Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Scientism, The One True Faith

     [NB: The title of this piece is shamelessly stolen from Helmut Schoeck’s book of a similar name.]

     First, a little “morning maniac music:”

     And as my pastor would say, with that as our theme let’s proceed to the meat of the matter.

     SCIENCE! The word has a compelling sound, doesn’t it? Americans have come to venerate it as a fount of marvels and wonders, an overflowing cup of knowledge and the bounties thereof. Scientists “know” things – things the rest of us don’t know. That’s what makes them scientists, don’t y’know. When they orate, no matter on what subject or to what effect, we hoi polloi are expected – required, really – to accept their pronouncements as articles of faith. I mean, mustn’t we? They gave us the Internet, after all, so how could they be wrong?

     Not since the decline and fall of the cults of Ba’al and Ormuzd has such completely specious, utterly laughable bullshit commanded so many minds.

     A tangential but illuminating question is useful here. I’ll post it in big type, for the perceptually challenged:

What Is “The Internet?”

     (Now, now, let’s not always see the same hands.)

     I’ll cut directly to the chase:
     “The Internet” is not a bunch of computers.
     It’s not a collection of routers or modems.
     It’s not a huge web of cables, either.
     It’s a set of definitions for digital communications protocols that specify how devices on an internet are to pass packets to one another.

     Any conflation of some array of physical devices with “The Internet” is inherently incorrect and badly misleading. It is entirely and exclusively a method: the group of protocol specifications that define how computers on what we call “The Internet” are to exchange data.

     Thus also with science:
     It isn’t a bunch of people with doctorates who spend several hours a day wearing white lab coats.
     It isn’t a laboratory filled with glassware, chemicals, electronics, and experimental subjects;
     And it most certainly isn’t “settled,” no matter what subject or persons declaim on it.

     Science is a methodology for the investigation of reproducible phenomena. Science is the scientific method, more or less as Francis Bacon originally prescribed it.

     Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to deceive you for purposes of his own. He is dangerous to you and others. He means to take something from you, most likely your money and freedom. When confronted by such a person, put one hand on your wallet, the other over your genitals, and back slowly away.

     But they’re getting very thick on the ground.

     Examples of how the word science has been turned into a bludgeon are many and varied. Courtesy of Mike Hendrix, we have this example from Scott Adams:

     Believer: Climate scientists are correct because the scientific method is reliable over time, thanks to peer review. The experts are overwhelmingly on the same side.
     Skeptic: The prediction models are not credible because prediction models with that much complexity are rarely correct.
     Believer: You troglodyte! You know nothing of science! The scientific method is credible!

     See what happened? The believer was discussing science and the skeptic was NOT discussing science. These are different conversations. The prediction models are designed by scientists, but they are not “science” per se, any more than a microscope is “science.” Both are just tools that scientists use.

     Indeed, the deceptions proffered by Believer are even worse than Adams has said. Note Believer’s citation of “experts.” An expert, more or less by definition, is one who possesses expertise: i.e., specialized knowledge. In point of fact, expert is a word properly applicable only to persons who possess a skill: a talent for dealing with particular problems of a similar sort. Science admits no experts.

     The late, great Richard Feynman once described “science” as the unwillingness to concede the infallibility of “experts.” Feynman, a brilliant physicist who shared a Nobel Prize for his work in quantum electrodynamics, understood science far better than many of today...including many self-styled “scientists.”

     The great cleavage to be emphasized here is the one between science and knowledge. We – and this includes scientists – actually know very little. Our hard knowledge consists almost entirely of data: the facts anyone with the necessary perceptions (and the properly calibrated instruments) can acquire for himself. Strictly speaking, “scientific knowledge” is a contradiction in terms, for science is overwhelmingly more about what we don’t know. It is unable to give firm answers except in the negative.

     The scientific method can only say with assurance that a particular experiment, performed to test the accuracy of a particular prediction, failed to produce the predicted results. What we know is what we observed; all else remains speculation. We can have confidence in certain predictions, because a great deal of experience has repeatedly borne them out, but until the results are in, confidence, not certainty, is all we can have.

     Nearly all human action proceeds not from knowledge but from confidence. Yes, the Sun has risen in the East for as long as we’ve been watching. Yes, it seems likely that it will rise in the East tomorrow morning; we can be confident about it. But it hasn’t happened yet...and someday it might not. Indeed, if the stellar physics I learned as a lad may be relied upon, someday it won’t.

     However, there are some whose political agenda isn’t satisfied with that: they who constantly repeat that “the science is settled” and “no reasonable person can disagree.”

     The “global warming / climate change” foofaurauw is an example of how the Left has turned “science” into a kind of cargo cult. Leftists have promoted white coats, glassware, computers, impressive-sounding institutions, and (above all) research grants as “science,” completely omitting (and often deliberately obscuring) the true nature of science and the principles of the scientific method. They demand that we not question the pronouncements of those it has venerated as scientific authorities, even by citing legitimate, highly accomplished scientists who hold other opinions. Helmut Schoeck coined a term for this: scientism. It’s a quasi-religious belief system, a church implacably hostile to heretics, founded upon the dead trappings of a discipline in no way connected to those beliefs.

     Too many ordinary Americans accept scientism while remaining ignorant of science. It has cost us heavily and will continue to do so.

Leaked copy of President Trump's State of the Union address.

The Intergalactic Source of Truth web site has obtained a leaked copy of Pres. Trump's State of the Union address scheduled to be delivered tonight.

As a service to our readers here is the speech:

2030 HRS. EST
FEBRUARY 28, 2017

February 28, 2017

45th president of the United States of America

Greetings to the people of America. And ladies and gentlemen assembled here, thank you for your warm welcome. I am honored to be able to address the American people and you on the subject of the state of our union and I hope my words will be received in the spirit with which they are delivered.

1. Our unhealthy state. In my humble opinion, the state of our union is not good. This is a statement with which reasonable minds cannot disagree. What I will say lays out the evidence upon which I rely in drawing such a discouraging conclusion.

What I have to say is, of course, simply the opinion of one of your fellow citizens. Prevailing in a hard-fought national electoral contest confers no special wisdom on anyone but then certain attitudes, trends and facts are so patently obvious that it becomes the duty of even the humblest of persons to lay them before our great nation at long last. Our long, long history of embracing fairy tales about human nature, economics, and the benefits of an all-powerful government peopled by wise and educated people imbued with a special understanding of life that is the gift of the "progressive" absurdity must come to an end. We do not have the choice of avoiding reality. To do so will sooner rather than later see the incalculable damage that will be inflicted by "the pitiless crowbar of events" as the great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it. As Robert Louis Stevenson also observed, ”Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences."

You see the point, I'm sure. Our prosperity and our technical brilliance have enabled us to enjoy unparalleled security and comfort but they have enabled our political thinking to become detached from reality in a way that is not healthy. As a wise person observed, "Reality always wins" but it is not our watchword and we must find a way to abandon fantasies about how the world works.

2. Dishonesty about Russia. The fixation in certain quarters of our political and intellectual establishment with the supposed aggression or expansionism of Russia is unhealthy, not borne out by any fair assessment of international realities, and a terrible threat to peace. The start of one of the great bloodlettings of human history was some 103 years ago and the responsibility for it is far from clear even now. And, as we all know, the destruction of the war and the punitive peace imposed on Germany by the victors led to even worse bloodshed and, worst of all, led directly to the weakening of the Russian czarist regime and the establishment of possibly the most evil phenomenon ever experienced by man, 20th-century totalitarian communism.

Clearly, however, a monumental recklessness and adventurism prevailed that validated each and every voice that was raised to avoid or end that conflict. That kind of recklessness and adventurism, that facile willingness to resort to military force, is present in minds and words of people who should know better.

We have to draw back from the unjust and duplicitous characterization of Russia as a major threat to the security of the United States. The Soviet Union was the greatest threat to mankind in the last century but it collapsed. It is gone. Russia today is completely unlike the Russia under communist totalitarianism.

FoxNews is particularly blameworthy here for daily presenting a one-sided picture of Russia as a threat. I call on it and all media to tread cautiously here to ensure that we make no missteps where world peace is at issue.

