Sunday, November 29, 2015

Birds of a feather.

Senior White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett continues to maintain very close relations with CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood group based within the United States. CAIR most recently awarded the Texas student dubbed “clock boy” as its 2015 “Muslim of the year.” The teenage student had built a device which looked like a suitcase bomb and then brought it to school where understandable panic ensued. Within 24-hours the boy received congratulations from Barack Obama himself who declared the device to be a “cool clock” and then invited the boy and his Muslim family to the White House for presidential recognition.

For building a fake bomb clock.

What has just transpired over the skies of Turkey and Syria is no hoax though – it is a show of strength from the world’s most powerful Muslim Brotherhood nation against a world leader who has long made clear his disdain of Muslim militants.

Within hours of the Russian fighter jet being shot down by Turkish anti-aircraft fire, the first government to quickly side with Turkey was the Obama administration.[1]

CAIR – Muslim Brotherhood ties, unindicted co-conspirator Holy Land terror financing trial.

Valerie Jarrett – close ties with CAIR; most important political adviser to Barack Hussein Obama.

Recep Erdogan – president of Turkey, long-time member of the Muslim Brotherhood; supplier of arms and ammunition to al Qaida and so-called Free Syrian Army forces in Syria.

Barack Hussein Obama – ally of Erdogan; author of the statement "I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction." Amused by a fake suitcase bomb built by a Muslim school boy.

Like a dog that will roll in the carcass of a skunk, Obama, it's safe to say, has got the stink of the Muslim Brotherhood on him. And he's providing Brotherhood people access to our government. It's absurd.

Some Americans may have gotten used to this freak's being in the White House but I have not. Seeing him there is like coming home and finding a giraffe reading a Chinese newspaper in your living room.

[1] "Obama’s Muslim Brotherhood Shoots Down Russian Fighter Jet." DCWhispers, 11/24/15.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Statesman: Origins 3

Statesman: Origins 3
     [This is both in lieu of a conventional op-ed essay and something of an early Christmas present to my readers. It’s the final “Origins” segment of Statesman. If you haven’t read both earlier segments, it won’t make much sense. (Hint! Hint!) I don’t know whether you’ll enjoy it, in the conventional sense of that word. I didn’t enjoy writing it. But here it is -- FWP.]

     She jabbed at the recorder’s stop key with a stiffened finger.
     “You think that reflected well on him?”
     He nodded, eyes perfectly serious.
     “A man who makes light of women’s highest issue—”
     He snorted a laugh. “Higher than her right to life? Higher than rape or the sexual abuse of her children? Higher than her abandonment by the father of those children? Higher than women’s desire to be accorded ‘equality’ with men—an equality that bitch chose to undermine with false accusations of harassment and discrimination?”
     Her mouth dropped open.
     “I’ve been telling you about the best man I’ve ever known. I can’t imagine improving on his mind, his conduct, or his morals. He ate at our table dozens of times. It was a privilege to have him there. It was an education, even an ennoblement, just to engage him in a little small talk. Violet Hochberg was willing to ruin him professionally because he’d made a judgment—an accurate judgment, as it turned out—that she wasn’t good enough, that she hadn’t earned what she was demanding, and that it would cost the company to indulge her ambition and her pretensions. Imagine if he’d lacked the moral fiber to refuse her. Imagine if he hadn’t defied the grievance committee—a committee that had never before exonerated anyone. Imagine what would have become of her future once she’d been allowed to demonstrate that she wasn’t good enough, right out in front of God and everybody, by crippling the AAR project.” He shook his head. “None so blind as those who will not see.”
     It silenced her. He waited.
     Presently she said. “I suppose you have a point. But I still want to hear about the woman he finally hooked up with.”
     “Ah!” He smiled. “How I love modern jargon! ‘Hooked up.’ Sounds a bit like having your car towed away. I’m not sure you know what you’re asking, but...all right. Though I’m surprised at the intensity of your interest.”
     She snorted. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
     “I thought you were here to talk about me.”
     “But this is about you, isn’t it?”
     His mouth tightened. “In a way, I suppose. But it’s a complicated story. Perhaps we should save it for tomorrow.”
     “I have time.” She smirked. “Do
you have something pressing?”
     His jaw tightened. “No.”
     She started her recorder.


