Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Case Of Auto-Eroticism

     A dear friend, who’s been having car troubles for months now, has at long last and despite considerable obstacles managed to acquire a “new” ride. (It’s actually rather used, but it’s new to him, so what the hell.) He chose it himself, without let or hindrance from spouse, sibling, or State, and professes to be overjoyed with it. But what, specifically, does he praise it for above all else?

     Its color. He adores the color. It’s yellow, which is apparently his favorite color.

     Now, I’m hardly the judge of matters pertaining to color. You see, I don’t see most of them. And yellow, when it’s been pointed out to me, has never struck me as specifically to be celebrated. I mean, what about the other primary colors? What about indigo, a very attractive color, or so I’m told, that hasn’t yet been over-subscribed? Why is yellow to be exalted above these others?

     But de gustibus non est disputandum, and all that. So I’ve christened his car for him: the Screaming Yellow Zonker. If you don’t get the reference, well, be grateful:

     The confection itself wasn't bad, mind you; it’s just that the main attraction was the box. And the color, of course. But history does not record how many miles they got to the gallon.

Religious Browbeating: A Sunday Rumination

     There’s a lot of it going on – and for a change I don’t mean the practices of the militant atheists and their mock-sophisticated slurs against theists. Indeed, religious browbeating has a long and unpleasant history, at least in Europe and America.

     Fasten your seat belt, Gentle Reader, because some of you will find this a very rough ride. “Which of us?” I hear you cry. Those who repose absolute confidence in any Christian religious authority. Just about all Christian religious authorities have gone way, way beyond their proper sphere. NB: In the following, please read the Church as referring to the entirety of Christianity worldwide, without regard for denomination. That’s how I’ll mean it. When I want to speak of the Catholic Church specifically, I’ll do so explicitly.

     If more Christians knew more of the history of Christianity, every Christian denomination would be far better off. All of them, including the Catholic Church of which I’m a member, are badly stained. Some of the stains are old, but some are accumulating as we speak.

     At the base of all acceptable Christian teaching must be the Gospels of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God and the Redeemer of Mankind. If a Christian pastor or prelate emits a pronouncement for which there is no substantiation in the statements of the Redeemer, it is his opinion, not a valid element of Christianity. Such an opinion might be valuable; it’s up to the listener to decide. But it does not qualify as an authoritative teaching of the Church.

     Every era since the Redeemer walked the Earth has seen men – mortal, fallible men – attempt to insert their own preferences into Church doctrine. It began with Paul of Tarsus. Read through his writings, compiled in the New Testament, and see for yourself.

     The practice was not confined to the Catholic Church. Indeed, the Protestant Schism, which originated with Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, is partly rooted in Luther’s own preferences, most prominently his rejection of Christ’s explicit statements about the importance to one’s soul of good works. Every denomination to arise thereafter has been polluted by the problem to some extent.

     There is ample historical evidence for all of this. As I’m a blogger and not a lecturer in religious history, I leave it to my Gentle Readers to educate themselves about the specifics. My thrust today is that Christianity has been done great harm by those who’ve attempted to borrow the authority of the Son of God to proclaim their own opinions as doctrine. As none of them ever rose from the dead, I'd expect that their presumption has not been good for their prospects in the afterlife.

     There are many things in the temporal world that are pleasurable in the short term but not good for you in the long term. Various bodily indulgences, for example – some involving food, alcohol, or drugs; others involving sexual practices – come to mind at once. Similarly, there are dangers and opportunities in lawbreaking of certain kinds, with a similar caveat attached. These are things about which an individual should be circumspect for his own good – but Christ never mentioned any of them. Yet Christian preachers have attempted to classify these things as sins rather than as self-harming mistakes of various degrees of seriousness.

     Consider alcoholic beverages as a case study. There was a time when the consumption of alcohol was preached against most stridently by every denomination but one. (We Catholics have always been lushes.) Yet with the exception of persons allergic to them, the moderate consumption of wine or spirits is a good thing for the body. Numerous studies have demonstrated that moderate drinkers possess greater resistance to various ailments than teetotalers.

     Is this an endorsement of bibulosity, or alcoholism? Of course not. It’s merely a separation of that which is entirely temporal from that which is spiritually relevant. While God would surely frown upon imbibing oneself to death – suicide is a form of murder, after all – He has no problem with moderate indulgence. Why else would His Son have consecrated a cup of wine into His very own blood?

     Temporal hazards don’t always have a spiritual component. Governments routinely issue “laws” that trespass upon individual rights, or violate the rule of equal treatment under the law. We have innumerable examples in this nation alone. To break such a law can invoke the wrath of the State, but it would have no effect upon one’s immortal soul. Yet the Catholic Church once declared that income tax evasion is a sin! If Christ said one word about a requirement that we all bend to “progressive” income taxes, I’m unable to find it anywhere in the Gospels. (There’s also the whole business about “illegal gambling,” but...never mind. I have a Bingo game to supervise later.)

     Such extensions of “authority” into ultra vires domains has done Christianity a great deal of harm, largely by persuading persons otherwise willing to believe that the Church is merely an instrument for bludgeoning us into submission to arbitrary temporal “authorities.”

     At this time the most prominent religious figure in the world is Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina, better known to non-Catholics as Pope Francis. This prelate has done and is doing catastrophic harm to the Catholic Church in his fiddling with Catholic doctrine, his uncritical embrace of Islam and its atrocities, and his involvement in matters beyond the province of a cleric. Many a Catholic is uneasy about him. Some regard him as an antipope. Still others believe the College of Cardinals, which elected him, to have been suborned by enemies of the Church. (Remember Robert Conquest’s Second Law, and shudder.) Whatever the case, it’s beyond question that he’s using the Throne of Saint Peter to promulgate ideas that are opposed to freedom and justice.

     It’s my opinion that the Francis papacy will someday be regarded as a time of darkness for the Church. The harm one man can do is determined by his altitude among men generally, and whether deliberately or by mistake, Pope Francis has been raised high. Yet the harm can be repaired, given time, good will, and the fidelity of Christians to the explicit teachings of Christ and the voices of their consciences.

     Conscience is the key, as it always has been. It’s God’s way of speaking to us individually, just as Christ’s ministry among men was Gods way of speaking to us jointly. Your conscience, constrained by the commandments as Christ urged them upon the “rich young man:”

     And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. [Matthew 19:16-19]

     ...will protect you from all spiritual harm and a goodly amount of temporal harm besides. Next to those things, the statements of a cleric determined to use his pastoral position to impose his political ideology upon us are of no force.

     One final thought concerning private versus public conviction and I’ll close for today. History is rich with tales of men who believe they have received revelations: direct instruction and orders from God. A long time ago, I wrote about this subject:

     Revelation is always private. Private events, as opposed to public events that may be witnessed by many persons simultaneously, have no evidentiary value for those who have not experienced them. Private events give rise only to private knowledge and private convictions....

     Revelation is wonderful, if you've had one. It's stunning, thrilling, enlarging beyond any other experience of the mind. But it has no weight as evidence in any argument with others. Your revelation was meant for you alone, or all the rest of us would have had it too.

     If revelation is a private matter – and anything that happens entirely within the mind is by definition a private matter – then the content of a revelation is meant specifically for the person who’s received it, not for anyone else. Saint Simeon Stylites may have been commanded by God to live atop a tall pillar; God hasn’t said one word to me about it. Saint Francis Xavier may have been commanded by God to travel the world preaching the Gospels; as for myself, God knows I can no longer fly and wouldn’t ask it of me. The same may be said for extreme practices among contemporary Christians such as the allegiants of Opus Dei.

     Of course, if God should speak to you, you should listen and do as you’re told. But He intends that, except for those He has specially commissioned, we should live according to our natures as He gave them to us. At least, there’s no evidence to the contrary. For the overwhelming majority of Christians, no more is required of us than attendance to the Commandments, to Christ’s teachings, and to our consciences. Hilaire Belloc captured it exactly:

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!”

