Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Maudlin Thought For New Year's Eve

In keeping with the sentiments in the essay below:

Hello, old friend!
What a strange coincidence to find you.
It's been fifteen years since we last met,
But I still recognized you.
So call the barman over here,
And let us fill our glasses,
And drink a toast to olden times,
Where all our memories lie,
Where all our memories lie...

Do you remember the time when we were young?
Lowly, lowly, low,
Outside the window, the frosty moonlight hung
On the midnight snow,
So we pulled our scarves around our faces in the night,
Huddled on the doorsteps where the fairy lights shone bright,
Singing Christmas carols while our breath hung in the light...
It all comes back like yesterday,
It almost seems like yesterday...

Do you remember the changes as we grew?
Slowly, slowly, slow,
Sneaking round the back way into movies after school,
For the evening show.
Chasing skinny bluejeaned girls across the building site,
Checking out the dance floor while the band played "Hold Me Tight,"
See the blonde one over there, I bet she'd be all right...
It all comes back like yesterday,
It almost seems like yesterday...

While I talked he sat and he never made a sound,
Staring at the glass beside me,
Hey, old friend, tell me what's on your mind?
Silence grows on you like ivy.

Do you remember the church across the sands,
Holy, holy, ho,
You stood outside and planned to travel to the lands
Where the pilgrims go,
So you packed your world up inside a canvas sack,
Set out down the highway with your rings and Kerouac,
Someone said they saw you in Nepal a long time back...
Tell me why you look away,
Don't you have a word to say?

He said "I don't remember,
"I don't want to remember,
"In fact I’ve heard too much already.
"I don't want to think,
"So just leave me here to drink,
"Wrapped up in the warmth of New York City.
"Oh, oh, it seems you just don't know,
"And you just don't understand me,
"I've got no use for the tricks of modern times,
"They tangle all my thoughts like ivy,
"Ivy..."

So I left him and I went out to the street,
Lowly, lowly, low,
Where the red-light girls were coming after me,
Forty dollar show,
All across the city's heart, the lights were coming on,
The hotel lift softly hummed a Cole Porter song,
If I went to look for him, I knew he would be gone...
A picture-card of yesterday
A photograph of yesterday...

And far off in a deserted part of town,
The shadows, like a silent army,
Flooded out the rooms in pools of blue and brown,
And stuck to all the walls like ivy,
Ivy,
Ivy...

(Al Stewart, "Modern Times," 1976)

Another Year In The Rear-View Mirror

     Viewed objectively, our celebration of the New Year is more than a bit silly. December 31 and January 1 are entirely undistinguished days, no different from any others on the calendar. Yet millions of people deem them occasions for raucous partying and the consumption of way too much salty snack food. There are numerous television “specials” replete with celebrity hosts and performers. There’s the whole Times Square / ball-drop spectacle. And of course, there’s the way the partier feels the next morning: the salt-saturated “hangover” that reminds him of why he’d said “never again” exactly one year before.

     The “year in review” column is a common practice among persons who write for public consumption. I’ve done a few, myself. (Perhaps this will be one such; you won’t know until you’ve read all the way to the end, now will you?) But the events of each year connect seamlessly to those of the year before it, and to the events that will follow. Apart from phenomena that are specifically tied to the calendar, such as sports seasons, the year-end punctuation is entirely a mental artifact.

     We do it anyway, and for a reason few of us take time to contemplate: we need mileposts. We need ways to demarcate our lives into segments small enough to comprehend. Yes, life is an organic whole. Yes, it isn’t really possible to regard one day apart from all others, much less one calendar year. But we seem to need to try it anyway.


     For obvious reasons, the elderly – I’m one such – are more likely to spend their time looking backward than forward. When we look backward, we might see particular years as particularly important to us, but it won’t be because of the number at the top of the calendar. It will be because the events of that period glow especially brightly in our memories. People and places, delights and disasters, and the recognition of important transitions all play a part. Most important is the way we remember those things in the context of life as a whole, for they, not the increments in the year, are the real mileposts in our lives.

     Yet there’s much about any man’s past that he would rather forget. As Jean Valjean says at the conclusion of Les Miserables, we’re all fools most of our lives. The overwhelming majority of our lessons arrive through our mistakes – and the greater the lesson, the more painful the mistake.

     Many of our worst mistakes arise from wishful thinking: that desire, in opposition to everything we’ve ever read, seen, heard, or experienced, to believe that “it will all be all right,” that “things will be better in the morning.” How often has it really been that way? How often have we awakened to a vista even bleaker than the night before? How many times have we said, to ourselves and to one another, “If only I’d known then what I know now?” How often have we strained to forget that we did know better then – that though we knew better, we willfully chose to do worse?

     I once tried to keep a count of such episodes. I lost track long ago.


     In his lawyer’s autobiography My Life In Court, the late Louis Nizer wrote that “Defeat is education. It is a step to something better.” That’s the optimistic view – the view that assumes that we’ll learn from our defeats, our mistakes. Yet in many cases we lose, or at least fail to gain that for which we strove, not because we blundered but because the prize was unattainable, or the enemy not defeasible, at least given the powers and resources at our command. Don Quixote isn’t remembered for fighting and losing to potentially defeasible enemies, but because he “tilted at windmills:” enemies he could not affect in the slightest, that didn’t even realize he was trying to joust with them.

     Consider how many people rail against acquisitiveness, which they call “greed.” Consider how many people condemn “racism” and “sexism,” which are merely the human preferences for others of one’s own kind. Consider how many people denounce “homophobia,” mistaking the natural disgust at an unnatural, unhealthful, life-shortening “lifestyle” for a fear that it might be contagious.

     These are “enemies” no man can defeat. They are written into our natures. To struggle against them isn’t noble, but foolish. Rather, we should seek to enlist them and turn their forces to our advantage. But try to convince a “progressive” of that.


     We salve the wounds from our follies, especially those from the tendency to “think” with our desires instead of our reason, with a variety of balms:

  • “At least you tried.”
  • “It couldn’t be helped.”
  • “Now you know better.”

     I did a few foolish things in the Year of Our Lord 2015. A couple were self-indulgent; others were merely heedless or thoughtless. No, I shan’t catalog them for you. As the gag runs in defense engineering: “How’re you doing?” “You have no need to know.” And I can recall, at least in a few instances, applying one or more of the remedies above to the hurt I’d earned. But those things can numb you to the lesson you could derive from your blunder. If there’s anything truly educational about defeat, it lies in the pain it inflicts; as P. J. O’Rourke has written, it teaches us that we’re boneheads.

     A wise man I paid too little attention at the time tried to tell me so. Given how often I’ve excused myself for my stupidities and struggled away from the pain they brought me, to assume that I learned from them, that I’ll manage to avoid those or similar follies in 2016, might be the most foolish thing of all.


     An odd column from the Curmudgeon Emeritus to the World Wide Web, eh? Chalk it up to too poor a night’s sleep and too good a memory. Kurtz looked into the abyss and was gripped by terror. I look back at 2015 and am gripped by if-onlies.

     Happy New Year, Gentle Reader. I hope your 2015 was a good one and your 2016 still better. For my part, I’ll try to look only forward. Above all else, conserve your hopes, for oftentimes they’re all you have. Besides, hope is one of the theological virtues.

How a patriot would have acted in Benghazi.

Obama and the Treason Class are adept at "narratives." Whites are bigots, conservatives are racists and haters, this is a propositional nation founded by words located in the dictionary, the Constitution is alive and formless like an amoeba, AND that "it's all so complicated."

It's all so complicated, in fact, that reality is hard to know most of the time and that therefore political action requires so much great thinking that our caring and patriotic leaders will get back to us on that at the time of the next presidential or congressional election. During that election the "debate" about our nation's future will involve video clips of Republicans throwing old ladies in wheel chairs off a cliff and a level of bullshit exceeded only by protestations of future good behavior from a convict at his parole hearing.

This is what is known as "the democratic process."

One of the ways to achieve clarity in this life is to engage in the Holmesian elimination of the impossible, which approach I have extolled previously.

Another is to ask yourself what is it that we are NOT hearing from the politicians?

Here's a masterful video showing how that approach can work and upon hearing the first couple of sentence of what Bill Whittle had to say about Benghazi you instantly know what Obama and his toadies went to great length to conceal about the night that our fellow citizens died needlessly, the night when they were shamelessly abandoned. They concealed that they did not care about the lives of Americans heroically and ferociously fighting our Muslim enemies far away in Libya.

You can see that it wasn't complicated in the least: Our guys were in trouble. Muslims were again proving they cannot be trusted and that they are our enemies. There were plenty of military options.