3. Syria. The hostility shown to President Bashar al-Assad and the war that we have waged against him must cease. The war we have waged is unconstitutional and, under international law, an aggressive war. It is a war that is inexplicable in terms of putatively dealing with any kind of a threat to United States interests from Pres. Assad. There is no such threat yet our participation in that war finds us supporting al-Qaida and ISIS! Can you imagine? We are supporting, supplying, training, and financing the scum of the earth. The United States simply can no longer be in this immoral position of supporting criminals and savages.

I hereby pledge to Pres. Assad to desist from all previous U.S. efforts to remove him and to assist him and Vladimir Putin in any way to defeat his hideous opponents.

4. Our foreign military posture. There was a time after WWII when the United States played an honorable role as a bulwark against Soviet expansion. The Soviets chose to wage a so-called "cold" war against us and all decent people which required that our reach also extend to regions of the world other than Europe. China too chose to wage war against us in support of North Korean totalitarianism. However, China has also chosen a different path of state capitalism and reasonably rational economic development. All told, the old reasons for our vast military and political involvement around the world are no more and a radical reassessment of our role in the world is mandatory. It is the height of absurdity that tens of thousands of our troops serve around the world at the cost of billions of dollars but not one – not one – U.S. soldier stands on our southern border to repel the invasion of millions of uninvited people from the third-world.

5. Our worship of foreigners. We are a sick people to the extent that we worship foreigners and import them by the millions to steal jobs from Americans, claim welfare benefits, commit crimes, crowd our prisons, vote in our elections, and otherwise debase the concept of United States citizenship. Of course, it is really only Americans who tolerate this debasement. We must once again hold firmly to the belief that U.S. citizenship is a precious right and is not something that should be handed out like candy at a piƱata party.

6. Immigration. The lie is abroad that illegal immigrants contribute to our economy. In point of fact, they have stolen jobs from Americans who themselves would have made the contribution to our economy celebrated by faithless and dishonest promoters of open borders and unlimited immigration.

America is in its essence a white, European, Christian nation that has bent over backwards to improve life for all citizens and to ensure that non-white minorities are fairly treated. Whites need make no apologies for the excellence of their laws and culture.

Foreigners who have chosen to invade our country because it suits them have no rights in this country. Zero. Nor do they have any claim to be allowed to remain. From the 1980s to the present Americans have been lied to and told that there are "only" 11,000,000 illegals in the country and that the real threat to them is from "criminal" illegals. That 11,000,000 figure is indeed a lie and the true figure is more like 40,000,000. Whatever the true number, each and every illegal must return to his or her home country. Who gave you the right to steal from Americans?

The concept of "white interests" is a worthy and acceptable one which I suppose will be contested by the corrupt leadership of our various ethnic and racial advocacy groups. Why we tolerate the "Congressional Black Caucus" but collapse into an ocean of tears about "white racism," "structural (i.e., white) racism," and "white privilege" is beyond my modest powers of comprehension.

Be that as it may, let us put an end to endless celebration of "Americans" while the white majority is diminished every hour and every day by the results of corrupt terms like "nation of immigrants" and "propositional nation." Give me a break.

If we're going to play identity politics, well, whites have interests just like every other group and one of its interests is not to cooperate in being made into a "majority minority" in our own country.

7. Islam. Oceans of pixels are expended to explain this curse upon the world. Little of insight has resulted. Islam – not Islamism, radical Islam, or radical, jihadi, or jihadi terroristical savagery – is the problem faced by all infidels and it and its adherents have no place in the U.S. let alone any Western country. Muslims must return to their native lands where they can practice their corrupt and obscurantist quasi-religion to their hearts content. Good fences make good neighbors. Begone.

8. Negro privilege. In a generous gesture to our black citizens, the white majority provided for legal discrimination against white people so that blacks and other minorities could enjoy preference in hiring and protection against firing. Now, even Jamaicans, Columbians, and Zulus who never set foot in this country until a week ago can claim this privilege that operates against whites. This must end.

9. Negro dysfunction. It's clear that the so-called civil rights revolution has failed and that our fellow black citizens by the millions reject the majority white culture. Not in favor of anything comparable, let it be said, but in favor of a culture that is the breeding ground of urban destruction, black-on-black crime, black-on-white crimes, poverty, bastardy, hostility toward whites, and academic and occupational failure. A culture that tolerates, even celebrates, a way of dressing so that young thugs wear their pants down below their knees and flash gang signs is a debased culture. This needs to be recognized by the black population and dealt with honestly without blaming white people for not doing enough. At long last let us put on the table what has been plain to see for a long time – black people are responsible for their own failure and misery.

That said, we need a new vision of what is acceptable behavior in our society. Any man or woman who chooses self-control, lawful behavior, family cohesion, self improvement, and adherence to good manners is and must be the most precious citizen of all. We have no obligation to embrace pathology and to assume that just because someone has a pulse he or she is on a par with civilized, refined people.

10. Fiscal and monetary insanity. It's clear that even the wisest of our bureaucrats and politicians have failed to manage our money and budgets wisely. The insane levels of debt and reckless expansion of the money supply prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that our nation is committed to a "something for nothing" approach to life, an approach that is integral to socialism. This is probably an insoluble problem. We're free as a nation to pretend this doesn't have long-term consequences but, in reality, there are severe consequences.

11. The economy. We have far, far too many laws and regulations that hamper our business people. What statists thought was wise was unwise and destructive. Only the animal spirits and innovation that come from allowing free people to pursue THEIR concept of what is the best use of their time and money will guarantee a healthy economy.

12. Judicial tyranny. Since the 1930s we have been governed by an enormous federal government made possible by the Supreme Court's betrayal through an expansive reading of the Commerce Clause. The Court has also compounded its tyranny by finding in the Constitution rights to homosexual marriage and abortion that no judge had ever discovered in the previous 200 or so years in our nation's history. This must cease.

Similarly, all federal officials must conduct themselves in such a way that all that they do is done with an eye to the enumerated power delegated to the federal government in Article I, Sect. 8. For example, there is no provision therein for a Dept. of Education or a Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Nor is there provision for an Environmental Protection Agency. The plain meaning of the words in that section is what must be searched for and followed. Fanciful, chimerical inventions of federal jurisdiction squeezed from the commas and semicolons of the Constitution must be rejected or we will lose what is only less precious than life itself, our liberty.

A majority of five Supreme Court justices should not have the power to decide basic questions about our lives. Impeachment of judges who exceed their role as interpreters of the Constitution must become as commonplace as heat in the summer and cold in the winter. There's nothing sacrosanct about an appointment to ANY federal judicial position and I propose to light a fire under hundreds of federal judges who abuse their trust. I call upon all our state bar associations to lead the way in identifying which judges betray our Constitution and us.

13. Civil disorder. There is now an epidemic of street violence and chaos, much of it sponsored by George Soros, which is unacceptable. Citizens must be able to express their views in the streets but far too many believe they have a right to appear with their faces covered which invariably is a signal that they intend violence and wish to avoid identification. I call upon all federal and state officials to ensure that legal remedies are created or enforced that enable this scourge to be dealt with and that such enemies of civil society are relentlessly and implacably pursued and punished.

Our streets do not belong to scum.

14. The Democrat Party. It is clear that the Democrat Party has been taken over by the ultra-left. I have no responsibility to do anything about that, save to ensure that there is no scourge of treason or subversion anywhere. However, it is enough to point out for all citizens to see that the Democrat Party of today has changed radically since the time of the riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention in the 1960s. Where our national politics are concerned, we truly are not in Kansas any longer.

In conclusion, note that there is much more that I could point out that shows how perilous our position is as a nation.

For example, one thing to be done is to stop the defamation of Sen. Joseph McCarthy who correctly pointed out, along with many other patriotic and informed Americans, that the United States government had been penetrated by communist spies and influence agents. The true extent of their damage and penetration has never been exposed to the nation.

Another terrible problem we have is the simply bizarre state of our culture, which bizarreness is only inadequately grasped from the antics of a feminism that can only be described as diseased.

These and other matters are for another time.

The points I have made here tonight are harsh but they are true as it is given to me to know and understand what is true.