     Sumner had just shed his jacket, taken his seat at his desk, and addressed the topmost of the memoranda before him when there came a brief knock at his office door. He donned his “professionally insincere” smile and braced for yet another of the seemingly endless procession of self-styled dignitaries that hoped to persuade Onteora Aviation to gratify some whim wholly disconnected from its business. As his gaze rose from the memorandum he’d been scanning, the false smile was displaced by a wholly sincere one.
     “Louis!” He charged out from behind his desk and wrapped Louis Redmond in a hug. “It’s been an age! How the hell are you and where are you working these days?”
     Redmond did not reply. Sumner released him, stepped back, and looked closely at his face. It was then that Sumner first sensed that it was not a pleasure call.
     “What’s wrong?” he murmured.
     Redmond smiled wanly. “Nothing that time won’t fix. I do need help with a legal matter, though.” He clapped Sumner on the back, and Sumner released him. “Are you still in that line of work, or does the rubber-chicken circuit take up all your time nowadays?”
     Sumner pretended embarrassment. “You heard about that, did you?”
     “I do pay attention to the news, Steve.” He gestured Sumner back to his seat and took the guest chair immediately before him. “How did it happen?”
     Sumner reseated himself and flipped a hand. “Anders got a call a few days back. It seems Governor Wriston isn’t happy about the performance of ‘his’ lieutenant-governor—that’s how he refers to Marcus Burrell, believe it or not—and wants a new one for his next term. He asked Anders for a name, someone who wouldn’t necessarily bring great glamor to the ticket, but who wouldn’t weigh it down with baggage. In other words, a safe nonentity who’d take orders and not talk back. Anders suggested me, the fink, and he fixed it so I couldn’t refuse” He smirked. “I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to repay him, but I will.”
     “I’m relieved to hear it wasn’t your idea,” Redmond said. “I assume you and the governor have met?”
     “Oh yes. I’ve been a Republican all my adult life, but I’ve got to tell you, Louis, if Wriston represents what the party is coming to, I won’t be one much longer.” Sumner shook his head in disbelief. “If he’d been one of Lincoln’s advisers, he’d have told him not to be too hasty, there’s some good aspects to this slavery thing.”
     “But you agreed to be his running mate anyway?”
     Sumner nodded. “Anders made it clear that it would be in the company’s best interests. Besides, it’s a chance to speak my mind from a high pulpit, maybe get some people thinking. Whatever Wriston thinks he knows about me, he can’t stop me from doing that much.”
     “How did Adrienne take it?”
     “It troubled her at first,” Sumner said. “She knew it would mean time apart, time in preparation, time campaigning, and assuming Wriston wins re-election, a lot of time away from Onteora.”
     “Did Rosalie or Allison register an opinion?”
     Sumner shrugged. “If they did, I haven’t been told about it.”
     He’ll tell me what he’s here for sooner or later...won’t he?
     “So even with all that, might you have the time,” Redmond said at last, “to help me with a legal problem?”
     “I suppose it would depend on the problem,” Sumner said. “You’re not in trouble, I hope?”
     “Not with the law,” Redmond said. “At least, I hope not. But I have a need.” He paused and grimaced briefly, as if he were fighting some interior pain. “And I don’t know what part of the law applies to it.”
     I don’t like the way he’s been carrying himself. He is in some sort of difficulty, and he’s straining not to tell me too much about it.
     “There’s a piece of property...a house and grounds,” Redmond said. “I own it free and clear, and I need to give it to someone without notifying that someone or involving her in the process. Is that possible under New York law?”
     “You need to do this?”
     Redmond nodded.
     Is his trouble financial? Can’t pay the property taxes? But that would hardly compel him to give away a piece of real estate that’s got to be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
     “I think it’s possible,” Sumner said after a moment’s reflection. “As far as I’m aware, all that’s required for a transfer of title to real property is the expressed desire of the current owner, payment of the recording fee, and an unambiguous identification of the new owner. But sooner or later the new owner has to be informed of the conveyance. Do you have a method in mind?”
     Another nod. “That’s the second part.” Redmond paused, breathed once deeply, and smiled. “I need help drawing up a will.”


     What Redmond asked of him required little. The simplicity of his bequest, married to the standard form for a Last Will and Testament, made the composition of the will a matter of minutes. Redmond’s signature, Sumner’s signature as witness, and OA’s in-house notary’s seal immunized it to judicial dismissal.
     Next, Sumner composed a carefully worded statement of intent to transfer all right, title, and interest in the house and grounds at 633 Alexander Avenue in Foxwood to Christine M. D’Alessandro, currently resident at that address, for no return consideration. Redmond and Sumner affixed their signatures, the notary affixed his seal to it, and the thing was done. As far as Sumner knew, he only had to deliver it to the county clerk to effectuate the transfer.
     The whole matter seemed to be simplicity itself. When Redmond thanked Sumner and departed, it was barely 9:00 AM. Yet he stared at the surface of his desk, focused on nothing, for several long minutes more.
     But why?
     I’ve never heard of anyone willingly ceding title to a house and its plot the way Louis just did. It’s probably been a century since it happened last.
     Who on Earth is this Christine D’Alessandro? He never mentioned her before this morning. She shares his address and he’s leaving her all his worldly goods, so she’s got to be pretty special. She’s his first girl ever, unless there’s a hell of a lot he hasn’t told anyone.
     But why doesn’t he want her to know about the title conveyance?

     Redmond’s unanticipated desire for a will, a subject Sumner had never before heard him address, was especially troubling. The engineer was most emphatic that it be ironclad, such that probate was unquestionably averted and no one could possibly contest it.
     Is he sick? He didn’t look it. Then again, there are diseases that don’t show on the outside. Some of them are pretty damned serious.
     Adrienne won’t be happy to hear about any of this.

     Adrienne Sumner had adopted Louis Redmond as the son she’d never had. For several years she’d been relentless in her attempts to match Redmond up: hopefully with her sister Rosalie, but failing that, at least with one of her single friends. Lack of success had never daunted her. Learning that he was “off the market,” linked to a woman neither of them had met, would frustrate her all the more.
     Should I tell her?
     Without complete information about Redmond’s current circumstances and the reasons for his requests, it would be more than difficult.
     Maybe not just yet.
     He rose and shook himself, donned his jacket, and set forth for the county center.