Instead, what Obama and his disgusting, cowardly advisers chose was for America to act -- not like a major world power whom no jumped up gaggle of jihadis would ever dare antagonize – but like a nation no more consequential or fearsome than Cuba.

And like a nation whose top leadership would break faith with the very best of its people.

It's all just pretext.

Just as the US has done in Syria, using ISIS as a pretext to involve itself directly and militarily in the Syrian conflict without ever actually fighting ISIS, Saudi Arabia is seeking to create a plausible cover story to do the same.[1]
ISIS toads burned a captured pilot alive. And at least three others were hung by chains and burned alive. ISIS beheadings are lovingly photographed and distributed on the web.

If that isn't satanic, what is? Yet, we only pretend to fight them and we still will not cut off their funding by destroying the oil tankers in Syria and Iraq. We still smile smugly as the Saudis and Qataris provide ISIS and the al Qaida forces with cash. What have we become? The acts I've described are unspeakably cruel but the ultimate dishonor is our refusal to change our policy and, finally, speak the anathema long since overdue. We have become numb to the reality of evil.

It's all just been a lie. It marks U.S. leaders as the most dishonorable men and women on the planet after ISIS itself. One cannot be allied with ISIS and be other than indecent and unclean. To state it delicately, there's no clean end of this that you can pick up.

This is justified because we're really after Pres. Assad. Why exactly Bashar al-Assad is a serious threat to the security of the United States is something that has yet to be laid out by Obama. But the servile American press cry crocodile tears over Assad's barrel bombs as though it were some new height of depravity. Which it isn't. And when hundreds of thousands of Syrians are killed in battles that would never have been fought had not the U.S. undertaken to sponsor a war against Assad, well, that's Assad's fault because he chose to fight the God-forsaken Western "coalition" instead of meekly roll over because Obama has a wish to dabble in The Great Game. Punahou boy makes good.

On top of which, the disgrace of our doing this doesn't seem to bother the Republicans. Nothing bothers those time servers, back scratchers, and Chamber of Commerce lap dogs. But wait! The likelihood of a Trump presidency fills them with horror so they're not without emotion.

There's that, I suppose.

Notes
[1] "Saudi "Anti-Terror Coalition" a Facade to Hide Yet More Terrorism." By Tony Cartalucci, New Eastern Outlook, 12/30/15.

H/t: Land Destroyer.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Collapse And The Crowd Part 2: The Lexicon

     Has there ever been a time at which so many people were so strident, so brazen, in demanding that they be accorded so many “rights?”

     My memory is a good one. I’ve lived sixty-three years. I remember nearly all of those years very well. And I cannot remember a time at which there was more political or polemical nonsense in the air than there is today.

     The following statement by a largely forgotten French statesman of the Nineteenth Century is critical to this subject. As I’ve already used it once today, once more should do no harm:

     Either rights exist, or they do not exist. If they exist, they involve absolute consequences...Furthermore, if a right exists, it exists at every moment. It is absolute today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in summer as in winter, not when it pleases you to declare it in force. – Louis Thiers

     Though Thiers disagreed with the Lockean / Jeffersonian conception of natural rights, he possessed the mental attribute most important to any discussion, whether of rights or anything else: clarity. More, he was unafraid to articulate what he clearly understood.

     We begin.


     The notion that “rights” can be created or enacted by the State is part of the sociopolitical fallacy we call democracy. Indeed, democracy is inimical to the concept of rights, which is why, apart from the election of Representatives, the Founding Fathers averted democracy from the Constitutional design. Yes, things are different today, owing to the ratification of various Amendments to the Constitution. But different is not synonymous with better, as innumerable examples from recent history will attest. At any rate, the Founders were candid about their fear of democracy and its offspring faction, which have their best representation today in the “movements” to which we’ve been subjected by various voting blocs and interest groups.

     Consider one of the day’s current contretemps: that over a “right” to a “living wage.” This notion has considerable popular support, and scant wonder: some millions of persons believe they would benefit from the elevation of the legal minimum wage to $15.00 per labor hour. You can count on the thoughtless and uneducated to back such proposals; just as they believe a “right” can be created by law, they believe the consequences of such a creation can be forestalled by wishing them away.

     How much intelligence need one possess to grasp that you can never do only one thing? Every action has both immediate and contingent consequences. One contingent consequence of elevating the legal minimum wage – indeed, of mandating a legal minimum in the first place – is that some employers will find that they can’t afford to employ as many bottom-tier workers as they currently do. Some jobs will vanish; others will be curtailed in their hours or benefits; some businesses will never be started. Total bottom-rung employment will decrease. Given these consequences, the workers vulnerable to those effects should be skeptical of the “benefit” that will accrue to them. Sadly, not enough such workers possess the clarity for it.

     That’s only one economic consequence of what happens when a legislature tries to create a “right” out of whole cloth. Another right – a real one this time – is infringed: the right to associate with others according to one’s own preferences and standards.

     “You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.” When a legislature tries to impose a fictitious “right” upon the nation, it abrades the citizen’s true rights while engendering suffering, resentment, and ultimately, resistance to the political class. It doesn’t matter whether the political class had “good intentions;” in failing to honor the nature of rights, it transgressed its proper bounds and did harm rather than good. It will suffer the reaction in due course.


     Democracy, of course, is as notorious for destroying rights explicitly as it is for counterfeiting them. Consider the following snippet from Jonah Goldberg, cited this morning by Mike Hendrix:

     Freedom has costs. And I think it is reasonable to ask whether some of those costs are too great for society to bear. Conversely, there are very strict limits to what you can accomplish with paternalism. And I think it’s beyond foolish to ignore those limits out of a desire to fix a demand-side problem with supply-side solutions. As a society, we’ve decided not to ban alcohol. That was the right decision, but it had costs. As a society, we are pondering whether to lift the ban on drugs. Excepting marijuana, I think that is the wrong decision. Reasonable people can disagree and they may be right. But reasonable people cannot dispute that doing so will have costs, too.

     Goldberg is an intelligent and thoughtful man as well as an articulate writer. Yet in the above, he comes very near to stating outright that whether or not to honor the right to control one’s own body should be balanced against some concept of “costs.”

     “Either rights exist, or they do not exist.” If rights exist, then they completely trump all other considerations: We are morally bound to respect them. Costs there may be, but to treat any right as if it can be legitimately traded off against some lesser consideration is to destroy rights as a concept – and “costs,” whether in the objective sense of the word or in some nebulous, tendentious “social cost” formulation, are definitely a lesser consideration.

     But can you guess who absolutely adores the notion that rights can be traded off against “costs?” The folks who gave you the America of today, folks. The class that sees no harm in grouping us into voting blocs and horse-trading legislation for votes. The guys that came up with the notion of ”compelling government interest.” The people who believe that a thirty-round magazine for your rifle can be legally disallowed as “too dangerous,” but who think it’s just dandy to award weekend furloughs to convicted murderers sentenced to life without parole. Politicians.


     How often have you heard some liberal mouthpiece say that “If it saves one life, it’s worth it.” Speak not to them of “costs” unless you’re braced for a stream of vituperation and condemnation in reply. Yet those very same persons will demand that we ignore the costs their policies incur once put in practice...even when they openly, unambiguously cost lives.

     Five-day waiting periods for handgun purchases? So what if a few women aren’t armed in time to fend off their vicious ex-spouses? They should have waved their restraining orders more vigorously. Anyway, only the police should have guns.

     Abortion on demand at any stage of gestation? So what if a Kermit Gosnell kills a few fully born babies...and a few women...after botched third-term abortions? Think of all the subsequent unhappiness he spared those unwilling mothers-to-be. Anyway, mistakes happen.

     A luxuriant, no-conditions welfare state? When it’s the leading cause of illegitimacy, which is itself the best predictor of teen pregnancy, youth criminality and gang involvement? Women shouldn’t have to get married to have children, HDTVs or smartphones. A slew of broken homes and a little blood in the gutters is nothing to concern ourselves over...as long as we can live somewhere else, that is.

     An educational system so overloaded with left-liberal social engineering that its graduates can’t form complete sentences or calculate the correct change from your purchase? We know what’s important: diversity. As long as the schools have the right racial and ethnic mixes in them and the teachers all toe the politically correct line, we’re satisfied. Besides, our kids go to private schools.

     Tax policies that cripple small businesses and inhibit the formation of new ones? Big deal, the money to fund all our programs has to come from somewhere. Anyway, we all work for the government, so there’s nothing to worry about.

     At one time or another, every last element of the left-liberal agenda has been promoted as a “right.” A right to abort. A right to welfare support. A right to “a living wage.” A right to “affordable housing.” A right to a “free” education. A right to medical insurance. A right to retire at State expense.

     I could ask which of those “rights” Robinson Crusoe enjoyed, but I think the point has been made.


