Monday, October 31, 2016

A Little Mood Music

     Here’s a song for our times, from one of the few true geniuses to emerge from rock music, the great Mark Knopfler:

I keep a weather eye on the horizon, back to the wall
I like to know who's coming through the door at us all

It's the old Army training, kickin' in
I'm not complaining
It's the world we live in

Ronny and Malarkey, they're a devious firm
They'll take you to the cleaners, let you burn
The help is breaking dishes in the kitchen,
Thanks a lot
We hired the worst dishwasher
This place ever got
Hidden below the radar, they want to spoil our fun...
In the meantime, I'm cleaning my gun

Remember it got so cold ice froze up the tank
We lit a fire beneath her just so she would crank
Keep a weather eye on the horizon
Tap the storm glass now and then
We got a case of Old Damnation
For when you get here my friend

We can have ourselves a party before they come...
In the meantime, I'm cleaning my gun

We had women and a mirror ball, we had a DJ
We used to eat pretty much all came this way
Ever since the goons came in took apart the place
I keep a tire iron in the corner just in case

Gave you a magic bullet on a little chain
Keep you safe from the chilly winds
And the howl of the rain

We're gonna might need bullets, should we have stuck
Any which way, we're gonna need a little luck

You can still get gas in heaven and drink in kingdom come...
In the meantime, I'm cleaning my gun

Heights As Yet Unreached, Depths As Yet Unplumbed

     The election season has brought us everything but an actual, flying-lead revolution, or so it seems to many. “Absurd,” “bizarre,” “incomprehensible” are some of the adjectives I’ve seen or heard about the presidential contest. “Blowhard vs. Corruptocrat,” one commentator called it. And indeed, there are aspects of this contest that seem to go well beyond the borders of the plausible, in a “you can’t make this stuff up” sort of way.

     But while truth may seem stranger than fiction, one must bear in mind that fiction can always “take an eight count,” get up off the mat, and reach further out. Consider the following possibilities, none of which I’d dare to incorporate into an actual story:

     From the world of journalism:

  • David Gregory becomes a life member of the National Rifle Association.
  • Fox News hires a 6’6” blonde with a 52-inch bust who speaks no known language, and installs her in place of Megyn Kelly. (“At least she’s a Trump supporter,” mutters Roger Ailes.)
  • Breitbart.com acquires the New York Times for $1.00, breaks it up, and sells the pieces at a loss. (“It was littering up the place,” mutters Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow.)
  • Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Charles Krauthammer film a pro-Hillary Clinton spot. The three appear in sackcloth and ashes and wail “How could we have doubted you?” to the melody from “Stairway to Heaven.”
  • The Clinton for President campaign immediately commissions a follow-up spot in which the three “penitents” are publicly flogged by Brian Williams, who’s dressed as a dominatrix.
  • Dan Rather is seen stumbling down Broadway in a ratty bathrobe, shrieking “I’ve found the frequency! I’ve found the frequency!”

     From the interest groups:

  • The Club For Growth announces its endorsement of Jill Stein.
  • The Sierra Club announces its endorsement of Donald Trump.
  • The National Rifle Association announces its endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
  • The American Postal Workers Union demands that the federal government outlaw email.

     From the campaign itself:

  • Green Party candidate Jill Stein challenges Bernie Sanders to a death match in a mixed-martial arts octagon, “to show the people who’s the real socialist badass.”
  • Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson proclaims that as president, he’ll seek admission for the U.S. into the Russian Federation “because it’s been more successful than our arrangement.”
  • Trump supporters attempt the assassination of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson “so he can’t steal votes from our candidate.”
  • In her victory speech, Hillary Clinton names Wayne LaPierre as her choice for Surgeon-General.
  • In his victory speech, Donald Trump names Hillary Clinton as his choice for Secretary of State. (“She did such a good job the first time,” the president-elect mutters.)
  • In her victory speech, Jill Stein announces her intent to annex Brazil.
  • In his victory speech, Gary Johnson demands a recount. (“What’s Aleppo?” the president-elect mutters.)
  • In his victory speech, Evan McMullin announces his renunciation of his American citizenship and his intent to move to North Korea.

     But you know, none of that will happen. Whether you’re happy about it or not...well, maybe you should keep that to yourself. But here’s the fantasy outcome I’m hoping for: Of the ballots cast for president in this Year of Our Lord 2016:

  • 0.1% vote for Hillary Clinton.
  • 0.2% vote for Donald Trump.
  • 0.3% vote for “Sweet Meteor of Death.” (“I demand a recount,” the meteor mutters.)
  • 99.4% of the votes select “None of the Above is Acceptable, and Don’t insult our intelligence this way ever again!”

     Ah, perchance to dream...

Comforting.

The FAC [Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.K. House of Commons] report on Libya tells an unnervingly similar story. The FAC was particularly concerned with how Libya had become a hotbed of terrorism after the overthrow of “Brother Leader” Muammar Gaddafi. One of the FAC witnesses, General David Richards, who was chief of UK defense staff at the time of the intervention, maintained that there was no sense at the time for how UK actions could potentially worsen the dangers posed by terrorist networks.[1]
Bear this thought in mind as the American political class and its MSM sycophants halloo for reckless, pointless confrontation with Russia some 102 years after the start of one of the last century's hideous episodes of slaughter and destruction.

As is true with all wars, no one on earth has any idea of what is being unleashed when war becomes state policy.

Notes
[1] "The End of Interventionism." By Alex de Waal, Boston Review, 10/13/16 (emphasis added).

Plan A.

Hillary Clinton's foreign policy is to go around the world wrecking countries and then import to America millions of those fleeing her wreckage.
~ Mark Steyn.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Birth Pains: A Novelist’s Rumination

     There aren’t many (supposedly) normal occurrences that cause quite as much pain as giving birth. My wife compared it to having a truck drive through her body. Being incapable of personally experiencing the event, I’ll take her testimony at its face value.

     Birth, like death, is so important an occasion – every man that lives will do both, once each – that intuitively at least, it seems that it should be traumatic, that it might be remembered forever afterward. Yet we don’t remember our births despite the suffering that accompanies them or the drama that attends them. And of course, if we “remember” our deaths, we do so in a realm utterly unlike this one.

     Any act of creation, regardless of the thing created, is a birthing.


     I’m about to release my eleventh novel. I’m waiting for one more set of test-reader comments and a final cover image. The contractions are getting closer together, and steadily more intense as the big moment approaches.

     It was that way on each of the previous ten occasions. You might think I’d be used to it by now. However, it isn’t so. Each novel’s birth process strikes me as unprecedented and unique. So also are the reactions of the first batch of “non-intimate” readers, the anticipation of which fills me with a blend of eagerness and dread. (When will I receive the first Biercian “The covers of this book are too far apart” review?)

     I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world and everything in it. There’s absolutely nothing that compares to it. But I’d never say that the process is entirely pleasant – that there’s no pain involved. It hurts me like crazy, especially the end stages. I sometimes wonder whether other writers and artists experience their acts of creation in the same way.

     It also makes me wonder about how God felt...if such a question makes any sense at all.


     It’s potentially misleading, at the very least, to think of God as making decisions in a human, time-bound fashion. A Being that stands outside of time must have “mental processes” that differ totally from those of men. Yet Creation could not have been without some kind of Plan – and part of that Plan was the incorporation into the human psyche of free will.

     Mockers and scoffers have asked for centuries, “If God loves us, why does He allow evil and suffering?” To me the answer seems straightforward: the nature of time, the existence of natural laws, and Man’s free will make those things unavoidable. Nor does it matter what the laws of nature are; any set that operate in time and embed causal consequences would do. Only a completely static universe in which choice is impossible and actions have no consequences could avert all agony and horror.

     An omniscient Being would of course be aware of that. But without the possibility of evil and suffering, there could be no love, no joy, no courage, and no growth. The splendor of Creation was mingled with sorrow from the very first...and He Who decreed it knew it in its totality.


     The moment when I release a book for general circulation leaves me with a melange of emotions, the strongest of which are:

  • Relief at having completed an arduous and seemingly interminable process;
  • Sorrow that my powers are insufficient to make it better than it is;
  • Agony over how it will be greeted by its readers.

     The parallels to childbirth aren’t exact, but in their mix of positive and negative emotions, they bear a substantial resemblance. What mother hasn’t felt great relief that her pregnancy has come to its intended conclusion? Many mothers-to-be live in a great deal of uncertainty over whether they’ve been “doing it right” up to the very moment of birth. And of course, every decent woman lives with some degree of fear over how the world will treat her newborn, for we all know that our power to protect our children is less than perfect.

     In this sense, the parallel with Creation is inexact, for God doesn’t share our limitations. However, He knows them well. He knows that men, being what we are, will sometimes choose to harm one another. But the gift of free will makes it necessary that He not intervene. It is in this, I think, that the blending of splendor with sorrow is most pronounced.


