Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Prodigal Son: A Sunday Rumination

     This parable, a longtime favorite among Christian preachers everywhere, is a standard for Laetare Sunday:

     Now the publicans and sinners drew near unto him to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.
     And he spoke to them this parable, saying: What man of you that hath an hundred sheep, and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after that which was lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders, rejoicing? And coming home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost? I say to you that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance.
     Or what woman having ten groats, if she lose one groat, doth not light a candle and sweep the house and seek diligently until she find it? And when she hath found it, call together her friends and neighbours, saying: Rejoice with me, because I have found the groat which I had lost. So I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.
     And he said: A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father: Father, give me the portion of substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his substance. And not many days after, the younger son, gathering all together, went abroad into a far country: and there wasted his substance, living riotously. And after he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country: and he began to be in want. And he went and cleaved to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his farm to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
     And returning to himself, he said: How many hired servants in my father’s house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger! I will arise and will go to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. I am not worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
     And rising up, he came to his father. And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion and running to him fell upon his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him: Father: I have sinned against heaven and before thee I am not now worthy to be called thy son. And the father said to his servants: Bring forth quickly the first robe and put it on him: and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it: and let us eat and make merry: Because this my son was dead and is come to life again, was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.
     Now his elder son was in the field and when he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said to him: Thy brother is come and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe. And he was angry and would not go in. His father therefore coming out began to entreat him. And he answering, said to his father: Behold, for so many years do I serve thee and I have never transgressed thy commandment: and yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends. But as soon as this thy son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me; and all I have is thine. But it was fit that we should make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead and is come to life again; he was lost, and is found.

     [Luke Chapter 15, Douay-Rheims translation]

     What Christian, anywhere on Earth, is unfamiliar with this parable? And what Christian, anywhere on Earth, fails to recognize in the father of the story the love, mercy, and infinite willingness to forgive that inheres in God the Father?

     But how many of us fail to grasp the full significance of this part of the tale:

     And returning to himself, he said: How many hired servants in my father’s house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger! I will arise and will go to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. I am not worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

     The prodigal son did not return to his father’s manor in a true spirit of contrition! He did so because he was starving and knew, from the way his father treats even his hirelings, that the old boy would give him a better deal!

     Reflect on that for a moment. Do you think the Pharisees and Scribes got the message? Do you think they saw themselves in the older son, jealous of his brother for being the focus of a great celebration?

     Hang on while I fetch more coffee.

     The Gospels, like the Constitution, should be read with attention. Despite the many centuries between their composition and our time, and despite the several translations from the original Greek / Aramaic texts, they have remained utterly consistent over the years. The style dictated by the era or imposed by the translators may vary. But the message goes uncorrupted from one to the next.

     My first observation above is the more swiftly grasped. Yes, God wants us to repent of our sins and strive to avoid them. But He does not insist that our initial repentance should be for love of him. Regret of the consequences, or even the fear of consequences yet to come, will suffice. These things are enough to induce an acceptable spirit of contrition. Granted that He would like it better were it for love of Him and genuine sorrow for having offended Him; nevertheless, He won’t turn us away if we aren’t quite there…yet.

     Now, Jesus was speaking not to a crowd of His followers but to Pharisees and Scribes: “experts in the law” as it had come down from Moses and Leviticus over the millennium before Christ. Because the Mosaic / Levitical Covenant was long, detailed, and very demanding, very few Hebrews even knew the whole of it, much less observed the whole of it. To be conversant with every last one of its dictates required lengthy study and memorization; to observe it in all particulars cost a great amount of time, money, and effort. Those believed to be fully compliant with it – the Pharisees and Scribes – occupied a lofty place in Judean society. And as George Orwell has told us, “The aim of the High is to remain where they are.”

     Jesus was, in a sense, a revolutionary. His New Covenant openly threatened the social and religious hierarchies of First Century Judea. He preached “as one who hath authority,” a departure from Judaic tradition. He openly defied several Levitical doctrines, especially to do no work on the Sabbath (“For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath”). He drove the moneychangers and sellers of sacrificial animals out of the vestibule of the Temple in Jerusalem, a great affront to the Judaic priesthood which profited greatly from those activities. And the Pharisees, the High of that time, felt their altitude lessened by His several times cleansing lepers, the Low who provided them the contrast every elite needs. Given all that, it’s a wonder Jesus wasn’t assassinated long before He came to Jerusalem.

     It has many times been said, and truly, that Christianity is countercultural. But the origin of that countercurrent, the Redeemer Himself, is seldom viewed as one who brought “not peace but a sword:” the “sword” of disagreement between those who used the Mosaic / Levitical Covenant as a mark of social status and the “lesser” ones of that time and place, the poor the peasants who found His message of divine love and mercy more palatable than the dictatorial doctrines of “those learned in the Law.”

     The core of His message continues to be unique, transformative, and revolutionary beyond all comparison:

     But the Pharisees, hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together. And one of them, a doctor of the law, asked him, tempting him: 36 Master, which is the great 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 neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

     [Matthew 22:34-40]

     May God bless and keep you all!

The Best Dots Connect Themselves

     A good commentator needs to say as little as possible. Facts should always be allowed to speak for themselves. People trust the opinions they form from direct observation and factual reportage far more than those foisted upon them by others who probably have axes to grind.

     Today I have three citations at hand that dramatize the above rather nicely. First, courtesy of Mike Hendrix, comes this highly illustrative piece from NBC News:

     "The president is absolutely trying to reinforce the feeling among his allies and surrogates that the media went overboard in its coverage of the Russia investigation, that certain lawmakers were reckless in their claims, and that the investigation itself was flawed in its inception," said Bradley Moss, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security issues.

     "The problem here is that even if the president has legitimate gripes on one or more of those things, his overly aggressive commentary is doing nothing but exacerbating the situation," Moss said in a text message. "There were real and legitimate red flags that justified the investigation. Lawmakers had real and legitimate bases for viewing the existing evidence as reflecting collusion."

     The contents of Mueller's full report remain a mystery not only to the public but to the lawmakers who oversee the Justice Department. Yet even Barr's brief summary acknowledged what Trump has been so unwilling to admit himself: that Russia tried to help him win the presidency.

     Please read it all, if you have the stomach for a cavalcade of blatant, demonstrable falsehoods written in the most egregiously self-righteous tone ever adopted by a “news agency.” Ask yourself: What is the purpose of such a piece of mendacity? What does NBC News hope to accomplish by posting it?

     Second, the indefatigable Sarah Noble provides some fresh scrofulosity from the ever more scrofulous Washington Post:

     The president has rarely seen much value in being magnanimous when he wins. Now that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation is finally done, with no further criminal charges forthcoming, Trump is following the same pattern he always has after a triumph: Through half a century in business and politics, his instinct is consistently to keep the battle going, even in victory.

     Since Mueller delivered his report to Attorney General William P. Barr, Trump has been crowing about his “Complete and Total EXONERATION,” even though Mueller specifically said that the report “does not exonerate him.” But he’s also already moving to take his pound of flesh from those who opposed him. Trump said that “there are people out there who have done very bad things, I would say treasonous things, against our country,” and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Democrats and media figures who accused Trump of working with Russia have made accusations “equal to treason, which is punishable by death in this country.” For Trump, there can never be enough winning.

     Once again, ask yourself: What is the purpose of such a piece of mealy-mouthed whining? Read it in combination with the NBC News piece. Does that suggest a motive to you?

     Rather than assemble ever more such clips, I’ll cut to the chase:

     Ragin’ Dave’s one-word title seems sufficient, wouldn’t you say?

     Could it possibly be clearer that the Democrats, the media, and their Deep State operatives, who’ve spent more than two years fabricating and promoting this baseless collage of formless accusations of wrongdoing against the duly elected President of the United States, want the attention on President Trump and not on their own marginally treasonous doings? Let’s see, now: Why would the Democrats and the media, a gaggle of persons and institutions that famously love the spotlight, suddenly want it to shine on someone else? Someone they detest?

     Don’t all answer at once, now.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Premises Old And New

     It shouldn’t be necessary to say this over and over, but I’ll say it again: He who controls the premises to an argument can predetermine its outcome. Moreover, he probably will.