     A crowd will back any assertion of “rights” uncritically, as long as it can be led to believe it would benefit. If they can be made angry enough, and ignorant enough, even the relentlessness and brutality of Nature’s correctives, demonstrated repeatedly throughout history, will fail to sway them.

     There are innumerable more things to be said about this, including the importance of coalition politics, voting power effects, and “iron triangle” defenses for “rights” created by political decree, but I’ll spare you. The most important point is this: every “right” sleazed into existence by political action hastens the collapse and increases its eventual savagery. For we cannot indulge spurious “rights” without destroying real ones. As Ayn Rand has told us:

     I could say to you that you do not serve the public good - that nobody's good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices - that when you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all, and a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction. I could say that you will and can achieve nothing but universal devastation - as any looter must, when he runs out of victims. I could say it, but I won't. It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise.

     As we Christians would say, God is not mocked.

Cliff Notes version: Syria.

Made in America.
But when you step back and look at what's going on in Syria under Western covert action to regime-change the Assad government, the only reasonable conclusion that one can come to is that Putin is virtually the only world leader who is doing the right thing. Our own leaders are guilty of creating the civil war, giving birth to ISIS, recruiting and arming/funding terrorists, destroying yet another country, killing vast numbers of civilians and turning the rest into refugees.
Comment by Normalcy Bias on "What do they really think?" By Irish Savant, The Irish Savant, 12/17/15.

A Must Read

     If you read anything today, please, please read Sarah Hoyt’s piece “Wanted.” It’s both critically important and powerfully compelling. It touches on the value of life ab initio, the inclination to “fellow-feeling” with which we respond to others – human and less than human – and the callousness that contemporary mores have heaped around them...and it does so without self-righteousness or descending to platitudes.

     At least twice in the text, Sarah says that “this is not about abortion.” Perhaps it isn’t. Read it and decide for yourself.

More clarity on the criminal war against Syria.

Here's your new paradigm for events in Syria:
Being honest about what sort of conflict Syria is really fighting is the first step in finding a real solution to end it. The West continues to insist this is a "civil war." This allows them to continue trying to influence the outcome of the conflict and the political state Syria will exist in upon its conclusion. By claiming that the Syrian government has lost all legitimacy, the West further strengthens its hand in this context.

Assad's fault.
Attempts to strip the government of legitimacy predicated on the fact that it stood and fought groups of armed militants arrayed against it by an axis of foreign interests would set a very dangerous and unacceptable precedent. It is no surprise that Syria finds itself with an increasing number of allies in this fight as other nations realize they will be next if the "Syria model" is a success.

Acknowledging that Syria's ongoing conflict is the result of foreign aggression against Damascus would make the solution very simple. The solution would be to allow Damascus to restore order within its borders while taking action either at the UN or on the battlefield against those nations fueling violence aimed at Syria. Perhaps the clarity of this solution is why those behind this conflict have tried so hard to portray it as a civil war.

For those who have been trying to make sense of the Syrian "civil war" since 2011 with little luck, the explanation is simple, it isn't a civil war and it never was. Understanding it as a proxy conflict from the very beginning (or even before it began) will give one a clarity in perception that will aid one immeasurably in understanding what the obvious solutions are, but only when they come to this understanding.[1]

Mr. Gunnar is not alone in arguing (elsewhere in his article) that ISIS, al Nusra, and al Qaida are creatures of Western governments. The idea that they are solely creatures of the Wahhabists and other sunni fanatics is highly suspect, if not unsupportable.

Notes
[1] "Syria: It's Not a Civil War and it Never Was." By Ulson Gunnar, New Eastern Outlook, 12/28/15.

H/t: Land Destroyer Report.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Collapse And The Crowd

     It is with inexpressible joy that I celebrate the return of Ol’ Remus from his Internet hiatus. No one else writing for general consumption – and I include myself in this assessment – has his gift for the piercing, too-clear-to-be-misunderstood observation about our times. Here’s a brief snippet from his latest:

     The "Ferguson Effect" is everywhere now. It's rank extortion, and violence is an accepted part of the process. When an unruly mob (wink wink) invaded the library at Yale, threatened and criminally assaulted students at their study, Yale apologized for being Yale and humbly caved to their demands, a lesson fundamentally different from what had been taught since 1701. What was unbelievable is unbelievable no more. In turn, the unbelievable will give way to the unthinkable, the unthinkable to the unimaginable. Violence works. It works because we are in collapse.

     I added the emphasis.

     With only a single additional observation – that the persons comprised by such an extortionate crowd are a small (often vanishingly so) minority of the community they seek to bludgeon – the entire temper and character of the American milieu is laid bare.

     What’s that you say, Gentle Reader? It doesn’t quite gel for you? Perhaps it’s the hour. Fetch yourself another cup of coffee while I do the same.


     Time was, we frequently heard a particular phrase in connection with warnings about misbehavior: “I read him the Riot Act.” Like most phrases detached from their geneses, this one has drifted from a useful invocation of a historically important development to a cliché whose referent is grasped by a very few.

     Wikipedia’s entry presents the essentials of the thing:

     The [Riot Act of 1714] created a mechanism for certain local officials to make a proclamation ordering the dispersal of any group of more than twelve people who were "unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled together". If the group failed to disperse within one hour, then anyone remaining gathered was guilty of a felony without benefit of clergy, punishable by death.

     The proclamation could be made in an incorporated town or city by the mayor, bailiff or "other head officer", or a justice of the peace. Elsewhere it could be made by a justice of the peace or the sheriff or under-sheriff. It had to be read out to the gathering concerned, and had to follow precise wording detailed in the act; several convictions were overturned because parts of the proclamation had been omitted, in particular "God save the King".[2]

     The wording that had to be read out to the assembled gathering was as follows:

     Our sovereign lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God save the King.

     In short, officialdom, upon “reading the Riot Act” to an unruly crowd, had put them on notice: Disperse within one hour or face the consequences, which just might include death. The British made use of the Riot Act to suppress all manner of public disturbances...and they weren’t bashful about it.

     An old friend once told me of a case from Hong Kong, where he lived as a boy. A crowd of several hundred persons had assembled outside the headquarters of a large corporation. It had progressed from bullhorn-powered stridency to the verge of assault. So the British authorities sent out a constable.

     That’s right: one man.

     The constable “read the Riot Act” and commanded the crowd to disperse. He did so with a grenade in his hand. According to my friend, the crowd dispersed quickly and without protest. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised to hear it.

     Unfortunately, not only has Hong Kong been “returned” to Red China; the courage and resolve demonstrated by that British constable have largely disappeared from the English-speaking peoples. Nor are they the only virtues we no longer exhibit.


     A crowd moved to violence is a mechanism of great destructive power. It can reap lives as easily as a harvester reaps wheat. We get examples of this too frequently to require explanation. Any soccer-stadium riot will serve.

     Well-meaning idiots “Progressives” strain to “understand” the crowd’s “grievances.” There must be some, right? After, all, crowds don’t form for no reason. The folks in the crowd want something. Give them what they want and they’ll disperse.

     Wrong. Giving a violent mob what it demands – assuming that it’s demanded anything in particular – only encourages it to demand more. Worse, it sets an example for other quarrelsome groups. You cannot propitiate a behavior without encouraging it. Successful tyrants understand this.

     Once enough examples of violent crowds going unpunished have accumulated, there is no longer any safety to be had. The riotous crowd assumes the character of a lawless state: it will take what it wants, when it wants it, regardless of anyone’s notions about rights or justice.

     A lawless state within a lawful one is an unstable configuration. Inevitably, one will put down the other. In a polity whose authorities have become unwilling or unable to disperse a violent crowd by force, all notions about law and public order are null and void. Crowds, wherever they may form and for whatever reason, are the true rulers of the domain.


     Today, the most important survival tip you could give anyone is the one Remus offers in the brief essay cited above:

     In short, I stay away from crowds.

     This is essential because we no longer act as intelligent persons, determined that public order shall prevail, once acted. That British constable did. Yes, he was putting his life on the line; it was his job to do so. It was once generally understood that any “peace officer’s” duties required him to put his life on the line when it was necessary to preserve or restore public order. That’s become a pleasant fiction. We still give it lip service – how often have you heard some bloviating politician say that “a policeman puts his life on the line every day” and never bothered to question it? – but the reality is quite different.

     When the “official” forces of order abrogate their commitment to order, what’s left are the “unofficial forces:” the crowds. Society has entered the penultimate stage of collapse: the one that immediately precedes Hobbes’s description of the “war of each against all:”

     In such condition, there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently, no culture of the earth, no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building, no instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time; no arts, no letters; no society; and what is more, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.