     During the crafting of a story, I pray frequently for guidance: that I might see clearly what must follow from the motives and decisions of the characters I create and the setting in which I embed them. Once it’s finished and out of my hands, I pray for sustenance: that I might not flinch from the judgments its readers will express.

     A human life is much the same. The conscience speaks in whispers, at times all but inaudibly. But prayer has the power to amplify those whispers. He who allows himself any doubt about his moral and ethical judgment – and surely that’s every decent man who’s ever lived or ever will – can find reassurance in prayer, if he remembers to listen as he prays.

     When one’s time on Earth is over and done, he experiences a second birth: release from the flesh into a realm in which judgment is the sole privilege of Another. The story he wrote with his temporal choices will be critiqued by the Reviewer in Whom all meaning ultimately resides. While time remains to him, a wise mortal prays that if that final review is not to be “five stars,” at least it won’t be too everlastingly fiery.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

How To Discipline Your Credulity

     Wishful thinking – the desire to believe what one wishes to be true – is at the root of many a problem in the affairs of men. As we approach Election Day 2016, quite a lot of persons on both sides of the contest are predicting their side’s victory. They’re quite confident about it. Yet only one candidate can win.

     Imagine that one or the other candidate were to learn, with high confidence, that he was to be defeated, and therefore that further prosecuting his campaign was pointless. What would he do?

     Well, he might solicit second and third opinions, hoping for a revision of that grim forecast. Or he might accept the predestined defeat and “get his resume out,” as we in the private sector are known to do when it appears that our jobs are endangered. What he wouldn’t do, once he’d received sufficient confirmation to convince him that his defeat is foreordained, is carry on exactly as before. That would be a pointless waste of his time, energy, and money.

     We seldom see this in presidential contests. Several contests of recent years have come as close to “locked up tight” well before Election Day that the eventual loser should have known the axe was about to fall. Yet none of them accepted defeat before the votes were in. Wishful thinking proved more powerful than any amount of predictive information – and in 1964, 1972, and 1984, there was plenty of predictive information, all of it quite clear as to the eventual result.

     Wishful thinking is a factor among the enlistees of a presidential candidate, as well. The writing can be on the wall in ten thousand point type, but they want to believe “he still has a chance,” so they do believe it: not all, but some, often a strong majority. They must if they’re to continue to labor for him. And those enlistees, often including a great many unpaid volunteers, go on to the bitter end, squandering their time, energy, and money on a hopelessly lost cause.

     Scientists know all about wishful thinking and its destructive power. We’ve all read about the Piltdown Man, Trofim Lysenko’s “vernalization,” Rene Blondlot and the “N-rays” that only he could perceive. We’ve been forced to evolve a defense against it – and we have, and it works very, very well:

When you realize that you really want a particular result, immediately start compiling all the reasons it won’t occur.

     You must be absolutely honest about that effort:

  • Omit no possible indicator, however dubious.
  • Collect cross-confirmations from as many sources as possible.
  • Don’t downplay any of them, even if there are potential countermeasures.

     This, of course, is easier when the subject at controversy is natural law: the ability to predict the response to a stimulus applied to a specified context. But it’s applicable to elections, albeit with greater difficulty.

     Do you want your candidate to win? Of course you do. So start collecting all the indicators that he’ll lose. Next to each one, put any possible countermeasures, whether they’ve been attempted yet, and if so what resulted. Keep it all in a list that you update frequently. And when the writing is on the wall and there’s no course that will lead to victory given the time and resources remaining, accept it. Kick back with a good book, a glass of brandy, and a cat.

     It works for me.

Religious Axes: Sharpening In Progress.

     Novelist Andrew Klavan, a writer of considerable ability, has decided to speak of his embrace of the Christian faith in a new book, The Great Good Thing. I haven’t yet read that book, though it’s on my stack and nearing the summit. What I have read are some rather unfortunate comments about it.

     The first one I encountered come from David P. Goldman, perhaps better known as Spengler. Goldman dismisses Klavan’s conversion as somehow out of bounds because Klavan, born of Jewish parents, was therefore a Jew, but one who never actually practiced Judaism. He cites a Jewish philosopher as his authority:

     The great German-Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) decided to convert to Christianity. But he knew that to undergo conversion, he could only do so as a Jew. Raised secular, Rosenzweig had never practiced Judaism, so he attended the Day of Atonement services at a small synagogue in Berlin frequented by religious Eastern European Jews. After he saw for the first time what Judaism actually was, he decided to stick with it after all. There have been of course observant Jews who converted to Christianity in full knowledge of the implications; an example is the wartime chief rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli. He was saved from the Nazis from the Vatican while most of his congregation perished, and was ostracized by the Jewish community after the war.

     To be a convert is to convert from one thing to something else. And a competent choice presumes knowledge of what one is converting from as well as knowledge of what one is converting to. Rosenzweig understood this, and learned Judaism as a prerequisite for a Christian conversion that he abandoned.

     For that reason, Goldman writes, “I am afraid that I simply cannot accept your statement of Christian conversion as presented.”

     Nonsense on stilts! Arrogant nonsense! Because Klavan’s mother was Jewish – the consideration that supposedly made Klavan a Jew – he’s forbidden, by Orthodox Jew David P. Goldman, to accept Christ until he’s first studied, accepted, and practiced Judaism! Of course, Orthodox Jews also dismiss Messianics, who claim to continue to be Jews despite having accepted Christ as the Messiah, but the clash there is somewhat easier to understand.

     Then we have this pitiful mock-exegesis by Avner Zarmi. Zarmi’s critique is more of a psychologizing of Klavan than an argument about his Christianity. In effect, Zarmi, whose sole comment on the book itself is that it’s “not badly written,” asserts that had Klavan’s home life as a boy been better (and more explicitly Jewish), he would have become a practicing Jew who never would have considered becoming a Christian.

     Zarmi closes with this lament:

     What is, perhaps, somewhat surprising is that Klavan’s story doesn’t find repetition many times over, given the number of people of Jewish ethnicity who have been raised with equally scant knowledge of their actual heritage. The only reason I can think of is the almost militant secularism of general American popular culture over the past half-century or so, coupled with one more thing: The surprising revival, against all odds, of traditional, Orthodox Jewish observance. As I reported last year, the only segment of the American Jewish population which is growing is the Orthodox one, and fully 30% of self-described Orthodox Jews were not raised that way, and became observant later in life.

     It is truly tragic that a man with Klavan’s gifts will not be among them, and that his progeny will be lost to the Torah-nation.

     Huh?? Is that what matters? The maintenance and increase of Judaism’s numbers, rather than the sincerity of its allegiants’ faith? What about the sincerity of Klavan’s Christian faith? Is that irrelevant?

     I should note that the essays linked above are not atypical. Jews everywhere feel threatened as a people. That’s consistent with the “loss” of an eloquent man such as Andrew Klavan. But it hardly invalidates his journey to Christ or his sincere appreciation of Christianity. Great God in heaven, what would Goldman and Zarmi think if a prominent Christian writer – someone on Klavan’s level, perhaps P. D. James or Dorothy Sayers – were to convert to Judaism and then be assailed by Christians for having done so?

     I know, I know: Freedom of worship does not include freedom from criticism for one’s decisions about whether to worship, or how. All the same, it’s sad when intelligent persons leap into publication to denounce or deride someone else’s sincere decisions about faith. As far as I know, no one has derided Goldman or Zarmi for remaining practicing Orthodox Jews. Perhaps that will happen to them some day, in which case I hope this episode remains vivid in their memories.

I'm sure this is what Eric Holder had in mind.

From an article prompted by black mobs attacking whites in the vicinity of Temple University in Philadelphia:
Though all races are being admitted to college too liberally, blacks benefit the most, for only 1/5th of blacks in universities should even be there. Feeling out of place, blacks across the country are demanding separate dormitories.

Blacks are also given preferred treatment when it comes to government jobs and contracts, so the academy, state and media are all in their favor, yet their failures have only increased.

* * * *

Having achieved not just civic equality but, at times [24/7], even favored treatment, blacks still often find themselves on the losing end of life’s struggles. If you dare to suggest that individual blacks should bear at least some responsibilities [i.e., total responsibility] for their failures, however, you will be branded a racist.

So I’m a racist for writing this, Walter Williams is a racist for pointing out that most blacks attending college shouldn’t be there, and Joe Lauletta is a racist for calling his daughter’s attackers “sick animals.” Everyone is a racist except those 150+ blacks who attacked whites unprovoked.

"Who’s Racist?" By Linh Dinh, The Unz Review, 10/28/16.

The Weiner Disclosures

     (Not a bad title for a Robert Ludlum novel, eh? A pity he’s dead.)