     Unspoken premises lie beneath every human action. When you walk across the floor of a room, you assume the floor won’t collapse beneath you. Yet that’s exactly what happens now and then. Similarly, when you cross a street (with the lights and at the crosswalk, as the traffic laws prescribe), you assume that no crazed motorist will seize the opportunity to “score a few points” on your tender carcass. Yet that, too, happens now and then. Both of them have happened to me.

     Obviously, our premises matter. Indeed, nothing in the realm of human thought could possibly matter more.

     With that, allow me to direct your gaze to an excellent article by Daniel Thomas:

     Imagine the effect on a patriotic British citizen watching in utter despair as his Prime Minister uses her exalted position to conspire with a foreign political entity to hand over the governance of the country she has sworn to serve.

     Imagine how he feels as she portrays Great Britain and its people as so weak and pathetic, they are incapable of governing themselves so the reins of power must be handed over to a cabal of foreign bureaucrats who have a history of disrespecting and vilifying them and their country.

     Imagine his despair as he stands powerlessly by as the Prime Minister and Parliament hand over control of the country’s laws, borders, trade and money to an organization that is so corrupt its accounts haven't passed an audit for decades and who’s ruling clique cannot be removed by the ballot box.

     Now imagine the devastating effect on his morale as this disenfranchised Briton tunes in to President Trump’s rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan and watches as the President they elected, fresh from defeating the establishment, pledges to continue reversing the managed decline of the Obama years and keep fighting to make America great again.

     Please read it all.

     List the key premises behind Donald Trump’s agenda. Now list those behind Theresa May’s agenda. Can you imagine changing either set without completely changing the positions and goals of the relevant politician?

     Yes, it’s essentially a rhetorical question. Its answer is “Of course not.” (“Are you BLEEP!ing kidding me?” will also receive full marks.) It illustrates how political premises, including the very oldest of them, shape a nation’s fortunes, including its relations with other nations and political entities.

     The American tradition rests on two premises:

  • The sanctity of individual freedom;
  • The imperative of political independence.

     Those are not notions that can easily be deduced from more fundamental precepts. At least, I’ve met few people who’ve managed it. But they’ve made the United States the crowning glory of human history. Nothing anywhere or anywhen compares to the civilization Americans have built. Even though its legal and political institutions have taken several decades of body blows, America is still the shining light of all Mankind.

     The United Kingdom, formerly the British Empire or Great Britain, and before that the Kingdom of England, has followed another course. It does not include freedom or political independence among its premises. Englishmen’s liberties are considered grants of latitude from the political power, at one time the Crown, and subsequently the Parliament. Neither do the ministers of the U.K.’s government – I distinguish this from the attitudes of Britons themselves – regard political independence as a condition to be conserved.

     Great Britain was once the foremost industrial, commercial, financial, and military power in the world. The United Kingdom is a pitiful fossil from those days of greatness.

     Fortunately for America, we found a champion willing to reverse the destructive course we’d followed over the century behind us. Yet should electoral methods fail us, we will fight the government itself in defense of our freedom; we retain the mindset and the means. Britons were stripped of the means long ago. If any still possess the mindset, much good may it do them.

     Americans have serially rejected the notion of submerging our nation in a superstate such as the U.N. We know what would follow. Britons were sweet-talked into accepting subjugation to the panjandrums of the European Union some years ago. Now that their eyes are open and they’ve screamed to be let out, their own government is trying to deny them what they’ve demanded.

     We might not have needed to be reminded of the supreme importance of our premises. Yet we have had one, from the very nation that provided our Common Law and our first settlers. We should be grateful, even if that’s small consolation to the Britons baffled by the intractability of a government they think of as “theirs,” but which serves no purposes other than its own. As a token of our gratitude I suggest air-dropping weapons and ammunition all over England. Perhaps then we’d see what portion of the spirit of Great Britain remains in the beleaguered subjects of the United Kingdom of today.

Pearls of expression.

It's one thing to go down fighting invaders of your country but to surrender completely in the face of vaporous utterances from sell-out politicians?
A thousand years without an invasion [of England], and then their enemies discover the astonishing fact that you can easily invade a country provided you give your actions another name - "immigration", "fleeing war-torn countries", "seeking a better life", etc. A spot of semantic legerdemain, and you don't need to fire a single shot.
Here's the German variant of the sell-out politician:

Open borders are good for you, chumps. Trust me. As you always do.

[1] Comment by Rob on "Another English Revolution?" By The Irish Savant, 1/25/19.

H/t for the Mass address: Gates of Vienna.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Political Uses Of Public Fatigue

     I’m tired. I’m sure a lot of my Gentle Readers are, too. And our fatigue is being used as a weapon against us.

     The constant, brain-numbing, two year drumbeat of “Russia, Russia, Russia, collusion, collusion, collusion, obstruction, obstruction, obstruction,” with copious grace notes supplied by such pillars of public probity as Chuck Schumer, Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, Eric Swalwell, and John Brennan, has wearied anyone to the right of Gus Hall. What we most want – yea, even those of us jubilant about President Trump’s exoneration – is for it all to go away.

     Oh, we’ll enjoy the “victory lap” for a while, as long as we don’t have to run it personally. But further personal inquiry into the details of the Deep State Coup? Too much! Take it away and bring us a Waldorf salad. At this point not one in a thousand of us has the perseverance to plumb deeper.

     Some dedicated investigators have compiled highly detailed and utterly damning cases against various highly-placed Democrats, DoJ and FBI functionaries, and their media handmaidens for their roles in this attempt to bring down a duly elected president and his Administration. Here’s a very recent one. The information Jeff Carlson has assembled and exposed could be vital to the future of the Republic – the immediate future, not some hazy far-off future even our grandkids are unlikely to see.

     You can be fully conscious of the critical importance of such information and profoundly appreciative of those who’ve unearthed it yet not be able to read it. It happened to me just this morning. I tried most determinedly to read Carlson’s article, but I was defeated by the MEGO effect: Mine Eyes Glazeth Over.

     That’s by design.

     [A]lmost all liberal behavioral tropes track the impotent rage of small children. Thus for example, there is also the popular tactic of repeating some stupid, meaningless phrase a billion times: Arms for hostages, arms for hostages, arms for hostages, it’s just about sex, just about sex, just about sex, dumb, dumb, dumb, money in politics, money in politics, money in politics, Enron, Enron, Enron. Nothing repeated with mind-numbing frequency by all major news outlets will not be believed by some members of the populace. It is the permanence of evil; you can’t stop it.

     [Ann Coulter, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right]

     Coulter’s early best-seller is an important one to revisit at this time. While her approach is somewhat rambling, she does an excellent job of delineating the Left’s techniques for fraud and self-exculpation. The use of repetition is particularly important. Unending repetition of anything, even a single word, causes the meaning to leach out of it. The repetition of something unpleasant – accusations, defamations, obscenities – more than anything else makes us want it to go away.

     We’ve had more than two years of the accusations against first candidate and now President Trump. He’s suffered enough shrill defamations to sink the Titanic…yet he has not gone down. Now that all those accusations and defamations have been refuted, you’d expect that the makers would apologize and slink away, tails between their legs. That is, you’d expect it of ordinary decent persons with consciences and senses of shame.

     They haven’t. It’s unlikely that they will. Not because there’s any real possibility that they’ll be believed after all this, but because the repetition is essential to making the public want it all to go away. Now that dogged investigators are penetrating the edifice of corruption and malice that supported it, they fear that we might pay attention to them. Their necks are at risk – some legally, others occupationally – and their sole tool for keeping us out of their underwear drawers is unceasing repetition.

     Very few Americans will be able to resist the urge to close their eyes and stopper their ears. Indeed, we might come to resent those who plead with us to pay attention just a little longer. It’s happened before.

     There have been comparisons between the Left’s tactics in this matter and Goebbels’s “Big Lie” technique. There are indeed similarities there. In the U.S., which possesses a supposedly independent journalism industry, you’d think it would be supremely difficult, approaching impossible, to pull such tactics off. But our media have been so thoroughly colonized and conquered by the Left that what one might think pointless to attempt has become routine.