     Perhaps we’re not quite there yet. But we are at the point where political agitators eagerly assemble crowds that all too often turn violent. On occasion, the agitators intend violence from the start. The recent developments on major university campuses serve as examples.

     In August of 1965 in Watts and July of 1967 in Detroit, military force was deployed to quell riots. In both cases, the peace that followed was an uneasy one. It lasted for some time nevertheless, because those who’d incited the riots had seen that the forces of order were willing to respond with the necessary degree of force. If we can judge from the more recent riots and mass disturbances of today, such a response in force is no longer very likely. Thus, every venue where a crowd might form, whether spontaneously or as a result of planned agitation, has become a dangerous place to be.

     There is only one workable response to the proliferation of angry, violent, crowds uncurbed by the authorities: stay away from them. Assume every cohesive gathering of more persons than you could fit into your living room is headed for trouble, and head in the opposite direction. Assume that the forces of order will not respond – and that were they to respond, they’d treat you as part of the problem.

     Assume, moreover, that rule-by-crowd will proliferate and become still more violent – that a collapse is nearing. Make the appropriate preparations. Pray with all your might that you won’t need them, but make them all the same.

Fourteen years later.

So far everything the Bush and Obama administrations have done has made it worse for the West. The US has not figured out who the enemy is nor how to deal with the threats.
"America has jumped from the Middle East frying pan into the fire." By Ted Belman, American Thinker, 12/27/15.

Toxic Obama.

Obama's friend.
America is Barack Obama's prey. He is tearing America apart and feeding the pieces of her life to his foreign and domestic fellow travelers. He is not transforming the nation but terminating it. Even the most transformational administrations haven't enabled the murder of Americans by declared enemies, weakened the national defense, mocked the concerns, and dimmed the hopes of average Americans as this president has. Even the highly transformational Franklin Roosevelt did not return Nazi generals to the enemy during the war as Obama did in the Bergdahl swap. Roosevelt did not entertain and enrich Nazi bigwigs as Obama has the Muslim Brotherhood. Imagine Roosevelt facilitating German atom bomb research and enriching the Axis powers as Obama has in the Iran deal. No president has erased the nation's borders at land and sea as Obama in advertising inducements for an invasion from around the world. No president in American history has aided enemies, undermined the economy and derided the American people as the current commander-in-chief.

The immensity of Obama's disloyalty is key to why people cannot face the truth about him.

"Why People Can't Face the Truth about Obama." By Deborah C. Tyler, American Thinker, 12/28/15.

Breaking.

"Trump Kills Kitten on Live Television, Expands Lead." The Daily Current, 8/31/15.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Day Off

     I’m inexplicably weary today, and anyway I can’t find anything that raises my blood pressure high enough to make it worth my time to write an essay about it, and the readers who come here don't do so for the pictures of kittens and rainbows, so this will be a day off for me from Liberty’s Torch. Enjoy the silence.

     Well, maybe enjoy a couple of cat pictures, too. First, Chloe:

     Now Zoe:

     Sigh. They grow up so fast, don't they?

Syria's "civil war."

[The concerns of Imad Moustapha, Syria's ambassador to China] were echoed by a Washington foreign affairs analyst who has closely followed the passage of jihadists through Turkey and into Syria. The analyst, whose views are routinely sought by senior government officials, told me that ‘Erdoğan has been bringing Uighurs into Syria by special transport while his government has been agitating in favour of their struggle in China. Uighur and Burmese Muslim terrorists who escape into Thailand somehow get Turkish passports and are then flown to Turkey for transit into Syria.’ He added that there was also what amounted to another ‘rat line’ that was funnelling Uighurs – estimates range from a few hundred to many thousands over the years – from China into Kazakhstan for eventual relay to Turkey, and then to IS territory in Syria. . . . IHS-Jane’s Defence Weekly estimated in October that as many as five thousand Uighur would-be fighters have arrived in Turkey since 2013, with perhaps two thousand moving on to Syria. Moustapha said he has information that ‘up to 860 Uighur fighters are currently in Syria.’[1]
Some civil war.

Who is this prick who runs Turkey? And why is Turkey still in NATO, that grossly inflated and out-of-control relic?

Has the international order so broken down so that every half-witted megalomaniac think he's got free rein to depose whomever he wishes or to encourage mass immigration to destroy the peace and security of his own nation?

From where I sit the U.S. Constitution means precisely nothing and the U.N. is a useless waste of money and prime East River real estate. Are we back in the time of monarchies and sultans?

Notes
[1] "Military to Military." By Seymour M. Hersh, London Review of Books, 1/7/16.

CORRECTION (12/29/15): Oops. Logical error. Encouraging mass immigration has nothing to do with a breakdown of the international order. Encouraging it for other nations is an aggressive act and getting away with it is.

Obama Syria policy.

The four core elements of Obama’s Syria policy remain intact today: an insistence that Assad must go; that no anti-IS coalition with Russia is possible; that Turkey is a steadfast ally in the war against terrorism; and that there really are significant moderate opposition forces for the US to support.

"Military to Military." By Seymour M. Hersh, London Review of Books, 1/7/16.

Into each life a little rain must fall.

I think the subtitles are a little inaccurate but I think you get they idea:

H/t: Pundita.

Nerves of steel department.

H/t: Pundita.

The Saudi war against Russian oil.

Well, this is a new one on me. The Cold War being about Saudi Arabia's war against Russian oil. I never got that at the time though I believe the Soviets did a lot to organize and fund Arab terrorists. The Soviets were cunning and effective manipulators. Wouldn't they have directed those terrorists at the Saudis if they'd seen the Saudis as a threat?
Gary Leupp, a professor of history at Tufts University, is pretty knowledgeable about the Cold War, at least the European-American aspect of it under discussion in his article. But he doesn't mention to Counterpunch readers that after Stalin's death the American-led NATO cold war against the Soviet Union was actually the Saudi war against Russian oil. And I suppose some would say the war was going on even during Stalin's time.

Anyhow, maybe Leupp simply doesn't know. That wouldn't be surprising. The war has continued to this day; it's just that it isn't talked about openly. I've seen the same reticence or ignorance about the U.S.-led Afghan War, and the current Syrian War. It might have been the same with Gaddafi's overthrow.

It's as if entire chapters have been ripped out of modern history to protect Al Saud.

Only very recently, since the Russian air campaign, has it become widely known that the Saudis and their Gulf allies have been fielding mercenary armies to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, but there are still gaps in knowledge about the situation and how early it began. Same with the Saudi involvement in Afghanistan and their influence with Pakistan.[1]

The influence of the Saudis is, however, pervasive. Perhaps massive. How influential are they?

AIPAC clearly distorts American foreign policy. I wouldn't be surprised that Saudi Arabia's extraordinary wealth has trumped them or, at least, effectively made U.S. policy schizophrenic. Which is to say, senseless, ineffectual, and erratic.

I'll simply say that these are extraordinary times and U.S. foreign policy is inexplicable from what one can conclude from a seemingly commonsense assessment of U.S. interests. Moving a third (?) or your manufacturing base to territory controlled by a communist dictatorship was in our interest?

Open borders are patently treasonous and insane. Making Assad in Syria the locus of dictatorial evil in the world is bizarre. Dictator? Really? The accusations of use of sarin gas were bogus.

The demonization of Russia is even more bizarre with charges flying that we are witnessing the advent of a dangerous Russian military adventurism. Does anyone have any illusions what a graph of bomb tonnage released by the U.S. and Russia in the last 10 years would look like?

The search for understanding today has to broaden and we have to be willing to consider strange possibilities. Bill Clinton's presidential campaign was saved by a large donation from an Indonesian banker with ties to Chinese communist intelligence. The Clinton Foundation received $40 million from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE according to Greg Gordon who is quoted in the source in the footnote below. Did this make Bill Clinton beholden to the Chinese rather than the American people? That's sorta kinda in the past but what exactly will Hillary do in 2017-2020 for that 40 mill? And aren't there more recent Saudi contributions? Somebody's laying down a marker.

Let's just say we file this all away and mull it over. Maybe we can have something like the Meiji Restoration where the Japanese emperor was reestablished as the real ruler of Japan not the shoguns who had run things behind the scenes till then. At least before that the Japanese knew the name and address of the shogun. Now, for us, it's not so easy. As I like to say, kabuki theater has nothing on the American (and European) political class.

One thing is crystal clear. The wishes of the American (and European) people in all of this are irrelevant to the Treason Class. Whatever is going on is an insider's game and we're just standing there like lawn jockeys.

Notes
[1] " Pundita reporting from a trench 10 clicks north Mountains of Shadow S.W., Mordor." By Pundita, 12/28/15.

And this guy is Obama's mortal enemy.