     The discovery that disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D, NY) had a batch of Hilary Clinton emails on his personal computer comes as little surprise to those of us familiar with the pervasive corruption and arrant carelessness of Democrat politicians. A Democrat’s first, last, and only thought about anything whatsoever is how it will affect him personally. Their mental horizons are the shortest known among “white collar” workers. In the case of Weiner, it’s no farther away than his jockstrap.

     The interesting aspects of the matter are two:

  1. FBI Director James Comey’s willingness to reopen the investigation;
  2. The response of the highly partisan main stream media to this development.

     In Comey’s case, the sudden, no-longer-concealable rise of Donald Trump’s chances on November 8 has imbued the FBI director with a need to “hedge his bets.” As long as Clinton looked indefeasible, he was firmly on her side, whether from fear his person or a mere desire for occupational security. But now that the race appears too close to call – several analysts have pegged it at even money; a couple are predicting a Trump landslide – Comey feels endangered from both directions. He must position himself in such a fashion that he can propitiate whoever wins. The “new” emails provide a way to do that:

  • They justify reopening the investigation;
  • If Trump wins, he can then reverse his recommendation against prosecuting Clinton;
  • If Clinton wins, he can announce that the “new” material merely confirms his original decision.

     It’s a beautiful example of the “bureaucrat’s straddle,” a tactic appointed bureaucrats such as Comey, susceptible to being replaced by Congress, master early in their careers.

     The main stream media have taken a predictable tack about the disclosures. It’s a parallel to the old trial lawyer’s maxim:

     “If the facts are against you, pound the law. If the law is against you, pound the facts. If both are against you, pound the table.”

     Our highly partisan “journalists” replace the last part of that trichotomy with “Pound the Narrative.”

     The Democrats’ preferred Narrative in this matter is a simple one:

  1. The emails were illicitly acquired, probably by Russia.
  2. That makes them “inadmissible,” like evidence seized by the police without a warrant.
  3. Therefore, any implications of the emails, including the very fact of their existence, are “fruit of a poisonous tree,” and must be excluded from all consideration.

     That might work with an audience composed entirely of lawyers, if the emails had been obtained by an unConstitutional search-and-seizure by some squad of rogue police. It’s not getting any traction with the American electorate. But at this point, with so few days remaining before Election Day, there’s inadequate time in which to redirect Americans’ attention onto some convenient distraction. So it’s all they’ve got...and you may rest assured they’ll pound it right through the crust and into the magma.

     Voters’ distaste for Hillary Clinton is rising toward a crest. Ten days from now we’ll see whether it’s peaked high enough to avert a second Clinton presidency. Stay tuned.

Sometimes The Puns Come From Life Itself

     I make no pretense to the contrary: I love a clever pun. The groans from the audience are music to my ears. But what’s better than the common, “artificial” puns are the ones hurled at you by actual experience.

     We have four cats: Chloe, Zoe, Fluffy, and Uriel. Zoe, a tortoiseshell female, is a thief. Her specialty, until recently, was towels. She loves to snatch washcloths and hand towels, whenver she can reach them, and hide them from us. It’s about as harmless a pastime as a cat can adopt, so we tolerate it with as much grace as we can muster. (After all, we wouldn’t want her to “graduate” to something bigger that might get the attention of the authorities.)

     But every now and then, Zoe “branches out:” i.e., she’ll steal some article other than a small sheet of terrycloth. Those thefts can cause a lot of consternation. Yesterday was such a case.

     I was shuffling through the contents of my refrigerator, casting about for something to eat for lunch. My hand fell upon a lump of multiply torn and crumpled aluminum foil. When I unwrapped the thing, it revealed a pita left over from dinner two evenings before. It didn’t really constitute a proper lunch all by itself, so I set it by the microwave oven while I went to the pantry for a can of soup.

     When I returned to the kitchen no more than three minutes afterward, the pita was gone.

     I searched the whole damned house for that lump of starch. I spent more than an hour at it. It was nowhere to be found. Eventually I surrendered and ate my soup pita-lessly.

     I told Beth about it when she came home from work. She repeated my search – wives do that, you know; none of them will ever trust a man to do such a thing properly – but with the same negative result. We concluded that at some time in the misty future, we’d stumble upon the remnant of that pita and marvel at how cleverly Zoe had hidden it.

     Last night was a difficult one for me. I have numerous problems with my shoulders, the pain from which often impedes my ability to sleep. Last night they gave me a particularly hard time. When I rose, Beth took one look at me and immediately said “It was the pita, wasn’t it?”

     “Huh?” I replied in my wittiest Algonquin Club idiom.

     “It was the pita that kept you awake all night,” she said. Her deadpan would have elicited the envy of any Borscht Belt comedian. “You couldn’t sleep for thinking about where Zoe might have hidden it.”

     And in a blinding flash of the obvious®, what my beloved wife was edging toward became clear to me, so I lunged and snatched it out of her hands.

     “Oh, I see,” I said. “The Prince and the Pita, eh?”

     She smiled her wickedest smile.

     Some marriages are made in heaven. About this one, I’m not so sure.

Pearls of expression.

The geopolitical enemies that justified the creation of NATO—National Socialist Germany and the Soviet Union—have long since disappeared from the world stage. They have been replaced by new threats, both conventional and unconventional, that cannot be adequately faced through NATO and are, indeed, exacerbated by NATO’s antiquated defense orientation. There is a great deal of truth to Richard Sakwa’s caustic assessment that Washington is trapped in a “fateful geographical paradox—that Nato exists to manage the risks created by its existence.”
"Beyond NATO." The National Policy Institute, 10/28/16.

Oh. That border?

The outdated, Eurasian orientation of NATO has more than a little to do with this failure of defense policy. The threat posed by non-state actors in Mexico to the United States homeland is not just outside the bounds of NATO but unrecognizable to it.
"Beyond NATO." The National Policy Institute, 10/28/16.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Blowup You Might Not Have Heard About

     It’s amazing that I’ve only just come upon it:

     UPDATE: The original video has been taken down. Please watch this one instead:

     For those who are lethally averse to videos, here’s the transcript:

     Remember the Sept. 7 Commander-in-Chief Forum where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton appeared separately but back-to-back for 30 minutes each? According to an email forwarded to us late last night, which originated from a Comcast email address, the technical crew for NBC which produced the event is now speaking out about what took place moments after Clinton walked off the set – a massive profanity-laced tirade aimed at NBC’s host, Matt Lauer.

     It turned out that Clinton had been fed all the questions for approval in advance of the forum.

     But then, after the approval, Matt Lauer had had a change of heart and he started his questioning with an unapproved line concerning Clinton’s use of an illegal private server for her sometimes classified, work-related emails.

     According to a Comcast official (the parent company of NBC Universal) who apparently was quoting those on the set:

     “When Matt posed the one legitimate question about the FBI investigation concerning her homemade server and the unsecured emails, we could see she was beginning to boil.”

     According to an NBC Associate Producer of the Forum, as soon as Clinton got off the set, she exploded.

     “Hillary proceeded to pick up a full glass of water and throw it at the face of her assistant, and the screaming started.”

     “She was in a full meltdown and no one on her staff dared speak with her – she went kind of manic and didn't have any control over herself at that point.”

     “How these people work with this woman is amazing to me. She really didn't seem to care who heard any of it.” “You really had to see this to believe it. She came apart – literally unglued; she is the most foul-mouthed woman I’ve ever heard … and that voice at screech level … awful!”

     “She screamed she’d get that f…..ing Lauer fired for this.”

     Referring to Donald Trump, Clinton said:

     “If that f - - - ing bastard wins, we all hang from nooses! Lauer’s finished...and if I lose it’s all on your heads for screwing this up.”

     So, Crooked Hillary fears the gallows, eh? Interesting. Her dozen or more aides were visibly disturbed and tried to calm her down when she started shaking uncontrollably, as she screamed to get an executive at Comcast the parent company of NBC Universal, on the phone. Then, two rather large aides grabbed her and helped her walk to her car.

     Matt Lauer was massively criticized for the rest of the week on air by the Clinton campaign and the rest of the MSM as having conducted: “An unfair and partisan attack on Clinton.”

     According to the email, calls were made to the New York Times, the Washington Post, Huffington Post and Twitter executives with orders to crush Matt Lauer.

     One staffer on the Clinton campaign told the NBC staff that they all fear Clinton’s wrath and uncontrollable outbursts, and one described Hillary as “an egotistical psychopath.”

     Since Hillary does not allow any staff to have cell phones when she is in their presence, no footage is available.

     Interim DNC chairman Donna Brazile, the first black woman to hold the position, was singled out by Hillary during the rant. She screamed at Donna: “I’m so sick of your face. You stare at the wall like a brain dead buffalo, while letting that f - - - ing Lauer get away with this. What are you good for, really? Get the f - - - to work janitoring this mess - do I make myself clear?”

