fifty years, which utterly defeats the claim that they’re becoming “scarcer,” would evoke Hansen’s condemnation. “You can’t measure these things in monetary terms! There are values involved!” Mentioning that the solar system is chock-full of resources of every kind, all just waiting to be reaped, would make Hansen and his ilk haul out the crucifixes and pointed stakes. “You want to launch rockets? That would use up irreplaceable resources and soil our precious environment! Use the money to feed the poor!” As if “feeding the poor” were a shortcut to anything but more and more “poor.” (“We can have exactly as many paupers as the country chooses to pay for.” – Thomas Mackay)

     But what really goosed me in a tender place was Hansen’s selection of 2050 as his disaster-delivery date. That’s 31 years from now. Granted, it’s a little nearer than the warmistas’ promise of global heat death – by the way, if you read further into the article, you’ll see that Hansen’s a warmista along with all the rest — but it raises the question: How did he pick that date? Does he like it for the zero at the end? So round, so firm... Or did someone else – one of the left-wing sources he cites throughout his article, perhaps – pick it for him?

     Hansen and his kind are playing to a particular audience: those who need to embrace a Cause that would allow them to feel relevant and superior to the uncommitted. Perhaps Hansen himself feels that need. Or perhaps he’s merely an ignoramus who’s been led into apocalyptic fantasy by other, glib environmental doom-shouters. It’s important to keep track of such persons, though. Not only must one stand ready to contradict them; they’re a great source of comedy material.

Just Like Us Dept.

A Muslim Egyptian man who planned to murder his Christian cousin has revealed his story of miraculous conversion.

In a tale reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s supernatural encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, “Mostafa” told Open Doors USA that his family had ordered him to execute his own cousin because of his devout faith in Jesus Christ.[1]

I always say family comes first.

[1] "‘Now I’d Die for Jesus’: Muslim Man Plotted to Kill Christian Cousin Before Christ Appeared in Dream." By Will Maule, CBN News, 2/24/19.

H/t: Gates of Vienna and WMD.

Greatest Constitutional Crisis Since the Civil War.

For more than two years, the United States and the world have had two competing narratives:
  • that an elected president of the United States was a Russian agent whom the Kremlin helped elect;
  • and its rival narrative that senior officials of the Justice Department, FBI, CIA, and other national intelligence organizations had repeatedly lied under oath, misinformed federal officials, and meddled in partisan political matters illegally and unconstitutionally and had effectively tried to influence the outcome of a presidential election, and then undo its result by falsely propagating the first narrative.
It is now obvious and indisputable that the second narrative is the correct one.[1]
It's more than this coup attempt. Who wins the Superbowl or gets an Academy Award is something of no importance. But certain events happening right now are civilization-changing events. The notion that we are a unified nation of laws and that out public affairs are suffused with decency, restraint, fairness, and rationality is one that can no longer be maintained by any halfway observant person. That nation has virtually evaporated.

Regime shock troops.
A vicious and dishonest progressivism have empowered those who believe that human affairs – and faillible and liberty-minded human beings -- can and should be regulated by rational, wise, and compassionate points of light like themselves.

The present crew of Enlightened Beings who infest the upper reaches of our governments have precisely zero regard for the restraints inherent in our constitutional republic and arrogate to themselves the moral authority to determine which elections are legitimate and which not. And which voices are legitimate or not. And which wars are to be fought.

Embracing government run on the basis of complete official discretionary authority is to step onto a slippery slope that is a lot harder to climb back up after venturing onto it than to avoid it in the first place. But we are at a point in time when supposedly intelligent and educated people are enthusiastically and knowingly laying the foundation for autocratic government to be followed instantly by totalitarian government whether fascist or communist. This is inevitable as we know from the sorry history of the last century. (Authoritarians of the right did not plumb the depths of murder and torture. Apparently, they were still guided by tradition, law, custom, and religion, unlike those on the left who jumped into the maw with both feet, unconstrained by nothing, least of all simple decency. That the rightists were unwilling to surrender to leftist violence and subversion does not undermine this point. Superior breeding and culture do not require suicidal submission.)

This contempt for the Constitution and all law will not end well and on any day you can see or read about vile psychopaths and sociopaths who will be delighted to settle scores with political opponents and simply decent citizens. Twentieth-century methods will be embraced enthusiastically. The late Larry Grathwohl told us of the Weather Underground and their plan to just eliminate 20,000,000 uneducables if they ever took over.

Except for the stalwarts on Fox in the evening this coup is not discussed. Even they steer clear of the issue of total abandonment of the Constitution. (See which media or political figure raises the fact that Kamala Harris is NOT a natural born citizen.) Our national debate involves exercises in interrupting each other, the hurling of ad hominems, the dispensing of gross distortions and lies, or slithering away from pointed questions and answering questions never asked. Watch some of the guests on Tucker Carlson one time and get a taste of how that works.