     Heed not the busybodies, the scolds, and the voices preaching “mortification.” Be a joyous Christian. Live the life God has designed for you. Praise Him at all times and in all things. Pass the bottle and be not afraid – and may God bless and keep you all!

Saturday, June 29, 2019


     Today promises to be hot and trying. I have:

  • Two trees to trim;
  • Poison ivy to eradicate;
  • A charity computer job to perform;
  • A closet insert to remove, discard, and replace;
  • A Red Sox / Yankees game (in London, of all places) to watch;
  • And (of course) bills to pay. my time for Acute Observations And Penetrating Thought® will be sharply bounded by straining, sweating, and (of course) swearing. Thank God Dad was a Navy man, or I might not have been adequately prepared for that last. So have a few interesting squibs while I prepare myself for the trials ahead.

1. Frontiers In Gender-War Feminism.

     I’m a fan of ShoeOnHead. Her style of humor isn’t to everyone’s taste, but give her this: she maintains a light approach, and doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her stuff is a refreshing change from the heavy-handed manner so many opinionated video-bloggers have adopted.

     However, every now and then she justifiably “lets it rip:”

     “Slave paint.” “Rape shoes.” “Don’t shave or use antiperspirant!” Great God in heaven! You have to wonder if Shoe’s target is aware that feminine grooming choices are choices — that women elect them for reasons that frequently go beyond culture, upbringing, and socialization. Indeed, it’s often a matter, not of attracting male attention (a perfectly rational motive, in my not-particularly-humble opinion), but of competing with other women.

     But the lunatic-fringe pseudo-feminist is uninterested in the dynamics and subtleties of human motivation. All is male oppression, especially the omnipresent “male gaze.” Well, that’s easy enough to avert, as a great many such women have learned: just stop shaving and using antiperspirant.

2. Liberty Versus Equality.

     Socialists will all tell you they’re for “equality.” It’s a crock, of course; wherever socialism prevails, there’s an ultra-powerful caste of rulers and their hangers-on who live like kings while everyone else suffers in deprivation and rigid constraint. The Feral Irishman has a few words on the politics of it for us. Here’s the gut punch:

     The closer we come to total acceptance of the doctrine of human equality, the closer we come to slavery. In reality, human equality is an impossibility in the real world. As an instrument of government propaganda, it is the perfect organism.

     Please read it all. The peroration on discrimination and its absolute necessity in a free society is especially important.

3. Colonization Chronicles.

     As I’ve said on other occasions, the Left’s major tactic for silencing and marginalizing us in the Right is the colonization of large organizations that can, de facto deny us a voice – or an income. The recent Project Veritas presentation featuring a Google insider might make one think that the process had “gone to completion” in the case of that particular Big Tech behemoth. But there’s another effect of importance to beware:

     Scores of Google employees have sent an open letter to the organizers of San Francisco's annual Pride parade urging them to kick the company out as a sponsor and parade participant.

     In a letter posted to Medium on Wednesday, the employees wrote of a work atmosphere where concerns from LGBTQ employees are regularly brushed aside....

     The letter asks organizers to drop Google as an official sponsor of the parade and prevent it from contributing a branded float.

     "For a large company, perhaps waiting is prudent, but for those whose very right to exist is threatened, we say there is no time to waste, and we have waited too long, already. We are no longer content to wait," the authors wrote.

     The employees' request comes after an internal dispute over Google's treatment of LGBTQ employees and content creators spilled out into the public view on Monday, when The Verge reported that several Google employees planned to protest the company's policies during Pride.

     Let’s leave aside, this once, the BS about taking “pride” in something the “prideful” one claims is inherent in his body and mind, and that he would not have chosen had he had the option. The lunacy of that notion should be well established by now. The meat of the thing for me is this: Google has done everything imaginable to champion these persons and their “cause.” It’s used its control of its search engine and YouTube to silence countervailing opinion. It’s fired employees who dared to differ with its corporate philosophy, however politely. It has departments dedicated to promoting damned nearly everything the LGBTQ activists claim to value! So what’s going on?

     In short, it’s about “keeping the flames burning.” They who’ve made a “cause” the core of their lives have to keep whipping themselves into a frenzy over it for their own emotional health. Should the passion fade, their reason for living will fade with it. This has consequences for everyone around them, including their employers and coworkers.

     Watch for it in the activist types around you – and when you spot the symptoms, put some distance between you.

4. The Nadir Of Atrocity.

     Slavery is bad. Child slavery is worse. But child slavery combined with gang rape is really hard to beat:

     “There was a female, 10 years old, who was found with 20 different types of semen inside her body. She was dispatched to a family member. The girl who was with her who was supposedly a family member was not really a family member, just someone who bought her from her family in Guatemala. These are real problems that exist here on the border. There are some people who are trying to leave jugs of water out here for them. A lot of these people come to this country needing help,” the professional stated.

     Migrants are obtaining “Rent-A-Kids,” and since Border Patrol cannot perform DNA tests to determine if children are related to adults most of the human traffickers get into our country.

     That’s what our Border Patrol is encountering among the “migrants” pressing against our southern border. Yet every last Democrat candidate for president has declared himself in favor of opening that border, whether de jure or de facto. Make sure your left-leaning friends, if you still have any, are compelled to confront this.

5. Public Finance, Democrat Style.

     Everyone’s favorite Graybeard has noted a long list of “free stuff” the various Democrat presidential aspirants have promised us. It’s a long list; please read it all. But how do they plan to pay for all that free stuff? They don’t; you’ll be the one paying for it, and of course for the legions of federal bureaucrats overseeing the distribution process to make sure it’s “fair:”

     This is par for the course from hard-core Marxist De Blasio. And make no mistake: there are a lot of people who believe it could be made to work if all that money were “in the right hands.” Historical data about the consequences of confiscatory tax rates are utterly ignored, never mind any questions about right and wrong. But even more important is this: as such schemes fail, the definition of “the wealthy,” to whom the confiscatory rates are to be applied, becomes steadily broader.

     The committed leftist will never admit this, but it’s graven into the financial structure of the universe. Note how they squirm to avoid answering such questions as “But who do you mean by the wealthy?” and “What will you do if the revenue is still insufficient?” Verbum sat sapienti.

     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. It’s time to begin the straining, sweating, and (of course) swearing, in the hope that I’ll be done early enough to catch at least part of that Red Sox / Yankees game. Have a nice day.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Overextensions And Corrective Mechanisms, Part 2

     The most immediate and compelling of all corrective mechanisms is physical pain. He who suffers pain as a traceable consequence of his actions – assuming he labors under no defect of the intellect – will review those actions and make corrections, if possible. It’s the scheme nature has built into us for learning what we must know to survive and flourish.

     That mechanism – suffering as a consequence of bad decisions, followed by corrective action – is replicated at every level of human existence.

     The overextension of the principle of individual freedom, the core idea of libertarian thought, led far too many libertarians to embrace such notions as military downsizing and denuclearization, open borders, the rejection of mental or juvenile incapacity as reasons to restrict their rights, and an absolute right to an abortion. This had several consequences for the previously swelling libertarian movement. The one with the largest practical effect first manifested itself with the presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan.

     Reagan was a pro-freedom conservative in the mold of Barry Goldwater. On at least one occasion, an interview with Reason magazine, he styled himself a “small-l libertarian.” He proved popular with many whom might otherwise have supported the Libertarian Party’s 1980 presidential candidate, Ed Clark. In large measure, his ability to win libertarians’ votes arose from his embrace of government downsizing and free-market economics, postures in which he’d been encouraged by David Stockman.

     Reagan’s libertarian streak, and his unexpectedly broad popularity among persons who habitually voted for Democrats, taught the GOP’s strategists something: Americans had become unhappy about the tide of government intrusion and government spending. They were willing to support a Republican who promises to curb those things over a Democrat who holds out promises of “free stuff.” The LP’s more extreme positions were of no interest to Reagan voters; indeed, his advocacy of a revitalized military may have been as important to his ascension as his other policy positions.