You can see why Obama wants to get rid of this guy. He doesn't talk in empty terms of "violent extremism" and "Islamism" but in terms of the virulent thinking on the part of identifiable Muslims. This is a man thinking about first principles: Who are the rabid dogs in the world? Here is his answer:
"This is a very complicated issue, not because of ISIS, because ISIS is an organization. There’s something more dangerous to be dealt with, which is the reasons. First of all, the ideology, something that’s been instilled in the minds of the people or the society in the Muslim world for decades now, because of the Wahabi institutions, because of the Saudi money that’s been paid to support this kind of dark and resentful ideology. Without dealing with this ideology, it’s just a waste of time to say we are going to deal with Daesh or al-Nusra or any other organization that belongs to Al Qaeda."

"So, this is something that should be dealt with on the long term; how to prevent those Wahabi institutions and Saudi money from reaching the Muslim institutions around the world in order to have more extremism and terrorism spreading around the world. This is first."

~ Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria.

Diana West has her usually cogent view on what is insane about U.S. policy. This another instance of this insanity. Assad is exactly the kind of Muslim we need to be working with. It's abundantly clear that he wants a secular state and isn't dead set on killing or ejecting Christians, Kurds, Druze, or Sunnis. Clearly he has popular support. Clearly the "civil war" is being carried on by foreign jihadis with foreign money. And with support from our NATO "ally" Turkey, especially in the area of facilitating the lucrative oil trade for ISIS.

Obama would rather give up his next ten vacations to Hawaii than even utter the word "Wahhabi." He lives to carry out the wishes of the Saudi Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood swine who now operate inside our own government thanks to him. But Assad lays it right out there. The names and addresses of the enemies of civilization.

This is what is known as mental clarity.

"Agencia EFE interviews President Bashar al-Assad. 'This dark and resentful ideology.'" By Pundita, 12/11/15.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Family, Proximity, And The Smartphone Plague: A Sunday Rumination

     Today Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, wherein Christ was nurtured and prepared for His three years of ministry among men. It’s often made an occasion for the Mass celebrant to lecture the congregation about what families are and ought to do. Such lectures are frequently the reverse of constructive...especially when they incorporate bits of the priest’s own politics.

     However, the celebrant at Mass this morning, among the several banalities in his homily, did manage to punch one of my hot buttons: the increasing tendency for persons of all ages never, ever, to put down their BLEEP!ing smartphones.

     I have a serious problem with smartphone addicts. To put it in as few words as possible, they’re not “here.” That is, their attention is fixed on something other than the people and things around them – in many cases, fixed with such fanatic commitment that to deflect them from whatever their phones are doing to / with them would be treated as an insult.

     How long ago was it that to willfully ignore those in one’s presence was considered an insult – nay, the supreme insult, in the old lexicon the Cut Direct? Indeed, how long ago was it deemed a near-fatal breach of propriety to leave the dinner table to answer a ringing phone? And that’s to say nothing of the complementary rudeness of calling someone at an hour when he’s likely to be having dinner with his family. It’s not just telemarketers who cheerfully and relentlessly do that today. The ones who don’t have auto-calling devices, that is.

     Oh, pardon me: I forgot. We don’t have family dinners any more, do we? Our schedules aren’t sufficiently compatible for that. There’s work, and school, and after-school clubs and sports, and the six o’clock news for him and yoga for her and for the kids...probably their smartphones, replete with the text messages and mindless games that really matter. So each of us grabs whatever’s on offer and totes it to his personal redoubt where that awful, intrusive, demanding family can’t interfere with what really matters to him.

     That’s not a family. That’s a group of emotionally disconnected persons, possibly related by blood or marriage, that just happen to share a roof. Their true loyalties are far distant from those around them, modulated by a digital electronic device small enough to fit in a breast pocket, that no doubt coincidentally has swollen to absorb their entire lives...including their souls.

     And the sociologists, the behavior therapists, and the “helping professions” maunder over what’s happened to the American family and how we might redress it. It is to laugh.


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

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

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

     There’s nothing that transforms proximity to hostility and contempt as surely or efficiently as being ignored. Yet what American parent of our time would “deny” his spratling the “benefits” of a smartphone? Heaven forbid! Don’t we want the little tyke to feel connected? Doesn’t he need to feel a part of that great, big, happenin’ world out there? Surely he needs to know what’s hot and what’s not, who’s in and who’s out, what fads to follow and what celebrities to celebrate! I mean, he can’t stay perched in front of the television all the time. That would be unhealthful!

     Amen I say unto you, ‘twere better that a millstone be fastened around such a parent’s neck ere we cast him into the sea. Trust me, his kids will never notice.


     The present generation of American parents commits innumerable sins against its children. Many of them are sins of omission. We fail to teach them about right and wrong, and how to know them. We fail to talk with them about values: where they originate, why they matter, and what one must do to preserve and defend them. We don’t bother to explain the seven virtues – for those who were poorly reared: faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude – and why they’re good, or the seven capital sins – lust, vanity, gluttony, envy, wrath, greed, and sloth – and why they’re terribly dangerous. We retreat from discussions about the natures of mass appeal, popularity, peer pressure, obsession, and the worship of persons and things. Don’t bother us now, Junior; we have to respond to these important text messages, right after we finish our game of Bejeweled.

     As bad as all that is, it can easily be made worse. Just give Junior a smartphone. Initiate him into the mysteries of “absent presence,” and what makes it so much more comfortable than attending to the persons and things around him. Especially the most annoying of those persons, the ones clustered most closely around him, the ones who constrain him from moment to moment, whom he can’t wait to disown: his family.

     “But the deed is done!” I hear you cry. “I’ve already given him a smartphone! What now?” Excuse me? Are you a man or a mouse? Take it back. (At least cancel his “data plan.”) Explain to him that you’ve realized that you made a terrible error, amounting to a neglect of your duties toward him, and you’re going to correct it out of love and a parent’s obligation to his child. Endure the screaming and the tears; they will cease, possibly sooner than you expect. Then set an example for him by always turning off your phone when you’re at home with those you claim to love.

     We want our children to have cell phones. It provides them with a way to reach us, or failing us, at least “help,” should a need arise. Very well: let them have cell phones. Not smartphones. Stop enabling their flight from their families and all else around them. When that’s out of the way, schedule a family dinner, make it mandatory, and converse with them – and not about your job. Be a parent rather than merely a source of funding.

     May God bless and keep you all!

Happy New Year and full speed ahead with the Obama agenda.

Although President Barack Obama insists Assad is hated by most Syrians – and if that’s true, he would presumably lose any fair election – the U.S. position is to bar Assad from the ballot, thus ensuring “regime change” in Syria, a long-held goal of Official Washington’s neoconservatives.

In other words, to fulfill the neocons’ dream of Syrian “regime change,” the Obama administration is continuing the bloody Syrian conflict which has killed a quarter million people, has created an opening for Islamic State and Al Qaeda terrorists, and has driven millions of refugees into and through nearby countries, now destabilizing Europe and feeding xenophobia in the United States.

* * * *

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has termed Obama’s choice of aiding the jihadists a “willful decision,” even in the face of DIA warnings about the likely rise of the Islamic State and other extremists.

"Blocking Democracy as Syria’s Solution." By Robert Parry, Consortium News, 12/12/15 (emphasis added).

Irrefutable dynamics of Muslim populations in Western countries.

Knuckles stated my own observation and I've often wondered why it hasn't been pointed out more in the past. "Peaceful Muslims" cannot complain or protest the actions of violent Muslims. They simply will be killed. Therefore the percentage of Muslims in any society who are violent is irrelevant to a peaceful majority. Any Muslim society or immigrant Muslim population is hostage to its deadliest members.
Comment by orck on "Islam & The West – 'Moving Towards A Head-On Collision.'" By Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, 12/25/2015.

And we almost invaded Syria because of this?

More significantly, however, the four-page "Government Assessment” of the case against the Syrian government contained not a single piece of evidence that could be checked independently. It was filled with “we assess” this and “we assess” that. To this day, the Obama administration has not released a shred of evidence that could be examined and evaluated.

Instead, the propaganda approach has been the old tactic of repeating an unproven assertion again and again, knowing that if a charge is declared with sufficient certitude often enough, the weak-minded will simply begin treating it as accepted wisdom. That’s especially easy when the target of the accusations has been thoroughly demonized as is the case with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case." By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews, 4/7/14 (emphasis added).

Saturday, December 26, 2015

An Assortment For Boxing Day

     It’s at least forty years since I first heard December 26 called that, and I still don’t know whether it’s because today is the day we decide what to return and strain to remember where we left the receipts, or whether it’s because the kids are still playing with the boxes as we try to fold them up and dispose of them.