Uncontrolled immigration is another watershed event or process. Some 40,000,000 foreigners have entered the United States in recent decades and the political and cultural transformation this is effecting is treated as though it were a gift from the gods rather than the impoverishing and destructive disaster that it is. European traitors speak of importing anther hundred million Africans alone. To what decent end?

European peoples, aka white people, need to get deadly serious about what is being jammed down our throats by the traitors who rule us. All indications are, however, that any kind of an awakening is coming way too slowly. And Angela Merkel looks like she’ll placidly coast to the end of her time as chancellor and enjoy a carefree retirement. And profound changes will occur unimpeded. Some changes are forever. I'm not even sure Trump understands what is at stake.

[1] "Conrad Black Exposes The Greatest Constitutional Crisis Since The Civil War." By Conrad Black, ZeroHedge, 2/24/19 (bullets added).

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Prick To The Conscience

     There aren’t many things I expect a priest to do for his flock. (There are a few things I expect him not to do, and woe betide his parishioners if he does any of them.) But in recent years one of my expectations has been confounded. For example, I hardly expect a priest to show significant courage in the face of the previously expressed displeasure of the Church’s higher-ups.

     Father Ed Kealey, who has retired from active ministry on account of age and infirmity, was first to impress me with his courage. Some years ago, he upbraided a large gathering of clergy, many of whom were his hierarchical superiors, for their prissy, almost dismissive attitude toward the clerical sexual-abuse scandals the whole world knows about. I was greatly impressed, especially as I knew that Father Ed was already disdained by the power structure of the Diocese of Rockville Center for his involvement in Voice of the Faithful, a lay Catholic organization many priests and bishops regard as an irritation and a threat to their perquisites.

     This morning I heard statements that have forced me to revise my prior opinion of a priest of whom I’ve spoken harshly in the past. Before I name him, I shall tell you why my assessment of him has improved.

     The Catholic Church has suffered several attacks and disruptions over the centuries. Some of those disruptions have come from within the clergy. The profligacy, dissolution, and libidinousness of the Renaissance popes, in particular, came near to destroying the Church entirely. Indeed, it was their conduct that made possible the Protestant Schism and all that followed from it.

     One of the more significant changes the Church instituted in response to unacceptable behavior among its clerics was to forbid the ordination of married men, and to forbid ordained priests to marry. I could go into the particular dynamics that made married clerics a blight upon the Church in medieval Europe, but that’s a large subject that deserves its own essay. Suffice it to say that clerical benefices were being handed down from priests to their sons in a fashion that was outrage of the Old World. The clerical abuse called simony was closely associated with it. The only way to put a stop to it at that time was to put an end to the fathering of sons by priests. That required the rule of clerical celibacy, which was made formal and official by Pope Gregory VII in 1074 A.D.

     Today, of course, we have the scandals involving the sexual abuse of minors by clerics, a thing so monstrous that for some time many Catholics could not credit it. Only after a series of confessions – usually compelled by the emergence of unambiguous evidence – by pedophile priests did it become indisputable that something was rotten within the Church. Changes had to be made...but of what sort?

     The question is still being debated among the high bishops and cardinals. Pope Francis is said to be deeply involved in those discussions. That doesn’t speak well of the likely outcome. During his years in Argentina Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio protected a number of priests from facing accusations that, at the very least, deserved to be addressed by a court of law.

     Peripheral to this but deserving of mention this morning is the pope’s decree, following upon similar decrees by his predecessors, that Church will not consider the approval of priestly marriage. Neither will he permit consideration of the ordination of women. Most Catholic clergy will concede that those measures, if adopted, would help to reduce the frequency of clerical sex abuses, both by improving the fund of applicants for the priesthood and by reducing the number of opportunities for abuse to occur. However, with the pope firmly against them, it’s become professionally hazardous for a priest to suggest that they be considered. Priests have been disciplined, sometimes severely, for daring to suggest them to their congregations.

     What measures, then, are under discussion? The rumblings from the Vatican aren’t encouraging. What results from the conferences might amount to nothing more than cosmetics.

     Before I go any deeper into this matter, I must make certain declarations about my personal convictions that many Catholics will find shocking.

     First, the pope is not infallible as that notion is commonly understood. Yes, the Church teaches that the Supreme Pontiff is infallible on matters of faith or morals, but this is impossible to accept given the egregious sinfulness and excesses of so many popes throughout history. Indeed, at least one pope, Benedict IX, has been credibly accused of practicing witchcraft. Some apologists for the infallibility doctrine have tried to finesse this, claiming that being infallible is not the same as being impeccable — i.e., without sin — and that sinfulness does not therefore imply that the pope could promulgate false doctrines. That defense, to put it mildly, isn’t terribly convincing.