To proceed as though none of this is accurate and to embrace what has been holy writ for the last 70+ years, however, is to stay firmly committed to national suicide and the destruction of one of the finest experiments in human liberty the world has ever seen.

Let the corrupt establishment press and political opportunists now do their utmost to destroy me or conceal these realities. It is really not a matter of any importance what my political fortunes may be. It is, however, important for all American citizens to decide if the current course of deception, arrogance, and fairy tales is for them.

I believe the American people elected me because they know what I am saying is true and want a change. I will do my utmost to be honest with them and to bring about healthy change that puts America first over all foreigners. I will do my utmost to make America great again.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Storyteller’s Prayer

     In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Dear Lord, You whose will brought forth the worlds, whose love enfolds them still, from whom all true creations come, hearken to the plea of a lowly storyteller, one who has dedicated his gifts to Your service.

     Let my tales resound with the truths You have written into all things. Let me speak of them through events that embody them without undue artifice, in humility and sincerity, such that at the close any one of my books, the reader will smile in satisfaction and say to himself “Of course. I knew it all along.”

     Let my plots be as realistic as my premises will allow. Should I choose to depart from the laws of this universe as You have written them, let me at least be consistent with the rules I have crafted. Help me to avert dei ex machinae.

     Let my characters have character; let them not be caricatures. Let them be people with plausible profiles, who have desires, fears, and beliefs the reader will recognize...and with which he’ll empathize. Let me compose contexts in which they would naturally appear and stimuli that will evoke their most fervent emotions. Let their responses be both plausible and dramatic. Let me not speak through them, but rather have them speak through me.

     Let my writing be limpid and artless. Let me not succumb to the vanity that impels many a writer to spin verbal arabesques in the hope of garnering praise for “style.” Rather, keep me focused on the people of whom I write, for all worthwhile stories are told about believable people dealing with believable problems...believably.

     Let me keep forever in mind that in the English of the Twenty-First Century, to deliberately split an infinitive is perfectly okay. Neither is it odious if, every now and then, I should knowingly insert an adverb into the middle of a compound verb of some other sort. Help me to bear the twinge of guilt I feel when I allow a sentence to end with a preposition, if it helps the reader to know what my characters are up to.

     Above all, dear Lord, help me to resist the urge, which I feel occasionally even today, more than ten years after “going indie,” to send a manuscript to a conventional publisher or literary agent, “just to see what they think.”

     I make this plea through Your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Monday Miscellany

     Apologies, Gentle Reader. It took so long to chew through the restraints this morning that I’m far too pressed for time to produce a typical tirade. However, the “To Be Celebrated And/Or Dissected” folder is purely bulging with flotsam (I threw the jetsam away, as is only proper), so perhaps this will do as a timewaster / placeholder / sorry-pardon-me-exit-stage-left maneuver.

     (You know, I’m beginning to think of the period when I routinely worked 60 hours a week as “the good old days,” when I could get some “rest.” And I’ve been counseling my coevals to pull the ripcord and learn to love “retirement.” Sheesh!)

     1. For Movie Buffs.

     I understand there was some sort of awards ceremony yesterday evening. I didn’t watch it; I was too worn out from the day’s labors and fell asleep over a book. Though I’m not sure I would have watched it anyway, given that I knew nothing about any of the contestants:

     Tonight, they will hand out the Oscars for best actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress and best picture.

     And not one will be from the top 10 movies we watched last year....

     This is not new. More and more, the Oscars tend to celebrate films that leave the viewers saying, “How did we miss that one?”

     Perhaps the hashtag should be changed from #OscarsSoWhite to #OscarsSoElite.

     Or do we, the masses, just have no taste?

     That’s one I can answer:

  • “De gustibus non est disputandum.”
  • “Chacun a son gout.”
  • “Of tastes there is nothing written.”

     In my not particularly humble opinion, “we, the masses” go to the movies – if and when we go – to be entertained and diverted. We have enough depressing and disheartening matters in our real, daily lives that we don’t need the “reinforcement” the critically applauded movies would provide. So it’s no mystery why the “critics,” desperate to distance themselves from us grubby groundlings, should prefer exactly the sort of flick we won’t expend our time or piasters to see.

     (Should I mention that the C.S.O. is a huge Steven Seagal fan? Naah, maybe not. Anyway, I prefer the immortal Cynthia Rothrock. For her acting skill, of course.)

     2. A Second American Civil War?

     This theme has been expressed in many places these past few weeks. It’s not mere airy-fairy conjuration, either. Not when Victor Davis Hanson undertakes to explore it:

     Currently, the political and media opponents of Donald Trump are seeking to subvert his presidency in a manner unprecedented in the recent history of American politics. The so-called resistance among EPA federal employees is trying to disrupt Trump administration reform; immigration activists promise to flood the judiciary to render executive orders inoperative.

     This is a must-read-it-all piece. The evidence Hanson has amassed indicates that the allegiants of Government Uber Alles have decided to “go all-in:” i.e., to do whatever they legally can – and whatever else they think they can get away with – to derail the Trump Train. However, there’s a nascent counteraction in motion, as Hanson’s essay also indicates.

     Further reading relevant to this subject:

     Enjoy...if that’s the right sentiment.

     3. Two From Datechguy.

     Peter “Datechguy” Ingemi has been a prominent conservative blogger for quite some time, yet somehow I’ve managed not to include him in my blogroll. That’s an oversight I must correct at once. This morning two pieces of his hit me right between the eyes

     First up is DaTechguy Meets Students TBS & Fake news at Donald Trump’s CPAC 2017 Speech. Peter chronicles a live-action Fake News Production attempt, right at CPAC 2017, in which he was personally involved. Later on he speaks to several students who feared that by agreeing to be interviewed by lefty reporters, they had been taken in and used. It’s a fascinating look at what the media have been doing to us, and how decent persons are beginning to be wary of it...and to take umbrage at it. Please read it all.

     Linked at the bottom of that first piece is this touching mention of A Historic CPAC Catholic 1st Exactly when I needed it. Incidents such as the one Peter reports here – as with the previous one, he was personally affected – are among the reasons several acquaintances of mine have found (or returned to) faith and Catholic allegiance.

     Atheists will scoff. Let them.

     4. Some Recent And Highly Relevant History.

     The recent spate of urban disruptions and violence are not unprecedented:

     Recently, I had my head torn off by a book: Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage, about the 1970s underground. It’s the most important book I’ve read in a year. So I did a series of running tweetstorms about it, and Clark asked me if he could collect them for posterity. I’ve edited them slightly for editorial coherence.

     Days of Rage is important, because this stuff is forgotten and it shouldn’t be. The 1970s underground wasn’t small. It was hundreds of people becoming urban guerrillas. Bombing buildings: the Pentagon, the Capitol, courthouses, restaurants, corporations. Robbing banks. Assassinating police. People really thought that revolution was imminent, and thought violence would bring it about.

     This material could well be on the final exam -- America’s final exam. Please read it all.

Just @#$%& shoot me.

President Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser [Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster] on Thursday reportedly held his first “all hands” staff meeting where he said labels like “radical Islamic terrorism” are not helpful because he said terrorists are “un-Islamic.”[1]
It is to weep. The top security adviser to the president is a guy with this kind of judgment defect right from the git. Here we are sixteen years after 9/11 and we still can't get our official head out of a dark and remote location, to borrow from the great Chris Plante.

[1] "Trump's national security adviser reportedly says label 'radical Islamic terrorism' not helpful." By FoxNews.com, 2/25/17.

H/t: Gates of Vienna.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Cleanliness: A Sunday Rumination

     To those who’ve wondered where the Ruminations have disappeared to: I know it’s been a while since I last did one of these. I can’t produce them to order, or on a schedule; they require something extra, some impetus I can’t merely summon as I please. But then, that’s the case with other aspects of a life of faith, as well.

     “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Who hasn’t heard that one a few dozen times? (Mainly as a child, when he’d been told to clean up in preparation for some adult affair he’d rather have declined to attend.) And who, in his mud pie-making years, has never been moved to ask “Why?”