     A female NBC executive said that Donna Brazile looked at Mrs. Clinton and never flinched, which seemed to enrage Hillary all the more. The executive continued:

     “It was the most awful and terrible...and racist display – such a profane meltdown I have ever witnessed from anyone, and I will never forget it. “That woman should never see the inside of the oval office I can tell you that. She was unhinged and just continued to verbally abuse everyone – she was out of control.”

     Why did Lauer ask his rogue question? According to sources close to Lauer, because:

     “… the American people deserve an answer from the former Secretary of State.”

     Matt Lauer might not be able to buy life insurance for quite some time to come.

     Please, please get this around. Make it go viral!

The Reach Of Human Experience

     I’ve discovered that I can no longer predict what will intrigue me sufficiently to generate one of these screeds...and I think that’s a good thing.

     Martin McPhillips, in his review of The Sledgehammer Concerto, made this evocative comment about it:

     ...he is much more determined here to explore the further reaches of human experience.

     Martin’s phrasing struck me when I first read that review and has remained with me since then. Not because of the rather high and undeserved compliment to my book, but because it suggested that it might be worthwhile to try to define “the reach of human experience.” Fiction writers – some of us, anyway – do try to explore it. Some go beyond the known and verified to do so. But very few persons, writers or not, ever search for its current limits – the essence of definition.

     Where do the limits of human experience stand today? In other words: at what points have we halted, whether or not we eventually decide to push beyond them?

     No, it’s not an easy question to answer. But then, we don’t “do” the easy questions here at Liberty’s Torch. Our Gentle Readers wouldn’t stand for it, so we leave them for lesser minds.


     “What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us? What is there around us that we cannot know?” – the Orange Catholic Bible

     Human experiences can be categorized as either external – dealing with the sensory data reality provides – or internal – our mental responses and evolutions. The external category seems fairly easy to delimit: Human beings have not yet experienced environments that reach beyond our Moon – and damned few of us have gone even that far.

     Our internal explorations present a more elusive aspect, but they can be roughly categorized as follows:

  • Intellectual
  • Imaginative
  • Religious / Numinous
  • Emotional

     A small percentage of Mankind has roamed significant intellectual terrain. A larger fraction has exercised its imaginations to conceive of what might be or what cannot be. The overwhelmingly greater portion of our kind has known the religious impulse: broadly speaking, the attempt to comprehend, propitiate, or grow nearer to a power or powers beyond our own. Only psychopaths and sociopaths have been omitted from emotional experiences.

     There exist numerous more refined approaches to our interior lives. Yet, just as every flavor is composed of some combination of the “eight basic flavors” our taste buds can detect, all interior experience will be compounded of one or more from those four basic categories.


     The Sledgehammer Concerto pulled together six short stories:

  • “Communion,” about the emotional travails of three genius-level siblings from an abusive family;
  • “Virgin’s Prayer,” which employed magic in the service of evil to address the power of prayer;
  • “Last Rights,” which told of an attempt by the State to suppress a message it disliked and the effects upon the “messenger;”
  • “Source Code,” which involved scientific speculation and statism, with a concluding observation about what love will and won’t allow itself;
  • “The Last Green On The Willow,” which was about the quest for love, and what can happen when one stumbles upon it – both good and bad;
  • “The House Of Evening,” an exploration of a good man’s sense of having failed, with its consequences.

     The book wraps those six tales in an “interlocutory frame” of the sort I like and have used in other books. The central theme of that frame, which involves an older man introducing an arrogant, disdainful young woman to her father and his family history, is how little we really know about the people around us.

     For me, that’s the most interesting boundary of our experiential frontier, because it’s the most challenging. I have no doubt that our explorations of the physical world will continue. As for intellectual and imaginative advancement, these too will go forward...though they might march a bit more smartly if people would just put down their phones. The possibilities for religious “advancement” are more dubious, owing to the ineffability of the Mind of God. But on the emotional front, as we encounter and react to the non-human world and to one another, there’s a great deal of “work to be done,” and no great supply of persons willing to do it and capable of it.

     If there’s a service storytellers can render to their readers apart from diverting them from their cares for a few hours, it is in extending the borders of this realm, marking ever more of it as “explored” and ever less as “here there be dragons.” But of course, the great majority of fictioneers are mainly interested in making sales, which is why the market is glutted with endless variations on vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, quest fantasies, and dystopias.

     I’m sure I’ll return to this anon.

     "The proper study of Mankind is Man." -- Alexander Pope

Just How Long Have I Been Saying This?

     It’s a disheartening thing when any Presidential candidate excommunicates half the country from the human equation. That’s basically what Hillary Clinton did, with her quip about “deplorables.” She’s reading from the 21st century progressive playbook. I call it Moral Majority 2.0, which has taken all the worst qualities of the so-called Moral Majority of the 1970s and 1980s, and valorized them — with a progressive flavoring. It’s now perfectly okay to hate, despise, lie about, abuse, bully, browbeat (or physically beat!) people who are “bad” — because the “bad” people deserve it. -- Brad R. Torgersen

     It’s a bit disheartening to be so far out in front of the “field.” Ah, well. Another commentator of note has captured that problem rather accurately:

     Being right too soon is socially unacceptable. – Robert A. Heinlein

A defining characteristic of the Alt Right.

There’s a great deal of debate about what does and does not constitute the Alt Right and who properly belongs in or out of the movement. I’d add one essential characteristic that makes the Alt Right distinct from paleoconservativism, White nationalism, or National Socialism – a dominant sense of cynicism. No one who is on the Alt Right can honestly say he or she is fighting to save a System and a power structure which is basically healthy. The Alt Right is a culture of critique against the hegemonic liberal and anti-White Narrative and the institutions which perpetuate it.[1]
If you doubt that you live in a culture that is hostile to all that is decent, sensible, or fine browse the ineffable blog Goodbye America. Everything you see there is celebrated by the reigning culture.

Search long enough and you'll find the picture of the two male homosexuals riding a horse dressed as a unicorn into a synagogue to the delight of those in attendance at their wedding.

God help us.

Notes
[1] "Weaponized Morality." By Gregory Hood, Radix, 10/12/16.

It's who we are.

Every society is hypocritical, but it was left to the modern post-Western world to be completely defined by duplicity.
"Weaponized Morality." By Gregory Hood, Radix, 10/12/16.

Just read your @#$% job description.

As to the leaks themselves, leaks are a part of the culture. In the absence of true investigative journalists, leaks are now imperative, be they Wikileaks, Deep Throat, the Pentagon papers, or others. If the WSJ and others were doing their real job perhaps the leaks would go down in importance.[1]
Vote fraud, Clinton-sponsored violence at Trump rallies, epidemic single motherhood, black violence, disruption of campus speakers, Black Lives Matter, punitive prosecutions, IRS attacks on the Tea Party, dishonest military adventures in Syria, abandonment of our men in Benghazi, Jihadi massacres at military bases, illegal immigrants now in the neighborhood of 40,000,000, bogus anti-Russia hysteria, and Supreme Court contortionism, among other things, would not be occurring or would not have occurred had American officials, lawyers, and journalists merely done their bleeping job.

I once asked a one-star general who'd come on an inspection tour what it was he looked for. He replied simply that he looked to see if people are doing their jobs. It's a simple concept. As a lot of important people are not doing their jobs we get the inevitable result: exactly what Solzhenitsyn warned us not to do -- "Live not by lies."

University administrators should be singled out for the contemptible people they are in the main. Vicious, presumptuous, stupid students are permitted to shout down invited speakers, even to attack them, but they are not summarily expelled. PC distortions and establishment lies thus go unchallenged and free speech and personal security are diminished. Thuggery flourishes by virtue of administrators' dishonesty and cowardice.

Notes
[1] Comment by Kevin Burns on "The Cold Clinton Reality. Why isn’t the IRS investigating the Clinton Foundation?" Wall Street Journal, 10/27/16.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Would You Outlaw It?

     The following comes from the Executive Summary of a study by Dr. Lawrence B. Mayer, titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences:”

     The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex — that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.

     According to a recent estimate, about 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex.

     Studies comparing the brain structures of transgender and non-transgender individuals have demonstrated weak correlations between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations do not provide any evidence for a neurobiological basis for cross-gender identification.

     Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

     And from the preface:

     [N]early all children ultimately identify with their biological sex. [Emphasis added by FWP.]

     The implication of the quoted material is quite clear:

The majority of sex changes have net-undesirable (i.e., bad) consequences.

     However, it has a second implication as well:

A minority of sex changes do not have bad consequences.

     Let’s stipulate, entirely for the sake of argument, that Dr. Mayer’s assertions as quoted above are as accurate as contemporary science can make them. Would that constitute a sound basis for outlawing sex reconstructive surgery (SRS)?


     We humans have an irritating tendency to want to extinguish what we disapprove. Once governments arose, particularly the sort whose officials are chosen by ballot, this tendency entered our laws. The best current example is, of course, the War on Drugs.