     Ours was a quiet holiday. Mass in the early morning – the very best time to go, in my not-particularly-humble opinion – followed by the usual animal chores and some straightening-up. We completed our morning with a fine, nutritious breakfast of decaf and Christmas cookies.

     Hey, diets are meant to be violated, right? Right?


     Christmas Day 2015 on Long Island proved to be an excellent day to mow the lawn. Travis the Tractor didn’t much like having his off-season slumbers disturbed – thank you, Sears Automotive Center, for that fine heuristic battery charger – but the job did get done, with one hiccough. Always make sure you’ve collected all the sprinklers before setting out to mow, Gentle Reader.


     Why isn’t there ice hockey on Christmas Day? Didn’t Christ Himself say “I bring not peace but a stick, a helmet, and a set of pads” -- ? Something like that, I think. Lacking mindless non-participatory entertainment, the C.S.O. and I recurred to the participatory kind. To be specific, we fired up the PlayStation 3, loaded Diablo III, and killed a lot of Risen Dead and assorted other nasties. Great game. Highly recommended.


     Sales of my books have trended downward, so I’ve reduced the prices of the novels (in eBook format) from $4.99 to $2.99. So show a little Christmas spirit! Hie thee to Amazon and buy one for someone you dislike.


     There is such a thing as too much Christmas spirit – specifically, the sort you pour over ice. It seems to have been a mistake to leave the baked beans baking for 48 hours. I suppose I’ll know better next time.


     If you like a good check-your-brains-at-the-door action flick, especially one with an emotional subtext, treat yourself to Furious 7. All-star cast, lots and lots of slam-bang action – especially car chases, of course – and a farewell to the late Paul Walker, who died during the filming.

     No, it won’t matter whether you’ve seen 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. It might even help if you haven’t.


     I found a couple of days away from politics and the presidential campaign quite refreshing, but from the look of Fox, Yahoo! and Google News, quite a lot of other Americans remained mired in it. Well, chacun a son gout and all that. But preserve your gray matter! The twaddle has only gotten thicker and gooier as the campaign has progressed, and that sort of thing causes cancer in white rats. Remember Arthur Herzog’s prescription for a corrective to political twaddle:

     It may help dispel the armchair critic idea of a skeptic if we ask what kind of protest movement the radical skeptic will mount when, before too long, they get together, perhaps even fielding a candidate for President. The radical skeptic would make an issue out of hypocrisy, systematic fakery, exaggeration, pretense...the B.S. Factor. It’s a good issue and people will respond, only it needs to be dramatized. It needs a symbol—not an eagle or a donkey but a garbage truck, to make the connection between the garbage in the streets and in our minds. A slogan for the buttons and bumper stickers: “Eschew Obfuscation. Get Smart.” The press could be challenged to present a daily Thought Pollution Index—not that it would, but at least reporters could be encouraged to attend the daily Platitude Recognition Training Sessions, the object being to raise cliché consciousness and overcome the serious problem of cliché deafness that settles over crowds and reporters alike when a speaker mounts to the podium. In these sessions, platitudes will be flashed on a screen, and if they are allowed to pass unchallenged the participants will receive electric shocks from wires attached to their skulls....Audiences skilled in Platitude Recognition can deliver a crushing blow [to the fulsomely platitudinous political speaker]: the mass yawn. This quickly forces the speaker to take stock of himself.

     It doesn’t matter what your political alignment may be, or what ideology you hold. Political flummery:

  • vague, substance-free promises;
  • failure to give (or abide by) delivery dates;
  • allegations of intent, whether for or against;
  • deflection from issues to personalities;
  • attempts to change the subject;

     ...is everyone’s enemy. Beware!


     With that, we’ve had quite enough of 2015, so onward to New Year’s Eve. (Go easy on the bowl games and the salty junk food.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Ultimate Quickies: Dana Deals It!

     Yes, yes, I said I wouldn’t be posting today...but you simply must see this:

     A magnificent rant from a magnificent woman!

An interlude of human decency and reason when slaughter was the crown jewel of European statecraft.

A golden opportunity to die in
service to stupidity and arrogance.
During a House of Commons debate on March 31, 1930, Sir H. Kingsley Wood, a Cabinet Minister during the next war, and a Major “In the front trenches” at Christmas 1914, recalled that he “took part in what was well known at the time as a truce. We went over in front of the trenches and shook hands with many of our German enemies. A great number of people [now] think we did something that was degrading.” Refusing to presume that, he went on, “The fact is that we did it, and I then came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since, that if we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired. For a fortnight the truce went on. We were on the most friendly terms, and it was only the fact that we were being controlled by others that made it necessary for us to start trying to shoot one another again.” He blamed the resumption of the war on “the grip of the political system which was bad, and I and others who were there at the time determined there and then never to rest. ... Until we had seen whether we could change it.” But they could not.
"Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce," by Stanley Weintraub, excerpted in "A Will To Peace." By John V. Denson, Mises Institute, 12/25/15.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, Fran, all of who post, comment, or visit here.

The Reason

     May God bless and keep you all!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What Santa Won’t Bring You

     I’d intended to take today off from Liberty’s Torch. I had all the usual reasons. The season is as busy for us here at the Fortress of Crankitude as it is for any family of venom-tongued rabble rousers and hairy-eyed bomb throwers armed to the teeth and itchingly eager for...well, never mind. At any rate, I write so much of this pap that surely our Gentle Readers would benefit from a few days of my silence, in which I – and they – might “detoxify.” But as I slid the mouse cursor over the Shutdown button, I found that my hand had stayed itself. Apparently there was an essay in me that wanted, nay, needed “out,” and relief could only be secured by setting it free.

     (No, please don’t send me recommendations for your preferred laxatives.)


     First, a bit of verse:

Unhappy about some far off things
That are not my affair, wandering
Along the coast and up the lean ridges,
I saw in the evening
The stars go over the lonely ocean,
And a black-maned wild boar
Plowing with his snout on Mal Paso Mountain.

The old monster snuffled, "Here are sweet roots,
Fat grubs, slick beetles and sprouted acorns.
The best nation in Europe has fallen,
And that is Finland,
But the stars go over the lonely ocean,"
The old black-bristled boar,
Tearing the sod on Mal Paso Mountain.

"The world's in a bad way, my man,
And bound to be worse before it mends;
Better lie up in the mountain here
Four or five centuries,
While the stars go over the lonely ocean,"
Said the old father of wild pigs,
Plowing the fallow on Mal Paso Mountain.

"Keep clear of the dupes that talk democracy
And the dogs that talk revolution,
Drunk with talk, liars and believers.
I believe in my tusks.
Long live freedom and damn the ideologies,"
Said the gamey black-maned boar
Tusking the turf on Mal Paso Mountain.

[Robinson Jeffers]

     Keep that poem in mind as you proceed.


     Many of us have spent a lot of time watching and listening for news about the presidential race: specifically, the race for the Republican nomination for the presidency. Many of us have invested money, labor, or both in some candidate. Given the colossal failures and villainies of the Obama Regime, many of us are hopeful that the nation will spurn whichever Democrat gains his party’s nod, give the GOP complete control of the federal government, and watch as we return at least somewhat toward the limited, Constitution-bound government that the Founding Fathers envisioned.

     I must admit that I was one of the many. Was. Past tense. I’m becoming ever more certain that what we’ll get won’t please us at all.

     Famous coach John Madden has said that the outcome of a football game is nearly always determined by “big plays and turnovers.” In his years in the game and watching it, he’d become convinced that playing sound, methodical or “fundamental” football was of less importance than capitalizing on the infrequent opportunities for a big gain or a reversal of possession. Now, like most of us, Madden is a devotee of contemporary football, which is dominated by the forward pass. Before the pass became two-thirds of the game, things were quite different: the team that excelled at the rushing game – “five yards and a cloud of dust” – was far more likely to prevail.

     So also with politics and government. If you’re exceedingly old or exceedingly well read, you might be familiar with the political dynamics of the era before the mass media. In those days, voters put some effort into learning what a candidate had said and done during his time in the public eye. They had only one way to do it: they read about him in the newspapers.

     Yes, the newspapers of the Nineteenth Century were as likely to be biased toward or against a particular candidate or party as are the papers of today. However, there were far more of them, including a host of local dailies that would be financially non-viable today. The “big” papers with regional influence were few, and their influence was heavily counterweighted by their local competitors.

     I speak here of the era before Celebritarianism. Politicians’ faces and personalities were generally unknown to the public. What was known about them came from the newspapers. It focused on their records as mayors, governors, or legislators. That made it possible for a man whose appearance and personal charm might be somewhat lacking – a Grover Cleveland or a William Howard Taft – to rise in the esteem of the electorate, perhaps all the way to the presidency.