     It’s a good question. It comes to mind this morning in connection with a passage from a recent novel from John Conroe’s Demon Accords series, Snake Eyes. Christian Gordon, an angel who has volunteered to become human and act as God’s policeman against demonic incursions, is about to participate in a rather perilous interaction with an enraged elemental. His partner, a powerful young witch, is creating a confinement in the hope of improving their chance to survive the encounter:

     I closed my eyes and tried to empty my head....When it was nice and inky black, I pictured a sword. Not just any sword, but my sword. The one shown to me by Barbiel, one I’ve apparently held for eons, one that was made when I was made. It shone bright in the blackness of my mind. I reached for it. I hadn’t done this much, mostly because I was always afraid it wouldn’t work. That I wouldn’t be able to get a hold of it...that I’m not worthy to hold it anymore.
     But suddenly I felt it in my hand, and when I opened my eyes, it was shining bright in the early morning sun. It sang to me, a song of divine creation and hope. The God Tear necklace round my neck sang back to it.
     That was the easiest I’ve ever retrieved it from its pocket dimension sheath. Of course, things are easier when you don’t have a multi-ton demon charging down on you.
     Declan was watching, frozen in place, but he blinked when he saw me notice him. “Ah, that’s freaking awesome!”
     “I know, right?” I replied. Then I tied the cord to the hilt and used the pointy part to scribe a circle in the dirt.
     “Ah, don’t you think it’s like, disrespectful or something to dig your Angel sword in the dirt?” Declan asked, raw disbelief in his voice.
     “Well, let’s see,” I said, still walking the arc, still digging the line. “He made the earth and dirt, right? And He made the sword and me also. So what’s the big deal?” I asked, not telling him that it just felt like the right thing to do.

     Pretty ballsy, eh? Of course, Chris is / was an angel, so perhaps he’s not bound to human standards of reverence for objects created by God. (Life must be pretty interesting for an angel-made-flesh who’s married to a vampire that’s about to bear him twins.) But he has a good point. All of Creation is ultimately traceable to God. None of it could continue to exist without His approval. “So what’s the big deal?” Specifically, why ought we to make a big deal out of cleanliness, as if it were a route to Godliness, or at least to holiness?

     It’s about our aspirations and our essence.

     We are made in God’s image. Not our physical forms, of course; those are entirely utilitarian, designed to give us what we need to survive and flourish among the predators and other hazards of temporal existence. His image is in our souls: transdimensional, transtemporal entities through which we can hear His voice, if we listen attentively. He does not command us to “cleanliness,” however defined – and you may take it as written that what constitutes “dirt” in the sense of bodily uncleanliness has varied wildly over time and space – but to love of Him and love of neighbor. Dirt, the soil upon which we stand, exists as much by His will as our souls.

     The dirt is as utilitarian as our bodies. We need it: to stand on, to grow crops in, to suppress the dust that would otherwise billow around us, and so forth. (Try growing a decent lawn without dirt. I dare you. Your neighbors would swiftly have words with you.) But as with all useful things, the usefulness of dirt is a matter of context.

     In tending to those other useful items, our bodies, we tend to dislike dirt for several quite valid reasons. It mars our appearance. It makes us itch. It can invite parasites unfriendly to our health. So we remove it as best we can, that we might have more attention to spend on other things.

     It can be a bit difficult to pray when you’re itching all over, swarming with lice or fleas, and you’re aware that your pew and the two or three ahead of and behind you are completely empty for all too obvious reasons.

     We cleanse ourselves for utilitarian reasons, but also for spiritual ones. In tending to our bodies we perform a kind of veneration, a gesture of appreciation and gratitude for what we are and what God has given us:

     For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. [Psalm 139:13-15]

     Gratitude is the secret to enduring happiness: yet another of His gifts, and ironically perhaps the one spurned most often. It follows that conscious expressions of gratitude, including the efficient care and maintenance of what we’ve been given, are valuable aids to the conservation and nurturance of our faith.

     So we clean. We strive to remain clean, not merely for the utilitarian benefits but also in recognition that our bodies, His most personal temporal gifts to us, are items for which we should be thankful both in word and in deed...and that dirt, like all other useful things, has its proper place, beyond which it’s not useful but an encumbrance of which we should strive to rid ourselves.

     May God bless and keep you all.

1919 Montana high school humor.

This is from the 1919 yearbook for Great Falls High School.[1]

The study of agriculture at our high school is having its effect on the boys and girls there judging by the following note written by one of the boys to a girl who will be recognized as a very charming from the description: I 'early rose' this morning and have 'bean' wondering if you 'carrot' all for me. My love is soft as 'squash' but strong as 'onion.' For you are a 'peach' with your 'radish' hair and your 'turnip' nose. You are the 'apple' of my eye, so if we 'cantaloupe' then 'lettuce' marry anyhow, for I know we will live in 'peas" and make a happy 'pear'. I never touch 'rye' and my feet, although large, have not a 'corn.' I am somewhat 'punkin', earning money but you shall have 'mangle' in the kitchen. Love always 'triumphs.' It is said that the girl replied and told him to 'beet' it.
Miss Ketchum, (reading a test paper): "Yes, we have a pretty little maid at our house."
Ed. Suhr: "I wouldn't mind having her at ours."
Yet more dry wit:
The following teachers have announced -- !!! ??? nothing but their intentions of spending the summer at the places mentioned:
Miss Shafer—A cottage on Lake Huron.
Miss Strauch—Elgin, Iowa.
Miss Baumgartner—Halsted, Kansas.
Miss Cavanaugh—Saginaw, Mich.
Miss Dush—National Parks.
Mr. Perry—Agricultural College, Oregon.
Miss Simpson—Fairmont, Minn.
Miss Stone—Long Beach, Cal.
Miss Leaming—Summer School, Berkeley, Cal.[2]
Miss Brown—San Diego, Cal.
Miss Frost—Seattle, Wash.
Miss Murchie—Grand Forks, N. D.
Miss Harrison—Austin, Minn.
Miss Kachen—North Platte, Neb.
Miss Kuck—Montrose, Cal.
Mrs. Cameron—Open for invitations.
Miss Borgman—Seattle, Wash.
Miss Freark—Wherever Miss Ketchum is.
Miss Buckmaster—California.
Miss Barneby—Seattle, Wash.
Mr. Steeper will attend the Univ. Of Chicago Summer School.
The others say they haven't enough money to leave town.
The dreams of youth:
Noteworthy Events of 1919:

I. Great World War ended! Splendid victory for the Allies.
II. Death and permanent burial of John Barleycorn.[3]
III. Formation of the League of Nations – the dream of a thousand years come true.[4]
IV. Death of Theodore Roosevelt – most loved American.[5]
V. Invention of the wireless telephone.
VI. The destructive "Flu" epidemic.

In the Seriously Out of Touch Department:
President Sisson, of Missoula, gave us a most interesting and inspiring lecture of an assembly. He spoke on higher education and Americanism.[6]
An oddity in the heartland even then:
Glenrose Honey has been in quarantine for several weeks because of small pox.[7]
Many are the pleasures of genealogy.

P.S. What has happened since then is known as "progress."

[1] Roundup Annual (Ancestry.com subscription required. A 2005-character hyperlink, in case you were wondering.), Great Falls High School, Great Falls, Montana, June 1919, p. 97. The extension seen in the foreground of the picture above became unstable and was blown up for the benefit of the makers of the Charlie Bronson movie "Telefon."
[2] Uh oh.
[3] Prohibition.
[4] Globalism's early appeal.
[5] And noted imperialist.
[6] Roundup Annual, supra, p. 96.
[7] Id. "By 1897, smallpox had largely been eliminated from the United States. In Northern Europe a number of countries had eliminated smallpox by 1900, and by 1914, the incidence in most industrialized countries had decreased to comparatively low levels." Wikipedia (footnote reference omitted).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meaningful Or Not?

     Some incidents can justly be taken as representative of larger trends in human relations. They elucidate significant currents in attitudes, beliefs, convictions, desires, or fears. It’s therefore valid to interpret them – their contexts, the stimuli, and the responses – in a wider, brighter light than “just one of those things.”