     In this connection, note the relentlessness of the Left’s efforts to “deplatform” anyone who dares to contradict their narratives. Big Tech, another colonized and conquered industry, has been instrumental in this undertaking. Why? Because the drumbeat must be uniform. It cannot abide the production of any alternate rhythms. They can’t get us all dancing to the same tune if other tunes are being played that we might listen to in preference.

     Some will follow their lure. Others will refuse to listen. Only a very few will remain doggedly engaged, determined to have the facts despite near-paralytic fatigue and the crescendo of relentlessly defamatory voices.

     I’ll try to read Carlson’s article again a little later. Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Day Off

     The Wise and the Mad is going very well at the moment, so I’m taking the day off from blogging – possibly more than one day – to concentrate on it. Back soon.

Even a caveman could understand this.

If white identity implies “white supremacy,” then any form of “identity politics” implies a xenophobic viewpoint, whether based on ethnicity or gender. However, the appellation of “supremacy” is only applicable to “white identity.” This is based on the doctrine that only white people can be “racist.”
"New Zealand: the Criminalization of Dissent." By Kerry Bolton, The Unz Review, 3/27/19.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A New Future for the Planet?

We could do worse than paying attention to this guy, and letting him put his ideas into practice in some of the more arid and desert places of the world - like the Mideast.

We've got nothing to lose by giving it a shot.

As Gomer Would Say, "Surprise! Surprise!"

NONE of the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are using widely available  donation portal technology that discourages foreign contributions.

Desires, Fears, Beliefs: Characterization At Its Base

     The political news is still all about the Mueller Report and the reactions of various talking heads, so let’s allow that to rest for today. I have a fiction topic in mind, one that a lot of fledgling writers have a great deal of trouble with.

     In my little tome The Storyteller’s Art, there’s an essay on “The Sin of Over-Management.” Its core thesis runs thus:

     Once you have defined your characters -- i.e., once you've given them their powers, their desires, and their constraints -- you must allow them to act in accordance with those things. Beyond that, you must permit the reader to learn about your characters from the characters themselves.

     Some of that is too obvious to require further development. For example, a character defined as a reasonably ordinary human being must not suddenly develop super powers. Alternately, a character defined ab initio as subject to an inability to face danger must not suddenly become profoundly courageous. These rules are understood by all but the idiots. (Yet one of the best known of science fiction’s progenitors, H. G. Wells, actually broke one of them in his novel The First Men in the Moon. It’s an amusing illustration of human fallibility.) But the part about characters’ desires seems not to be well appreciated.

     The most important thing about your characters is what motivates them: their desires, fears, and beliefs. A character may change in the course of a story – indeed, if none of your characters change at all you don’t have a story – but the changes must be traceable to the events he experiences and the contexts in which they occur. Moreover, he cannot jump an excessively wide gulf: to have a character morph from totally evil to totally angelic simply doesn’t work. The prudent fictioneer leaves that sort of “story” to God.

     Once you’ve defined a character, you must then allow him to act in accordance with his desires, fears, and beliefs as you’ve postulated them.

     Of the four indispensable elements of story, characterization is regarded by most writers as the most challenging. A writer wants his Marquee characters to be both relatable and interesting. There’s tension there. To be relatable, a character must seem familiar enough to the reader for some degree of identification. But to be interesting, that character must differ enough from the common run of Mankind to stand out, to make his decisions at least somewhat off-axis. The launching pad for all of that is motivation.

     “What people want,” from the 30,000 foot perspective, can seem fairly uniform. We want to prosper. We want to be safe. We want acceptance, admiration, and affection. And we want the sense that we’re progressing: getting better, or at least wiser, as time passes.

     But of course at the individual level the details will vary. Not everyone defines prosperity the same way. Not everyone has the same threshold value for “safe.” And so on. It’s within the details that distinguish us as individuals that characterization takes place.

     You can’t make a relatable character completely and utterly fearless. (In Joe Haldeman’s formulation, “the kind of person who would face certain death with a slightly raised eyebrow.”) Automata incapable of conceiving of their own elimination could be made fearless, but not flesh and blood humans. Neither can you make a character completely and utterly selfless. Your decisions about what he fears and to what extent, or what will cause him to sacrifice his own interests for others, are critical – and once made, they must be honored. If they’re to change, the changes must be justified by his experiences in the story.

     How is that done? Ah, it’s time for more coffee!

     The old maxim “Show, don’t tell” relates specifically to how your characters must be revealed to the reader. There are three channels for this:

  • What your character says;
  • What your character does;
  • What other characters say about him.

     Those are the only valid methods. This often chafes the fledgling writer: “Why can’t I just tell the reader what Smith is all about?” Simply put, because it’s intrusive. It’s un-organic. It’s like finding an op-ed essay in the middle of a novel: What’s that doing here? It’s the writer inserting himself into the story, instead of standing back respectfully and narrating the action to us. In other words, it isn’t storytelling.

     The temptation can be strong. It’s your duty to resist. Your readers-to-be are counting on you.

     If you’ve done your characterization well, your character’s decisions and actions will be convincing. The reader will be able to see him as a believable person. To achieve that standard, the best of all aids is backstory.

     Backstory is “the story before the story.” Your character didn’t spring from the brow of Zeus just as the story began, did he? So he has a past you can create, just as you created him. Thereafter you can exploit it as a basis for his decisions and actions.

     Little bits of backstory will make their way into the story proper. It’s not wise to incorporate all of it, of course. But elements from “story past” can, should, and will make their way into “story present.” Here’s an example:

     “What I’m about to tell you,” Holly’s lover said, “I’ve never told anyone else. Shortly before I left for Cambridge I made some inquiries about surgery. You know the sort.”
     Holly said nothing. Rowenna sipped from her glass.
     “It wasn’t that I wanted it for myself, love. I knew I could never be a fully normal woman. But I hoped that if I could just contrive to look normal, it might mend the rift with...”
     “With your father,” Holly whispered.
     “With Sir Thomas,” Rowenna said.
     “But you didn’t go through with it. Why not, Ro?”
     “Because it would have killed me,” Rowenna said. “The surgeon said my body wouldn’t withstand the shock.”
     “Did he know you were...naturally the way you are?”
     “He did,” Rowenna said. She finished her wine and set down the glass. “He was familiar with the condition. He said I wasn’t the first futa to explore the possibility with him. He’s of the opinion that futanari are stuck as we are, that as strange as our condition is, our nervous and endocrine systems are too tightly integrated to endure serious alterations. He said he’d made inquiries among his colleagues, and that they’d left very little room for doubt.”
     I have more options than she does.
     I never would have guessed.
     Holly reached for her lover’s hand. Rowenna looked up and said “Don’t!” Holly pulled back at once.
     “You must hear the end of it,” Rowenna said. “I went to Sir Thomas and begged him to listen to me. I told him what the surgeon had said. He listened, and when I’d finished he pulled out his checkbook, wrote a check for a hundred thousand pounds, and handed it to me. He said it was all the same to him. He said he wanted nothing further to do with me, that I could do whatever I pleased as long as it was far away from him.” She met Holly’s gaze once more, and Holly could see that her face was wet. “And as I had attained my majority, he ordered me to leave Norfolk and not return.”

     [From Experiences]

     Rowenna’s explanation of the rift between her and her father (Sir Thomas) is part of the justification for her extraordinarily strong bond with her lover Holly, a transwoman of the usual sort. While it has moderate importance in Experiences, it blossoms most completely in The Wise and the Mad, which I expect to release this summer.

     (There’s an interesting sidelight here: I’ve been continuously developing Rowenna through two novelettes and two novels. Much that was hidden about her in the early stories comes to light in the later ones. In that sense, backstory can become “story proper,” but great caution is required, that you not slip into “telling” rather than showing character. I may expand on this in a subsequent essay.)

     Rowenna fears to lose Holly. Her fear is founded on the most important difference between them: Holly is the way she is by choice, whereas Rowenna, a futanari, is not. Holly has the option of renouncing the changes she has imposed upon herself and going back to masculinity. Rowenna has no such option…and she fears that Holly, whom she’s known for only a short time, might exercise her option and leave her behind.