     For papal infallibility to be reasonable, it should be interpreted in a different fashion, to wit: if the faithful follow the pope’s teachings on faith and morals, then they are spiritually indemnified even if those teachings are absolutely wrong. Any other approach would attribute to a mortal man a characteristic that mortal men have never exhibited.

     Second, clerical celibacy and the denial of ordination to women are merely Churchly personnel policies. Nothing in the Gospels mandates either. For any cleric of any altitude to claim otherwise isn’t just wrong; it’s deceitful. Most of the Apostles were married men. For a thousand years priests were permitted to marry, though only a celibate priest could ascend to the rank of bishop. Feel free to search the Gospels and the records of the early Church.

     Third, clergy have no authority over lay Catholics in any sense. We are the Church; they are the servants of the Church. Christ established that relation when He proclaimed that He had come “not to be served, but to serve,” and instructed His disciples that “the first shall be last, and the last first.” A priest’s special status as one who can validly administer the seven sacraments implies no other power. His responsibilities are to promulgate the teachings of Christ and to administer the sacraments as appropriate.

     If this be heresy, make the most of it. I stand by it nonetheless.

     This morning, the celebrant at Mass delivered an impassioned statement about the sex-abuse scandals. The high points were as follows:

  • The Church hierarchy has been corrupted by the pursuit of power and status.
  • Better that the hierarchy collapse and the entire edifice be bankrupted than that the evils be allowed to continue.
  • Every possible method of redress must be considered, including clerical marriage and the ordination of women.

     These are massively courageous declarations coming from a man in a Roman collar. Other priests have been severely disciplined for such statements. The priest who uttered them was one I’ve criticized for customizing the Mass to his tastes, for mixing his politics into his preaching, and for his routine practice of self-promotion: Father Francis X. Pizzarelli of the Society of St. Louis de Montfort.

     Father Francis, you’re a better man than I knew. Know that you have my sincerest apologies. May God bless and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you.

Chinese business practices; nonexistent US response.

In 2004, the last penicillin fermentation plant in the U.S. ceased operations. China had invested heavily in large-scale penicillin fermentation factories, and its domestic companies flooded the global market with products. They undercut U.S. and other western producers on price, driving them out of business. After China gained a stronghold in the U.S. and world market, its companies raised prices.
"Made in China: How U.S. Dependence on Chinese Medicines and Components Could Pose a Security Threat." By Rosemary Gibson, Military Officers Association of America, 1/25/19.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Hierarchies And Rebellions

     Before I get started on the morning’s serious topic, I have a request for my Gentle Readers and anyone else who enjoys reading Web punditry:

Support your favorite bloggers.

     I don’t mean monetarily. Donations do constitute a form of approbation, but there are other kinds that are arguably more important. Express your appreciation of those whose emissions you admire and enjoy. There aren’t many of us left. That’s largely due to the rise of “social media,” which are proving to be about as social as the Black Death. So we greatly appreciate comments, emails, crosslinks, and other sorts of feedback that let us know that we have an audience, and that that audience would miss us were we to depart from our posts.

     Any expression of your appreciation, however you might choose to phrase it, will help to energize the recipient to “keep on keepin’ on.” Don’t excuse yourself on the specious grounds that “He gets enough of that already” or “Somebody else will do it.” Do your part; never mind what others might do or not do. (I could launch into a lecture on renormalized rationality at this point, but I’ll spare you.)

     This morning at Ace of Spades HQ the proprietor himself declaims thus:

     [Sean Trende] talked about the break-up of the [Republican] party being about the "Senior Partners" in the coalition -- the Establishment, which actually had a relatively small popular base of support but was closer to power, as they ran magazines and lived in DC -- not being willing to cede any amount of power-sharing to the "Junior Partners" in the coalition -- religious cons, real conservatives -- despite the fact that the Junior Partners were not willing to be mere Junior Partners any longer.

     Please, please read it all, including the embedded tweet series. It illustrates an important aspect of group dynamics, about which I’m about to wax eloquent...well, as eloquent as I can get this early on a Saturday morning. I’ll wait here.

     There’s an old pseudo-paradox, which I’ve seen discussed by Gregory Benford among others, about the emergence of a power center within a body that makes decisions by majority vote. Let’s take a simple case that can easily be generalized. Given a committee of nine, any group of five members who agree to vote concordantly can control the committee’s decisions. But that group itself constitutes a committee of five. Therefore any group of three within the five could take command of the five by the same sort of concerted voting, and thereby control the larger committee of nine. But that makes the group of three a committee in its own right, and therefore...