     The LP didn’t learn much from the setbacks it suffered in the Reagan era. In terms of positions, today it’s not far from where it stood in 1980. Unfortunately, the Republican Party’s strategists did even worse for a while: they drew the wrong lesson from Reagan’s electoral triumphs. They “learned” that promises to curb the federal government’s expansion and rapacity were what mattered, but that actual performance didn’t. The two Bush presidencies and the Dole, McCain, and Romney debacles were the consequences. It’s a study in the power of wishful thinking when married to institutional inertia.

     The ascendancy of Donald Trump dealt a large shock to the GOP’s power structure. As David Friedman has put it, every political party is a “vote-maximizing machine.” Its entire reason for existence is to get its candidates elected. No matter how deeply entrenched, an inner circle that’s seen to fail at that core mission cannot retain its primacy forever.

     The McCain and Romney failures were a blow between the eyes with a two-by-four for the GOP elephant. The swift rise of Trump to the top of the polls in 2015 completed the lesson: Right-leaning voters were tired of unfulfilled promises from “insiders” whose records gave the lie to their words. They were willing to go outside the existing ranks in search of a better alternative.

     The Democrats had learned nothing from the disastrous Obama presidency. Though those eight years had ruined America’s international standing and had plunged our economy into the Slough of Despond, the Dems’ strategists could not escape their bondage to the existing machines. Obama had promised Hillary Clinton that in 2016 the Democrat presidential nomination would be hers, and he and his loyalists delivered it. Clinton strode forth expecting to make history. In a sense, one could say that her expectation was fulfilled.

     The Republican Party’s strategists bent to an unopposable electoral reality. If they made any attempts to oppose Trump’s rise from within, the attempts were feeble, possibly token gestures. Trump was elected, has made good on more than half of his campaign-season pledges, and has achieved what he sought to achieve with those policies. The question of the moment is whether the lesson will “stick,” or whether the GOP’s power brokers will return to “old-boy” politics once the Trump Administration is no more. To this point the portents are mixed.

     The most recent sufferer from political intransigence is the Congressional Republican caucus. They disdained to support President Trump’s agenda in 2017 and 2018, and in consequence lost control of the House of Representatives. A few commentators have suggested that that loss might have been halfway deliberate – that it provided the GOP with a serviceable excuse for not supporting the Trump program. However, if those losses, coupled to Trump’s demonstrated successes and swelling popularity, don’t drive the lesson home, Republicans’ losses in 2020 will be larger still. They might include the Senate, where the most senior “old-boy” Republicans are ensconced. Given the pygmy stature of Trump’s announced Democrat challengers, they’re unlikely to include the White House – another two-by-four between the eyes for the GOP elephant.

     Whether there will be further suffering, and increased learning, from the events of November 2020 remains to be seen.

On the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

On the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
A century after Versailles, and eight decades after the system based upon that flawed treaty collapsed, the world needs order more than ever. Not the order of “benevolent global hegemony” based on full-spectrum dominance of the United States, but an order – possible and necessary – which would be based on a multilateral balance-of-power system which accepts each key player as both legitimate and permanent. Of course this is the exact opposite of the relentless Russophobic expansion of NATO, the promotion of color-coded revolutions, the many wars in the Middle East which have had disastrous consequences for the countries concerned and for the rationally articulated American interest.[1]
Given how the U.S. takes it upon itself to judge the worth of all other nations in the world and to decide any matter outside the framework of collective security agreed to after WWII (and heedless of the constitutional restriction on executive war making), the U.S. hypocrisy about the “rules-based international order” is a bit hard to swallow.

Mr. Trfkovic’s article is well worth your time. It’s one of the more lucid discussions of the settlement of WWI I’ve run across.

[1] "A Century of Disorder." By Srdja Trfkovic, Chronicles Blog, 6/28/19.

Things that make you crazy.

In December, world leaders of 165 countries adopted an ostensibly non-binding agreement that propagates a radical idea: that migration -- for any reason -- is something that needs to be promoted, enabled and protected . . . .

The agreement is named the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), and now comes its implementation.[1]

In this time of lunatic immigration policies and betrayal, when I read nonsense like this I want to tear my hair at the insanity. The ONLY policy options that are ever on the table in all the freaking world are the ones that assume (1) primitives in Africa who still believe in witches or (2) Muslims who believe in female genital mutilation and non-judicial murder of apostates have an unchallengeable right to relocate to Kansas City, Oxford, Stockholm, or Stuttgart.

Diversity is our strength.
The option of returning invaders found drifting in the Mediterranean Sea to the shores of N. Africa is just assumed not to exist. No way, Jose! Any invader found standing three feet north of the Rio Grande River is never a candidate for instant removal to the south side of the river. No, he can now suck of the welfare tit and help himself to a job that would otherwise got to an American citizen. If there's a kid involved, he's entitled to gender reassignment surgery and a scholarship to Stanford.

Who knew that the Due Process Clause trumps national survival and that CBP officers do not have the experience and professional judgment to know that some foreigner they've just arrested had breakfast yesterday in Juarez not El Paso? Administrative discretion has its perils but it's long past the time when we cleared the decks and allowed the people we hire to protect us to strike fear in the hearts of people who think they can move here if the notion strikes them.

Here's a new national priority: You can apply for a visa or asylum status all you want from outside the U.S. all you want and if you're in the country illegally you'll be immediately deposited on the other side of the U.S. border at a place of the government's choosing. THEN you can file what paperwork you want. If you're legally entitled to be in the U.S. and you're mistakenly ejected, go to the nearest U.S. border crossing and provide the necessary proof. Take $5,000 for your trouble and otherwise suck it up and shut up. Take one for the team.

How did we get to the point where (1) only one point of view completely trumps and vanishes other views that guarantee an intact, non-third-world civilization and (2) the laws of the land are twisted so that commonsense judgment is relentlessly attacked? As to the latter, if there's a hint of an effective national response to illegal immigrant invasion, some U.S. District Court judge in Seattle issues a fatwa that somehow shuts down such responses in Seattle AND Kansas City and Bangor. I still haven't figured that one out.

[1] "UN Global Compact: What Happens Next?." By Judith Bergman, The Gatestone Institute, 6/28/19 (footnote in text omitted).

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Concerning “Assistance Requested”

     To all those persons who’ve stepped forward to offer assistance: My sincere thanks. There’s just one teensy little problem:

How do I contact you?

     Blogger does not provide me with your email addresses. They’re stripped out of your comments before I receive them. (There aren’t many things Google is scrupulous about, but it’s good about that.)

     I can be reached at:

- at –
- dot –

     ...if you’d like to renew your offers.

Overextensions And Corrective Mechanisms, Part 1

     Most people are willing to give up their preconceptions...once they’ve had them tattooed on their heads with a blunt instrument. – Keith Laumer

     We all want to believe there’s An Answer: a single great revelation that, properly understood and applied, would solve all “problems” and usher in Utopia. Mind you, I didn’t say that we all do believe it; just that we all want to. The desire seems to be built into the deep structure of our minds.

     Some years ago, there was a popular bumper sticker:

Christ Is Your Answer

     I’m a religious man, but even I could see the difficulties there. Is Christ the answer to the flood in my basement? How about to my property taxes, or to the poison ivy in my back yard? Yes, Christ Is The Answer to the overarching human problem: how to conduct oneself so as to gain admission to eternal bliss in the next life. But for a whole range of temporal problems, even the most devout Christian must reach for the phone, the checkbook, or the RoundUp® rather than a crucifix.

     Single, all-encompassing Answers that would function as absolute panaceas are lacking. This is especially so in that maddeningly thorny realm we call politics.

     Some years ago, in what I consider to be my most important political analysis, I strove to demonstrate that two political families, one far better established than the other, had important things to say to one another – and that both had a need to listen. It drew quite a lot of praise. But many who were pleased by that essay, or by parts of it, managed to miss the underlying principle, which is of so much greater importance that it cannot be overstated:

All Human Visions Are Partial.