     The mass media, particularly television, changed all that. Today a politician of national stature – one who has at least a Chinaman’s chance at the presidency – must be telegenic, personally charming, and “ready on his feet.” Yes, there have been unattractive persons who’ve aspired to the presidency – one such is likely to be the Democrats’ nominee – but the odds are against such candidates. They don’t possess the requisite appeal to the visually-oriented, sound-bite-paced, television-consuming public.

     The mass media don’t absolutely control national politics, but their influence is considerable. When married to another, equally weighty factor, it might well amount to control.


     There’s been so much talk about “money in politics” that the reasoning behind large political donations is seldom adequately analyzed. There are three questions to be answered:

  1. What does he hope to get for his money?
  2. How does he select his candidate?
  3. How does he time his donation?

     Question #1 is the one for which everyone is certain he knows the answer: influence over policy decisions. In the main, this is correct, but not always in the “corruptocrat” sense. Some donors do attempt to purchase the candidate’s future support. Others will only give to a candidate who has already espoused positions they deem favorable to them. Still others – and there may be more such than we generally believe – give on the basis of what they think is best for the country. Telling these categories of donors apart is dauntingly difficult.

     Questions #2 and #3 must be addressed together. If the donor’s aim is to achieve a particular policy outcome, his candidate must have:

  • At least the possibility of favoring that policy;
  • A good chance of winning the election;
  • A better chance with the donor’s money;
  • A dearth of adverse influences: i.e., other donors opposed to the favored policy.

     Therefore the ideal candidate, from potential donor Smith’s perspective, would be one who already favors the desired policy, has a good shot at victory but isn’t a “sure thing,” who could be elevated to near-certainty by Smith’s money, and whom other major donors have treated with indifference. But how shall Smith sift among the prospective presidential candidates to find such a man?

     He watches television.

     Talking to the candidates will achieve little, as every one of them is likely to tell Smith “what he wants to hear;” it’s the quintessential political art. No, what Smith must do is watch TV, and the associated polls. They’ll tell Smith who favors (or might be induced to favor) his policy aim, who is in the seriously contending group, and who could use additional television exposure that might put him over the top. Moreover, Smith will reserve his donation for as long as possible, so that:

  • He’ll have minimized his chance of wasting his money on a “flash in the pan;”
  • He’ll be his candidate’s “last hooker,” and thus the most memorable of the donors;
  • He’ll have the best shot of being deemed the donor whose bucks “made the difference.”

     Of course, all the big-money donors will be playing for the same advantages, so additional power accrues to those who have the most to give. But that’s actually a smaller influence than most persons think.

     Clearly, the mass media influence the donation game quite as heavily as they do the opinions of TV-minded voters. The mass media, both by presenting the candidates to us and by their treatment, in polls and editorial output, of those candidates, exert considerable sway over who the big givers will regard as a serious contender and who will become an also-ran footnote. Their influence over donation timing is so obvious that it needs no explanation from me.


     Santa won’t be bringing us a new, “unbiased” mass media this year; there has never been such a thing and there never will be. Neither will he drag a donor class that’s sincerely and solely concerned with the good of the country down the chimney; they’d get stuck and you’d never again be able to open the flue. However, reflecting on the previous segment does suggest some measures by which voters who’d like to be unaffected by the mass media and the donor class can have their wishes.

     First and above all else: don’t watch political TV. Avoid the debates. Avoid the Sunday-morning talking-head shows. Avoid, to the extent possible, the candidates’ ads for themselves. Instead, familiarize yourself with what those persons have done in public office (if they’ve ever been there), what positions they’ve espoused, and when they’ve changed those positions and why. Read the papers, except for the editorial pages, and do your best to separate fact from opinion -- anyone’s opinion – as you read the “news” sections.

     Second and nearly as important, familiarize yourself with the big donors. Their agendas are as important as the agendas of the candidates. Their constancy about such things, and the possible contrast with the past positions of the candidates they choose to support is a weathervane that points toward the “rentability” of those candidates. They say that “money talks.” Let it talk to you.

     Third, pay attention to the statements of the major interest groups and their mouthpieces. This is a great help in deciding whom to vote for and against. Interest groups of size and power almost always have a one-issue focus. You might not have such a focus, but knowing where the more wealthy and vociferous groups stand, whom they like and dislike, can be an aid in helping you make up your own mind.

     That’s about the best anyone who’s determined to vote can do. But I’m not quite finished yet.


     There are two other things Santa won’t be bringing this year. The first of them is a completely servant-minded politician.

     Ann Barnhardt has argued that the pursuit of high office is sufficient reason to classify the pursuer as a sociopath. There’s some substance to her argument: there’s no such thing as a politician who 1) seeks high office, but 2) believes himself unfit for it, or that the office itself should be abolished. Thus, politicians as a class suffer from a deficit of humility, perhaps the most important virtue one could ask for in a man who will wield power.

     This paradox of the democratic electoral process was much on the minds of the Founding Fathers, which is why they decided that state legislatures would select United States Senators, and state-legislature-nominated electors would select the president. They were willing to allow the mob – remember, “democracy” means “rule by the mob” – to elect the Members of the House of Representatives, but no other federal office. Putting as great a distance as possible between the mob and federal power was deemed the best possible safeguard that could be contrived for individuals’ rights in a government that had to have some popular base.

     While that system lasted, federal offices were occupied, by and large, by honest men who possessed a service ethic. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was superior to what followed. After Martin Van Buren, the presidency became ever more the property of demagogues and creatures of the donor class. After the Seventeenth Amendment, the states lost any substantial part in federal decision making. The dynamics of demagoguery synergized powerfully with the emergence of national media: first with the national newspaper “chains;” thereafter with the burgeoning scope of radio and television broadcasting.

     Some aspirants to high office are better than others, but none is entirely free of the vanity that propels one to seek the adulation of the crowd and the prestige that goes with power. As for immunity to the lure of material profit from political height, the closest any of our current crop of pols come is a plagiarist and an idiot...and we’ve contrived to install him as vice president to a traitor and a villain.


     The second thing we mustn’t expect from Santa is any great change in the true federal government: the millions of bureaucrats in the alphabet agencies, all of whom are protected from dismissal or serious discipline by powerful unions and federal law.

     Washington’s hirelings have gone beyond the ability of the political branches of the federal government to control. Remember what was reported by David L. Boren, for some years a United States Senator from Oklahoma:

Boren, formerly a state legislator and governor, went to Washington expecting to make some changes. "What impressed me most is the great power of the bureaucracy compared to that of elected officials. All the talk about growing control by the bureaucracy is not exaggerated. The shift in power is very real.... There is almost a contempt for elected officials."...

Senator Boren found, to his surprise, that a Senator has great difficulty even getting phone calls returned by the "permanent" employees, much less getting responsive answers to his questions.

The voters can't "throw the rascals out" anymore, because the main rascals are not elected but appointed....

Regulatory bureaucrats have extra power because they can outlast the elected officials. "Often," Boren explains, "I've said to a bureaucrat, 'You know this is not the president's policy.'

'True, Senator, but we were here before he came, and we'll be here after he leaves. We're not in sympathy with his policy. We'll study the matter until he leaves.'"

[From Armington and Ellis, MORE: The Rediscovery of American Common Sense.]

     Who’s elected president won’t matter to that huge, unaccountable juggernaut of regulation and regulatory enforcement unless he takes the boldest imaginable step: agitating for the repeal of the federal laws that shield Civil Service workers from dismissal and reinstating the ban against the unionization of federal employees. Such a president would need like-minded majorities in both Houses of Congress, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate to have a fighting chance. He’d also need his Congressional supporters to be staunch in the face of the vilification, and possibly the violence, that would follow such a proposition.

     Suffice it to say that I won’t be holding my breath. The entire population of Africa is more likely to turn white tomorrow at Noon.


     Many other members of the Internet Commentariat have written that “there’s no voting our way out of this.” Indeed. Substantial reversal of course, back toward limited Constitutional government that stays within the bounds of Article I, Section 8, simply isn’t in the cards. That having been said, there’s nevertheless some good we can do.

     First, by withholding our money and our votes from any candidate who’s displayed a willingness to waffle, to fudge on his supposed convictions, to logroll with the Democrats, or to negotiate with the interest groups, we can at least attempt to educate the political class about how we feel toward them. It’s simply not sufficient to vote for so-called outsiders. There are outsiders and outsiders. Some of them I’d chase off my stoop at gunpoint; others I’d shoot at their first step upon my driveway. Character trumps all else, and constancy of conviction is the best indicator of character.