     Got the idea? Good. Now answer this question: Why doesn’t it work that way? It doesn’t, you know. The “cabal within a cabal within a cabal” approach to dominating a decision-making body has been tried innumerable times, and has always come apart. What’s the element that undoes the seams?

     All right, you’ve had long enough to think about it, and I can’t bring myself to be cruel on a Saturday. The answer is time.

     Time gives rise to change: in positions, in priorities, and in the relations, whether personal or political, among committee members. Sometimes those things interact to change one another. Smith might have been “solid” with the cabal until now, but then some new issue arises about which he differs with the others. Or his opinion of the relative importance of various issues might undergo a change. Or he might oppose the initiatives of dominant voice Jones out of pique, or envy, or personal ambition, even at a cost to some interest Smith once held sacrosanct. People change over time, and in unpredictable ways, at that.

     Long-term dominance of a voluntarily constituted body by a subgroup is rare, almost unknown. What’s been called here and elsewhere the “Republican Establishment” or “Conservatism, Inc.” has learned this to its sorrow. Unfortunately for those persons, they have largely failed to accept the lesson as valid.

     The application to Republican politics could hardly be clearer. Establishment figures’ acquiescence to the left-liberal / big-government status quo over the past three decades has cost them their previous dominance of conservative-leaning voters. The voters rebelled, chose to support an insurgent figure who challenged the Establishment’s dogma, and overturned the existing hierarchy in the GOP. The “NeverTrumpers” discovered, quite painfully, that the electorate was willing to see them “take their ball and bat and go home.” What remains is to trace out the specific changes that brought this about.

     We can observe a number of significant changes in the American legal and political milieu over the thirty years just behind us. Recall the executive timeline:

  • 1989 – 1992: George Bush the Elder.
  • 1993 – 2000: Bill Clinton.
  • 2001 – 2008: George Bush the Younger.
  • 2009 - 2016: Barack Hussein Obama.
  • 2017 – present: Donald Trump.

     Twelve years of Establishment Republican dominance interleaved with sixteen years of Leftists in power, followed by two years of the Upstart. Who performed, and how well?

  • George Bush the Elder: Gulf War I, several broken promises, especially on taxes. environmentalism, and gun rights.
  • Bill Clinton: Further tax increases, first thrusts at nationalizing the medical-care system, several scandals.
  • George Bush the Younger: A modest tax reduction, Gulf War II, no progress on abortion, gun rights, or restraining the power of the alphabet agencies.
  • Barack Hussein Obama: Nationalization of medical insurance, sharply increased taxes and regulations, hobbling of the energy industry, emasculation of the military, encouragement for illegal immigration, heightened racial / ethnic tensions, reduction of America’s international influence, high unemployment and low growth, innumerable scandals. “America in decline.”
  • Donald Trump: Reassertion of America’s international pre-eminence, lessening of foreign military involvements, reduced tax rates and simplified tax code, sharp reduction in regulations, unleashing of the American energy industry, economic boom, first thrusts against abortion and illegal immigration.

     The Upstart has discarded the Establishment’s “go along to get along” policy of accommodating the Left’s demands for ever larger government at the expense of Americans’ rights and interests. He seems prepared to go even further in the name of a national renewal of promise and purpose. He’s upstaging the Establishment, made them look irrelevant, and they don’t like it one little bit. It’s no wonder they bear ill will against him personally.

     There are several factors involved in the “NeverTrumpers’” ongoing opposition to the Upstart’s reign. For one, it has laid bare their highest priority: the maintenance of their positions among Those Who Matter, a.k.a. the Washington cocktail-party circuit. For another, performance beats bullshit, anywhere and anywhen, and it always makes the bullshitters hate you. For a third, the “NeverTrumpers’” tantrums and sour-grapes act have made them look petty – which they are – and have caused many who once respected their opinions to turn away from them as sources of information and political guidance.

     Thus, a hierarchy that once looked to endure indefinitely has been revealed to have been built on a foundation of sand. All it took was an Upstart, who spoke to the disappointed and demoralized in a tone of respect for them and their interests...and who meant what he said.

     I have in mind a passage from early in Atlas Shrugged:

     He did not know why he suddenly thought of the oak tree. Nothing had recalled it. But he thought of it—and of his childhood summers on the Taggart estate. He had spent most of his childhood with the Taggart children, and now he worked for them, as his father and grandfather had worked for their father and grandfather.
     The great oak tree had stood on a hill over the Hudson, in a lonely spot on the Taggart estate. Eddie Willers, aged seven, liked to come and look at that tree. It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there. Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and the whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string. He felt safe in the oak tree’s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength.
     One night, lightning struck the oak tree. Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago; there was nothing inside—just a thin gray dust that was being dispersed by the whim of the faintest wind. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it.