     That’s how it’s done.

     Desires, fears, and beliefs. Make it your mantra. They’re what move all of us out here in the “real” world. Let them move your characters as well. Don’t imagine that you can get away with instant, unjustified transitions from evil to sainthood, or cowardice to heroism. Tell the story – or rather, let your characters tell it to you.

     The rest is just typing.

Something From a Dream

I've found that my dreams are a good springboard for some stories. The one linked is one of those that came to life deep in the middle of the night.

I like to call it: Les Media Miserables

How Marxists took over the Netherlands.

This video lays out some chilling stuff. I think Paul Nielsen has stripped off the camouflage that conceals the leftist rot at the heart of the the West.

It’s not just the Netherlands. As you watch this, look at the faces of the young, educated people. You can’t imagine a credible plot for a science fiction movie that would feature such empty heads, such programmed brains, without the literary device of a laser beam tuned to human brain waves or some bat-like parasite that clamps onto the back of some poor person’s neck. But no such logical mechanism can be discerned here.

I don’t want to conclude that white people do not deserve to survive as a separate race with a distinct culture but it’s a tempting though distressing thought. This video shows a society, Dutch in this case, that exhibits close to a complete absence of antibodies that can marshal a defense against social and political filth.

Frans Timmermans appears to be a highly intelligent man yet this link shows him uttering the most absurd nonsense. And it’s possible he could be the next president of the European Commission.

With the mountains of evidence available to Westerners about the suicidal, murderous consequences of our present course, you’d think there would have been a volte face of epic proportions now 20 years in the past but we meekly vote for our betrayers.

Hillary’s defeat was a close thing and the fools on comment sections who say “Don’t vote. It makes no difference.” are dead wrong. Voting by an aware, outraged electorate would be a veritable flash bang grenade in the Thanksgiving turkey. Scumbag politicians who don’t end up hanging from a tree on a hook would fall over themselves to clean out Muslims and other third-world invaders and send them home.

But, no, the feeble, mewling, moronic electorate votes the straight ticket for civilizational and, inevitably, individual death. In the main, we are a cowardly, stupid people determined to be slaves or victims of mere primitives.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


     Just this morning, reflecting on the clear skies and steadily warming temperatures, I said offhandedly that it might be time to take Snidely, the Fortress’s nine-horsepower, 400-pound double-action snowblower, out of the garage and put him back in the shed where he summers. The C.S.O. immediately became alarmed:

     No, no, don’t! The Josephites have scheduled a big planning meeting for April 1, and the last two times they did that it snowed heavily!

     Of course I checked, and indeed, it was as my beloved has said. But that got me wondering. A set of observations such as this one suffers from the usual malady of uncontrolled peripheral variables:

  • How many persons were at those meetings?
  • How many of them were Catholic nuns?
  • How many of them were practicing Catholics?
  • What was served for breakfast and lunch?
  • Was tea available, or only coffee?

     And so on. It’s possible that the mere fact of the meeting is what triggered the snowfall, but without the ability to exclude other, possibly contributing factors we’ll never know. There’s also this: The C.S.O. was at both those previous April Fools’ Day meetings, and she’ll be at the next one. Was her presence there what brought the heavens down on us?

     Over the years I’ve occasionally wondered if I’m married to the Anti-Christ. It’s not a pleasant thing to contemplate.

Post-Mueller - All Hope is Gone?

Oh, once the sobbing, cursing, and chair-throwing is over, they MIGHT, once again, attempt another coup.

Not that likely, though - at least, any action that would be more than marginally effective.

They broke The Resistance.

Only those desperate enough (Shirley Jackson-Lee? Comey? Rachel Maddow?) will continue the farce. The rest of us will adjust to the New Reality.

Hard to believe that, just over a year ago, hopes were high for Mueller. He was raised to near-deity status. Even the cut of his clothes was worshipped (the clothes were standard upper-class nothing special).

Think I'm kidding? See here.

Tidbits For Your Tuesday

     Once again it’s tab-clearance time (Only $4.99! Get yours while they last!) here at the Fortress of Crankitude, and boy do we have an embarras de richesse today!

1. Never Trust The Media!

     Like any other kind of commercial enterprise, a medium – not the kind with a crystal ball, the sort that has a broadcast or cablecast outlet – exists to make money. What makes money for a medium? Stuff that draws an audience. And what draws an audience? These days, it seems to be the lowest, most contemptible forms of slander and distortion.

     Avi Yemini has demonstrated that he understands this – and much else besides:

     Comedy Central isn’t exactly known for being fair to the guests they interview during the comedic “news” shows, and leftist comedian Jim Jefferies is no different on his program, The Jim Jefferies Show.

     That’s why when the Christchurch shooting happened in New Zealand, Jefferies set out to ride the wave of anti-right sentiment by putting people on his show that were supposedly extremists, anti-Islam, and more. With that, he invited right-leaning Jewish activist and YouTube personality Avi Yemini to come on the show and discuss the subject.

     But Yemini isn’t stupid and knew exactly what was going to happen. Jefferies would ask questions, allow Yemini to answer them, then select various clips and phrases to make it seem like Yemini was another anti-Islam, right-wing conspiracy theorist.

     So Yemini decided to prepare a counterstrike:

     Posting a video to YouTube, Yemini reveals that he set his phone down secretly and began recording the interview, knowing that he would be made out to look like a horrible person.

     What he also caught on footage, however, was Jefferies doing and saying things that degraded Islam that the left would be horrified by, especially in the wake of the Christchurch shooting.

     Compare to this odious episode involving a Republican Congressman and the “saintly” Mike Wallace. Anyone who trusts any media outlet anywhere, regardless of its representations, is a damned fool who’ll deserve whatever he gets.

2. “Your Tears Taste Delicious” Dept.

     Tucker Carlson remains at the pinnacle of the commentary racket. His recent shows have been masterpieces, especially their introductory segments. But that’s not all there is to Tucker. He also knows how to make his occupational adversaries cry:

     CNN's Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter recently received a scrumptious box of jelly donuts from Dunkin' Donuts from Fox News primetime host Tucker Carlson. Still no thank you. But "sources in the CNN camp" told the New York Post‘s Page Six that they believed Carlson’s gift was an act of "fat-shaming."…

     "Such bitches," remarked a Mirror spy observing the situation. "He gets a dozen free donuts and somehow he's the victim?"

     Stelter, who has ballooned a little in recent years (but certainly not back to his post-200 pound weight), blew off The Mirror's request for comment Friday....

     "Nobody plays the victim card better," noted a longtime media industry insider. "He can, without evidence, repeatedly question Trump's mental health but can’t handle receiving a box of donuts."

     Kill ‘em with kindness, that’s the ticket. And as always, it’s the little gestures that make the biggest impacts. But next time, Tucker: Make it a box of assorted doughnuts.

3. Rocks Are Being Overturned.

     The Hill has the story:

     After nearly three years and millions of tax dollars, the Trump-Russia collusion probe is about to be resolved. Emerging in its place is newly unearthed evidence suggesting another foreign effort to influence the 2016 election — this time, in favor of the Democrats.

     Ukraine’s top prosecutor divulged in an interview aired Wednesday on Hill.TV that he has opened an investigation into whether his country’s law enforcement apparatus intentionally leaked financial records during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in an effort to sway the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.

     The leak of the so-called black ledger files to U.S. media prompted Manafort’s resignation from the Trump campaign and gave rise to one of the key allegations in the Russia collusion probe that has dogged Trump for the last two and a half years.

     Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko’s probe was prompted by a Ukrainian parliamentarian's release of a tape recording purporting to quote a top law enforcement official as saying his agency leaked the Manafort financial records to help Clinton's campaign.

     The parliamentarian also secured a court ruling that the leak amounted to “an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” Lutsenko told me. Lutsenko said the tape recording is a serious enough allegation to warrant opening a probe, and one of his concerns is that the Ukrainian law enforcement agency involved had frequent contact with the Obama administration’s U.S. Embassy in Kiev at the time.

     “Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko told me.