     Onteora County Clerk Ames Bradford had occupied the office for some eighteen years. He was of that species of civil servant that regards civility as discretionary and the rendering of actual service as an unpardonable imposition on his time. No doubt it helped that the Onteora Republican Party had selected him personally for the position. It helped even more that he’d thrice run for re-election unopposed. He looked at Redmond’s carefully worded, signed, and notarized intent to transfer his property as a cobra might view a mongoose.
     “I’ve never seen such a thing before,” Bradford said. “I don’t think I can accept it without first consulting with the county’s attorneys.” He pushed the document away and started to turn back toward the monitor of his desktop computer.
     “Mr. Bradford,” Sumner said, “New York real property law is explicit on this subject. All that’s required to effectuate the transfer is a clear, witnessed statement of intent and the identification of the beneficiary. Had Mr. Redmond delivered it to you in person, what would your response have been?”
     A smirk started to form on Bradford’s features. He took a moment to suppress it.
     “I’d have questioned his sanity. I drive past that address several times per week. It’s worth three hundred thousand dollars at the very least. And he’s giving it away to his girlfriend? What could he be thinking?”
     Sumner felt his blood pressure rise. He calmed himself with an effort.
     “Are you rejecting the statement of intent, Mr. Bradford? Prepared by an attorney in good standing before the New York bar, signed by the property’s current owner, witnessed and notarized as the law requires? Because if that’s what you’re doing, I’ll require you to state your grounds for doing so, and to cite the legal provision under which you’ve done so.” He smiled. “Before witnesses.”
     Bradford glared at Sumner for a long, silent moment. Presently he smiled and sat back, fingers interlaced behind his head.
     “Well, Counselor,” the clerk said, “before you inconvenience any hypothetical witnesses, would you please tell me why Mr. Redmond isn’t here with you?”
     Sumner frowned. “I’m his attorney of record. He’s paying me to handle this for him. Why should he be here when he could be earning his living?”
     “Including whatever sum he’ll need to meet your invoice, of course,” Bradford said. “Then how do you propose to prove that this...intent wasn’t composed, signed, and notarized under duress? Or for that matter, that Mr. Redmond was of sound mind when he signed it?”
     Sumner started to reply, halted himself.
     What would constitute proof? There’s no requirement in the law that a man prove himself of sound mind; the burden of proof lies with those who allege otherwise. But duress? When the transaction at issue is this large, and this unusual? Louis could be standing next to me, and there’d be no way to prove that he or someone he loves hadn’t been threatened. Where does the burden of proof lie then?
     I have to step out onto a narrow limb.

     “Mr. Bradford,” he said with all the confidence he could muster, “the burden of proof that a man has acted under duress lies with those who claim that to be the case. Otherwise I could bring Mr. Redmond, his confessor, and the pope here to testify to his freedom of will, and you could still reject his intent because you harbor a reasonable doubt. The county’s attorneys will confirm that.” He pulled out his cell phone and laid it on Bradford’s desk. “But if you prefer, I could contact Governor Roland Wriston in Albany and have him read New York’s laws of testimony and bequest to you.”
     Bradford’s eyes widened. He slid forward on his seat and assessed Sumner afresh, like a detective whose assistant had just burst into an interrogation with a new and devastating article of evidence.
     “You’re him.”
     Sumner nodded once.
     “If I accept this intent as correct and uncoerced,” the clerk said, “open the records, and enter a new owner for—” he leaned forward to glance at the document—“633 Alexander Avenue, Foxwood, New York into the tax rolls, what assurance can you give me that I won’t come under fire for it later?”
     Sumner shrugged minutely. “None, I suppose. But isn’t that just one of the hazards of public service? You know, like a charge of nonfeasance for the willful refusal to discharge a stated duty of your position?”
     Bradford stared at him with unconcealed distaste.
     Presently the clerk leaned forward, snagged Redmond’s statement of intent, and said “I’ll execute it this afternoon.”
     Sumner shook his head. “You’ll do it right now, with me watching. And I’ll want a transaction receipt, with all details, signed by you in my presence.” He tapped his cellphone’s screen with an index finger. “Now, will you attend to this immediately, as I’ve requested, so that I can get back on the campaign trail before lunch, or must I call the governor?”
     Bradford merely grunted assent.

     Sumner returned to his office to find Anders Forslund waiting there.
     The CEO of Onteora Aviation was sitting at his ease in one of Sumner’s guest chairs. The trade magazine on his lap was open to a spectacular aerial photograph of a Navy warplane engaged in a high-g maneuver. He started as Sumner arrived, closed the magazine and rose.
     Sumner shook his head. “A favor for a friend.”
     Forslund shrugged. “I suppose between the campaign, and your other responsibilities, I should count myself lucky to find you in here.” The observation carried no trace of reproach. “Is the friend someone I know?”
     “Louis Redmond.”
     Forslund’s eyebrows rose. “Professional, legal, or social?”
     Sumner grimaced. “Legal. I’m not sure I should talk about it.”
     “Then don’t. Is he all right, generally speaking? Working for someone that appreciates him?”
     “I don’t know, Anders.” Sumner slipped behind his desk and seated himself. “It’s the first time I’ve seen him since he resigned. He didn’t look right, but I can’t put my finger on why not.”
     And I can’t say any more about it without breaching his privacy.
     Forslund’s gaze rested on him for a long, uncomfortable moment. Presently he said “Well, when you see him next, I’d appreciate it if you’d let him know that I’d pay him twice what he was getting if he’d agree to come back. The software department—”
     Sumner held up a hand. “I doubt he’ll be coming back, Anders. Not because he’s happier...where he is.” He looked away as he fought his reluctance to state his conjecture, as if by so doing he might transform it into immutable truth.
     “I think he’s dying.”