     A thing which has lost its connection to its animating purpose will always rot from within. The desire to perpetuate oneself and one’s privileges and perquisites is insufficient of itself. Or as a character of mine once said:

     “Malcolm, you know far too much to have learned it all in one normal lifetime. Combat. Warfare. History. Sociology. Philosophy. Economics. Politics. Ethics. I've put my heart and soul into it, but I've only glimpsed the edges of what you know. You've lived several centuries at least....So you have to have some kind of purpose. A man dies without a purpose. A purpose strong enough to keep you alive that long must be as vivid and powerful as the sun.”

     As with individuals, so also with Establishments and the hierarchies over which they claim to preside. But don’t expect the deposed members of “Conservatism, Inc.” to admit that any time soon. They have a lot more denial to get through.

Quickies: A Compact Insight

     This one is from AoSHQ’s Weird Dave:

     If you can find someone who will talk honestly about single-payer, you will usually find the pro side talking about how it's “fairer” or “cheaper” than market-based systems (I'd contest the second, but we don't really have any market-based systems to compare with) but will usually admit that the outcomes are better in our system (as I said, you have to find someone on the pro side willing to be honest, which is rarer than a hen's tooth). That's bullshit. What it's all about is, like most lefty garbage, is manufactured virtue. “Oh, look at how COMPASSIONATE I am, I want healthcare to be FREE”. In fact, isn't that kind of a hallmark of all left-wing, totalitarian systems? Using force and theft “for the greater good”, the unstated premise being that individuals won't do it on their own. Thus the entire world view of left wing systems is inherently contradictory: Their totalitarian approach is necessary because people are inherently bad (Hmmm, smells a lot like “original sin” to me), yet their systems won't work unless you also believe in the perfectibility of man (which will be accomplished through force). No wonder these people are crazy.

     First: Leftists must try to represent their totalitarian approaches as virtuous – i.e., morally superior and obligatory – because they have nothing else going for them. Certainly neither efficacy nor efficiency.

     Second: Note that they implicitly exclude themselves from the “people are inherently bad” premise. After all, someone has to do the dirty work of perfecting the rest of us...and don’t you dare mention “God.”

     Third: Compare this insight with Dystopic / Thales’s “weaponized empathy” formulation. They dovetail nicely.

Friday, February 22, 2019

HRC - A Different Perspective

Remember when Comey laid out the case for HRC having committed MULTIPLE crimes? Remember the end of it, when he said that there was no intent, and and "no reasonable prosecutor" would charge her?

Well, he was wrong (BIG surprise!) Apparently, a whole lot of people - including many so-called Republicans - knew about the details on the case, and at least one prosecutor disagreed with Comey.

I know, I know - it's not exactly a state secret (unlike the many actual secrets/confidential information that HRC let slip past the normal security controls). But, because it happened a while back, and the focus of many unaligned people was more on the election/TV/their own lives, it does need to be said again.

And again. Not so much to persuade the unpersuadable, but to give heart to Gideon's 300.

In Other News

Leftist women are gathering at a conference sponsored by Women4Climate in Chicago, and they are complaining about the 'unfair' treatment they are receiving from the media - they insist - against all evidence - that they are being asked more difficult questions than the men.

Information about the organization was not available on-site. If anyone knows where their money for operations/conferences is coming from, please comment here.

A Teaser

     [The opening segment of The Wise and the Mad, the sequel to Innocents and Experiences. -- FWP]