     That tendency isn’t always wrong. I dislike and strongly disapprove of murder, assault, robbery, kidnapping, fraud, rape, advertising that insults my intelligence, and taxation. I’d like to see all of them outlawed, especially that last one. (My hopes in this direction will probably be forever unfulfilled.) But my desires in this regard are modest compared to most Americans. They’d like to see the long arm of the law reach much further. Many believe that a heavy enough weight of popular disapproval should suffice to have something banned.

     We’ve experienced a number of such bans. Probably the best known is alcohol Prohibition. However, there have been many others, including some that are still in force. For example, the state of New York still has laws on the books that outlaw adultery and fornication. Until recently, several states outlawed sodomy, both anal and oral. And of course, we all know about Massachusetts’s statutes against witchcraft. That these laws are seldom enforced makes no difference to their legal standing.

     A significant majority of Americans disapprove of sex reconstructive surgery. Some would like to see it outlawed, though their arguments against it vary. Once again, if we stipulate that Dr. Mayer’s assertions above are as accurate as medical science can make them, would that plus the weight of popular disapproval constitute sufficient rationale for banning SRS?


     The history of laws passed to suppress some disapproved practice that affects only voluntarily participating adults is not a happy one. In the usual case, such laws are used selectively, to harass or punish persons the political elite dislikes. That aspect of them contributes to the general loss of respect for the law. This is particularly the case when the enforcement of the law requires the violation of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. But none of that has ever slowed the charge of those who think to create the Kingdom of God on Earth by legislative action.

     As Darrell Huff observed in his classic How to Lie with Statistics, it’s a dangerous thing for any researcher to present his conclusions about some controversial practice without including his personal opinion of it. My own opinions, therefore, follow:

  • Sex reconstructive surgery is a drastic step no matter at what point in one’s life he chooses it.
  • It appears to work out badly (i.e., the patient is made miserable by it) more than half the time.
  • The consequences of a bad decision appear very serious.
  • Therefore, I would seriously question the judgment of anyone who opts for it.
  • Nevertheless, for consenting adults, it should be as legal as any other elective surgery.

     But that’s just me, Fran the freedom-weenie, who’s ever ready to let you go to hell in your own chosen fashion. (Cf. Eric Frank Russell’s classic novelette “Basic Right.”) How do you stand, Gentle Reader?

Political Hatred And Its Potential Consequences

     Have you noticed how, now that their screams of racism, sexism, and the like have lost essentially all their force, the Left’s cannon fodder has descended all the way to hater? For the moment let’s leave aside the vacuity (and the illiteracy) of the accusation. Consider instead what it means – about them.

     Hatred is an important force in human relations. It’s responsible for all willed, non-sociopathic attempts to do harm to another person. That, after all, is what the verb to hate means: to detest someone so greatly that one wishes him actual harm. When it becomes imperative – i.e., when it becomes the force that impels one’s decisions and actions – the person animated by hatred will seek to do such harm.

     So, Gentle Reader: Whom do you hate, and why?

     I’d bet the mortgage money that the answer is no one. You might dislike certain other people for specific reasons. You might feel wounded by things they’ve said or done. You might go to considerable lengths to avoid them. But you have no plans to do them harm. Indeed, the thought would never occur to you.

     Moreover, the same is true of any man of good will. So why do we wince when Leftist mouthpieces and agitators scream hater at us? Especially since now that Project Veritas’s undercover investigators have revealed how far the Left is willing to go to have its way, including violence against peaceable private citizens and the theft and destruction of their property, it stands convicted of the very sentiment with which it charges us.

     The haters are marching, all right. They’re those who hurl the epithet.


     Leftist figures of note have so frequently and openly fantasized about forcibly “re-educating” us in the Right that it’s become a cliché in political discourse. To do violence to someone’s mental integrity is unabashedly hateful...yet they entertain the notion gleefully. I’ve already written about the assumptions required to “justify” such a conception:

     For quite some time, left-liberals have preened themselves for their moral superiority -- what Thomas Sowell calls their "vision of differential rectitude" -- to those who disagree with them. On the strength of that assumed superiority, they have deemed themselves exempt from the requirements for courteous persuasion, for demonstrable results, even for candid presentation of their intentions to us benighted ones. Instead, they've used political power of several forms to impose their preferences on the country, have retroactively revised their goals when they failed to meet the ones they originally stated, and have increasingly turned to stealth to get their way. They have disdained to stand to account for any failure, be it practical or moral. They have shielded those of their own who've demonstrably exploited political privilege for personal gain, though they've condemned the ordinary self-interest of private citizens and have done all they could to thwart it.

     When, despite all its efforts to attain unchallengeable power, a Leftist movement falls short, it reaches inside itself for additional motivation – additional hatred. If found, that increment of hatred will power still worse tactics. Such tactics are on display in this election season. Examples can be witnessed at just about any public rally for Donald Trump. The most recent Project Veritas videos:

     ...make plain that they’re pre-planned and carefully organized. The organizers are clearly fully conscious of the consequences their machinations could have.

     But that’s not the worst of it. The worst is yet to come.


     Remember this incident from 2008?

     As far as I’m aware, no one was actually assaulted that day. However, a number of voters admitted to having been intimidated by the black thugs in that video. That was, of course, the whole idea: to suppress white voter turnout. And of course, we remember what happened to the legal case against the intimidators for this bit of “electioneering,” don’t we?

     November 8, 2016 has the potential to be far worse. Indeed, I expect there to be well distributed reports of actual violence against prospective voters – and the main stream media will systematically describe it in the passive voice, as if there were no one to blame for it.

     Here’s why:

     [H]atred is best combined with Fear. Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painful—horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember; Hatred has its pleasures. It is therefore often the compensation by which a frightened man reimburses himself for the miseries of Fear. [From The Screwtape Letters]

     Indeed, C. S. Lewis has understated the case. Fear potentiates hatred, much as Vitamin C potentiates aspirin. It amplifies one’s desire to hate the person feared, and therefore one’s willingness to inflict harm on him. And at no time these past sixty years has the Left known greater fear than it does today.


     Once it had established its seemingly unassailable bastions in the media, the educational industry, the arts, and the bureaucracies, the Left viewed its position as permanent, immune to any possible countermeasure. They believed they could rely on the Republican Party’s tacit compliance with “the established order,” as any upsetting of the applecart would imperil too many “rice bowls.” While the GOP remained unwilling to mount a serious attack on that order, their confidence persisted and grew stronger.

     The political ascent of Donald Trump was unanticipated by anyone “inside” that order, whether in office or in the media. As it became clear that Republican strategists and kingmakers were unable to thwart his nomination, the Left’s fears grew. A barbarian had come to the Establishment’s gate. His prospects could not be dismissed. He had to be stopped – and to the Left, that has always meant “by any means necessary.”

     The old tactics – slander, vilification, the disruption of Trump rallies and the encouragement of specious accusations against him – have failed. Even the open refusal of top figures in the GOP to support Trump has availed nothing. The barbarian remains at the gate, weapons in hand, and the true size of his horde cannot be known before Election Day. Something must be done.

     There’s only one tactic left. It’s odds-on to be deployed on November 8.


     There are no guarantees in politics. The Democrats might prevail, whether honestly or fraudulently. But their fear is a palpable force, and it’s elevated their hatred to levels unprecedented in American politics. The probability that they will express it violently is greater than it has been since the “Days of Rage” made memorable by Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and the Weathermen. No one who goes to the polls can be certain he’s perfectly safe.

     Be watchful. Record and report everything. And take care.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pat Condell On “America’s Moment of Truth”

     The following video is only eight minutes long. Please watch it.

     It cannot be put any better than that...even by an American.

Rebellions And Devolutions

     Fred Reed is characteristically blunt:

     American culture now drinks deeply from the ghetto, and there is no turning this around either. The country has achieved the dictatorship of the sub-proletariat. Someone said that when the lower orders found that they could vote themselves the treasury, they would. They can also vote themselves the culture, and have.

     There is no solution. Complaining about degraded music, semi-literacy, and barnyard taste accomplishes nothing. Soon there will be none left who remember what has been lost. Once broken, the chain cannot be repaired.

     It is over. Putrefaction is irreversible, either by Ronald or Lucretia.

     Fred’s vision, though bleak, is clear. It’s also largely accurate.


     Century after century, the West ascended. Its people became ever more capable. Their expectations of themselves, their fellows, and their progeny rose ever higher. Their appreciation for the unwritten laws that guide the hands of wise legislators became clearer and firmer. The first derivative of Civilization appeared to have set a lower bound below which it would not dip – and the second derivative seemed positive as well.

     Then came the Twentieth Century.

     Cultural devolution swept Europe first. In part that was because of the First World War and its effects on Europeans’ self-confidence. However, it was also because the orgy of death and destruction the Old World had barely survived left it disinclined to criticize cultural rebels and insurgents, much less punish them. For the first time in Westphalian history, those who violated public norms did so with no fear of reproof.