     But such events aren’t the whole of human intercourse. They’re not a majority thereof. They might even be a small minority. Nevertheless, those with an axe to grind will promote them as revelations of overwhelming truths, often with an eye to founding a political thrust upon them.

     Read about one such incident and judge for yourselves:

     It was July 2014, Nashville Tennessee. I was walking into a gas station for a bottle of water when the man behind me stepped up to open the door for me. With that act of kindness, something inside me snapped and I flew into a blind rage. I began screaming at him at the top of my lungs.

     “No, you can not open this door for me! You wouldn’t have opened it two years ago, so you damn sure can’t open it now!” I scowled and stormed away, completely enraged.

     Typical gender-war feminist behavior, you might say...until you’ve read further on into the article:

     Two years before this, in July 2012, I weighed 365lb, which roughly translates into 26 stone. I was enormous, and had been my entire life. I grew up an obese kid, was an obese teenager, an obese young adult, and by my mid-40s I had ballooned into a hugely obese adult.

     But that summer I started a massive journey to lose 220lb, or almost 16 stone, over the course of four and a half years. As I sit here today, I’m literally a third of the body mass I used to be. I am an average-sized woman who wears a size medium pretty much across the board. And, I am happy to report, I am also a fairly happy, confident person.

     So previous to the incident reported above, the author was dangerously, even morbidly obese. And at that point in her life, men did not open doors for her:

     I had been disregarded, overlooked and ignored because of my size for so long that I didn’t even realise it until people started being nice to me – until, in other words, I was “normal sized”. No one had ever done those things for me before.

     He opened that door for me because I wasn’t physically offensive to him, and I knew. And it was in that moment that I realised how terrible we are as a society to people, based solely on their appearance. This realisation broke me. It broke me in a way that I’ve never been broken before. He certainly didn’t deserve my outburst, but in that moment I couldn’t help myself.

     The idea that the size of my trousers had had anything to do with simple politeness was heartbreaking to me. Never mind men actually asking me on dates, career advances, better opportunities and much cheaper clothes (big girls get done over by the fashion world).

     The contrast is striking...but is it valid to generalize from it? Does it mean what the author wants the reader to take it to mean, or something else, or nothing at all?

     Time for more coffee.

     Many reactions are possible to the events related in the cited article. But whether the story is broadly relevant or a mere vignette is a personal judgment. Moreover, one of the factors that will color such a judgment is the tenor of the time, about which not everyone will agree.

     At 365 pounds, author Stacie Huckeba probably looked awful. She probably dressed badly and moved sluggishly. Her overall behavior might have differed from her more recent, svelte self as well. Whether or not men opened doors for her – let’s assume that in the main they did not – I have no doubt that few of her male acquaintances asked her out on dates. (Zero would be a plausible estimate.)

     We make many, many quick decisions about strangers from their appearance. We always have and we always will. In our time, many an obese woman harbors an intense hatred for others, particularly for men. Men are aware of this and tend to avoid such women. We certainly don’t seek to date or mate with them.

     The opening-doors business is a shadow-zone case. I open doors for everyone, regardless of familiarity, sex, age, height, weight, or appearance. It’s a personal quirk of mine that if I reach a door before someone trailing a little behind me, I automatically hold it open for him. It probably arises from my years as a door warden at my Catholic grammar school. (The shortest guy in the class always got that particular duty.)

     However, there are men who will only hold a door open for others on conditions:

  • For a woman;
  • For an elderly person;
  • For someone “mobility challenged;”
  • For a priest, minister, or public official.

     ...with the unstated proviso that they expect the gesture to be greeted indifferently at worst, courteously at best. That’s public deportment as it once was in these United States of America: say about 1950.

     (The cars, computers, and the canned soups are better today than they were in 1950. The same cannot be said for average public conduct. I have spoken.)

     In this nation in the Year of Our Lord 2017, the probability that a strange woman, no matter of what age, height, weight, or appearance, will react contemptuously toward a courteous gesture from a man is appallingly high. Many American men have experienced such unconscionable behavior, and have understandably become loath to court another such reaction. Such a man will pass through a door without taking note of a woman even if she’s only two steps behind him.

     Can you blame him?

     “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

     Another of the developments of recent years is the ascendancy of victimism as a political force. The victimists are determined to compel you to apologize and do penance for things done by others – and sometimes the “others” are the victimists themselves.

     Consider the 365-pound version of Miss Huckeba. Who made her that way? I can assure you that it wasn’t I; I rather doubt that it was you. Inasmuch as she did succeed in slimming down and staying that way, the natural inference would be that she did it to herself:

  • She overindulged in food and didn’t do enough to work it off;
  • Rather than correct her problem early on, she continued on a destructive course;
  • Yet she did eventually take stock, change her habits, and shed more than 200 pounds;
  • However, as many self-afflicted persons will, she’s decided that she wasn’t responsible for her former wretchedness and isolation.

     After all, if Miss Huckeba were to accept herself as the responsible party, it would occasion some introspection: a look at the attitudes, habits, and miscellaneous self-indulgences that had made her a land whale. She might have reflected on how natural was her matelessness. She might even have wondered about her similarity to women such as this one, their behavior toward others, and the consequent behavior of others toward them:

     Do you think the...person in that brief video enjoys a robust romantic life? How many of the men who encounter her in casual circumstances bother to open doors for her? And whom does she blame for those things, or for her considerable mass and volume?

     The collaboration of feminism and victimism has been wholly horrible for the West. Stacy McCain writes about it frequently and eloquently. Its political ramifications are unpleasant enough. When it pollutes the self-perception even of a woman who obviously has realized what she’d done to herself and took effective steps to correct it, it descends to a new plane: that of moral and ethical villainy.

     So yes, the events in Miss Huckeba’s article are meaningful. They tell us that we’re teetering on the brink of a moral abyss. Should we embrace the canard about not being responsible for our own health, wealth, and happiness, we’ll step over the edge. Should we proceed thence to treat others – putatively innocent others, at least – as the true agents of our sorrows, we’ll plunge headlong into it, never to emerge.

Globalized neoliberal capitalism.

I'm never quite sure what neoliberalism is. Possibly something to do with the times before anyone heard of Lee Harvey Oswald. Maybe it means a return to sort of a wild west economy before well meaning bureaucrats and politicians fixed all the problems with free-market capitalism. Maybe it's code for "common sense." I just don't know. I am sure, however, that it involved back-alley abortions, a return to slavery, and a way of making corn flakes using mercury.

Nonetheless, C.J. Hopkins has a clever explanation of what globalized neoliberal capitalism is. I don't want to quote such wit at length so I'll merely point you to his article at The Unz Review.[1] Tenth paragraph beginning with "And this is the essence of the present conflict."

For a yet more cynical rewrite of the Declaration of Independence, see Steve Sailer's commenter FX's version, also at The Unz Review.

[1] "Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution." By C.J. Hopkins, The Unz Review, 2/21/17.

The end of expediency.

One of a zillion efforts to explain it but nice and concise:
The debts, unfunded liabilities, demographics and diminishing pools of income to tap are beyond policy tweaks and minor cuts. Take a look at these charts to grasp the unwelcome realities: sorry, we can't "grow our way out of debt" because the debts and unfunded liabilities are simply too large and expanding at too fast a rate.

* * * *

. . . As the "growth fixes everything" model fails under the burden of skyrocketing debts, the harsh reality becomes unavoidable:

We haven't "grown" at all. What we've done is borrow from future generations to create the illusion of growth.[1]

The strife part is applicable because "Our political, social and economic systems have no history or memory of how to navigate this systemic Degrowth successfully."[2] Reduce my benefits and out-of-control spending? No way! Watch me vote for the nearest leftist enemy of sanity.

Our elites deliberately won't even notice the obvious degradation of the constitutional order. Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, prescription drug benefits, abortion rights, environmental protection, legal discrimination against white people, and homosexual marriage are nowhere to found in the enumerated powers delegated to the federal government in the Constitution.

Those are the easy issues and yet they were finessed by the Treason Class in favor of expediency. As the observant Steve Deace said some time back, "Expediency is always the wrong choice." Or words to that effect.