     “Hello Louis, it’s Steve Sumner. I have your documents ready for you.”
     “Already? Excellent. Were there any problems?”
     “The county clerk was reluctant to process your property transfer.” Sumner smirked. “I straightened him out before he could become...tiresome.”
     “Great. Well, what do I owe you?”
     “For this? Nothing. It’s a pleasure to do a favor for a friend.” Sumner hesitated. “I’ll have your papers with me if you’ll meet me for lunch. Can you spare the time?”
     “Of course I can, Steve. How about Costigan’s at noon?”
     “You’re on.”
     “I’ll see you there.”
     Sumner delicately returned the handset to its cradle.

     It lacked five minutes of noon when Sumner arrived at Costigan’s Pub. He made it just in time to secure the last unoccupied booth. He seated himself, spread Redmond’s legal documents out before him, and examined them one last time to assure himself that all was as it should be. There were no errors or ambiguities in either that he could detect.
     Whatever the reason he needs to do this, it’s done and done properly.
     At exactly noon Redmond appeared at the pub doors. He spotted Sumner at once, deftly threaded his way through the maze of tables, slid into his seat and extended a hand. Sumner shook it.
     “What’ll you have?”
     Redmond smirked. “A modest slice of middle-class poverty, New York style, with a side of legalese.”
     Sumner snorted. “Your own doing, if so. I suggest you put these in a safe place.” He pushed the papers across the table, and Redmond gathered them in. A pretty young waitress appeared at their side.
     “What can I get you gentlemen?” she said.
     Sumner smiled. “A burger and fries, medium-well, and a stein of whatever Pat has on tap today. Louis?”
     Redmond turned toward the waitress and produced a devastating, wholly unprecedented smile. It transformed his face, pleasant enough but normally unremarkable, into a vision of something beatific, the visage of a creature who knew beauties and joys from the realms beyond time.
     The waitress’s face went slack. Her lips parted and her hands fell to her sides. She seemed to slide involuntarily closer to the table, as if under the compulsion of an unseen force.
     “Patricia,” she murmured.
     Redmond’s brow furrowed. “Hm?”
     “My name.” She laid a hand on his and edged closer still.
     “Oh. Well, may I have the same as my friend, Patricia?” He squeezed her hand almost imperceptibly.
     Whatever spell Redmond had put upon the waitress, his words and subtle gesture seemed to break it. She straightened with a jerk, smiled professionally as she jotted down their orders, and moved smoothly away.
     What the hell was that about?
     Redmond turned back toward him as if nothing much had happened. “So the clerk gave you a spot of trouble?”
     Sumner collected himself. “Uh, yeah. He questioned your sanity.” I’m not sure he had no reason. “Who’s this Christine you’re leaving all your worldly goods?”
     Redmond flipped a hand. “A charity case.” The waitress returned with their beers and set them down on the table. Redmond thanked her with a nod. She reciprocated expressionlessly and left at once. “How are things going at OA?”
     “About as usual,” Sumner said. “Dick Orloff is still heartbroken about your resignation. Anders stopped by a little earlier, said he’d double your salary if you’d agree to come back.”
     This Christine person shares your address. She’s got to be more than one of your charities. Why aren’t you willing to talk about her?
     Redmond grinned. “They’ll get over it. The department is full of good engineers. They don’t need me.”
     Sumner sipped at his beer. “Actually, the TPCA has put a hurtin’ on the whole Engineering building. There haven’t been any conscription warrants served on us yet, but everyone is on edge.”
     Redmond nodded. “I can imagine. It’s one of the reasons I left.”
     But not the only one?
     Sumner tried for a casual tone. “So what’s been going on with you these past couple of months? Adrienne is dying to know. Another job, or just doing some consulting?”
     All trace of pleasure faded from Redmond’s countenance. In that moment a pall seemed to descend over the restaurant. The bustle of waitresses, diners, and scattered conversations muted to nothing.
     “Neither, Steve,” Redmond said. “A little chemotherapy, some surgery, and a lot of prayer.” His mouth twitched in a simulacrum of a smile. “Spinal cancer.”
     The words lanced through Sumner with the impact of a spear. “Are you...will you be...?”
     “No.” Redmond lowered his gaze to the table. “It’s terminal.”
     The waitress arrived with their lunches.