Monday, June 3, 2030

     Nathaniel Abernathy had only just set down his cosmetologist’s kit and closed his apartment door behind him when his phone rang. Though he hadn’t seen the number displayed on its screen for months, it remained unpleasantly familiar. He muttered an oath and snatched the handset from its cradle.
     “Hello, Dennis.”
     “Hello, Nate. Why so sour? I could almost think you were unhappy to hear from me.”
     “I’ve had a tough night, Dennis. Is this about something important?”
     “Nothing specific, Nate. It’s just that I haven’t heard from you for quite some time.” Dennis Addison’s tone was greasier than usual. “We did one another some favors at one time. I thought we both gained by them, which makes it odd that so much time should have gone by since I heard from you last.”
     “You gained by them,” Abernathy said. “I can’t say the same.”
     “Ah. Trouble with your employers, or with Chuck?”
     Abernathy suppressed a second oath. “I’d rather not discuss it, Dennis. What is it this time?”
     “A little bird tells me that Rachel MacLachlan will shortly be a guest on Overtime again. Friday this week, in fact. Am I correct?”
     “You’re correct. What of it?”
     “Has she requested a recorded dress rehearsal, like the last time?”
     “She has.”
     “And do you expect to be present for that?”
     “Not this time, Dennis. The station just hired a new cosmetologist. He’ll be the one going to the clinic. It will be a good chance to give him some practice. Break him in, as it were.”
     “But surely with so important a guest, you’ll be asked to supervise?”
     Abernathy could imagine the reporter’s smirk. It made him clench his jaw. “I doubt it, Dennis. It’s only a rehearsal. The recording is mostly a way of affirming the station’s no-surprises promise to MacLachlan. It won’t be aired.”
     “But you are the senior cosmetologist at WHUP, aren’t you? Even if the recording will never be aired, won’t it fall to you to debrief the rookie?”
     “It’s possible I’d be asked to comment on his efforts, but he’d be under non-disclosure—”
     “But you’re an employee of WHUP. He’d be perfectly free to speak to you. And if you weren’t at the clinic, you wouldn’t have signed an NDA.”
     Abernathy wilted inside.
     The bastard’s got me.
     “The MacLachlan therapy has already been heavily publicized, Dennis. What could I possibly be able to tell you about it that you don’t already know?”
     “Ah, isn’t that just the question! Why would MacLachlan be returning to the show if she has nothing new to tell us about her therapy, her clinic, or anything related to them? The guests that appear on Overtime tend to have new and interesting things to say. It’s as much a news show as the six o’clock version, just with a human-interest flavor and an upstate New York focus.”
     Abernathy did not reply.
     “The Register needs news just as much as ever, Nate. I need it too, for professional reasons. And if I were to learn that you’d denied me an interesting, newsworthy tidbit that I could have wrapped a major story around, it would make me sad. A little bit cross, too.”
     Abernathy vented a deep sigh.
     “All right, Dennis. I’ll see what I can dig up.”


     His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Famiglietti, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and late the Archbishop of Milan, could hardly conceal his anguish over the willfulness of his new boss.
     Didn’t I warn them that this would happen? Didn’t I say explicitly that to put an American on the Throne of Saint Peter would bring disaster upon us all?
     This is no time for recrimination. I must cope.
     “Your Holiness,” he murmured, “to invoke technology for such a purpose—a technology understood and controlled by only one person on Earth, an unbeliever!—is to mock the Covenant the Almighty has made with fallen Man.”
     His Holiness Pope Clement XV, until only a week previously known as Gerard Cardinal O’Rourke, prelate to the archdiocese of New York, maintained his habitual blandness of demeanor. Famiglietti found it supremely irritating.
     “Technology, Pietro, like all of Creation,” Clement said, “is one of God’s gifts to His children. It is the fruit of human understanding of the laws of Nature. We are permitted to use it, if possible, to promote the good among us. If possible, we must prevent it from promoting evil. No other laws apply, whether secular or canonical.”
     The pope’s utterance bore the heft of an encyclical. Famiglietti could not marshal an argument against it. Clement plainly sensed his frustration. He smiled and nodded.
     “The Covenant is indisputably important as a backdrop to the great story of human history. It speaks eloquently of the trials of temptation, to which all men are subject under the veil of time. Yet it does not bind us as the Commandments do. It does not forbid the use of technological means to assist us in meeting those trials.” He rose, stretched, and reseated himself. “Perhaps the Almighty, noting the grave peril to which the Church is subject, has taken a hand in our fate by encouraging the development of this technology. It may allow us to surmount the worst of our current problems. If it should, no doubt other temptations will arise, but those lie in the unimaginable future, as do the measures I or my successors will deploy against them.”
     He is God’s elect, the vicar of Christ. Yet he eschews the way of faith and reposes his confidence in machines. He is as American as I feared.
     “Your Holiness,” Famiglietti ventured, “do you not fear that this technology might be a temptation in itself? That it might become the instrument not of our renewal but of our ruin?”
     “I fear many things, Pietro,” Clement replied. “Most of all I fear that this opportunity will slip past us out of our fear of what we cannot foresee.”
     “So the welfare of the Church will rest in the hands of a layman and an unbeliever,” Famiglietti murmured. He regretted his words at once, for the pope’s gaze darkened dramatically.
     “It will not be the first time, Pietro,” Clement said. “The Church has often been defended by men who bore us no allegiance. But God has shielded us. When Hitler arose to imperil all the world, we Americans came to Europe to answer him. Not all those who took up arms against the Third Reich were Catholics, nor even Christians.” His expression softened. “Besides, we already have some report of this person, and it is most encouraging. Father Altomare speaks very well of her.”
     But how well do we know Raymond Altomare?
     Clement smiled and nodded.
     “That was a very expressive wince, Pietro. It spoke your thoughts most eloquently. You need not fear that I have shot an arrow into the dark. I ordained Raymond Altomare. I know him very well indeed.”
     He reached for his intercom and pressed the button that would summon the papal nuncio to his office.