Now there is no more "expedient." The
  • soaring debt,
  • open borders,
  • racial fantasizing,
  • welfare bonanzas to encourage bastardy, crime, and urban destruction as never before seen,
  • sending factories to China, and
  • other lunatic initiatives
have foreclosed sensible options that could have been explored 40 years ago.

Welcome to the zero-sum world.

The Constitution was destroyed for expediency. Political and economic elites have betrayed their trust and it is for us all now to reap a bitter harvest of the dysfunction planted over the many decades of the last century and this one. The remains of an amazing country are what we can all pick through in the hope we can find a decent life.

Now someone please remind me why Mr. Trump is an illegitimate president.

[1] "This Is How the Status Quo Unravels: As the Pie Shrinks, Everybody Demands Their Piece Should Get Bigger." By Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds, 2/17/17.
[2] Id.

H/t: Zero Hedge.

Rx for snowflakes.

A choice cartoon at Russia Insider.

A line in the article is also memorable:

There was a time — not so long ago — when people were actually capable of encountering ideas they didn't like without melting into a blob of self-righteous sadness.
"Mark Zuckerberg Has Stroke After 'Russia Insider' Posts Harmless Cartoon." By Editorial Board, Russia Insider, 2/25/17.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Good Books for the Next Generation: Young James Bond

In the spirit of my previous post on Hans Schantz's excellent The Hidden Truth we turn to another good book for young people, the first volume  of the "Young Bond" series, SilverFin by Charlie Higson.

When my son checked this out of the school library I was mildly interested, having very much enjoyed the original series by the great Ian Fleming, but since it was published in 2009 I assumed it was either dumbed down, "politically corrected" or, Lord help us, both. However, he and I regularly talk about the books he reads and he was very positive about this one, so I decided I'd read it, too.

What a revelation. Not only is the book not PC'd at all, it's realistic about life, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It retains a hint of the menace of Fleming's world, the fact that all endings aren't happy and sometimes good people are hurt and killed by evil. Most especially, it emphasizes the importance of mental toughness, "grit" as the current term has it, planning, intelligence and courage as the ingredients of fighting and winning. It's a book about a winner, and why he is such.

I don't give story retellings or plot details in my reviews, but Higson has caught the spirit of Fleming with the larger-than-life villain(s), the touch of the grotesque and the science fictional, and the inexorable determination of the Bond character. The details of the Britain of the 1930s, the ins and outs of Eton and the class-consciousness seem well done to this American reader.

Mr. Higson has followed up SilverFin with four more volumes in the series. Volume 2, Blood Fever, is in my stack and I'm interested to see if it can stand up to his first effort. In any case, I found SilverFin to be a big, pleasant surprise. Quite entertaining, it also illustrates the kind of toughness and character that I think the readers here want in their children. seemingly aimed at the 10-15 age group, but you adults would probably enjoy it, too!

When The Political Becomes Personal

     Normally, my political op-eds have nothing to do with my personal life. This one will be different.

     Brace yourselves.

     When Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in getting the Social Security system written into law, there was considerable consternation among persons of a conservative bent. The program was unprecedented in every respect. It taxed working people without reference to any present-time need for the money. It taxed employers as well, for daring to be employers. And of course, the nature of the ultimate benefit to be provided was both dubious – the average lifespan of an American worker was 65 – and nebulous – there were no statutory specifications for the payments to be made.

     Yet FDR was proud of his accomplishment, for political reasons. By instituting a tax predicated on the provision of the benefit, he’d achieved something no previous politician had equaled: he’d created a system whose beneficiaries, having compulsorily paid into it for the whole of their working lives, would never agree to the repeal of the system. He boasted about exactly that.

     The same is the case for Lyndon’ Johnson’s signature “Great Society” atrocity, Medicare. With 1.25% of Americans’ paychecks going to Medicare lifelong, the pressure to keep the system running (and therefore taxing) is incredibly strong. Never mind that every dollar taxed for either system is immediately borrowed and spent by the federal government. Never mind that the SocSec benefit is still statutorily undefined, or that in the face of ever-rising costs and ever-shrinking Medicare reimbursements more and more medical practitioners are “opting out” of the system. Both programs appear to be invulnerable to political antagonism despite their faults.

     And now, owing to the advent of my sixty-fifth birthday, I’m a prisoner of both.

     I’m not wealthy. I have substantial savings, but without SocSec disbursements those savings wouldn’t last very long, at least here in New York. Moreover, I have several chronic medical conditions that require frequent doctor’s visits and considerable pharmaceutical remediation. So like it or not, I’ve found myself compelled to accept the “benefits” of two federal programs I’ve opposed ever since I first learned about them.

     I’ve agonized over it. Could I refuse my SocSec payments? Yes, if I were to relocate off Long Island (to which my wife is bitterly opposed). Could I decline to get involved with Medicare? No, for firms that write medical insurance policies won’t permit it. Yet I still oppose both programs politically. Promises or no, they’re founded on an evil premise and should be repealed.

     But President Donald Trump, whom I’ve come to like and approve very much, has pledged himself to the continuation and sustenance of those programs. Glory be to God! If anyone should understand their perniciousness, Trump would be he. But keeping faith with “the deal” strikes him as more important.

     So how does one argue against those programs while accepting the benefits from them? With considerable difficulty. Leftist supporters of those programs play the argumentum ad hominem card almost before the first sentence has left my lips. “Would you be willing to forfeit those benefits if you could see them abolished?” they ask. I reply “Yes, I would.” And of course their rejoinder is “Suuuuuurrrre you would,” with the appropriate eye-rolling and dismissive smirk.

     There isn’t much that will offend me to the point of violence, but the denigration of my integrity will do it every time.

     “The personal is political,” say the Leftists. They’d surely like it to be so. By forcing the snout of government into ever more areas of human life, they’ve edged rather close to that goal. As America has “grayed,” the pressure on the federal and state governments to “keep their promises,” even to expand upon their benefits, has risen in tandem. There’s even talk of creating a program to guarantee Americans’ retirement. Social Security and Medicare have returned to “political third rails,” which no one dares to touch.

     It’s no use denying the realities. These programs are just about guaranteed to outlive me, and possibly you as well, Gentle Reader. The reluctance of even the most conservative legislators to discuss changes to them is enormous. I can envision a path to dismantling them:

     “Jerry sent his Social Security phase-out plan over yesterday,” [Sumner] said. “I like the approach he took. The payroll tax ends at once. Mandatory buy-outs for everyone under forty-five, voluntary but enhanced buy-outs for anyone over forty-five except for those already collecting, all buy-outs to be paid out over the next five years. We can afford it now that the budget is in surplus. But it’s a big step to take in the middle of a re-election campaign.”
     [Adrienne Sumner] smirked. “The third rail of American politics.”
     “Roosevelt designed it to be that way. There’s no way to undo it without pissing off a lot of people. Even Jerry’s approach, which ought to satisfy anyone’s just claim against the system, will draw a lot of fire. The senior citizens’ groups are bound to moan about ‘retiree income security,’ as if they had it now.”

     ...but few real-life politicians have the courage or moral fortitude of Stephen Graham Sumner.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Important Misnomers

     Not too long ago I wrote a lengthy rant about “Political Correctness” and its perniciousness. At that top of that essay were several quotes about the importance of naming things properly. The problem of misnomers in legal and political language is more important than many would think. It deserves a few minutes of its own, quite apart from the many controversies over which we wrangle today.

     At the heart of this survey is the most abused word in our legal-political lexicon: rights.

     The word rights is abused both by overuse and by inaccurate conflations. Incredibly, the problem reaches all the way back to the Founding.

     Catherine Drinker Bowen, in her masterpiece Miracle at Philadelphia, notes that during the Constitutional Convention there was much talk about rights – but not the rights of individual Americans. The chat concerned the “rights of states,” meaning the states that would become components of the United States of America. That phrasing was taken as a compact expression for the duties and powers reserved by the Constitution to the state governments and therefore denied to the federal government. Ever afterward, “states’ rights” was used to refer to those duties and powers.

     But a right is neither a duty nor a power. A duty is the responsibility for some area of activity, assigned or relegated by a superior authority to a lesser entity. A power, legally speaking, is a grant that coercive force may be used, without penalty, in some context. A right is a principle of justice: the recognition that force and intimidation (i.e., coercion by threat) are morally disallowed in a certain context.