     Sumner could not bring himself to return to his office.
     The doors to Our Lady of the Pines were unlocked, as usual. He slipped silently into the church, hoping not to be noticed by whoever else was present. It proved unnecessary; the nave was without other human presence. He went to the communion rail, knelt, and fixed his gaze on the Tabernacle.
     Lord Jesus, I’ve been thrown for a loop. In the space of a single morning, I’ve learned more about loss than I ever expected to know...or to need to know. Yet the loss is not mine, at least not principally.
     I don’t pretend that I have a right to know Your mind, but I can’t help asking: why, Lord? Why must the world lose the finest creature ever to grace it, apart from Yourself, at so young an age? Why must we who love him be deprived of him so soon? Is it Your will? Do You need him beside You more than we need him here? Has he already earned his reward, and need no longer suffer the trials of fleshly existence? Or is it of those things?
     If this truly must be, Lord, then Your will be done. But please, spare him any further suffering or sorrow. Let his last days be joyous. Let him have love and companionship all the way to the end...and let that end be gentle, just a falling asleep to awaken in Your radiant presence. For if I know anything, it is that he is Your beloved, just as he is ours who have known him here on Earth. Take him to Your bosom and forever hold him close.

     He remained on his knees long after all words and thought had deserted him.

     Sumner returned to his home a few minutes after five PM. Adrienne’s face fell as her gaze lit upon his countenance.
     “Bad day?”
     He set his briefcase down in the hallway and nodded.
     She went to him and took his hands. “Is it anything I can help with?”
     “Afraid not.” He took her in his arms. “But I do have some news.”
     “Louis is...has himself a girl. Christine somebody.”
     “Damn!” She grimaced. “I mean, not that I begrudge him, but...”
     “Believe me, I get it. You begrudge her.” Though maybe you shouldn’t.
     “Well...yes. Rosalie will be seriously pissed.” She shook her head. “She thought she’d finally made some progress with him. The last time they were both here, he actually touched her.”
     “Really? After all those years of careful avoidance?”
     She smirked. “Really. It wasn’t even accidental.”
     “Maybe we should keep this to ourselves, then.” He shed his jacket and hung it in the hall closet.
     “Should we invite the two of them for dinner?”
     “Hm? Louis and Ro?”
     “No, silly, Louis and his girl. We haven’t seen him in months. And we should give her a proper inspection.”
     Sumner’s heart clenched. “I don’t think that will be possible, sweetie. He’s...kind of busy these days.”
     Her eyebrows rose. “Too busy for dinner with us?” Her tone made her displeasure plain.
     “Something like that.”

     “He told me to tell no one else,” he said. “He didn’t want it to become common knowledge. I’ve never worked out why he told me.”
     She was unable to speak. He noticed and smiled sadly.
     “Handling Louis’s property conveyance and preparing his will was about the last bit of legal work I ever did.” He smirked. “And it didn’t have a blessed thing to do with the corporation or the law.
     “After that I saw him only once more, at Mass,” he said. “I wanted to be with him at the end. I even asked him for the privilege. I can’t imagine that I was the only one. He wouldn’t have it. He said he had to face God alone. He was certain God would refuse him, because his faith had been riven by doubt. I’d guess that no one who knew him would agree, though I haven’t exactly conducted a survey.”
     “He was that unanimously admired?” she said.
     He nodded. “Even by his enemies, and before you ask, yes, he did have a couple. Did that make it any clearer why I consider him the most important of did you phrase it? ‘Formative influences?’”
     “Yes,” she murmured. “Clearly. And your bodyguard turned out to be Christine? I mean, his girl, the one he left everything to?”
     He nodded again. “And dearer to me than anyone but Adrienne and Louis himself.” His mouth curved into a grin. “I should tell you her story, too, but not just now.”
     They shared a moment of silence. It was sundered by the opening of the door behind him. She looked up, but he only smiled.
     “It appears we’re done for today,” he said.
     “May I come back tomorrow?”
     “Of course,” he said. “And the day after, if you like.”
     She nodded. “Then I will.”



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Double-Edged Gift

     [One of my longest-duration readers remembered the following old piece from the Palace of Reason and requested that I repost it. As I expect to be too busy to write tomorrow, please accept this as my Thanksgiving essay. -- FWP]

     November 27, 2003

     Thanksgiving Day, alternately known here at the Fortress of Crankitude as the Feast of St. Gluttony, has finally arrived. Across America, three- and four-person families will open their doors to company, prepare quantities of food sufficient to provision the USS Theodore Roosevelt for a three month deployment, eat about five percent of it, and spend the remainder of the day bellyaching, in several senses of the word.

  • There will be much jockeying for position at the dinner table, as if proximity to the string beans and fried onions, the pearl onions in cream, or the sweet potato casserole carried a proportional obligation to eat them.
  • There will be much cranberry sauce, most of it from Ocean Spray Corporation and bearing the trademark raised double rings fore and aft. The juveniles in the company will fight over who gets those.
  • There will be many ejaculations of "I'm stuffed fuller than that turkey" and "I couldn't eat another bite."
  • There will be much washing-up.
  • There will be extensive packaging of leftovers and cries of frustration over the dimensions of the refrigerator. These will be accompanied by sincere exhortations to the guests to "take a little home for later, we don't need it all. Really!"
  • There will be football, which the menfolk will use to escape the washing-up and packaging of leftovers.
  • There will be visits from relatives whose tenuous connection to the host family is all but lost in the mists of time.
  • There will be more football, which, together with the feeling of having swallowed a tire, will dampen the traditional post-prandial displays of hostility between the aforementioned tenuously connected relatives.
  • There will be the blessed moment when all the guests go home and the hosts can cease to be hosts, a role at which most of us are terrible anyway.
  • Interspersed with all that, there will be some pro forma expressions of gratitude for this or that, whose cliche fraction will average about 83.33%, because most of us are no better at appreciating our blessings than we are at being hosts. Still, it's important to make the effort, at least once a year.