     My, my! The things a little shit-stirring can trigger! Got a good stock of spirits on hand, Mrs. Clinton?

     It remains unlikely that any of the Democrats, DoJ, or FBI who were involved in the outrageous attempt to paint President Trump as a traitor to his nation will ever suffer a legal penalty for it. But perhaps the stain will evoke enough anger in the American electorate to keep the Left out of power for a while longer.

4. Unplanned

     The pro-abortion crowd does not want this movie to be aired:

     Abby Johnson is one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the United States. She has worked at a clinic in Texas for eight years, and has become a community outreach director and media spokeswoman for the organization, even winning the Planned Parenthood Employee of the Year Award. One day she is asked to assist in an ultrasound-guided abortion at thirteen weeks gestation. It is then that she witnesses a baby struggling for its life even as it is dismembered by an abortionist's tool. She resigns, becoming an anti-abortion activist, founding a ministry to assist former Planned Parenthood employees turned anti-abortion after their own experiences.

     The film was shot on a budget of $6 million. Mike Lindell, the founder and owner of My Pillow, was a major backer of the film, contributing $1 million dollars to the production. Lindell has a cameo in the film.

     Unplanned was given an R rating by the MPAA, who cited a few graphic abortion-related scenes as the reason for the rating and notified the producers of the film that the film would remain R-rated unless those scenes were removed, but denied that it had assigned the rating due to political bias. Pure Flix, which had been expecting a PG-13 rating, decided not to contest the MPAA's action due to concerns that such conflict may delay the film's release. However, regarding the MPAA's rating, co-directors Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon said that:

     We consider the MPAA’s current standards to be deeply flawed, insofar as they allowed scenes of remarkably graphic sex, violence, degradation, murder and mayhem to have a PG-13 rating, whereas our film, highlighting the grave dangers of abortion in a straightforward manner, is considered dangerous for the American people to view.

     Please read the rest at Adrienne’s site. First the campaign against Gosnell, and now this. Remember always: What others don’t want you to know is usually what you most need to know.

5. Shrapnel From The Mueller Report.

     Doug Ross has a summary, clipped from the Daily Caller, of the major conspiracy theories that have been utterly refuted by the Mueller Report. I can’t excerpt it fairly. Please go to the site and read it all – and then head over to the Daily Caller for the rest of it.

6. A Masterstroke From The President.

     President Trump knows the importance of good timing. The time for this is clearly upon us:

     Axios and Daily Beast reporter Awawin Suebsaeng report that the Trump campaign notified producers of all tv networks and cable stations that several Democrat politicians were featured as guests multiple times, giving them a platform to spread false allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

     The memo explains that the Mueller report completed this week was a massive probe involving 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 500 witness interviews, 40 FBI agents, 19 lawyers and $25 million spent in taxpayer funds.

     “The issuance of these definitive findings comes after two years of Democrat leaders and others lying to the American people by vigorously and repeatedly claiming there was evidence of collusion. They made many of these false claims, without evidence, on your airways.”

     The Democrats mentioned are:

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
  • DNC Chairman Tom Perez
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan

     Here’s the memo:

     There can be no doubt that the media were willingly complicit in the propagation and perpetuation of slanders and unfounded accusations of wrongdoing against President Trump. They should be put on trial as accessories, even if only in the court of public opinion. Perhaps this will give the public a better sense of the shamelessness and utter partisanry of these “news” outlets.

7. Losing? Change The Rules!

     This is the meat of the Left’s current trumpetings:

     According to far-far-left Rep. Ro Khanna, the laws might need to change so President Trump could have been convicted of a crime. He says Trump is guilty [despite the Mueller report saying there was NO evidence] and Russia interference was aimed at getting Trump elected. He says Trump is guilty because he was cavalier….
     “Even if it doesn’t rise, Katie [Tur], to the level of an impeachable offense or a crime. I am convinced there was misconduct, that it got very close to the line, that it was inappropriate,” Khanna said. “And maybe Congress needs to strengthen the laws, if this doesn’t rise to the level of a crime, so that no future president does this.”

     In other words, make a non-crime a crime based on Khanna’s feelings. This is what they do in socialist and communist regimes. And, for the record, there is no definitive proof, Russia wanted Trump to win. Putin said he didn’t care who won since all our candidates were awful.

     So! Abolish the Electoral College and the Senate, ignore the Constitution when it doesn’t comport with the Left’s agenda, allow and encourage illegal aliens to vote in American elections, destroy freedom of speech to criminalize offhand statements of opinion – only by conservatives, of course – and generally institute mob rule…so long as the mob remains in the Left’s camp. A nice little wish list.

     It becomes ever clearer why the democrats are hell-bent on disarming the American people.

8. The Wise and the Mad.

     I’ve received several inquiries about this, the third book in what I suppose I’ll have to call the “Futanari Trilogy.” Yes, yes, it’s coming along. At present I’m about halfway done and hoping for a mid-summer release. (That reminds me: I must contact my cover artist about a cover for it. She takes her time, but she produces good stuff, consistently.) But if you want it that badly, post reviews of Experiences! Several Gentle Readers have promised that they would. I shan’t name names, but they know who they are, and I have to ask them: what’s the hangup?

     Reviews help to sell books, people. How many more times must I say it?

     That’s all for today, I think. It promises to be a busy one, so look for more tomorrow. Until then, don’t take any wooden characters.

Legal counterfeiting.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has dismissed concerns regarding the almost 100 trillion dollars ten-year cost of implementing the Green New Deal by suggesting that Congress simply make the Federal Reserve pay for it by creating new money. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s claim is rooted in Modern Monetary Theory. This theory states that, when government controls the currency, it need not worry about running up large debt for welfare and war; it can have the central bank print more money to pay for more government.[1]
Howeverrrrr . . . try this in your basement, 'chachos, and you’ll be charged as a hideous criminal hacking away at the vital organs or national economic life.

Tell me again. Who owns the Federal Reserve? And their other “optimum” 2% inflation target benefits Americans how? By robbing us of half of our savings every 35 years? Since the Fed was established in 1913 the dollar has lost over 96% of its value. An investment outfit that had that kind of a record would have died by 1916 at the latest but the Fed is a major going concern on whose pronouncements all hang with rapt attention.

Factor in the $32,000,000 per hour we spend on war and the gutless surrender to foreigners at our national border and you have what passes for wise stewardship on the part of the national political establishment – counterfeiting, theft, staggering incompetence, and betrayal. And will life be worth living if we don’t man up and kick some more ass in Venezuela?

PS – The cartoon with the source article is genius not only for it’s basic point but for the accuracy of Gary Varvel’s rendering of the Psycho Seven of Socialism.

[1] "As Vote Looms, Ron Paul Ravages 'The Green Bad Deal.'" By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 3/26/19 (emphasis removed).

Monday, March 25, 2019

People Who Lived Not That Long Ago in Photos

I forgot to put the link in - a reader reminded me just now. It's corrected now.

Check out all of these - they've been 'colorized' from the original black & white. The last one surprised me - I hadn't realized that Ali had known Malcolm X.

Those from around the turn of the century - late 1800s to early 1900s - caused me to re-think just how short a time it's been since the Modern Age had begun. Hard to think of Claude Monet's paintings having preceded color photos - his paintings were so filled with color, that I never realized just how important the museums were in helping people to understand the power of his work. In black & white photographs, it just wouldn't have been the same.

I remember when my husband and I didn't have a color TV. We had moved just before the birth of our second child. Our TV died, and my dad gave us a portable black & white. We used that for several years, until we had more money.

That was the first time I realized the power of color. Without it, TV was kind of boring. I would watch a show, then turn it off. We didn't sink into hours of mindless zoning out.

The current technology of modern high-definition TVs is similar. It's so nearly the same as real life, that it's each to get sucked into the experience, and ignore the real world. I would be surprised if it wasn't a major cause of societal transformation.

Wait until the full 3-D experience comes to our homes. We might never interact with living beings again.

The Investigation is Over, and There WERE Some Abuses...

...Rather SERIOUSLY improper information leakage, "gifts" received, and it's ALL documented.

So, why are there no calls to indict?