  • Your “right to life” means that you cannot morally be killed or wounded.
  • Your “right to liberty” means that you cannot morally be restricted from peaceably doing as you please.
  • Your “property rights” mean that what you have peaceably acquired cannot morally be taken from you by force or fraud.

     Only a real individual – a living, breathing human being – can have moral standing. Therefore only an individual can have rights. Governments cannot have rights because they are abstract entities: things whose solidity is illusory. They’re composed of rules observed and applied by a continually changing body of men: the “agents of the state.” In becoming such an agent, whether by election, appointment, or employment, an individual acquires duties, not new rights.

     Without that separation, the individual’s relation to government becomes irremediably muddled.

     Left-wing activists have profited greatly by misusing the word rights. Take for example their many cries for “the right to a living wage.” If we can leave aside for a moment the undefined conception of a “living wage,” the problem of this assertion as a “right” remains. What, after all, is being claimed here?

     If you have a right to a “living wage” – for the sake of specificity, let’s set that at $15.00 per hour – then to deny you that amount would be unjust. But upon whose shoulders does this requirement rest? Under what conditions? Does the right come with any responsibilities attached? Suppose the claimant refuses to meet those responsibilities? And of course, the implication is that the claimant is employed. What if he isn’t? Does he still possess the right? Upon whose shoulders does it rest then?

     It doesn’t work. It cannot be made to work. That’s in the nature of any “right” that asserts that someone else must provide the claimant with what he claims. But the word rights is so powerful that extracting it from the mouths of persons who want to claim a “right” to any arbitrary thing is a job for Hercules.

     The significance of the term rights lies in its application to governments and their treatment of individuals within their jurisdiction. In the American conception, governments exist to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” But in doing those things, American governments are forbidden to trespass upon individuals’ rights. Individuals’ rights are moral boundaries that restrict the actions of governments in the performance of their Constitutionally assigned duties.

     Here we encounter a still more perplexing aspect of rights talk: the strange, seemingly inextinguishable notion of a “right to vote.” Because American governments are partially populated by electoral processes – not purely democratic ones, as the backers of Hillary Clinton lament to their extreme sorrow – some persons must be accorded the power to participate in such processes. Note that persons accorded that power in Congressional and Senatorial elections in one state don’t possess it in another. Note that persons accorded that power in Congressional elections only possess it in the Congressional district in which they reside. Note also that non-adults, felons, and non-citizens don’t possess that power anywhere, even though every person in each of those categories possesses the rights to life, liberty, and peaceably acquired property, no matter his age, residence, or citizenship standing.

     So what makes the vote a “right?”

     Nothing. It isn’t one. It’s a privilege granted under conditions specified by the state. Strictly speaking, it’s a license to participate in certain of the state’s electoral processes. But to speak of it as a “right” creates a rhetorical opening the Left uses to rant about granting the vote to the underage, to felons, to non-citizens, even to illegal aliens.

     As Rose Wilder Lane wrote in The Discovery of Freedom, no one is born with a ballot in his hand. Nor are any man’s real rights affected by whether or not he’s been licensed to vote in some Congressional district, some state, or in our national presidential elections. Those are protected by the immutable moral laws of the universe, written by God Himself into our natures, no matter where he may be.

     There might be no more important simple change to our rhetoric than this: to insist that things go by their proper names. I see red when I hear someone say “undocumented immigrant.” If feel my blood pressure rise when some cretin rants about a “right to affordable housing.” Worst for my cheerful good nature (and beyond question the most beloved of both the political class and the Left) is the oft-heard statement about America being a “democracy,” which it is not. All these misnomers cry out for prompt and unsparing correction.

     Confucius insisted that “what is necessary “ – the first and most important of all the tasks of a ruler – is “to rectify names.” Consider this tirade a first step toward that end.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It’s Not About Respect Or Freedom Of Expression

     It’s about control:

     Mika Brzezinski has committed a Kinsleyesque “gaffe.” Michael Kinsley defined that as an occasion on which a politician unwittingly tells the truth. I submit that the definition applies with equal accuracy to mask slippages among media figures.

     The luminaries of the media really would like to control what you think, Gentle Reader. They aspire to the authority of Orwell’s Ministry of Love. That President Trump has denied them the homage they expect from the White House has evoked their counterfire. Not that that’s likely to have the effect they seek.

     Allow me to add a snippet from a great and unjustly neglected novel:

     “Senor Hakluyt, you are a stranger in Aguazul. You will therefore be inclined to dispute the dogmatic assertion that this is the most governed country in the world.”
     Again that air of throwing down a gauntlet in debate, again that cocking of the head to imply a challenge. I said, “All right — I dispute it. Demonstrate.”
     “The demonstration is all about you. We make it our business, first, to know what people think; we make it our business, next, to direct that thinking. We are not ashamed of that, senor, incidentally. Shall we say that — just as specific factors influence the flow of traffic, and you understand the factors and can gauge their relative importance — we now understand many of the factors that shape and direct public opinion? What is a man, considered socially? He is a complex of reactions; he takes the line of least resistance. We govern not by barring socially unhealthy paths, but by opening most wide those paths which are desirable. That is why you are here.”
     “Go on,” I invited after a pause.
     He blinked at me. “Say rather what is your view. Why is it we have adopted this round-and-round policy of inviting an expensive expert to solve our problems subtly, instead of saying, ‘Do this!’ and seeing it done?”
     I hesitated, then counter-questioned. “Is this, then, the extension of an existing policy rather than a compromise between opposed personal interests?”
     He threw up his hands. “But naturally!” he exclaimed, as though surprised to find me so obtuse. “Oh, it is ostensibly that there is conflict between one faction and another — but we create factions in this country! Conformism is a slow death; anarchy is a rapid one. Between the two lies a control which” — he chuckled — “like a lady’s corset in an advertisement, constricts and yet bestows a sense of freedom. We govern our country with a precision that would amaze you, I believe.”

     [John Brunner, The Squares Of The City]

     The vision here is plainly one of nightmare: a political system that consciously and actively seeks to shape the thinking of its subjects. Yet in a supreme irony, Brunner, a lifelong socialist (about which he was coy in his novels), advocated for a political system that must needs bring about that very thing.

     Alejandro Mayor, the Minister of Communications in Brunner’s fictional Aguazul, could as easily have been the CEO of a cartel of newspapers and broadcasters, provided only that he and his enterprises had agreed to collaborate with the State. Imagine what latitude the Internet would have under either such regime, and the hostility it would earn from the political elite. And imagine what media luminary Mika Brzezinski would think of such an arrangement, were she numbered not among its masters but among its victims.

The Milo Business Part 2: Justice And Appropriate Responses

     The reverberations from the Milo Yiannopoulos controversy and the reactions to commentary on it will echo through the BlogoSphere for some time. I’ve already gotten some, and needless to say, the responses have been...mixed.

     In my previous piece on the subject I omitted to address the justice of what’s happened to Milo since his remarks became public knowledge. There’s a reason for that, and it’s the same as the reason I don’t bother to note that the sky is blue and water flows downhill: the injustice of it should be obvious to anyone with three functioning brain cells. But as with many other public contretemps, omitting to express an obvious truth will often be taken (by persons desperate for an excuse to vent their bile at you) as an implicit endorsement of the opposite view.

     Shameful, really. But what can you do about persons determined to destroy you who’ll seize on any smallest crack in your defenses? Why, that’s one I can answer even at this hour. You can:

  1. Ignore them;
  2. Counterattack and destroy them.

     This piece will be a bit discursive, so you might want to put up more coffee. Grab a muffin or something to wash it down.

     Organizations will always possess a dynamic that arises from their nature. For example, the dynamic of government is to seek ever more power and scope, which is “why the worst always get on top.” (Cf. Friedrich Hayek) Organization dynamics will flow from what the organization prioritizes: money, notoriety, votes, or what have you.