     Thanksgiving Day is bittersweet for many, because they lack some of the above ingredients for a full-featured holiday revel. Some don't have families. Others don't have much fondness for turkey or the Dallas Cowboys. Still others can't quite figure out how to get the cranberry sauce out of the can without destroying the charming double rings. For your Curmudgeon, Thanksgiving Day is a remembrance of a day he faced death for no good reason at all.

     Once upon a time, your Curmudgeon had a relative with wealth, who shall henceforth be called Aunt Lil. Aunt Lil had three things in great measure: money, caustic opinions, and a steely resistance to unpleasant facts. Inasmuch as the rest of the family was less than pecunious, and hoped to share in the proceeds from Aunt Lil's much-anticipated passing to the next world, we were all unctuously deferential toward her, and far more forbearing of her less agreeable side than we ought to have been.

     When your Curmudgeon was a fuzz-chinned sprat in his middle teenage years, a promising looking apprentice adult but little more, there came a Thanksgiving when Aunt Lil decided that she, rather than your Curmudgeon's nuclear family, would host the day's feast. She announced this decision with the imperiousness of a Roman Caesar. She accompanied the announcement with the astonishing addendum that she, and no one else, would prepare the food.

     Aunt Lil could not cook.

     Your Curmudgeon, even though of tender years, was already an accomplished cook, having been tutored in the art by a father whose life work was in food. One of Dad's most prized possessions was a cookbook he'd been given by the head chef at the Hunter's Lodge in Westchester: 832 recipes for potatoes. Dad pored over that tome as if it were the Rosetta Stone. Perhaps, to him, it was; he never did manage to get "au gratin" right. Anyway, Dad had passed his knowledge and skills along to your Curmudgeon, who'd found that he enjoyed their exercise -- and never more so than when the stakes were high.

     Being of tender years, your Curmudgeon dared to suggest to Aunt Lil that she accept his assistance with the Thanksgiving repast. The suggestion was dismissed with prejudice. There was a grimace of horror from Dad, who feared that your Curmudgeon would continue by Mentioning The Unmentionable: that Aunt Lil was barely competent to pour milk over cold cereal. But even in his tenderer years, your Curmudgeon wasn't that indiscreet.

     On the appointed day, we dutifully presented ourselves at Aunt Lil's magnificent apartment in the Bronx -- yes, there was a time when people of means lived in the Bronx, and it may come again -- and submitted ourselves to her culinary ministrations. True to her word, she'd done it all herself, from the appetizers to the pies. And no, it wasn't as bad as we'd feared.

     It was worse. Much, much worse.

     Aunt Lil had somehow formed the fixed idea that you could roast a turkey in an hour, independent of its size. Since there are very few three-pound turkeys around at Thanksgiving, and none that could feed a roster of twenty-eight people, this was, if you'll pardon the expression, a recipe for calamity. And calamity duly ensued, for every one of the invitees ate of that ruddy pink turkey and smiled while he did it.

     All became ill. Seven wound up in the hospital that evening with severe food poisoning. Your Curmudgeon was one. (Aunt Lil was not. Subsequent familial debate has not settled whether Aunt Lil ate of her own creation. No one was ever willing to state unambiguously that he saw her do so.)

     As your Curmudgeon writhed in the unique agony of an empty digestive tract that strained to empty itself still further in complete disregard for facts or logic, he pondered the train of decisions that had brought him and six of his relatives to that sorry state. He contemplated all the things he'd wanted to do with his life, that now seemed destined to remain undone. He thought about the mess he called his "priorities," and what he might have done about them had he known that his time on Earth was to be so short.

     To cut to the credits, all who were afflicted lived. Your Curmudgeon would face death again several times: from extreme illness, from a fall off a cliff face, and from the lunatic rage of a crazy woman he'd unwisely invited to share his home. But his first confrontation with the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Societies was the most important one, for the lesson it bore is one he's never forgotten.

     Time is the ultimate gift.

     Time is the medium within which we temporally bound creatures must work. Time is the dimension within which we plan, and execute our plans, and reap the rewards or the lessons they generate. But time is not ours to command.

     In his masterpiece The Screwtape Letters -- and really, how often has that much wisdom been compressed into that few pages? -- C. S. Lewis's devil-protagonist declaims on the folly of asserting the ownership of time, in particular the time of one's life:

     You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption "My time is my own." Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.

     You have here a delicate task. The assumption which you want him to go on making is so absurd that, if once it is questioned, even we cannot find a shred of argument in its defence. The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and the moon as his chattels.

     This is the forward edge on the sword of time, the somber face of the ticking clock, that two-handed engine which will one day strike, and strike no more. We cannot bottle time. We are forbidden by the laws of the universe to know how much time we'll have. Though memory suggests otherwise, the only instant we can be sure of is now -- and it slips from our grasp before we can even finish pronouncing its name.

     When a man elects to take a risk to his life, as we all do innumerable times each day, he risks the retraction of the gift of time all at once. That's not an argument for taking no risks; it's a reminder that the hoped-for returns from a risk ought to be measured carefully against the possible price for pursuing them.