     As we are temporal creatures with finite powers, there are limits to what we can do, see, and conceive. Those limits dictate that our “answers” will also be limited. The implications “should” be “obvious”...but they’re not. First among those implications is this one: Every idea has a domain of applicability, outside which is it useless or worse.

     I recall first tumbling to this in a discussion of investment strategies with an older, much more experienced coworker. At the time he was investigating the Elliott Wave theory, which had a considerable grip on many investors’ thinking. He allowed that the wave pattern was suggestive, and that the associated theory had some appeal, but he also noted a flaw in the reasoning of its chief proponents: They never said where Elliott Wave analysis would fail to apply, nor did they ever allow that there might be any such conditions.

     It was a major “of course!” moment for a young thinker. Elliott Wave proponents hold out their theory as The Answer, at least within the huge domain of equities-market analysis. In that sense, the theory is Utopian in nature. It admits to no bounds on its applicability. Elliott Wave advocates are adroit at explaining away cases that appear to contradict their analysis. Such evasions render the theory more an article of faith than a useable technique of technical analysis.

     That “of course!” illumination would serve me well when I set sail onto the turbulent seas of political theory and political economy.

     I spent a number of years studying anarchism as an approach to the problems of social organization. Anarchism has many attractions. David Friedman and others have written much about the subject. Yet the most dedicated proponents of anarchism can all foresee difficulties that would destabilize and politicize an anarchist society.

     Anarchism, like all political propositions, has a domain of applicability. Outside that domain it functions poorly. If pressed to go outside its proper domain, it’s rapidly destabilized and replaced by some kind of government. I made this point in the Foreword to Freedom’s Fury:

     I shan’t attempt to deceive or misdirect you: I’m horrified by politics and all its fruits. I consider the use of coercive force against innocent men the greatest of all the evils we know. But I try, most sincerely, to be realistic about the world around us. In that world, peopled by men such as ourselves, anarchism—the complete abjuration and avoidance of the State—is unstable. In time, it will always give way to politics. Hammer it to the earth as many times as you may, you will never succeed in killing it permanently. The State will rise again.

     I strove to illustrate the process in the tale told in that novel. (If you find that intriguing, beware: Freedom’s Fury is the third volume of a trilogy.)

     The libertarian movement, of which I was once an activist and in which I still find much that’s admirable, has made a number of missteps. Several of them derive from the inability to admit that as an organizing principle, individual freedom has a domain of applicability outside which one must not attempt to push it. I noted a few of the problems in The Conservative-Libertarian Schism. I’m sure the thoughts I provided there can be extended.

     If I’m to avoid monotony here, I suppose I should make the key statement right away. It’s key because individuals are...individuals. Smith doesn’t agree with Jones about what constitutes a “problem” that demands a “solution.” Both of them are at odds with Davis. And just as individuals have individual views and priorities, so also will families, groups, communities, and nations:

For any given thing you might want:
What price are you willing to pay?
And what price is your neighbor willing to pay
That you might have it at his expense?

     As decision-making units enlarge, considerations that are both opinion-bound and frankly political rise to eclipse considerations that individuals prize most highly. We can see it even in the “direct democracy” of the old New-England-style “town meeting,” at which every resident has a vote on every issue. In the practical sense, not every Jones is willing for every Smith to have unfettered personal freedom of action. Quite a number of Joneses would object to having neighbor Smith blare obscene music from his rooftop at pain-threshold levels, even on a nominal holiday. Virtually all Joneses would be averse to living immediately next door to a slaughterhouse. Such things leave bad impressions on the kids, to say nothing of property values.

     Rights theory, so critically important when we strive to cope with interactions between individuals, tends to fade when decision-making is done by groups. Respect for individual freedom, something virtually all Americans would profess, starts to be demoted in priority when neighborhood effects, externalities, and other implied consequences of absolute personal latitude arise to bedevil us.

     This is not to say that individuals’ rights can ever be completely ignored in collective decision-making. There are absolutes that must not be transgressed. However, even in this regard there are thorny cases, as Jack Vance has shown us:

     Xanten made an airy gesture. “A.G. Philidor, you oversimplify grievously. Do you consider me obtuse? There are many kinds of history. They interact. You emphasize morality. But the ultimate basis of morality is survival. What promotes survival is good; what induces mortifaction is bad.”
     “Well spoken!” declared Philidor. “But let me propound a parable. May a nation of a million beings destroy a creature who otherwise will infect all with a fatal disease? Yes, you will say. Once more: ten starving beasts hunt you, that they may eat. Will you kill them to save your life? Yes, you will say again, though here you destroy more than you save. Once more: a man inhabits a hut in a lonely valley. A hundred spaceships descend from the sky, and attempt to destroy him. May he destroy these ships in self-defense, even though he is one and they are a hundred thousand? Perhaps you will say yes. What, then, if a whole world, a whole race of beings, pits itself against this single man? May he kill all? What if the attackers are as human as himself? What if he were the creature of the first instance, who otherwise will infect a world with disease? You see, there is no area where a simple touchstone avails. We have searched and found none. Hence, at the risk of sinning against Survival, we—I, at least; I can only speak for myself—have chosen a morality which at least allows me calm. I kill—nothing. I destroy—nothing.”

     More anon.

Quickies: Beware Changes In Tactics

     I never know what in my morning reading will get the juices flowing. Today it’s this brief piece by Mark “Mad Dog” Sherman:

     I agree the progressive left cannot win. The actions of Google, Facebook, and the rest will not be enough; middle America is on to them, the American leviathan has awakened.

     Optimism plus confidence makes for an attractive posture...but there’s never a justification for absolute confidence. Military special operators will tell you: assuming that your adversary is stupid, unobservant, or inflexible can be hazardous to your health.

     Imagine for a moment that the Democrats’ strategists agree with Mark – i.e., that they realize that “middle America is on to them” and must change tracks to have a hope of prevailing in November 2020. Imagine further that they are neither stupid, nor unobservant, nor inflexible; indeed, assume that they’re quite as bright, perceptive, and agile as anyone on the Right. What new tactics might follow?

  • Attempts to distract “the awakened” with trumped-up crises and other diversions;
  • Fresh allegations of corruption among major Trump Administration figures;
  • New techniques for discouraging “the awakened” from voting.
  • New techniques for corrupting the ballot-counting.
  • New initiatives for enfranchising illegal aliens;
  • Other adventures in electoral “lawfare.”

     Those possibilities came off the top of my head at 5:45 AM, Gentle Reader. I have no doubt that there are other possible avenues the Democrats might explore.

     Glenn Reynolds has made a mantra out of "Don’t get cocky!" It’s the most important advice the Right will hear over the next sixteen months. Verbum sat sapienti.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Quickies: Assistance Requested

     I was at one time a first-rank software engineer; I specialized in operating systems and their customization, real-time executives, embedded applications, and communications. However, I am unschooled in the ways of the Web, especially blogging software and the database technology beneath it. (My knowledge of HTML ends with version 3.2.) As Google has proved hostile to opinions such as mine, and is becoming ever more likely to “do something about it,” I’m contemplating abandoning Blogger, a Google subsidiary, and moving to an independently hosted website beholden to no one but myself.

     I need help setting up such a website:

  • What blogging software is best for the sort of material that appears here?
  • Where do I get it?
  • What does it cost?
  • How is it installed and customized?
  • What does the administrator need to learn to manage it?

     Are there any Gentle Readers willing to walk me through this process?

Quickies: Establishments Everywhere Are Running Scared

     Establishments have a unifying characteristic: they want to remain Established. (“The aim of the High is to remain where they are.” – Orwell) Control of the entertainment media is essential to the hegemony of the sociocultural Establishment. The power of story in popularizing an idea eclipses every other form of communication. Stories are, in large measure, how the young are taught. To a large measure, such stories determine how adults think.

     Say what you will about Amazon, when it opened its doors to independent creators of fiction and music via CreateSpace (since folded into Kindle Direct Publishing), it allowed non-Establishment and anti-Establishment voices to find a substantial audience for the first time. And yes, I’m one of the beneficiaries.