     There was something off about Craig Mackenzie, but Rachel MacLachlan couldn’t put her finger on it. It might have been his endurance athlete’s good looks. It might have been his habit of mirroring her posture. It might have been his smile, which seemed too meticulously rehearsed to be sincere. It might have been the way he ended every sentence with a tonal uptick. Or it might have been that, despite a Scottish heritage of which he claimed to be proud, he refused to capitalize the ‘k’ in his last name. Whatever it was, it chafed her sufficiently to prolong his interview to the limits of her endurance.
     But not his. After a full hour’s grilling he remained as slick as when he’d seated himself in her office. He hadn’t become flustered or hesitant at any point. His smile seemed welded in place. His stare focused upon the bridge of her nose, unwavering throughout, and that troubled her worst of all.
     She badly wanted to rise, offer her hand, and tell him that he’d be notified. She was on the verge of doing so when her intercom buzzed.
     Saved by the bell...the buzz.
     She pressed the push-to-talk. “Yes, Elise?”
     “You have a call on line 1, Rachel.” There was an unusual tremor in Elise Rosenthal’s voice. “It could be important. It’s long distance and the caller sounds nervous.”
     “About what?”
     “He said he could only mention that to you.”
     “Where’s he calling from?”
     “Oh, that’s not...wait: Rome, Italy?”
     “That’s the one.” Elise’s vocal quaver became more pronounced. “He gave his name as Gennaro di Giuseppe. He says he’s the papal nuncio.”
     “Please tell him I’ll be with him in just a minute.” She rose, indicated that Mackenzie should do the same, and offered him her hand. He took it in a gentle clasp. His smile never fluctuated.
     “Thank you for coming, Mr. Mackenzie. I simply must take this call, and other matters are pressing upon me as well. Will you be available for a chat this evening?”
     “I will, Ma’am. You have my number.” He dipped his head. “Thank you for your time.”
     He pivoted smoothly and left her office. Rachel released a huge sigh and resumed her seat. “Elise?”
     “Still holding.”
     “I’ll take the call. Thanks.” She connected to the open line.
     “Rachel MacLachlan speaking.”
     “Good morning, Doctor MacLachlan. This is Gennaro di Giuseppe. How does the day find you, Doctor?”
     “Please call me Rachel, Your Eminence. I’m quite well, thank you. And yourself?”
     “Thank you, Rachel. I am very well indeed. Rome is at its most beautiful at this time of year. I assume Miss Rosenthal told you of my position?”
     “She did, Your Eminence.” Rachel paused. “I must say, I never expected to have dealings of any sort with the Vatican. What can I do for you?”
     “News of your desire modification therapy has reached us here in Italy. There’s a great deal of interest in it, in many quarters.”
     “Including the Vatican?” Rachel said.
     “Especially at the Vatican. No doubt you’re aware that the college of cardinals has just placed a new Supreme Pontiff on the Throne of Saint Peter. An American, for the first time in Church history.”
     “Yes, I am aware,” Rachel said. “It was a controversial choice.”
     “Yet there could be no other, for God had ordained it. The college spent quite a few days in discernment. In the end it seemed that the choice of Cardinal O’Rourke had been plain from the very start, that all our deliberations were merely to assuage our uncertainties and assure ourselves that we were of a single mind.”
     “I can imagine,” Rachel said, “that the amazement of the waiting crowds of faithful at hearing of that choice took quite a while to quiet.”
     “Indeed it did, Rachel. But all is settled, His Holiness Pope Clement XV has been installed, and the work of the Church must continue as if it had never been interrupted. It is our way to proceed thus.”
     “Yes, I understand. But what possible service can I, a non-communicant, render to the Catholic Church?”
     “That is as yet undecided, Rachel. The Holy Father wishes to speak with you himself. Would your schedule permit you to take a brief trip to Rome some time in the near future?”
     Rachel paused to draw a deep breath.
     “Allow me a moment, Your Eminence.”
     She pulled her keyboard toward her and surveyed her schedule for the coming month. It was busy, but not so packed that she couldn’t make rearrangements enough to free a three-day span for the trip to Rome. If she could reschedule her appearance on Overtime...
     But what could the Pope want from me? Does he plan to issue an opinion about the canonical acceptability of the therapy for use by Catholics, or has he conceived of a use for it himself?
     It’s not something to settle over the phone, anyway.
     “I think it would, Your Eminence. From my calendar, I’d say later this week would be best.”
     “Excellent. Shall I connect you to His Holiness’s appointments secretary to arrange the details?”