     Twenty-seven people sat down to Aunt Lil's table and ate of her visibly dangerous, nearly lethal turkey because they didn't want to offend a woman worth millions of dollars. None of us really liked her personally, but we surely loved our dream of inheriting some fraction of her wealth.

     Was that a worthy end, to incur so great a risk? Even if no one else did, your Curmudgeon and his Dad knew what the risk would be. What was our excuse?

     Aunt Lil died intestate, by the way.

     Your Curmudgeon is growing old. The sense of time running out has been weighing heavily upon him lately. He's been reviewing his goals, especially the ones that seem to be moving out of reach, and straining to make some sense of the things to which he's given his life. It's not a uniformly pleasant enterprise. It involves confronting a lot of utter folly and wondering how he could have been so stupid, as he was at Aunt Lil's dinner table three decades and more ago.

     But it also involves appreciating how many opportunities he's had, how every pain visited upon him carried with it a lesson that would enlarge his understanding and prove valuable later in his life, and how even his worst failures were occasions for a great deal of hope and joy. This is the rearward edge on the sword of time: the ability to look backward over one's life and say, despite any and all regrets, "an ill favoured thing, but mine own," and therefore precious.

     And so, on this Thanksgiving Day in the year of Our Lord 2003, your Curmudgeon will give thanks simply for having lived. For having survived to laugh at his own stupidity. For having learned how much there is to know that he will never know. For having loved, often unwisely but never unwillingly, and having been loved in return. For all the failures, all the pain, all the triumphs and all the joys. These things are inextricably bound in the thread of time, whether Clotho spins it coarse or fine, whether Lachesis weaves it loose or dense, whether Atropos lets it run luxuriantly long or hacks it cruelly short. It was all pure gift, as is whatever portion remains to come.

     Like any other sort of thread, this gift is what one makes of it.

Profiles In Gullibility

     One of my elderly neighbors is, shall we say, more credulous than is advisable for a man who lives alone, without benefit of a wife or a vigilant, well-compensated professional minder. That can get you suckered into cons and scams a lot more dangerous than Three-Card Monte. As a demonstration of this property and its pitfalls, allow me to present an example.

     I recently traded in Miranda, my silver 2007 Mercedes S550, for an as-yet-unbaptized 2011 black Mercedes S550. (Miranda had reached 100,000 miles, a figure that makes me nervous, especially when the object of that nervousness is a car.) And upon coming home with the new conveyance, the following exchange ensued:

     Excessively Gullible Neighbor: Did you buy another new car?
     Francis W. Porretto: Huh? What are you talking about?

     EGN: That’s not your Mercedes.
     FWP: Of course it is! It’s my S550. Look at the badges.

     EGN: But your Mercedes is silver.
     FWP: Oh, I see. I just selected the alternate color scheme.

     EGN: What?
     FWP: There’s a feature on the S550 that allows you to alternate between two color schemes. My alternate is black. I just selected it for the holidays. I didn’t realize you’d never seen it before.

     EGN: Wow! I didn’t know that was possible. Can you show me?
     FWP: I’d like to, but the transition takes place over a full day, so you could stand here for an hour and barely notice the change.
     EGN: Oh.

     I smiled and said “Have a nice day,” rushed inside, and surrendered to hysterics.

     Don’t let this happen to you.

     UPDATE: Oh, all right:

     (Personally, I prefer the silver scheme to this alternate, but...well, the holidays, you know.)

The U.S. love affair with ISIS.

The U.S. has been drinking the bathwater of ISIS. Even having them drown people in cages and burn a pilot in a cage didn't slow Obama down. Our boys!

But, mind you, Assad is "the Butcher." Does "this man strike you as a monster who must be removed from the world stage?

Anyway, let's move on to the point about excessive (i.e., absurd) levels of U.S. concern for the welfare of ISIS:

FrontPageMag’s Daniel Greenfield makes a similar point [that the ISIS oil truck drivers being given warnings by the U.S. are not innocent noncombatants], commenting, “So after all this time, they came up with a great plan; drop flyers on ISIS trucks so that the drivers, who may or may not be ISIS members, can run away in time. Meanwhile ISIS gets 45 minutes of warning.”

Compare the Obama White House’s approach to fighting ISIS to that of Russia.

While it took the U.S. fifteen months to even begin targeting ISIS’ oil refineries and tankers, air strikes by Moscow destroyed more than 1,000 tankers in a period of just five days.

In comparison, Col. Steve Warren said that the U.S. had taken out only 116 tanker trucks, the “first strike” to target ISIS’ lucrative black market oil business, which funds over 50 per cent of the terror group’s activities.[1]

Obama is an enemy to ISIS in the same way that I am an enemy to children, kitties, and puppies in my neighborhood.

Then there's this:
Numerous analysts claim that the Obama White House’s fifteen month wait before it began targeting the primary funding mechanism behind ISIS was part of a tacit policy to help the Islamic State overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

* * * *

“The bottom line – the almost irrefutable truth – is that the US and its regional allies were all-in on the “use Sunni extremists to bring about regime change in Syria” strategy from the word “go”, and the direct result of that strategy is ISIS,” reports Zero Hedge, adding, “The US didn’t want to cut off Islamic State’s funding, because without money, the group couldn’t fight Assad.” The New York Times is also reporting that US Central Command may have engaged in a year long effort to deliberately conceal the fact that the United States’ plan to demolish ISIS was not effective.[2]

New guy in town destroys tankers at a rate of 200 per day. Obama destroys one (1) tanker every four (4) days. Russian rate of destruction = 800 times that of Obama rate. Is the fix in, or what?