     However, not everyone approves:

     BUYER BEWARE! Please realize that anyone can publish a book these days. The only way to protect yourself from wasting your time and money is to buy books from traditional publishers. Books published by the author are seldom a good bargain....Join me in urging Amazon not to dump self-published books in with real books. Thanks.

     The woman who penned the above attached it to a one-star review of an independently published SF novel. I have not read that novel...but has she? Somehow I doubt it. She left no review under her own name. To judge from the other material attached to her Amazon profile, she’s outrightly hostile to self-published writers.

     Why? Is someone paying her to emit such sentiments? If so, who? And to what end? If “traditionally published” fiction were so clearly superior to independently published work, why would self-pubbed writers be of any concern to the barons of Pub World?

     Are we about to suffer a plague of such defamations, simply because channels have been opened for us whom “traditional publishers” have scorned? Do they detest us so greatly? What interpretation would such a campaign support? Could it be anything but rampant fear among the potentates of Pub World? Are they so greatly threatened by low-priced competition not beholden to their prejudices and preconceptions about what will “sell?”

     You don’t have to be a gypsy fortune-teller to read these tea leaves.

Quickies: Pandemic Lunacy

     It seems that entire cultures and nations are susceptible to fits of insanity: the persistent, unshakable belief in something that is demonstrably not so:

     A clear majority of the Arab world continues to believe that Israel is the main threat in the Middle East and North Africa, a comprehensive BBC poll of 11 Arab countries revealed on Monday.

     The poll — which involved interviews with over 25,000 respondents in Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Yemen, Iraq, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria — also demonstrated that a strict social conservatism prevailed throughout the region, exemplified by a violent hatred of homosexuality.

     Opposition to women holding positions of power and influence, as well as sympathy for the practice of “honor killings” — the execution of female relatives for allegedly shaming their families — remains widespread as well.

     Israel is a threat? To what? To whom? Israel is a nation of nine million persons, surrounded by enemies that outnumber it twenty to one. It would have been utterly overrun by now had it not acquired nuclear weapons. What threat does it pose to its Muslim neighbors, other than the implied one of embarrassing economic and technological outperformance?

     I trust I needn’t say anything about Muslims’ hatred of homosexuals and women’s emancipation. Those subjects should require no explication.

     It’s time to repeat something the entire First World (and most of the rest) should already know:

Islam is toxic to human life.

     Islam corrupts the rational processes of the mind. It infects its holder with convictions – and behavior – characteristic of savages. It celebrates its atrocities and clamors for more. Europe is learning the truth of this on its own hide. Americans should draw the moral.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The FCC and Permissible Speech

The FCC rule that protects Internet companies that publish public commentary - forums, blogs, social media, etc. - is only protective as long as the company is Content-Neutral.

Content-Neutral means that - other than cooperating with authorities to prevent/detect actual crimes - the provider of such services keeps a hands-off approach, treating every post equally.

Which, social media is NOT doing.

One of the most important lawsuits to file would be a class-action suit against the big Three - Facebook, Twitter, and Google (as the owner of Youtube). This should be SOON - the election next year will, otherwise, likely be influenced by the heavy-handed Progressive forces behind those companies. I want them to enter election season wary of over-reach, and not using their companies as a Force for the Dems.

Please toss a few bucks to Project Veritas, which is providing a lot of the ammunition against these Regressive Forces.

The Limits Of The Law

     Legislatures will legislate about anything. it’s why there are so many nonsense laws on the books. Every so often you’ll find a list of some of the sillier ones on the Web. Here’s one such.

     (I had no idea it was illegal to slurp soup in New York! I’d better augment the Fortress’s soundproofing right away.)

     It’s characteristic of such laws that no attempt is made to enforce them. (Why they were never repealed is a separate subject.) In some cases, the authorities know the law is silly and would prefer not to look ridiculous...well, all right, more ridiculous. In others, enforcement would be impossible for various reasons. Often what makes enforcement impossible is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

     The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

     Note the wording: shall not be violated. This style of construction indicates that the prohibition applies to every level of government. Compare it to the construction of the First Amendment:

     Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

     This amendment prohibits Congress from interfering with religion, expression, and peaceable assembly, no other level. That was quite deliberate, as several of the states had established churches and censorship laws at the time of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Those states would not have agreed to the Bill of Rights had it invalidated their existing laws on those subjects.

     I made note of the privacy-preserving power of the Fourth Amendment in The Wise and the Mad:

     “I’ve been told that a wise man once said that ‘love laughs at hardware,’” Holly said. “I know the sort of love Heidi and Roland chose to enjoy isn’t to everyone’s taste. It’s not that long since it was illegal, both here and in the U.K. Oscar Wilde went to prison for it, did he not?”
     “He did,” Walsingham said.
     “Is sodomy still against the law across the water?”
     “That law was overturned quite some time ago,” he said. “There have been attempts to have it reinstated, but all have failed.”
     “It’s the same here, and just as well,” Holly said. “There can be no pretense of autonomy or personal privacy in a land where the private bodily conduct of consenting individuals is a fit subject for the attention of the police.”
     Walsingham’s face worked. “That is the usual argument. Yet there are many who regard the maintenance of society’s moral standards to be of greater importance.”
     “I know. It’s unclear to some how utterly impossible it is to have both individual freedom and legally enforced sexual standards at once. The Constitution was the touchstone for reform here, particularly the Fourth Amendment. But America has groups demanding the return of the old laws, too.”

     Those “groups demanding the return of the old laws” will fail for the reason given immediately above. On net balance, that’s a good thing...but in some cases, not everyone will agree.

     There’s a rising tide of pro-life / anti-abortion sentiment, which is all to the good. The carnage of abortion has reaped at least fifty million defenseless lives in this country alone, and has helped to corrupt relations between the sexes simultaneously. But no matter how strong that tide becomes, there will be abortions of a certain kind that will escape scrutiny, and therefore any attempt to ban or restrict them by law. The Fourth Amendment is the reason.

     If Miss Smith is the only person aware that she’s pregnant – a common condition in the first couple of months of a pregnancy – she and compliant Doctor Jones can arrange for a dilation and curettage (D&C) abortion with no one else aware that it’s taken place. Such abortions took place long before Roe v. Wade, without legal consequences. There’s no way to prevent them through the law.

     Think about what it would take to ensure that Miss Smith’s condition could not be concealed. Even the most invasive scheme for bodily monitoring would be uncertain at best – but more to the point, it would be a Fourth Amendment violation. Nor could the abortion be detected through any monitoring of Doctor Jones, as the D&C procedure is also a treatment for certain menstrual disorders. If both were to remain discreet, they would be safe from any attempt to prosecute them, regardless of how the law is drawn.

     President George W. Bush, in his early remarks about the importance of building a “culture of life,” was undoubtedly aware of this. While no law would prevent Miss Smith’s abortion, her own conscience could do so, if it were equipped with knowledge of the sanctity of human life. A culture of life would be one in which Miss Smith had absorbed that knowledge and incorporated it into her moral foundation.

     (This is in part what Catholics mean by the importance of a properly formed conscience. We’re all amoral savages from birth to about age seven. We have to be taught not to kill and eat our playmates or kidnap their little sisters for “a bit of fun.” In most households those lessons normally come right after the one about not putting your elbows on the table.)

     So even in the most severe imaginable legal regime, there would be some abortions that the law could not touch. Though it might horrify my Gentle Readers, we should be grateful for the Constitutional constraints that make it so.

     The law has limits. Congress cannot outlaw bad weather, the demands of the “global warming / climate change” flacksters notwithstanding. Neither can it police the entirely private conduct of individuals without transgressing the Fourth Amendment. Finally, the common-law tradition of the presumption of innocence protects individuals from prosecution for unspecified crimes and accusations in the absence of a demonstrable crime.