     The musical Cabaret, derived from Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, tells of the time’s ongoing cultural devolution in a light, musically ornamented format. Yet the story is grim, and remains so today, for the rise of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party was made possible by Germany’s descent into the cultural gutter. In brief, many saw it as a necessary, cleansing force, while those who differed had been too greatly weakened into an undifferentiated, uncritical “tolerance” to put it down.

     World War Two – what Barbara Tuchman called “the Second Round” in the epilogue to her award winner The Guns of August – further weakened the general inclination to defend the gains of Westphalian Europe. What remained of the Old World’s civilizational confidence vanished. “Tolerance” of crudity and filth in culture (to say nothing of deadly nonsense in politics) became effectively universal. Worse, it infected the huge contingents of Americans sent to Europe during and after the war and sailed home with them to infect others.

     America, weakened by a decade-long depression and the export of its youngest and fittest men for a foreign war, would shortly embark on a European course.


     Please allow me, in kindness to an old man weary from unpleasant reminiscences, to pass without comment over the last seventy years of American cultural history. We all know it for what it is. Suffice it to say that the very idea of cultural quality has been anathematized. As Fred Reed said, we have drunk deeply of the ghetto: its animalistic rhythms, its predatory instincts, its willful mindlessness, and its embrace of squalor. Rather than capitalizing on and advancing from the cultural plateau of the early Twentieth Century – a height that innovators such as Steinbeck, Faulkner, Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Irving Thalberg recognized and respected – contemporary fiction, music, visual art, and the new media of cinema and television have embraced the lowest of the low. Respect for decency and taste have become the exception rather than the rule.

     The reason is not hard to find: those who have rewarded the depravity of such offerings with their money and applause have cowed those horrified by them into silent acceptance. The catchphrases are “cultural relativism,” “respect for ethnic and racial identities,” and of course “tolerance.” When a development is widely celebrated while criticism is absent, we can only expect it to increase. As interest in the higher-minded culture of the prewar West has dwindled, our technology has spread its replacement to every corner of the globe, imbuing it with a staying power the older arts lack.

     The rebels have become the establishment.


     Having said all the above, I must also say this: There is no such thing as an irreversible trend. Reversal might be supremely difficult, but as long as men possess free will, it will remain possible to undo anything their predecessors have done. Fred Reed and I differ to that extent.

     There are some hopeful signs. The independent writers’ movement shows promise. There have been minor indications of a resurgence of interest in representational art. The musical genre called progressive rock, or more concisely prog, has delved into symphonic forms and century-old literature for inspiration and direction. But the tide of crudity and filth has not turned. It may yet swallow those bits of constructive rebellion against our all but totally devolved culture.

     What we patronize, we’ll get more of; what we ignore will wither away. There have been vanishingly few exceptions to that pattern.

Civilian activists.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is concerned about the fact that the Admiral Kuznetsov heavy aircraft carrier, heading in the direction of Syria, “can be used as a platform for increased airstrikes against civilians in Aleppo.”

Civilian activists from Ahrar al-Sham, which used to work with ISIS until January 2014 and deeply involved in ethnic cleansing against Syrian minorities, and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, which used to be al-Qaeda’s official Syrian branch until July 2016, send a deep gratitude for defending them from the barbaric bombing by the Russian regime to the North Atlantic Alliance also well-known as the stronghold of human rights and justice across the world.
"Syrian War Report – October 26, 2016: NATO Concerned over Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham Casualties." Southfront, 10/26/16.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Still Think There's No Race War In Progress?

     Then read this:

     A slew of vicious, “flash mob”-style attacks at Temple University left at least six students beaten and bloodied over the weekend, along with a cop and a police horse.

     More than 150 teens, spread out in groups of 20 or 30, descended upon the campus at around 8:30 p.m. Friday — wreaking havoc for nearly two hours before eventually dispersing, according to NBC 10.

     Temple spokesman Ray Betzner told the television station that the mob had been playing a “cat-and-mouse game” with officers throughout the night as they assaulted people who were walking around campus.

     Yes, the attackers were black, though the story doesn’t mention that little tidbit until the seventh paragraph – and then, only in quoting a victim’s parent’s Facebook post.

     City dwellers are at the greatest risk, largely because of:

  • The tendency of blacks to cluster in cities;
  • The tendency of cities to forbid private possession of firearms.

     However, every Caucasian or Oriental is at risk in some degree. The cancer has metastasized and cannot be contained.

     Plan accordingly.

Why Illegal Votes Matter (As If You Didn’t Already Know)

     Voting power analysis fascinates me, in part because among all the branches of finite mathematics it’s the one that’s most dependent upon timing effects. Simple, static voting power problems are interesting enough. Here’s a typical case:

     Let the aggregate voting power of a committee be set at 1. Imagine a committee of four persons. Add the condition that the committee has a Chairman with the power to decide the results of a tie. What is the Chairman’s voting power, and what is the voting power of any other committee member?

     I’ll save you the analysis: the Chairman will get his way seven-eights of the time, as all three of the other members must vote against him to thwart him. Therefore, the Chairman’s voting power – i.e., the fraction of cases in which his vote will determine the outcome – is 7/8; any other member will possess one-third of what remains: (1/8)*(1/3) or 0.0417 (rounded to the nearest ten-thousandth). Clearly, “it’s good to be the Chairman.”

     But the really interesting problems in voting power are time-dependent. Many depend upon an elusive, sometimes partly illusory consideration called “lock-in.” The following is a typical example.

     Let there be a committee of five persons – once again, aggregate voting power 1 – who have a delimited but non-instantaneous time period over which to vote on some issue. At the very beginning of the process – i.e., before any votes have been cast – each member has a voting power of 1/5 (0.200). Stipulate that a vote once cast is locked in: i.e., it cannot be changed. After four votes have been cast, what is the voting power of the remaining member (before the interval expires, of course)?

     This is a slightly more difficult calculation than with the committee of four. To cut to the chase, there are only the following ways four persons can vote:

  • Four unanimous, either yes or no;
  • Three in agreement, one in dissent;
  • Two against two;

     Those configurations cover thirty of the thirty-two possible configurations of the potential votes. (If this seems elusive, compare it to the number of values a five-bit number can represent.) However, in only one set of configurations does the “holdout” vote determine the outcome: the two-against-two set, which are six in number:

  • YES YES no no
  • YES no YES no
  • YES no no YES
  • no YES YES no
  • no YES no YES
  • no no YES YES

     Since 6*(1/30) == 1/5 (0.200), it would seem that the “holdout’s” voting power is unaffected by his decision to withhold his vote till the last moment...if we omit the possibility of influence.


     The holdout on the committee-of-five above could be a “disinterested patriot,” or he could be “out for whatever he can get.” However, even the most purely civic-minded citizen can be influenced by persons eager to have his support. In a political order such as ours, you may rest assured that those with something to offer him will bid for it.

     As I’ve written before, contemporary politics is largely driven by the desire to enlist voting blocs: identifiable groups, bonded by a common interest, whose voters can be swayed to one or the other party because of that common interest. An excellent example of this is the National Rifle Association, which will never, ever side with an anti-gun-rights candidate (usually the Democrat). On the other side of the scale we have the Sierra Club, whose allegiants normally vote for the Democrat as the “more environmentally friendly” of the two candidates. There are many similar cases.

     However, the less a “bloc’s” votes are influenced by a single issue, the less easily can its votes be swayed. As the majority of American voters are not single-issue-oriented, the usual assumption is that their votes will be determined, if at all, more by party affiliation than by any other consideration. Those voters receive relatively little consideration in the sculpting of the parties’ and candidates’ platforms, as their loyalty is taken for granted.

     That leaves two “categories” of voters to trawl for electoral advantage:

  • The “independents,” registered to neither of the major parties;
  • The single-issue voting blocs.

     In the typical presidential contest, the independents don’t show a pronounced preference for either candidate. (There are exceptions, of course, as we saw in 1980 and 1984.) So the major parties tend to concentrate on the bloc voters...and those who “speak for” the bloc voters – i.e., those who issue endorsements in the name of some organization dedicated to the common interest – hold out for the very best deal they can get.

     Now, many would say that such organizations cannot command the votes of their members, and they would be absolutely correct in that. But they do exert influence, in some cases to the extent of being able to determine as much as 90% of the members’ votes. (This is often the case with occupation-oriented organizations.) If it were otherwise, the major parties would pay them no attention. So the parties do their damnedest to persuade the major figures in such organizations to endorse their candidates.

     This brings us to the ugliest aspect of the phenomenon: the corruptibility of organization luminaries.