Because it was the FBI employees that were engaging in prohibited actions.

Retrenchment Or Revengement: The Jury Has Returned

     …and the verdict isn’t pretty:

     I'm seeing 2 big examples of how the media are reporting good news for Trump this weekend. It's really embarrassing for them because the 2 stories are very big and very good for Trump and, in both, the same move is made to turn it into something negative and ominous….

     So watch for it. The rule is: When something good for Trump happens, find the nearest bad thing and make that the focus of the news report.

     Miss Althouse provides citations from several sources. If you can control the desire to smash something and scream obscenities out the nearest open window – it’s a bit early to indulge in either of those admittedly rather enjoyable safety valves – read them; they’re worth your time.

     Some news outlets aren’t even doing that much to conceal their desires:

     CNN has a bad case of the sads today. But they still can’t get over the fact that NOTHING that Trump did was illegal during the 2016 campaign. CNN instead is now placing their hopes in the nut job communist Democrats impeaching Trump anyway, even though there is no collusion and no obstruction of justice….
     CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday night reacted to the Mueller Report letdown by wondering if impeachment was still a possibility. Despite the finding of no collusion and a lack of obstruction, Blitzer offered this question to Dana Bash: “And the question is, Dana, very quickly, impeachment. Are they going to do anything or are they going to listen to Nancy Pelosi and say, ‘Forget about it?’”

     Instead of throwing cold water, Bash suggested, “We’re not there yet. I think the most important thing that we’re going to look for next is what Jerry Nadler just said, which is he’s going to have Barr come up, they’re going to grill him on this. Maybe even Mueller. And then they’re going to take the next step.”

     The Democrats’ head lock on the media appears unbreakable. Of course, the media likes having things to “report,” and what could be more “reportable” than the impeachment and trial of a sitting president? Maybe another war? But the Trump Administration is against further American adventurism. Then perhaps a huge natural disaster? Well, maybe if we could have one happen right under Washington, D.C….but I digress.

     If memory serves, when President Clinton was impeached the media’s mantra was “It’s just about sex, it’s just about sex, it’s just about sex…” repeated until Hell wouldn’t have it. Republicans are their preferred targets, and their thirst for blood remains unsated.

     Stay tuned, if you can bear it.

Pearls of expression.

From comments on an article about a distressed cruise ship in heavy seas off the Norwegian coast with video of furniture sliding around the deck and ceiling tile coming down:

Being on a ship is like being in jail, with a chance of being drowned.


Weird things go on in prison but the chances of you being crushed to death by a sliding Grand Piano in Folsom are pretty slim (unless Jerry Lee Lewis opened for Johnny Cash and things got ugly....

"Horrifying Passenger Video Shows Furniture Crashing Into Walls Aboard Stranded Viking Cruise Ship." By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 3/24/19.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A New Grift

     Among my many faults, just now this one is uppermost in my thoughts: Most of my life I’ve been excessively willing to believe in the goodness of other people, and perhaps I still am today. This has occasionally cost me heavily. But at age 67, my skepticism about the motives of others might finally be adequate to protect me against the more transparent scams.

     However, there’s a new scam in town, and it’s important that my male readers know about it. (I don’t think there’s an equivalent one targeting women…yet.) It works through the social media sites, and it goes like this:

  1. A young, attractive woman – typically she’ll represent herself as between the age of 25 and 34 – signs up for your social media site.
  2. She posts one post: a very attractive picture “of herself.”
  3. Shortly thereafter she sends you a “friend request.” You accept, because why not?
  4. She direct-messages you to start a conversation.
  5. The two of you exchange a few pleasantries.
  6. She invites you to join her on WhatsApp or Google Hangouts.
  7. If you join her there, she chats you up a little further, usually with some flattery.
  8. THE SCAM EMERGES: She tells you she needs an Amazon gift card worth $10 or $20.

     I’ve been approached by four such scammers in the past three days. Please, take this seriously:

She’s not sincere.
She wants nothing but your money.
Why else would she chat you up, eh, hero?

     I think the reason they like WhatsApp and Google Hangouts is that those two facilities permit simultaneous conversations with multiple targets. That allows them to copy and paste from one chat window to another, reducing the amount of ingenuity they must exercise in their come-ons.

     Be smart. They’re grifters. In all probability the photos they post are fakes. They don’t need; they want. And what they want isn’t your rugged good looks or your chiseled masculine body.

     You have been warned.

Retrenchment Or Revengement?

     We have entered a significant phase in the political wars. The Main Stream / Legacy / Major Media – if you don’t know which outlets I’m talking about, you probably live in a cave without WiFi, and may God bless and keep you for that — must now make a choice on which their continued existence might well depend. The choice, being rather stark, will undoubtedly cause great pain to many in the “news” industry, from the bottom to the top of their hierarchies.

     The Democrats, their longtime allies in all matters political, have seriously let them down. Schumer, Pelosi, Schiff, et alii virtually promised them insider-supported coverage of the impeachment of President Trump and his ultimate removal from office. The reassurances have never ceased that Robert Mueller and his team of ill-concealed witch hunters would surely turn up enough dirt on Trump that even if the Senate were to decline to convict him, he’d leave the White House out of pure embarrassment. But with the final report in Attorney-General William Barr’s hands and Mueller’s statement that there are no indictments forthcoming, it appears that nothing nearly that dramatic will happen, whether to the president or to any of his relatives, friends, or inner political circle.

     The media must now choose their path forward: will they attempt to separate themselves from their previous, lurid, Democrat-talking-point-laced coverage of the president and the Mueller investigation, or will they perform a major mea maxima culpa before their dwindling audiences and turn savagely on the Democrats who misled them?

     Tough call, eh?

     Considering how difficult it is for ordinary folks to admit to serious errors in judgment, my money is on the former path…but I must say, I shan’t “bet big.” The Democrats’ abuse of their media allies over the past two years goes beyond anything I can remember. Media barons would be entirely within reason to be enraged to the point of vengeance: publicly castigating their abusers for their frauds and permanently disassociating their networks and newspapers from them. An honest man would do so – but how many honest men remain in the major media?

     We might have an answer to that question very soon.

     It’s an old maxim of us freedom weenies that most sins are self-punishing. The sinner learns from the pain and loss attendant upon his misdeed and reforms, or at least tries to. That’s as it should be in a lawful universe. But there are some sins that reward the sinner adequately to compensate for the pain and loss. If it were otherwise, the recidivism rates would be far lower.

     There’s no reason to go much deeper into this. The time has come for us in the Right to do something we generally dislike to do: pay attention to those media that have aligned themselves with the political Left and see what course they elect. They needn’t issue a full-throated endorsement of President Trump and his policies to earn at least a little forgiveness, though considering how good Trump and his policies have been for America, it would surely be appropriate. But forgiveness must be preceded by repentance. Some sort of apology, coupled to some degree of criticism of those who have misled them and (by extension) us, is mandatory. A continuation of the frauds, regardless of the pretext, would be justification for figuratively burning their institutions to the ground and salting the earth where they stood. Liars must not remain in command of the world’s largest megaphones.

     And with that it’s time to prepare for Mass. Enjoy your Sunday.

Could you please just make a decision.

Trump on the “illegal takedown” organized against him:
It's a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest it's a shame that your president had to go through this for - before I even got elected, it began. And it began illegally. And hopefully somebody is gonna look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed, and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at the other side.[1]
Trump has done a lot of good but, on the large questions of his constitutional authority and the coup attempt he has allowed to proceed against him unchallenged, he maddeningly can only come up with positions solidly located in the boundaries laid out for him by his ultra-left opponents and these vague pronouncements:
  • The DOJ documents need to be released in their unredacted state.
  • “Somebody” should look into unlawful efforts to bring down a duly-elected president.
Well, Mr. Trump, guess who’s got an entire Justice Department at his disposal to take some concrete action. Why on earth do you settle on the language “somebody”? And why do you frequently choose the “deer in the headlights” stance on important matters? Are you ignoring the legal advice you’re getting or do you need different counsel?

[1] "Trump 'Totally Exonerated', Calls For Investigation Into 'Illegal Takedown That Failed.'" By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 3/24/19 (my emphasis).