     Some people dislike those constraints. Others argue that the law has more than one function – that it can also be used to “send a message.” The technical term for such persons is “fools.” A law that cannot be enforced, whatever the reason, weakens the public’s respect for the law and the lawmaking authority. We’re already seeing this play out with unenforceable anti-firearms laws in several states, including New York. We’ve seen it nationwide in the cases of alcohol prohibition and the War on Drugs. In the worst cases, an unenforceable law can foment a rebellion.

     Fortunately, the Constitution is very hard to amend. The older Constitutional provisions are hardest of all to change, thank God. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments are among the oldest. If you’ve wondered why Kelo v. New London raised such an uproar, or why the National Popular Vote Compact has so many tempers flaring, now you know.

     It is empirically well established that a law that more than 2% of the public is willing to violate is unenforceable de facto. Just now, at least a third of the public would willingly violate any anti-abortion statute. We who cherish innocent human life might chafe at that, but it’s the way things are.

     So the pro-life advocate’s first duty is to build a culture of life. With such a culture in place, laws against detectable abortions could have some practical effect. But even were we successful beyond all hope, there would still be some abortions. They would go unpunished for the reasons set out here. Legislated law and human law enforcement are not all-powerful. Despite this unfortunate aspect, that’s something for which we should be grateful.

Monday, June 24, 2019

It’s Real And Undeniable

     Google has taken a corporate position against Donald Trump, the Right, and Christianity:

Project Veritas Google from doug fresh on Vimeo.

     This is insupportable. But what must we do to combat it?

What Is And What Is Not

     Discourse can illuminate...sometimes. But it can also obscure, occlude, and confuse. The latter effect is nowhere more evident than when discourse approaches metaphysical fundamentals.

     A relevant sidelight: For anyone who isn’t already drearily familiar with my affiliations: I’m a Catholic. Catholic scholars have a long history of exegetical interpretations of sacred writings. They’ve done a lot of quarreling over variations in interpretation of Scriptural passages, sometimes over individual words. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to be familiar, not with the Bible alone, but with the totality of the intellectual, moral, and social context in which each book of the Bible was written. The writers were not always motivated solely by dedication to the will of God. Indeed, in some cases they were more interested in telling an entertaining story. (If this be heresy, as Bible literalists would insist, make the most of it.)

     But the will of God isn’t something authoritatively recorded in a human-readable form. The Bible does not express it; it expresses what various persons proclaimed to be the will of God. Perhaps some of those proclamations were correct, but in all cases it’s vital to remember that what we read in the Bible are the words of men.

     Arguments in metaphysics are like that, too. Metaphysics is the study of what precedes all human concepts and discourse: fundamental reality, “what is and what is not” above and apart from all our opinions about it. All symbols and concepts are attempts to associate abstractions with such fundamentals, so we can think about them in an orderly fashion. Metaphysics is our struggle to reason about the very stuff that makes reasoning possible in the first place. Douglas Hofstadter would call this a Tangled Hierarchy: the most tangled of all.

     Metaphysical discourse cannot change what is and what is not, any more than Bishop Berkeley’s subjectivist-idealism could soften the rock Samuel Johnson kicked when he said “I refute it thus.” But a pseudo-metaphysician can infect the naive listener with a disease of the mind. That sickness consists of the replacement of what is by something that is not. It can be fatal; indeed, it often is.

     Murky stuff, eh? Well, if you’re a regular Gentle Reader, you should know what I’m like by now. Especially on Mondays.

     From the above you might think I have some extraordinarily abstruse (not to say obtuse) point to make that would require a doctorate in philosophy to unravel. Really, it’s just a preface to what’s lit my boilers for today, calibrated to give you a sense for the sort of thoughts I percolate after encountering an outrage. And Bubba, do we ever have an outrage today:

     London, England, Jun 21, 2019 / 11:15 am (CNA).- A British judge has authorized doctors to perform an abortion on a pregnant Catholic woman with developmental disabilities and a mood disorder, despite the objections of the woman’s mother and the woman herself. The woman is 22 weeks pregnant....

     Doctors at the trust wished to abort her pregnancy and argued that, due to her diminished mental capacity, the abortion would be less traumatic for the woman than giving birth, especially if the baby would then be placed in foster care.

     The woman’s mother made clear to doctors and the court that she would assume care of her grandchild.

     So here we have a woman in the sixth month of pregnancy, admittedly of diminished mental capacity but otherwise healthy, whose mother is willing to take responsibility for the child. But a “Court of Protection” – whose protection, pray tell? – is ordering the death of that baby. Why?

     [Court of Protection Justice Nathalie Lieven] said she did not believe the woman understood what it meant to have a baby.

     “I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” Lieven said.

     Lieven also said she did not believe the woman's mother, who already helps care for her daughter, would be able to offer care for a grandchild at the same time.

     Allowing the child to be born and then removed from the woman’s home and placed into foster care or adoption would be against the woman’s own interests, the judge concluded.

     “I think [the woman] would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed [from her care],” Lieven said, because “it would at that stage be a real baby.”

     Lieven has characterized her ruling as “compassionate.”

     Take a few moments over that, Gentle Reader. I need a few, myself.

     A few days ago I wrote a piece about moral fundamentals that specifically addressed the right to life / the wrongness of murder. Needless to say, the pro-abortion crowd would have none of it; it transgresses against their most hallowed sacrament. But moral fundamentals aren’t a matter of opinion. Either they exist or they don’t.

     If moral fundamentals are real, they are metaphysically given preconditions for human existence, written directly into our natures. No amount of clever discourse can set them at naught. No teleological rationales can do away with the consequences from violating them. Those consequences will be as malign as the violations themselves. Perhaps more so.

     There is no middle ground. Either humans possess a right to life – i.e., our lives are morally protected against unjustified invasion by others – or we don’t. In the former case, “Justice” Lieven is complicit in the murder of a helpless infant; in the latter, our lives continue only by the willingness of others to permit them.

     There are many, these days, who hold to a collectivist variation on the solipsist thesis. It’s called “social construction of reality.” In essence, this thesis holds that if a sufficient number of persons agree that “X is real,” then X is real – and that the inverse is also true. Belief supersedes and displaces the metaphysically given. Legislation can nullify the right to life. A plebiscite can set pi equal to three.

     I feel a need to label these folks. They’re not quite subjectivists, as they require ratification of their “reality” by a majority of like-minded. Neither are they solipsists, for the same reason. Let’s go with “soliptitarians.” An ugly thesis should be served by an ugly neologism, don’t you think?

     It must be a heady feeling to believe that your will, at least when united with a sufficient number of others, can determine the fundamentals of existence. But no more than fifty years ago the soliptitarian would have been locked into a room with soft walls. We don’t do that anymore. Perhaps it’s because so many of them have positions on university faculties.

     Soliptitarians would tell you – probably in chorus – that the authority of “Justice” Lieven’s “Court of Protection” is wielded “for the common good.” Power-worshippers whip out that shibboleth whenever they need to disguise an atrocity. Thaddeus McCotter has some thoughts about that:

     But what can one expect from this “justice” who, prior to reaching the bench, represented the British Pregnancy Advisory Service—an Orwellian name for an abortion provider—and argued British women should be able to have abortions at home rather than a hospital?

     What can one expect from this “justice” who, prior to reaching the bench, argued restrictions in “Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were a violation of the United Kingdom’s Human Rights Act” and claimed they were “akin to torture.”

     Yes, what can one expect from this “justice” who now feels her eugenicist decree that a pregnant woman must endure a forced abortion and de facto sterilization is compassionate—and, of course, for the common good?

     Nothing good. Pray for Europe.

     Perhaps prayer will help. The soliptitarian will have none of that, of course; Prayer offends against the “reality” he and his fellows have “constructed,” in which what is and what is not depends upon their whim. But for treating their disease of the mind, nothing known to modern medicine will suffice.

Burning River Re-Visited

As I've written before, I grew up in Cleveland.

Well, technically, Lakewood, the nearest Western suburb. We share the same lake view. As a kid, on the 4th of July, we would gather near the Lakewood Park fence to watch the fireworks, and get a 2-for - we could see both Lakewood's and Cleveland's fireworks from that vantage point. One year, when an accident caused most of the Cleveland fireworks to erupt in just a few minutes, we were able to see it, then enjoy our own fireworks for the rest of the time.