     When representatives of a party or candidate approach the top figure in a special-interest organization, they are mindful of the potential cleavage between the organization’s nominal focus and the personal interests of the person they’ve approached. If such a cleavage can be found, it will be exploited. The “organization’s” endorsement makes it appear that the party or candidate has agreed to give high priority to the organization’s focus, but in truth it’s bribed the organization’s supremo to purchase that endorsement. Of course, the supremo won’t allow any hint of that to reach the membership, if he can help it.


     At last we come to the question of whether the votes of non-citizens might be important on November 8.

     There are several organizations that claim to represent the interests of illegal aliens. Those organizations possess considerable ability to sway illegals generally, as illegals tend to regard their immigration status as the most important thing about them. In other words, their cohesion as a bloc is greater than average. If they manage to cast votes two weeks from today, any influences on those votes will be of great importance – and the Democrat Party has all but openly trawled for those votes:

  • By impeding the identification, capture, and deportation of illegals;
  • By opposing the reinforcement of the southern border;
  • By opposing laws requiring voter identification;
  • By promoting “same day” voter registration;
  • By ridiculing the issue of vote fraud.

     Recent estimates hold that there are at least 12 million illegal aliens in the United States. If only a tenth of them manage to cast a vote on November 8, those 1.2 million votes, depending on their geographical distribution, could deliver 100 or more Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton.

     So yes, it matters...especially since the true interests of anyone within the borders of this nation – whether legally or not – are physical and economic security, which can only be increased by greatly strengthened border control.

     Have you thought about volunteering to be a poll-watcher two weeks hence? It might be the most important spot of volunteer work you’ll ever do.

Gee, I Wonder Why?

     Did you know that neither our Lawyer President nor his Lawyer Wife can legally practice law?

     Note that Michelle is on “court ordered inactive status.”

     The popular story is that Michelle voluntarily gave up her license and went inactive, maybe because she just didn’t plan to practice law in the future, or something of that nature. The story further goes that she can restore that license and go active at any time she wants to do so. Note that the form is titled “Registration and Public Disciplinary Record.”

     Michelle Obama became inactive through ARDC Rule 771 in 1993. Rule 771 was titled Code of Professional Responsibility.

     Rule 756 became effective February 1, 1973. This rule is titled Registration and Fees. Rule 756 is the vehicle for becoming voluntarily inactive, for whatever reason you want to do so, unless you have reason to be considered under Rule 753 – review and hearings.

     Now, much of America already knew that Michelle Obama had “voluntarily surrendered” her law license. But most of us didn’t know that her President husband doesn’t have his anymore:

     On to Barack Obama who surrendered his law license in 2008. We do not know under which ARDC Rule he went inactive.

     Alamo City Pundit says he is an attorney and talks about having and giving up a law license:

     “Voluntarily retired” — what does that mean? Bill Clinton hung onto his law license until he was convicted of making a false statement in the Lewinsky case and had to “Voluntarily Surrender” his license too.

     This is the former editor of the Harvard Law Review who doesn’t seem to give a crap about his law license.

     Something else odd; while the Search feature brings up the names, any searches for the Disciplinary actions ends quickly.

     As in, Too Quickly. Less than a half-second quickly on a Search Engine that can take five seconds to Search for anything.

     As in, “there’s a block on that information” kind of thing.

     So we have the first Lawyer President and First Lady — who don’t actually have licenses to practice law.

     Had more Americans known about this in 2008, would we still have installed Obama in the Oval Office?

Dynasties And Establishmentarianism

     Today’s bit of mandatory reading issues from a Bernie Sanders supporter who advocates voting for Trump. The heart of his argument:

     Either a Bush or a Clinton has been in power for 20 out of the 28 years since 1989, or 71 percent of the time. Electing Mrs. Clinton would increase this to 24 out of 32 years, or 75 percent of the time. Thomas Jefferson warned about dynastic rule in a 1786 letter to George Washington in which he wrote, “An hereditary aristocracy…will change the form of our governments from the best to the worst in the world.” Those who support Hillary Clinton seem to forget, everything else aside, that a vote for Hillary will be a vote for dynastic rule. This cannot be the sort of change for America that I believe Bernie supporters really want.

     A political establishment will always gravitate toward the formation of political dynasties. The tendency has only recently become visible in American politics, even though we had political families (e.g., the Adamses and the Harrisons) from the founding of the nation. Dynasties are inherently “conservative” in the original sense. A political order dominated by an Establishment will naturally funnel its benefits toward its insiders, and a cohesive family will be a more efficient conservator of those benefits than an individual. Such a dynasty will automatically be inclined to preserve the status quo, the environment in which it rose and thrives.

     Does that seem obvious, Gentle Reader? If so, then why have so many Americans overlooked it for so many decades?

A Passing

     And not just any passing, but that of a giant of our form:

     Steven Den Beste has passed away.

     I just received word from Steven's brother, graciously thanking me for making the welfare call to the police and confirming that what many of us feared had indeed come to pass. I did not inquire as to specifics, but Steven had been in very poor health of late, having had a stroke just under four years ago.

     Steven was brilliant, a former engineer with a crackerjack mind. His old blog, U.S.S. Clueless was tremendously important in the early days of the 'blogosphere'. It is hard to overstate the importance of U.S.S. Clueless and the brilliance of his analysis. Sadly, that site went down this past week as well, when Steven's server failed. That site was immensely influential to many of us, and I am far from the only person he inspired to blog or helped along.

     “In the beginning,” so to speak, there were only a few bloggers whose emissions were noteworthy: more cerebral evolutions than personal jottings. Den Beste was one, and perhaps the foremost of all. His essays, which have been archived here, are gems, and not merely of Blogospheric history but in their own right. To anyone who might not be familiar with Den Beste’s work, I commend them unreservedly, even imperatively.

     Rest in peace, Steven.

New conservative media channel.

Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin, and Mark Steyn will be appearing. Coming soon.

Please consider subscribing to CRTV.

Monday, October 24, 2016

So Vile A Thing

     ...that no title could do it justice:

     A terminally ill California woman says her insurance company denied her coverage for chemotherapy treatment but offered to pay for her to kill herself, shortly after California passed a law permitting physician-assisted suicide.

     Stephanie Packer, a wife and mother of four who was diagnosed with a terminal form of scleroderma, said her insurance company initially indicated it would pay for her to switch to a different chemotherapy drug at the recommendation of her doctors.

     But shortly after California’s End of Life Option Act, which authorizes physicians to diagnose a life-ending dose of medication to patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live, went into effect, Ms. Packer’s insurance company had a change of heart.

     “And when the law was passed, it was a week later I received a letter in the mail saying they were going to deny coverage for the chemotherapy that we were asking for,” Ms. Packer said.

     She said she called her insurance company to find out why her coverage had been denied. On the call, she also asked whether suicide pills were covered under her plan.

     “And she says, ‘Yes, we do provide that to our patients, and you would only have to pay $1.20 for the medication,’” Ms. Packer said.

     Please watch, and reflect.

     [Applause to Ace of Spades.]

Matters Fictional

     Good morning, Gentle Readers. There’s no news worth commenting on just now, so I thought I’d spend a few words on storytelling and related matters. Those of you lucky enough to be unacquainted with my fiction can feel free to skip this piece. As for the rest...I hear there’s a twelve-step program for dealing with the malady, though I have no idea whether it effects a complete cure or merely alleviates the symptoms.


     The telling of stories has its roots in the oral histories by which human tribes educated children and new additions to their numbers. Therefore, as fiction became a part of human culture, the events of a story were always narrated as having occurred in the past. Thus, “fictional past” has remained the overwhelmingly most common mode of narration of stories today.

     The use of fictional past implies certain things about the story’s context. The storyteller is presumed to know all the relevant details. If there’s a first-person narrator, he too is regarded as being fully informed. Also, any consequences of the story’s events are the narrator’s “property:” he can elect to mention them to the reader, whether emphatically or in passing, or withhold them under the assumption that “you already know about that.”

     The use of fictional present, a fairly recent trend, often arises from a dislike of those implied conditions. (For those unfamiliar with the terminology, where a fictional-past writer would write “He stood,” a fictional-present writer would put “He stands.”) This has the effect of heightening the story’s immediacy; after all, the story’s events are happening right now. They could be having momentous consequences as we read of them. While there are more difficulties (and not a few gotchas) in telling a fictional-present story than in fictional-past, nevertheless there’s been a trend toward it in recent years.

     I always write in fictional past. As a reader, I dislike fictional present. There’s something about it that jars me. A writer who employs it must be exceptionally compelling to hold my interest. How does it affect you?


     Readers of my fiction will be aware that I sometimes employ an “interlocutory frame” – a narration that envelops the “actual events” of the story – as a storytelling vehicle. In effect, it wraps one story within another. The technique can provide certain expository advantages to the storyteller. For example, if the “outer” story is constructed as a conversation, the characters conversing can make observations about the “inner” story that would otherwise be frowned upon. It tends to work best when the “outer” and “inner” stories share a protagonist.