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Mueller Report

     This document, only just released to the Attorney-General, is essentially the only item in the national news just now. It will speak for itself soon enough. However, the early reactions from those who believe the investigation has let them down – i.e.., those on the far Left who’ve been hoping it would provide a pretext for removing President Trump from office – suggest that we who support the president will be cheered by its emptiness. In celebration thereof, allow me to present a couple of favorite compilations:

     Enjoy a little Schadenfreude:

     PS: Would anyone care to suggest a good video-editing program? I have a need.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Tales From Ancient Days

     I’m a dinosaur. My Gentle Readers know that already. Other visitors might not, which is why I’m saying so out front. Having said that, allow me to present two videos, both short:

     Love them or hate them, “Stardust” and “Deep Purple” were immensely popular love ballads when my parents were young. I, a child of the Fifties, didn’t hear either one until I was a teen. When I did, I couldn’t figure what all the fuss was about. But this screed isn’t about changes in popular tastes. It’s about communication between the generations.

     One evening when I was about twelve, I was seated on the living room sofa with my father watching television, when a noteworthy exchange took place during the program he’d selected. It was one of the early Sixties comedies, the sort that starred a comedian well known from other venues. If memory serves, this one featured Joey Bishop. The exchange of which I speak concerns a singer that one of them had already heard but the other had not. It ran roughly as follows:

First Character: Is he any good?
Second Character: With his voice, he could destroy “Stardust.”

     Dad laughed uproariously. I was puzzled. I asked what made the line so funny. Dad proceeded to tell me that “Stardust” is one of the immortal ballads, so universally beloved that it couldn’t be ruined even if Phyllis Diller sang it through her nose to kazoo accompaniment. Being unacquainted with the song, I remained puzzled, but kept it to myself.

     That was fifty-five years ago. This morning I found myself wondering what shape such conversations take today…if they occur at all.

     “Time Shards,” a story by the great Gregory Benford, grazes the same subject. It concerns the investigation of a curious phenomenon: the possibility that potters of the First Millennium might unintentionally have managed to record conversations in their fine detailing of their pots. A researcher succeeds in recovering one such conversation. I hope Professor Benford won’t mind if I post a long excerpt from this fine and somewhat sobering story:

     Hart pressed a switch and the turntable began to spin. He watched it for a moment, squinting with concentration. Then he reached down to the side of the turntable housing and swung up the stylus manifold. It came up smoothly and Hart locked it in just above the spinning red surface of the pot.
     “Not a particularly striking item, is it?” Brooks said conversationally.
     “Who made it?”
     “Near as I can determine, somebody in a co-operative of villages, barely Christian. Still used lots of pagan decorations. Got them scrambled up with the cross motif a lot.”
     “You’ve gotten . . . words?”
     “Oh, sure. In early English, even.”
     “I’m surprised crude craftsmen could do such delicate work.”
     “Luck, some of it. They probably used a pointed wire, a new technique that’d been imported around that time from Saxony.”
     The computer board hooted a readiness call. Hart walked over to it, thumbed in instructions, and turned to watch the stylus whir in a millimeter closer to the spinning jug. “Damn,” Hart said, glancing at the board. “Correlator’s giving hash again.”
     Hart stopped the stylus and worked at the board. Brooks turned nervously and paced, unsure of what his attitude should be toward Hart. Apparently the man had discovered something, but did that excuse his surliness? Brooks glanced out the window, where the last crowds were drifting away from the Vault dedication and strolling down the Mall. There was a reception for the Board of Regents in Georgetown in an hour. Brooks would have to be there early, to see that matters were in order—
     “If you’d given me enough money, I could’ve had a Hewlett-Packard. Wouldn’t have to fool with this piece of…” Hart’s voice trailed off.
     Brooks had to keep reminding himself that this foul-tempered, scrawny man was reputed to be a genius. If Hart had not come with the highest of recommendations, Brooks would never have risked valuable Vault funding. Apparently Hart’s new method for finding correlations in a noisy signal was a genuine achievement.
     The basic idea was quite old, of course. In the 1960s a scientist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York had applied a stylus to a rotating urn and played the signal through an audio pickup. Out came the wreeee sound of the original potter’s wheel where the urn was made. It had been a Roman urn, made in the era when hand-turned wheels were the best available. The Natural History “recording” was crude, but even that long ago they could pick out a moment when the potter’s hand slipped and the rhythm of the wreeee faltered.
     Hart had read about that urn and seen the possibilities. He developed his new multiple-correlation analysis—a feat of programming, if nothing else—and began searching for pottery that might have acoustic detail in its surface. The sgraffito technique was the natural choice. Potters sometimes used fine wires to incise their wares. Conceivably, anything that moved the incising wire—passing footfalls, even the tiny acoustic push of sound waves—could leave its trace on the surface of the finished pot. Buried among imperfections and noise, eroded by the random bruises of history . . .
     “Got it,” Hart said, fatigue creeping into his voice.
     “Good. Good.”
     “Yeah. Listen.”
     The stylus whirred forward. It gently nudged into the jug, near the lip. Hart flipped a switch and studied the rippling, dancing yellow lines on the board oscilloscope. Electronic archaeology. “There.”
     A high-pitched whining came from the speaker, punctuated by hollow, deep bass thumps.
     “Hear that? He’s using a foot pump.”
     “A kick wheel?”
     “I thought they came later.”
     “No, the Arabs had them.”
     There came a clop clop clop, getting louder. It sounded oddly disembodied in the silence of the long room.
     “Horse. I detected this two weeks ago. Checked it with the equestrian people. They say the horse is unshod, assuming we’re listening to it walk on dirt. Farm animal, probably. Plow puller.”
     The hoofbeats faded. The whine of the kick wheel sang on. “Here it comes,” Hart whispered.
     Brooks shuffled slightly. The ranks upon ranks of ancient pottery behind him made him nervous, as though a vast unmoving audience were in the room with them.
     Thin, distant: “Alf?”
     “Aye.” A gruff reply.
     “It slumps, sure.”
     “I be oct, man.” A rasping, impatient voice.
     “Ah ha’ wearied o’ their laws,” the thin voice persisted.
     “Aye—so all. What mark it?” Restrained impatience.
     “Their Christ. He werkes vengement an the alt spirits.”
     “Hie yer tongue.”
     “They’ll ne hear.”
     “Wi’ ’er Christ ’er’re everywhere.”
     A pause. Then faintly, as though a whisper: “We ha’ lodged th’ alt spirits.”
     “Ah? You? Th’ rash gazer?”
     “I spy stormwrack. A hue an’ grie rises by this somer se’sun.”
     “Fer we?”
     “Aye, unless we spake th’ Ave maris stella ’a theirs.”
     “Elat. Lat fer that. Hie, I’ll do it. Me knees still buckle whon they must.”
     “I kenned that. So shall I.”
     “Aye. So shall we all. But wh’ of the spirits?”
     “They suffer pangs, dark werkes. They are lodged.”
     “Ah. Where?”
     “‘Ere? In me clay?”
     “In yer vessels.”
     “I chanted ’em in ’fore sunbreak.”
     “Nay! I fain wad ye not.”
     whir whir whir
     The kick wheel thumps came rhythmically.
     “They sigh’d thruu in-t’wixt yer clay. ’S done.”
     “Fer what?”
     “These pots—they bear a fineness, aye?”
     A rumbling, “—will hie home ’er. Live in yer pots.”
     “Whon time werkes a’thwart ’e Christers, yon spirits of leaf an’ bough will, I say, hie an’ grie to yer sons, man. To yer sons sons, man.”
     “Me pots? Carry our kenne?”
     “Aye. I investe’ thy clay wi’ ern’st spirit, so when’s ye causes it ta dance, our law say . . .”
     A hollow rattle.
     “Even this ’ere, as I spin it?”
     “Aye. Th’ spirits innit. Speak as ye form. The dance, t’will carry yer schop word t’ yer sons, yer sons sons sons.”
     “While it’s spinnin’?”
     Brooks felt his pulse thumping in his throat.
     “Speak inta it. To yer sons.”
     “Ah . . .” Suddenly the voice came louder. “Aye, aye! There! If ye hear me, sons! I be from yer past! The ancient dayes!”
     “Tell them wha’ ye must.”
     “Aye. Sons! Blood a’ mine! Mark ye! Hie not ta strags in th’ house of Lutes. They carry the red pox! An’…an’, beware th’ Kinseps—they bugger all they rule! An’, whilst pot-charrin’, mix th’ fair smelt wi’ greeno erst, ’ere ye’ll flux it fair speedy. Ne’er leave sheep near a lean-house, ne, ’ey’ll snuck down ’an it—”
     whir whir thump whir
     “What—what happened?” Brooks gasped.
     “He must have brushed the incising wire a bit. The cut continues, but the fine touch was lost. Vibrations as subtle as a voice couldn’t register.”
     Brooks looked around, dazed, for a place to sit. “In . . . incredible.”
     “I suppose.”