Trips to Cleveland, via the Rapid Transit, the local commuter train, were always fun. We saw the then-busy industrial activity along the route. In the warmer months, we hurriedly closed the windows that had been opened for ventilation once we passed the 25th street station. The smell of the steel mills always included a hefty dose of sulphur. Ohio coal is quite high-sulphur, and gives off that familiar rotten-egg smell you might remember from chemistry class.

One time, when a prior train broken down in the station backed up following trains, my train was stuck for an extended period of time - I think only around 10 minutes. But, that was long enough to cause most of the passengers to face a dreadful situation. It was a terrible choice - keep the windows closed, and sweat, or open them, and gag on the nasty smell.

Lake Erie suffered from that pollution of the Cuyahoga River. The lake regularly churned up dead fish, and the odor wasn't pleasant. The lakeshore had become a dumping ground for trash. Few locals used the lake for swimming - like most of my friends, I preferred the local pools. Those that took the trip to Edgewater or Huntington beaches generally had some underage drinking and partying on their minds.

So, when the river's burning caused the lake to became a flashpoint for environmental activism, I was on board with it all. Above is a picture of the lake before cleanup.

Turns out the story about the burning lake was more nuanced than we had been told - as we are now finding out about a lot of "truths" we'd been fed in those times.

Much of the story was not told at the time - Cleveland got a lot of blame for what wasn't their fault.

The Cuyahoga River - the name means Crooked River - originates in the upmost corner of the state, in Ashtabula county. It travels down to Akron - where a lot of the pollution, including sewage, originates - then snakes up to empty into Lake Erie.

The last part, when Cleveland's industries were active, did add to the pollution. One factor that is little known is that both the river and the lake are quite shallow. For that reason, any pollution has a greater effect than on other lakes in the Great Lakes system. Keep in mind that, as the water moves toward the Atlantic, the aggregate pollution increases - Erie has what it produces, plus some residual from the other lakes to the west.

For contrast, here's a picture of Lake Erie at Cleveland today

And, the Cuyahoga River many years after the fire.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Unfinished Stories, Unfinished Lives

     Unless all the Marquee characters die in the final scene – Hamlet, anyone? – the story is inherently unfinished. Life goes on; people continue to age, hopefully grow, and probably have other interesting things happen to them before they die. But a story is supposed to feel finished – i.e., that it ends conclusively, such that at least some major aspect of the characters’ lives has been settled for good. How is that to be done, especially if the author knows that that’s not the case?

     As simple as it looks, this is actually one of the unsolved classical problems of the fictioneer. It’s one of the reasons I find writing this stuff so hard.

     Not long ago I posted a plaint about my inability to find fresh reading material that isn’t an element in a never-ending series. It was heartfelt, but it definitely went against the current trend. These days everyone writes never-ending series. The creator’s desire to tie the thing off can be thwarted by his publisher – or by his readers. It happened to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Indeed, it can happen to anyone.

     In part, the unbounded series is motivated by its creator’s desire to economize on one of the most arduous of the fictioneer’s tasks: the creation of an attractive, plausible hero. Once you’ve concocted such a character, it can seem a shame to “waste” him. Moreover, such a character becomes your readers’ focus. Those who thrilled to your first opus about him will want him to return for further adventures. But there are other forces involved as well.

     What does the hero do after the story is over? Maybe he’s the sort that simply must have further adventures. In such a case, his creator’s hands are tied; his tale must go on. But maybe he settles down to “Standard Life:” marriage, suburban home, 2.4 kids, et cetera. While novels have been cast in such settings, it takes the talents of a Judith Guest to make them worth reading. So how does the writer convey to his readers the sense that “what follows would be too boring to read about, much less to write about” -- ?

     It really is an unsolved problem, Gentle Reader. And it keeps coming back to haunt me.

     A character with enough appeal to power a novel can be awfully hard to “put down,” fictionally at least. One contributing factor is the well-known phenomenon of Main Character Immunity. It afflicts more writers than not. Sometimes it compels an author to say, in effect: “Aha! You thought he was dead, but I was only joshing!” That’s what happened with Sherlock Holmes after Conan Doyle’s first attempt to put an end to him.

     I can’t seem to kill one of my heroes dead enough. The little bastard has just too much appeal. He keeps coming back, largely through my exploitation of open areas in his timeline into which I can insert more involvements. But at least that timeline is bounded by his quite definite demise, written unambiguously into the novel in which I first employed him. At some point – hopefully I’ve reached it already – he’ll stop popping into my narratives.

     And then, there are some heroes that are just too...too something. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is like that. You could hit him with a nuclear-armed cruise missile and he’d just fling it back at you. John Conroe is developing a similar problem with his characters Christian Gordon and Tatiana Demidova, the central actors of his “Demon Accords” series.

     There is something to be said in favor of the seemingly immortal hero, though. If he’s really that much more appealing than the norm, the writer can please both his readers and his broker with an endless parade of stories about him, at the price of a single spate of character construction, at that. I sometimes wonder if Tom Clancy’s series of novels about Jack Ryan, who single-handedly saved the world over and over, came to an end because Clancy willed it, or because Clancy himself passed away. (Note, however, that others have made use of Ryan since Clancy’s passing, assuredly with the permission of his estate. People want additional stories about the poor guy, so he can’t be allowed to rest.)

     But all things must pass. If we except characters such as Christian Gordon and Tatiana Demidova – John Conroe’s two self-Fallen angels of the “Demon Accords” series – heroes all die, just as we normal folks do. The problem is that no one wants to read about that. The writer has to shuffle the hero offstage in a fashion that mollifies those who’ve loved him – and the more they’ve loved him, the harder that will be.

     Just now I’m grappling with how to deal with several such figures:

  • Christine D’Alessandro,
  • Kevin Conway,
  • Larry and Trish Sokoloff,
  • Rachel MacLachlan,
  • Althea Morelon,
  • and several figures from the Futanari stories.

     And to add a pinch of salt to the wound, every now and then I’ll toss off a short story that prompts my readers to add a character to the list: Evan Conklin and Gail Kristof from “Sweet Things” are the latest such.

     Granted, characters too appealing to dispose of aren’t the worst problem a writer could have. But they can pose a trial to a writer who itches to set off in some totally new direction. Especially when he sees his bank balance running low.

     (Cross-posted at that other dive I run.)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

For Homeschoolers In The Audience (Sticky; Scroll Down For New Posts)

     I’ve just made a new acquaintance who has a large number of textbooks, suitable for Christian homeschoolers, who’s eager to give them away to families that could put them to use. The most she would ask the recipient to do is to help defray the shipping costs, so there’s very little downside. If you’re interested in receiving more information about what Karen has available, please email me at:


     …and I’ll pass your contact information along to her. Thanks a bunch!

Using Baseball to Explain Why Clinton Lost

It's a nice analogy, that makes understanding WHY Clinton's "more votes" didn't matter.

5G Illustrates Why the USA Cannot Use European Models for Public Policy

Here's a short explanation of how 5G implementation will likely play out.

I do understand the influence of European travel/academic study on many college students. They contrast the buildings, the cultural norms, the weary cynicism of the educated class - all of them seem so much better than their dreary commonplace lives in America.

But, the truth is - Americans ARE different. And, our cultural norms and our political and economic systems should reflect that difference.

We have a very large country. Not just the size of the available land, but also the tendency of Americans to spread out within our own communities. We like neighbors, but would prefer to have some physical distance from them. We are social creatures, but we don't live in each other's pockets.

We like family, but, generally, would prefer to live independent from those outside our "nuclear" family. This is not just the preference of young people who would like to live their lives without interference from parents and in-laws. This is also the preference of those parents and in-laws, who will often choose solo living far from family, if the alternative is to bunk in together.