     Within an organization’s priority scheme will be a set of subsidiary priorities believed to connect directly to its main priority. For example, commercial organizations tend to value publicity for their wares, and usually to a lesser extent for themselves as well. However, the Qaddafi Principle (“I don’t care what they say about me in the papers as long as they spell my name right”) does not apply uniformly to all commercial organizations. Size, geographical scope, demographic targeting, and other factors play their parts.

     Note in this connection the recent efforts by giant enterprises BP and Koch Industries to promote themselves as benevolent forces. BP, of course, has the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill to “live down.” Koch has been the target of left-wing detractors and slanderers for decades. In both cases, upper managements decided to wage a counter-publicity campaign intended to offset the negative press their enterprises had received. Whether those campaigns are achieving the desired effect, I cannot say.

     The inverse approach – an attempt to distance the organization from whatever specific persons or events have been used to defame it – is just as common as the one above. More often than not, such an approach is applied prophylactically, to head off anticipated negative attention. That’s what’s happened in the case of the Conservative Political Action Conference, Simon & Schuster, and the Breitbart organization.

     The desire of such organizations to head off bad press is understandable. Moreover, it has been determined empirically that the effective courage of a commercial organization (much like the effective intelligence of a committee) varies inversely as the square of its headcount. (Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s essay “Directors and Councils or Coefficient of Inefficiency” is highly illuminating on this point.) That’s why I termed their reactions inevitable in my earlier piece.

     That, however, doesn’t make those reactions just.

     A man’s moral posture is defined by the following considerations:

  • What he requires of himself;
  • What he forbids to himself;
  • What he requires of others;
  • What he forbids to others.

     It really is that simple. Even in effectuation it remains simple, for a moral posture does not demand minutely specific responses to particular stimuli that are uniform across all of us. One can only do what he can do. The same applies to organizations.

     However – and here we must be most emphatic – in any commercial organization there will be a pinnacle position, the President or Chief Executive Officer, who is capable of imposing his will upon the organization when he so desires. This person, more than any other, has the responsibility for enforcing moral norms upon his company. It follows that moral defaults, no matter who in the company might be the proximate cause, ultimately become his responsibility:

  1. If a subordinate refuses to do what the company’s moral strictures demand, that subordinate must be disciplined.
  2. If a subordinate commits an injustice against someone, that subordinate must be disciplined and the injustice redressed.

     The best organizations with which I’m acquainted have been relentless about those things. Perhaps the best known is IBM, whose CEOs have maintained a watchful eye over its employees ever since the founding of the company. The Watsons, Senior and Junior, never allowed an injustice of which they were aware to go unaddressed. That ethic permeates the company today.

     It follows that the grotesque injustices done to Milo Yiannopoulos by CPAC, Simon & Schuster, and the Breitbart organization should have been prevented by the CEOs of the responsible organizations. It seems that the opposite was the case. That comes as close to unforgivable as any managerial sin I can imagine.

     “There’s no merit to discipline under ideal circumstances. I’ll have it in the face of death, or it’s worthless.” – Hober Mallow, in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.

     The final question is what might be required of Us the Patrons of the relevant organizations. That’s fairly simple: whatever we can do to reprove them for their sins. Some possibilities:

  • Letters to CEOs;
  • Adverse publicity;
  • Commercial boycotts.

     That’s for those of us “outside” those organizations. Their employees face different incentives and constraints, and I will not presume to instruct them.

     To sum up: If you fail to uphold your moral standards when under pressure, you don’t really have moral standards. That goes for organizations as well as for individuals. Justice is a moral imperative for a society that seeks to endure. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Milo Business

     By now, the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch will be aware that I’m no fan of homosexuality. I don’t advocate legal measures against it, nor will I tolerate those who victimize homosexuals or treat them as a lesser species. They’re human beings endowed with free will, entitled to make their own mistakes and to reap the consequences for them, whatever those might be. I do oppose their campaign for the radical disassembly of marriage. Neither do I harbor any illusions about what their choices will do to them; I’m too much the scientist for that.

     One branch of homosexual activists I regard as a graver pestilence than the others is the subgroup that campaigns against age-of-consent laws. Mind you, a statutorily decreed age of consent is inherently a magic number. It doesn’t arise from any principle of natural law. Even so, it’s inevitable, even necessary, that there should be such an age, for the alternative is to have the State decree, one individual at a time and on arbitrary criteria, whether each of us is sufficiently competent to consent to a sexual encounter. If that notion doesn’t leave you with a persistent shudder, check your pulse; you may have died and not noticed.

     Homosexual activists strive to insinuate themselves into all sorts of activist communities. They did great damage to West Coast libertarian activism in the Eighties and Nineties. They’re no less capable of harm today. The recent incident with Milo Yiannopoulos, though he must be considered an unwitting and surely unintentional collaborator, puts that into high relief.

     Granted that there are more sinners in this tableau than Milo alone, nevertheless the episode casts an unforgiving light on conservatives’ political relations (as opposed to our social and religious relations) with homosexuality and its practitioners.

     It’s an old maxim that he who sleeps with his dogs will arise with their fleas, and indeed it is so. Whether it’s “fair” or not to infer that he who associates with a homosexual therefore condones homosexuals’ behavior in its entirety, many will draw exactly that inference. It might even be halfway reasonable, for the zone that separates toleration from approval is murky and continuous. At any rate there’s nothing to be done about it.

     When conservatives produce a figure with an admitted deviance such as homosexuality, and then promote – actively or passively – that figure as a spokesman of sorts for conservative convictions, we must prepare to face some undesirable consequences. Such consequences arose with the events cited above. They impelled at least two institutions, the Conservative Political Action Conference and publishing house Simon & Schuster, to act against Yiannopoulos in ways damaging both to him and to them. Yet those reactions were inevitable, so completely so as to give a new dimension to the word.

     To be perfectly fair, Yiannopoulos did not condone, much less advocate, pedophilia or any of the other sexual behaviors routinely mislabeled with that word. He has insisted that he did not (and does not), and a strict interpretation of his remarks bears that out. What he did that was gravely damaging, both to his public stature and to conservatism generally, was to tread along the edges of one of the West’s firmest taboos.

     Yes, he was induced to do so by questions from his listeners. That doesn’t make his unguarded response wise. If anything, one who purports to speak for a set of ideas should be aware of the tactics used by foes to elicit self-damaging remarks. He should have sensed the danger at once. He could have averted the hard lessons that have followed.

     The affair doesn’t admit of extensive analysis. Taboos are like that: reflexive and not always reasonable, or not entirely. It’s certainly reasonable to demand that children, especially prepubescent children, be protected from the sexual advances of adults. We’ve become more conscious of the problem in recent years, albeit uneasily so due to the overzealousness of certain State agencies, our moral quandary over homosexuality, and our difficulties with homosexual activism. The problem of homosexual proselytization of the underage is real. As one who has been several times solicited by homosexuals, including two frightening incidents in my childhood, I speak from experience.

     However, as he often does, Ace has some thoughts we would do well to ponder:

     One can dispute [Milo’s] claims and criticize the callowness and the occasional meanness and casual offensiveness of his statements without taking the next step of deciding that we're going to mob up together to destroy his life just because we're kinda bored and not doin' much else on a slow news day.

     Or can we?

     I don't know that we can any longer.

     This is where we are; this is what we are. Perhaps this is what we've always been -- perhaps we just needed a technological innovation of social media to enable us to focus and purify our hatred into a polarized speck of white-hot dissolving heat.

     Maybe we just needed this one stupid little tool so that we could take this week's pleasure in inflicting cruelty on strangers, like a sadistic kid just needs a magnifying glass to focus the sun's rays on a random ant....

     But even though I found [Milo’s] defenses spurious and calculatedly naive, I can't say I'm outraged by someone attempting to make the case that we should be more free to speak, not less.

     My strongly-held opinion on that point is that we are too limited in what we are free to say without be scalped, boycotted, or fired, not too damn "free" and in need of further abridgments to make sure other people's Spaces are Safe.

     Even if the defense of freedom of expression in question is frequently disingenuous, I still gotta say... I'm not terribly bothered by a disingenuous effort to push back against the Speech Police.

     Think about it – and not just with regard to Milo Yiannopoulos, but in connection to our political adversaries and what we are sometimes tempted to do to them.