     The frame I employed helped me greatly in structuring and pacing Love In The Time Of Cinema. As seventy-year-old Jana recounted the key events of her much younger life to the unnamed entertainment journalist, she was able to mention events that, had I lacked the frame, I would have had to insert in the “inner” story. In some cases – especially the sexual ones – those events had to be conveyed discreetly. Also, the frame provided an extra emotional dimension to Jana’s tale, owing to her perspective as a relatively recent widow who missed her late husband terribly.

     I’ve made use of a similar frame in Statesman. One of my test readers has already commented on it somewhat negatively as “distancing.” I’ll be extremely interested in the balance of readers’ opinions, once the book is made available for purchase.


     Finally for this morning, an announcement that will please some while it appalls others: Statesman is the last novel in the Realm of Essences family. It’s time for me to move on to other vistas. A writer who harps repeatedly on one theme, motif, or central character must be exceptionally creative in other ways to remain worth reading, and I don’t think I qualify. So as fond as I am of Louis, Christine, and Stephen Graham Sumner, I think we’ve visited with them for the last time...though there will be at least one more novel set in Onteora County, New York.

     There are other novels coming, of course:

  • A fourth (and final) Spooner Federation novel;
  • A novel based on the characters and setting in my novelette “The Warm Lands;”
  • Powers Of The Air, a contemporary fantasy, inspired by the works of C. S. Lewis, about an evil plot founded on necromancy;
  • Innocents, a book about which I can’t say anything at all without committing a “self-spoiler.” Suffice it to say that it will raise a few eyebrows.

     That’s all I have for you at present. Be well.

“Life is too short to read lousy books.” – “Oregon Muse” at Ace of Spades HQ

Leftist rhetorical integrity.

I don't recall where I copied this from but it's on the money:
  1. A desire to follow the constitution is "extreme."
  2. A desire to follow the rule of law is "extreme."
  3. A desire to keep more of one's earns as our purchasing power erodes is "extreme."
  4. A desire to have the government out of our daily business is "extreme."
  5. A desire to protect our borders and insulate ourselves from the third world and potential terrorists is "extreme."
  6. A desire to maintain our standard of living and cultural values is "extreme."
  7. A desire to hold leadership accountable for their mistakes is "extreme."
The left is all about evasion. I saw a recent article on The Unz Review (?) to the effect that "I don't like what you're saying, therefore it must be racist." That would be the bottom line. When the sledding gets heavy, allegations of racism, bigotry, etc. are trotted out faster than Hillary's Epipen.

Substance of an argument is never addressed but the morals, transgressions, stupidities, alcohol problems, failed marriages, philanderings, and college term paper typos are the leftists' first order of business in any debate. The ad hominem raised to an art form.

Leftist positions on spending, free speech, gun rights, multiculturalism, diversity, open borders, the "living Constitution," black internecine violence, black academic failure, ballot integrity, feminism, abortion, the family, Common Core, home schooling, "refugees," "asylum," Western civilization, marriage, the Religion of Peace, etc. are so absurd and distorted it's imperative that any focus on the substance of their arguments be deflected.

Anyhow. Just a shallow dive into the pathology today.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Evidence For The Divine: A Sunday Rumination

     Blanket statements about people deserve a thinking man’s suspicion. Who among us has met everyone who’s ever lived? Not I, certainly. Yet there are...persons who’ll glibly toss off generalities about human motivation as if God Himself had revealed all the secrets of Nature to them. That irritates me, to say the least.

     Here’s a recent one that sounds wise, in a contemporary, highly cynical fashion:

     No man is so virtuous that he can resist the highest bidder.

     Really? Do you suppose he knows this from personal experience? I can name several without stopping to think that gave everything, their lives included, rather than renounce their highest principles. Among them were men an Emperor had offered to raise to a great height, if they would only agree to renounce their faith and kneel before him.

     I don’t expect much from most people. Mediocrity is the rule. But he who vents his opinions about Mankind should bear in mind his own membership therein; his statements about us should not suggest that he views us from some superior position. And a blogger who casually tosses off the phrase “religious nuts” about men of sincere faith – men who, in some cases, have paid heavily for their faith – has two and a half strikes against him from the outset. But that’s all to the side.

     What I really want to talk about today is the evidence for the existence of God.


     Not too long ago, I viewed a YouTube video made by a physicist, in which he claimed that the existing consensus about the origin of the universe constituted proof of the existence of God. It was a clever pitch, and I admired it somewhat, but it had a fatal flaw: in reality, we do not know how the universe came to be. What we have is a conjecture that cosmological theorists have rallied around. However, as none of them were present to witness the actual event, conjecture it is and shall remain.

     Proof of the Divine is denied to us by our natures as limited, mortal creatures whose powers of observation are tentative and uncertain. We’re even deludable, which throws a monkey wrench into a personal witness of any phenomenon that resists being reproduced. So proof of the existence of God, in the sense of an irrefutable demonstration of veracity, is beyond us. But then, proof is beyond us in all matters that touch upon reality.

     What remains when proof has been excluded is evidence. The law allows for “persuasive but not conclusive” evidence for a proposition, which a jury is allowed to include in its considerations. Evidence can be persuasive to one mind though another shrugs it aside. And of course, it can be for or against the proposition at hand.

     Concerning varieties of evidence, there is one sort that distinguishes disprovable propositions from those that must remain matters of faith: evidence that arises from prediction. A disprovable proposition is one that links a cause to an effect. It will always be of the following form:

  1. Given certain specific initial conditions,
  2. If stimulus X arises,
  3. Consequence Y will result no more than Z seconds later.
If we can formulate an experiment whose outcome would test such a hypothesis, the hypothesis is disprovable. If the initial conditions are met, stimulus X is applied, and consequence Y fails to occur within Z seconds, the hypothesis has been disproved.

     But there can never be such an experiment about the existence of God.


     I’ve written in the past about the process of definition, so I’ll spare you any repetition of that material. In brief, definition is appropriate only to categories: sets of items that share observable characteristics. A unique thing that’s incapable of being reproduced is equally incapable of being defined. When the Thing under consideration is held to be outside our spatiotemporal universe, we should know better than to attempt to define it.

     God is such a Thing. We cannot know Him in His entirety. Our human limitations make that impossible. However, theists attribute certain characteristics to Him with a degree of confidence:

  • Omnipotence (from our perspective);
  • Omniscience (again, from our perspective);
  • Justice;
  • Mercy.

     (Note that the last two attributes temper one another. Absolute justice would know no mercy; unlimited mercy would leave no room for justice. But this is the least of our difficulties in “coming to grips” with God.)

     Insofar as the nature and history of the universe as we know it are consistent with the existence of a Creator with those characteristics, it is permissible to take them as evidence of such a Creator. However, they do not and cannot constitute proof. An infinite number of possible explanations exist for every aspect of spatiotemporal reality, and many of them make no room for God. He who prefers one of the non-theistic alternates has a perfect right to his convictions.

     But there is another kind of evidence, equally disputable but in many ways the most persuasive of all: the willingness of good men to sacrifice everything for their faith in God.

     History is replete with stories of men who, offered the choice of renunciation or death by torture, chose the latter. The Founder of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth, is the best known. (And yes, He was a man as well as the Son of God; both parts were vital to His mission.) But what’s more striking than that the Redeemer should have accepted torture and crucifixion is the willingness of His Apostles, and hundreds of saints over the subsequent centuries, to make the very same choice.

     Once again, however persuasive these data might be, they are not conclusive. Men are capable of being deluded. Some immerse themselves in fantasy lives impervious to reality. It’s for each man who lives to decide whether to be persuaded.

     I have so decided. Your preferences are your own affair.


     The secular tendency of our age is such that any degree of religiosity is sufficient for someone to call you a “religious nut.” Nor is there any shield against such an epithet. I can testify to that from experience: my wife thinks of me that way. The problem is exacerbated by the behavior of many Christians to dismiss or demean non-believers. That’s quite as wrong as the converse.

     Yet we improve, little by little. Over the centuries Christians have unlearned the prejudices and arrogances that caused them to disparage others (to say nothing of the historical persecutions we should have learned from our own experience to eschew). Today’s Christians tend to be far more tolerant of others than those others are of us – and I regard this, too, as evidence of the existence of God, for if our theocosmogony is at all correct, He would not wish us to push others away with disdain or contempt.

     I know there are nonbelievers among the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch. I’ve said many times that theirs is a defensible position, and I’ll stand by that. But to my Christian readers I address what might be the most important thought I’ve ever had:

What would benefit the social and political order of these United States more than this: that an overwhelming majority of Americans might become sincere and humble Christians?

     At this time, 74% of us identify ourselves that way...yet as a sociopolitical body we often behave rather differently. Perhaps the time has come for each of us to ask himself:

Do I really believe?
If so, what does that imply?

     May God bless and keep you all.