     Second, by seeking and implementing non-political solutions to common problems, we can reduce government’s scope for intrusion into matters where private action is possible. This is not easy. For one thing, politicians hate it and will attempt to prevent it. For another, far too many Americans are inclined to allow government to address any problem that doesn’t affect them personally, or that strikes them as too burdensome for them. There’s a lot of inertia in “the way things are.” Some of it will manifest as “this is the way it’s always been done;” some as “this is the way it must be done.”

     Third, to the extent possible, protect your children from the virus of statism. The most important component of this is avoiding the “public” schools. Today, the government’s school system is nothing but a massive indoctrination machine. Its inputs are your kids and your property taxes; its outputs are deluded young adults oriented entirely opposite to freedom and limited government. When the “public schools” aren’t indoctrinating your helpless young’uns, they’re abusing them or encouraging them to abuse one another – abuse that might occur within the school building itself.

     Fourth, be armed. Be heavily and conspicuously armed. Resist any suggestion that being armed is somehow wrong or excessive. Remind objectors that an armed populace has never suffered an adverse coup – that the first step taken by any aspirant to dictatorial power is to disarm the citizenry. Shoot frequently, and teach your kids to shoot. Invite your neighbors to join you for a day at the range; you might be surprised how ready they are for an adventure of that sort.

     Fifth, keep talking. You never know when what you say will strike home with someone who’s “on the fence” about something of importance. Internet chatter deserves much of the credit for the current drive to secure the borders and stop immigration from countries that hate American ideals and the American way of life. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are eager to “supervise” your political advocacy. Even some of the ones who claim to stand foursquare for freedom of expression are at least partly insincere about it.


     That’s all for today, and for tomorrow as well. I’m really, truly going to spend Christmas day away from the keyboard. Indeed, I have a problem / opportunity that comes once in a century, and I intend to make good use of it.

     The weather forecast for Christmas day here in the Northeast is:

  • Partly cloudy;
  • Little chance of precipitation;
  • Temperatures in the sixties.

     That’s a continuation of the weather we’ve been having for some time, which has caused certain...untoward conditions in my back yard. However, all is ready for remediation. Therefore, after Mass tomorrow morning, I’m going to take an hour to mow my lawn.

     Merry Christmas. May God bless us each and all.

All my best to you and yours,
Fran

More on the NW Syrian border.

Imagine a Kurdish unification corridor [in Syria] – running from Afroin to the rest of Rojava. This means Turkey cut off from Syria; crucially, the end of the Jihadi Highway; the end of Turkish secret services offering lavish logistical support for Daesh, from Big Macs to holidays in Turkey; the end of the Syrian stolen oil Daesh Highway. Not to mention the YPG – allied with the PKK – controlling a semi-autonomous province with the status of a proto-state.

Make no mistake: the Sultan will go no holds barred to prevent it. ISIS was never an “existential threat” to Ankara. On the contrary; it was always a very useful indirect “ally.” Ankara will continue to plug the myth that the road to Daesh’s [ISIS's] defeat goes through Assad regime change.

Russia exposed the bluff. Yet the lame duck Obama administration is still uncertain; should we use Erdogan even as he recklessly tries to pit NATO directly against Russia? Or should we dump him? The answer lies in who, and how, wins the break for the border.

"The Race for Syria's Northern Border." By Pepe Escobar, Russia Insider, 12/21/15.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Jury Has Returned

     One jury, two cases:

     In Denmark, lawmakers are pushing to have such sex education included in mandatory language classes for refugees. The German region of Bavaria, the main entry point to Germany for asylum seekers, is already experimenting with such classes at a shelter for teenage migrants in the town of Passau.

     By “sex education,” the Times is referring to classes that seek to teach Muslim immigrants that rape is wrong. But read on.

     Norway, however, has been leading the way. Its immigration department mandated that such programs be offered nationwide in 2013, and hired a nonprofit foundation, Alternative to Violence, to train refugee center workers in how to organize and conduct classes on sexual and other forms of violence. The government provided funding for two years to pay for interpreters for the classes and is now reviewing the results and whether to extend its support....

     Many refugees “come from cultures that are not gender equal and where women are the property of men,” Mr. Isdal said. “We have to help them adapt to their new culture.”

     Note that critical phrase: “cultures that are not gender equal,” etc. We’ve been told this “culture” lie over an over again. But do please read on.

     The first such program to teach immigrants about local norms and how to avoid misreading social signals was initiated in Stavanger, the center of Norway’s oil industry and a magnet for migrants, after a series of rapes from 2009 to 2011.

     Henry Ove Berg, who was Stavanger’s police chief during the spike in rape cases, said he supported providing migrants sex education because “people from some parts of the world have never seen a girl in a miniskirt, only in a burqa.” When they get to Norway, he added, “something happens in their heads.”

     “Something happens in their heads” -- ? Excuse me? The “something” that “happened in their heads” happened when they were children. It’s called Islam, and it is most emphatically not a “culture.”

     That’s the first case.


     Religious dictates, once accepted, can only be rejected along with the religion that dictated them. Moreover, as most religions claim that one’s fortunes in the afterlife depend upon one’s conduct in this world, there’s no way for any law or other temporal inducement to compete with them.

     Islamic doctrine essentially dehumanizes women. According to Islamic teaching, women are untrustworthy, controlled by their lusts, must always be under the hand of a man, have no rights, and when unclothed constitute a justification for rape. Remember this incident from a few years back?

     In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame.

     While not specifically referring to the rapes, brutal attacks on four women for which a group of young Lebanese men received long jail sentences, Sheik Hilali said there were women who "sway suggestively" and wore make-up and immodest dress ... "and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years".

     "But the problem, but the problem all began with who?" he asked.

     The leader of the 2000 rapes in Sydney's southwest, Bilal Skaf, a Muslim, was initially sentenced to 55 years' jail, but later had the sentence reduced on appeal.

     In the religious address on adultery to about 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, Sheik Hilali said: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?

     "The uncovered meat is the problem."

     The sheik then said: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."

     He said women were "weapons" used by "Satan" to control men.

     What the sheik said above is Islamic doctrine. It’s the will of God that women who dare to go about “uncovered,” or without the protection of a male relative, should be abused. A Muslim believes himself to be doing God’s will when he rapes such a woman – and note that in Islam-dominated countries, the victim cannot even complain to the law about having been raped for fear that she’ll be stoned to death for “adultery.”

     Yet Norway, Denmark, and no doubt other Scandinavian countries hope to “teach” Muslim immigrants, wholly dedicated to the teachings of Islam, that rape is wrong. We shall see.


     But I did say “one jury, two cases,” didn’t I? Note that the Times article I cited implicitly endorses the Norwegian and Danish efforts. The Times has never been terribly friendly toward traditional moral teachings. It causes me to wonder whether there’s anyone on its editorial staff who could frame a coherent argument why murder, for instance, is wrong.

     I was told some time ago of a philosophy class whose professor challenged his students to construct such an argument: “Why was it wrong for Cain to murder Abel?” The students floundered, one after another, until the professor called a halt to the exercise, and provided the answer:

     “Why was it wrong for Cain to murder Abel? Because it was.

     Alternately, we have Herbert Spencer:

     I asked one of the members of Parliament whether a majority the House could legitimize murder. He said no. I asked him whether it could sanctify robbery. He thought not. But I could not make him see that if murder and robbery are intrinsically wrong, and not to be made right by the decisions of statesmen, then similarly all actions must be either right or wrong, apart from the authority of the law; and that if the right and wrong the law are not in harmony with this intrinsic right and wrong, the law itself is criminal. [From his series of essays on “The Proper Sphere of Government”]

     Or if you prefer, there’s C. S. Lewis:

     This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world. [From The Abolition Of Man]

     The project of the modern anti-moralist, regardless of whether he calls himself a “liberal,” a “progressive,” a “socialist,” or anything else, is wholly founded on the rejection of the Moral Law as it’s written into the nature of Man. The Times is owned and operated by such persons, and the peoples of Scandinavia accepted their school of thought long ago. And today they grapple with this incomprehensibly difficult proposition – teaching Muslims, who believe that to rape the “uncovered” woman is licit in the eyes of Allah and might well even merit praise, why rape is wrong – and find themselves unable to get a purchase on it.

     The “refugees” probably laugh at them when class is over. But God, the Author of the Moral Law, will have the last laugh. Ironically, the most pungent expression of that principle comes from an atheist who denounced religion itself:

     “Senor D’Anconia, what do you think is going to happen to the world?”
     “Just exactly what it deserves.”
     “Oh, how cruel!”
     “Don’t you believe in the operation of the moral law, Madame?” Francisco asked gravely. “I do.”

     [From Atlas Shrugged.]

     It’s happening to Scandinavia today...and perhaps all too soon it will happen here in America.