     The probability of that “recording” being comprehensible, much less useful, to generations two or more removed from the makers approaches zero. The significant elements in it – practices, persons, institutions, et cetera – would have vanished from their society. They, of course, couldn’t know that.

     Communication, to be worthwhile, must be bilaterally comprehensible. That is: the hearer must understand what the speaker is saying as the speaker himself understands it. In pre-technological societies, when the number of elements an individual was presumed familiar with was small and travel over long distances was rare and difficult, a common language composed of stable terms and a simple grammar would have sufficed to meet that requirement. Things are different today.

     The old game “Twenty Questions” embedded an important assumption that’s seldom discussed: the person or item the questioner seeks to discover is within a “sociocultural space” that twenty yes-or-no questions can span. That’s only about a million elements. There are far more elements in our sociocultural space today.

     Today “a common language composed of stable terms and a simple grammar” isn’t enough to assure bilaterally comprehensible communication. The number of possible referents, many of them almost as important to John Q. Public as food, clothing, and shelter, is so great that the odds are poor that John and a randomly selected person who speaks the same language will both be familiar with a major subset of them. This has a constricting effect on the social space within which JQP’s communications will be reliable. As long as he stays within that space, he’ll understand and be understood by the others in it. Outside it, things will be a lot more challenging. The size and populations of such spaces can depend on our occupations, educations, pastimes, neighborhoods, tastes, opinions, and other matters. And there is essentially nothing to be done about it.

     Not long ago there was a vogue for creating and burying “time capsules” whose contents were intended to represent our societies to their future discoverers. Pre-technological societies didn’t do such things; they couldn’t conceive of so much change that their present would need to be demonstrated to their future by word, sound, or artifact. Today’s society probably couldn’t agree on what should go into such a capsule. Add to this the rapid transformation of language – every human language of importance – and what are the odds that a communication to Americans a century hence would be comprehensible, meaningful, or useful?

     Even communication between parent and child is becoming strained. Yes, the distortion of the meanings of words is an important factor. But let’s not discount the explosion of the sociocultural space or our selectivity about it. Parents and children need not have largely overlapping subsets. A game of “Twenty Questions” involving different generations of the same family has a significant chance of inducing frustration. Throw in a few players from other parts of the English-speaking world, and what then?

     How conversant are you with Strine idioms or English rhyming slang?

     The above are “Friday morning thoughts,” the sort I indulge on a Friday morning after a relatively strenuous week. Yes, they’re relevant, generally at least, to contemporary concerns. You already know how sensitive I am to the deliberate misuse of words. But Man does not communicate by words alone. The complexity of our societies and the speed with which they’re creating specialized domains of knowledge – some of them useful, some of them trivial – guarantee that facility in communication will be an ever more highly prized skill, requiring both mastery of language and breadth of sociocultural knowledge.

     Now go back and listen to “Stardust” and “Deep Purple,” and reflect. Must have been some atrocious voice if the singer spoken of could “destroy Stardust,” eh what?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Frightening Word

     The great Mike Hendrix posted this morning about a possible secession of upstate New York from the downstate region. It’s a valuable piece largely made up from two other pieces that appeared in the New York Daily News. The first snottily ridicules the idea that upstate New Yorkers would enjoy the results of secession. The second argues the opposite with equal or greater snarkery. Mike’s own pithy contribution:

     As always, arrogant, obnoxious libtards should be very careful what they wish for, lest they get it—good and hard.

     I would be very grateful for such a secession even though I’m stuck on Long Island, which would be joined willy-nilly to the far-Left downstate region. First, it would compel downstaters to pull their heads out of their asses and confront what the political elite of this state has done to us. But second and far more important, it would emphasize to politicians everywhere that subjugation can be resisted – that a sufficient number of freedom-minded persons can and will eventually liberate themselves, regardless of the price.

     Secession is a frightening word to politicians and their hangers-on. The late Joseph Sobran noted that it really means freedom. For the upstate region to separate from the cancer that is New York City would be to free upstaters from the political dominance the Big Apple has exerted over them for many decades. New York City’s many pathologies would no longer burden the upstate region. Neither would the many intrusive and irrational laws the city’s liberal population has forced on the state. And let’s not get started about New York’s taxation, which is driving young Americans out of the state at a record rate.

     I think it as good as guaranteed that the New York political elite will fight any organized drive for a separation into two states. Politicians generally aren’t stupid, regardless of how often they may posture stupidly before a camera. They grasp that power requires subjects, and the more the better. The national political elite will fight a secession drive equally fiercely, as it would provide conservatively inclined Americans with more votes in the Electoral College. Sadly, given the requirements imposed by Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution:

     New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

     The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

     …the elites are almost guaranteed to prevail. Still, it’s a nice thing to contemplate.

     Laws that impose the interests of some upon the backs of others will always germinate resentment. Hearken to the great Frederic Bastiat:

     As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose — that it may violate property instead of protecting it — then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. Political questions will always be prejudicial, dominant, and all-absorbing. There will be fighting at the door of the Legislative Palace, and the struggle within will be no less furious. To know this, it is hardly necessary to examine what transpires in the French and English legislatures; merely to understand the issue is to know the answer.

     Is there any need to offer proof that this odious perversion of the law is a perpetual source of hatred and discord; that it tends to destroy society itself? If such proof is needed, look at the United States [in 1850]. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation. But even in the United States, there are two issues — and only two — that have always endangered the public peace.

     What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.

     Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.

     It is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crime — a sorrowful inheritance from the Old World — should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States — where the proper purpose of the law has been perverted only in the instances of slavery and tariffs — what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of the law is a principle; a system?

     Bastiat wrote that in 1850: eleven years before the sundering of the Union over the very subjects he cites above. The rebellion of the South occurred to preserve slavery against the North-based abolitionist movement and to escape the protective tariffs that favored Northern manufactured goods over cheaper imports. A state of affairs much like that which bedevils New York brought about the secession of the Confederate states.

     In composing a tract such as this, it’s absurdly necessary to say explicitly that this is not an argument for slavery or the Confederacy’s desire to preserve it. Rather, it’s an illustration of the sectionalist tensions and enmities that result when one region imposes its interests on another through the law. Quite similar tensions and enmities afflict New York State. The only imaginable solution, given the thoroughgoing corruption of the state’s political class and the unbelievable arrogance of the urban liberals who support them, is secession.

     Should that solution be thwarted, the tensions and enmities will grow. I don’t want to find out what the consequences will be by experiencing them. Far better than we part while an amicable parting is still possible. But don’t expect to hear that from Andrew Cuomo or any of the Democrats who dominate the councils in Albany and New York City.

     One final set of considerations before I close: the borders of the various states often came about because of natural features. In New York’s case, the Great Lakes, the Delaware and Saint Lawrence Rivers, and Lake Champlain were the most important such features. In that spirit, perhaps secession should divide the state along the Hudson River. That would preserve the original concept of the state as mostly naturally bounded, though it would unfortunately leave Albany and its pathologies in the upstate region. That a number of good persons ardent to be free of downstate domination would need to haul stakes, cross the river, and find new homes is also unfortunate, but it would be nicely compensated by the water border, the bridges across which could be dynamited should the downstaters ever get the idea that they could “reunify New York” by force.

     Ah, how pleasant it is to dream…