That might be a reflection of the people who came to America - and stayed. Examples include:

  • Scandanavians, notoriously uncommunicative and with a reputation for enjoying solitary life.
  • English, whose preference for minding one's own business enabled to survive on a crowded isle.
  • Germans, Swiss, Dutch - all were among the early settlers who, when they had the opportunity to live apart from family, did.
Even within families, square footage available in the average home exceeds that of families in the rest of the world. Europeans have 1/2 the space of average Americans; Africans live in 1/26 the space available to us.

So Americans get used to having room to stretch out. The cultural expectations of the rest of the world is that adults will have to manage their interactions within their family to maintain harmonious relations. 

Outside of that family, Americans have space, Europeans do not - lots are much larger in America, allowing a bigger buffer zone between neighbors. So, what your neighbor thinks you should do has less effect on you. Acting independently, and without a whole lot of concern about what the neighbors think, is a noted marker of American culture.

Classification Nation

     "Could you tell me a little about how the software is going to work? Not the tech stuff, just the kind of windy generalities a non-engineer could understand."
     Svenson squinted. "Why do you want to know, Ben?"
     "It might help me to be credible to the blue-suiters when we’re together in the trenches."
     The group leader shook his head. "They’re not expected to ask. In fact, they’re not allowed to know, both for the sake of an objective test and to protect OA’s proprietary technologies. And I wouldn’t use that trench idiom with an Air Force officer. Their hands never touch dirt."
     "Oh. Okay. But how about a little sop to a layman’s curiosity?"
     Svenson looked off for a moment. "Well, I could tell you..."
     Holloway leaned forward.
     "...but then I’d have to kill you." The group leader’s face twisted into a juvenile grin.
     Holloway groaned and smacked himself on the forehead. "I walked into that one, didn’t I?"
     "Yes, you did. Thanks. Now let’s get busy on your script."

     [From Chosen One]

     I worked in the defense sector for a very long time, and as such I had to become familiar with the classification scheme that applies to information the Department of Defense deems too important to bruit around casually. For those of us in the civilian part of that world, only the bottom three levels of the scheme were of regular importance:

  1. Confidential: Some harm to U.S. interests would accrue from the dissemination of this information, but recovery is likely.
  2. Secret: Serious harm to U.S. interests would accrue from the dissemination of this information. Recovery is uncertain.
  3. Top Secret: Extremely grave harm to U.S. interests would accrue from the dissemination of this information. Recovery would be impossible in the foreseeable future.

     There are levels above those three, though how many there are and how they’re defined I cannot say. Suffice it to say that even at the Secret level, an unhallowed disclosure, whether deliberate or accidental, was regarded as a matter for significant discipline. In some cases it could lead to felony charges and imprisonment.

     When information is protected by law from dissemination, one of the consequences is the use of the classification scheme to hide secrets that have nothing to do with the national interest. So it has been in the past, and so it is today:

     Last Wednesday the intelligence community launched its first attack on Attorney General William Barr’s investigation into its illegal acts and abuses of power during the 2016 election. In a New York Times article entitled “Justice Department Seeks to Question CIA in its Own Russia Investigation,” the IC makes clear its fear of the results of Barr’s investigation of their spy operation on candidate Trump in 2016 that continued through his early presidency.

     The article, obviously written at the behest of its intelligence community sources — “current and former American officials” — is the first of many concerted attacks on Attorney General William Barr’s investigation of the joint CIA/FBI spy operation. Many other articles, based on carefully crafted leaks to the media and Congress, are sure to follow because current and former high-ranking officials of those agencies (and probably the NSA as well) have a lot to lose.

     John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, is running the investigation under Barr’s direction. From the Times report, we can easily deduce the fact that those who ran the spy op — including CIA Director Gina Haspel — are running scared from the Durham investigation.

     It’s already become irrefutably clear to anyone paying attention that persons in the FBI, CIA, and DoJ did indeed violate the law in at least two ways: first, by the unwarranted wiretapping of Carter Page and others in the Trump for President campaign under a demonstrably fallacious rationale; second, by the “leak” of information to the press about investigations and other developments arising from those wiretaps, in violation of various elements of the United States Code.

     The CIA, in particular, is not pleased about being the subject of an investigation with potential criminal indictments in prospect:

     [T]he CIA isn’t going to cooperate. As the Times article says, [CIA Director Gina] Haspel has told her officials to cooperate but — and here’s the big catch — still work to protect “… critical pieces of intelligence whose disclosure could jeopardize sources, reveal collection methods or disclose information provided by allies, according to current and former American officials…”

     Either the CIA is going to cooperate — as the president ordered — or it isn’t. Clearly, it isn’t. There’s no limitation on the cooperation Trump ordered, but Haspel and her people are going to drag their feet, and probably hide evidence and lie to protect themselves from the investigators.

     That part of the Times story reveals the CIA’s attitude, which may be imputed to Haspel. Again, it says, “Senior agency officials have questioned why the CIA’s analytical work should be subjected to a federal prosecutor’s scrutiny.”

     That’s it in a nutshell: the CIA believes it should not be accountable for its misdeeds, even if laws have been broken.

     Surely if “the CIA’s analytical work” was within the parameters of the law, those involved have nothing to fear, right? Yet there is palpable fear in Langley over the Barr / Durham investigation – so much so that they recoil from having it called an “investigation:”

     [Disgraced former FBI Director] James Comey — probably at the behest of then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch — only referred to the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s felonious use of a private, unsecured email system as a “matter.” By doing so he tried to exclude the possibility that it was a criminal investigation despite the fact that it very much was one. So is the Barr/Durham investigation. It’s not a “review.” By definition, such an investigation is an investigation into possible criminal actions.

     And by Director Haspel’s own statements, the CIA will use the classification scheme, and the purported seriousness of the information it’s used to protect, to protect...itself.

     A nation cannot have a scheme for keeping secrets, violations to be punishable by law, without the possibility that that scheme will be abused. It’s simply not possible to keep villains from exploiting such a system. On the one hand, several of the most recent prosecutions for espionage have involved Classified Documents Control clerks: persons with blanket authority to handle even the most serious of the nation’s secrets. On the other, the use of classification to shield evidence of criminal wrongdoing against disclosure, with persons of unreviewable authority standing guard against penetration, is at the heart of the current controversy. So as with all items of power, how it will be used depends upon the motives and character of the persons who strive to use it.

     Could there be a better testament to the importance of Friedrich Hayek’s analysis of “Why The Worst Get On Top” — ? Could any consideration better outline the importance of restricting the classification system and its uses as severely as possible – perhaps even to its total elimination?

     It has been observed by many commentators that the preservation of a “secret” is best effected by discretion: that is, by simply not talking about it, nor writing it where others will read about it, nor otherwise making it available to ill-chosen eyes and minds. As the old saying goes, “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Robert A. Heinlein noted how this might apply to another of our national muddles: the poor protection of patentable and copyrightable materials:

     "Danny Boy, you are not going to patent the gadget. What would it get you? Seventeen years at the most... and no years at all in three fourths of the world. If you did patent or try to, Edison, and P. G. and E., and Standard would tie you up with injunctions and law suits and claimed infringements and I don't know what all. But you said yourself that you could put one of your gadgets in a room with the best research team G.A. has to offer and the best they could do would be to melt it down and the worst would be that they would blow themselves up. You said that. Did you mean it?"
     "Certainly. If they don't know how I insert the—"
     "Hush! I don't want to know. And walls have ears. We don't make any fancy announcements; we simply start manufacturing. Wherever power is cheapest today. Where is that?"

     [From Friday]

     Even if “the gadget” wouldn’t melt down or blow you up, getting out ahead of the pack and running like the wind provides the best form of security for most important information. After all, it’s the exploitation that matters, not the mere abstract knowledge. But all that is for another tirade.

     What ought to concern Us the People is that the Omnipotent State has contrived a protective method for the violation of our rights that effectively shields the perpetrators from all consequences – and that that method has been used in an attempt to unseat a legitimately elected president. Above all the faux outrages of our day, this one deserves proper scrutiny. Let’s make sure it gets it.