     Kevin Conway forked up the last of his scallops and fusilli in vodka sauce, savored its delicate aroma, chewed and swallowed it appreciatively. He set down his fork and sat back with a broad smile.
     “Jeanne, I have never had anything like that. Where did the recipe come from?”
     Jeanne Iverson mirrored his smile. “I threw it together one evening a few months ago, when there was very little in the larder because I’d been too lazy to shop.” She reached for her husband’s hand and squeezed it. “Todd likes it, too.”
     “Hell yes,” Todd Iverson concurred. He poked at his waistline. “Maybe too much.”
     “The way to a man’s heart and all that,” Kate Conway intoned.
     “Actually,” Todd said, “I prepared the first dinner we had here. Jeanne was suitably impressed, but as you can see she has some culinary talent of her own.”
     “Well,” Kevin said, “don’t let her near Grucci’s or they’ll try to hire her away from you.”
     “Not a chance,” Jeanne said. “I’m having too good a time. Besides, we like to eat there now and then.” She rose, circled the table to collect the dirty dishes, and disappeared through the swinging doors to the Iversons’ kitchen. Kate immediately rose and followed her. The men waited for the doors to close behind her.
     “So,” Iverson said, “you said you had a need.”
     Conway nodded. “A pretty big one.” He fitted his fingertips together. “I have a friend with a problem she can’t solve. A problem in genetics.”
     Iverson’s eyes narrowed. “Details?”
     “She has a freezer full of zygotes of unknown characteristics. She needs to know what would develop from them if they were to gestate.”
     “What, doesn’t she know whether they’re human?”
     “She’s pretty sure of that,” Conway said. “But there’s a possibility she’s concerned about.” He hunched forward over the table. “Do you know the word ‘futanari?’” Iverson shook his head. “It’s a very rare genetic anomaly. It produces a child with two X chromosomes, but that has only male genitalia.”
     Iverson’s eyebrows rose. “Really? Is the baby otherwise healthy?” Conway nodded. “So it’s not a disabling or life-threatening condition, then.”
     “Not quite, Todd. Futanari are incapable of reproduction. Their testes produce sperm, but it can’t fertilize a human ovum. So they are disabled in one way, at least.”
     “Not to mention the social reactions,” Todd murmured. “Which I would guess are about like what pre-op transwomen face.”
     “To some extent, yes,” Conway said.
     “Why is your friend concerned about this possibility?”
     “Do you remember, about a year and a half ago, how I was intermittently out of touch for weeks at a time?”
     Iverson nodded. “Kate did a lot of bitching about it.”
     “I’m not surprised,” Conway said. “There was a reason.”
     “Connected with this freezer full of zygotes, I assume?”
     “Yeah,” Conway said, “I brought it back from one of those jaunts. I found it in a lab that was dedicated to turning out futanari.”
     Iverson’s face fell. “Why—no, how?
     “By cloning.”
     “But there’s hasn’t yet been—no, strike that,” Iverson said. His gaze became intense. “Obviously there has. But what were you doing in that lab?”
     Conway swallowed and attempted to smile.
     “Destroying it.”


     The obstetrician, a most expensively procured high expert in his field, stood defenseless before the rage of the man who had committed to paying his fee.
     “I have no explanation, Your Grace. We’ve sent three samples to three different laboratories. We’ve emphasized the need for accuracy and privacy. We’ve waited patiently for the returns. All three have produced the same result as the amniocentesis.”
     His customer’s mask of anger remained unaltered. “Yet it has a penis.”
     “She does—”
     “Do not refer to a clearly male child as she!” the Duke of Norfolk roared. Despite his years he still presented a formidable appearance. His voice had lost neither its force nor its rolling-thunder timbre, as his colleagues in the House of Lords could attest. He rose from his seat and smashed his fists down upon its surface, the better to glare at the only target available to his fury.
     “Your Grace,” the obstetrician quavered, “the prenatal care of your wife, the delivery of your child, and the results of the genetic assays are all I have to give you. Is there some other service you would ask of me?”
     The duke’s face twitched once, twice. He opened a drawer and pulled out a checkbook, wrote out a check, and thrust it at the obstetrician as if it were a blade he would have preferred to bury in the man’s vitals.
     The obstetrician glanced at the amount in puzzlement. “You Grace, this is twice what—”
     “You will say nothing of this to anyone. Now get out.”
     When the obstetrician had departed, the duke dropped back into his chair, covered his face with his hands, and wept. A timeless interval later he felt a soft hand caress his brow.
     “Thomas?” Olivia murmured. “What’s the matter?”
     Thomas Landsdowne Walsingham, Knight Commander of the Order of the Garter and by royal decree of His Majesty Charles III Duke of Norfolk and Protector of the Northeastern Marches of the Realm, lowered his hands and looked piteously into his wife’s face.
     “I am accursed.”