There is something rotten in the Obama war against Syria, not the least of which is the fact that his aggressive war against Syria is unconstitutional. Even though that's so, like, yesterday.

[1]  "White House Gave ISIS 45 Minute Warning Before Bombing Oil Tankers. Why did it take 15 months for the U.S. to target the Islamic State's oil infrastructure?" By Paul Joseph Watson, Infowars, 11/23/15.
[2] Id.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ultra-Quickies: The Zenith Of Offense Culture

     I think I’ve found it.
     It will be here any day now.
     It will be announced with trumpets.
     And possibly by strumpets.
     And it will go like this:

Twitter’s 140-character limit oppresses women!

     I mean, really: What woman, given a free choice, would choose to limit herself to 140 characters?

     (Love ya, ladies. But you’ve got to admit it’s true.)

Quickies: Everything Offends Someone Dept.

     Were you aware that remembering Black Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when nineteen young Muslim fanatics hijacked four airliners, flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the ground, killed 3000 Americans, did $100 billion in damage, and opened the War on Terrorism, is offensive to Muslims?

     No, really:

     Theo Menon, a Minnesota Student Association representative and member of the College Republicans, realized that the [University of Minnesota] wasn’t doing anything to memorialize 9/11; on Oct. 6, he introduced an MSA proposal to do just that. The very short resolution asked the university to institute a “moment of recognition” during the mornings of all future September 11ths.

     The resolution proved weirdly controversial. According to The Minnesota Republic:

     At-large MSA representative and Director of Diversity and Inclusion David Algadi voiced severe criticism of the resolution. He also made sure to emphasize 9/11’s status as a national tragedy in his response.

     “The passing of this resolution might make a space that is unsafe for students on campus even more unsafe,” said Algadi. “Islamophobia and racism fueled through that are alive and well.”

     My, my.

     Let the emphasized text below be called the Facts Recognition Act:

Facts care nothing for anyone’s opinions.
Facts care nothing for anyone’s feelings.
Facts care nothing for the claims of any ideology.
To be worth anyone’s time and attention,
an ideology must conform to the facts,
not the other way around.

     The facts are simple:

  • Islam is a creed, not a race. There are members of all the world’s races who call themselves Muslims.
  • Islam permits its followers no loyalties except to Islam.
  • Islam condones and encourages violence, fraud, and deceit against “unbelievers:” i.e., non-Muslims.
  • A fraction of the Islamic population of the world estimated at between 10% and 25% really, truly, wants us “unbelievers” either subjugated or beheaded.
  • According to surveys, much – possibly most – of the remainder supports the above fraction’s goals, though it declines to openly endorse its methods.

     Having read and accepted the above – you do, don’t you? If not, just read the BLEEP!ing Qur’an – would you be concerned about hurting Muslims’ tender feelings by memorializing September 11, 2001?

     A word to the wise: A Muslim would feel perfectly justified in killing you for saying that Islam promotes violence. So make a point of being out of his reach, well armed, or both. Preferably both.

     It strikes me as morally and socially imperative that decent Americans one and all stop worrying about offending someone. Worry instead about the pressure on us – especially on our young folks – to wish facts aside for the sake of “solidarity” with their Leftist peers. If someone tries the “I’m offended” gambit on you, read him the Facts Recognition Act and refuse to listen to any backtalk. Do it loudly, and as publicly as you dare. It will be music to the overwhelming majority’s ears. I guarantee it.

     Damn, I should have it printed onto flash cards. Or maybe bumper stickers.

Germany – and the West – down the tubes with a daesh of geopolitical adventurism.

An article from the Gatestone Institute lays out the essence of Muslim hijrah: get where you're going and breed like rats:
A video showing a Muslim threatening a German man openly on the street was posted on YouTube. The Muslim can be heard saying:
"I am telling you honestly, Islam will come to Germany, whether you like it or not. Your daughter will wear a headscarf (hijab). Your son will wear a beard. Okay. And your daughter will marry a bearded man.

"We are reproducing faster and faster. You Germans are not getting any children. In the best case you get two children. We make seven to eight children. Okay mate? And then we take four wives each, then we have 22 children. Maybe you Germans have one child and a dog. Huh? And that's it.

"Mate. This is not our fault, it is your fault. If you exploited our countries, colonized our countries, so that you can drive a Mercedes and use your digital camera, huh?

"So Allah (blessed be his name), the Almighty God, will make it so that we will conquer you. Not with war, here in Germany, but with birth rates, first and foremost. Secondly, we will marry your daughters. And your daughter will wear a Muslim headscarf. That is how it is. Now you can get really mad. I can see the hate in your eyes."[1]

The fisking arrogance of this Muslim bastard in Germany occasions incandescent fury in the Colonel.

The rest of the article discusses:

  • a possible quadrupling of Germany's Muslim population in five years;
  • a local German official saying anyone who doesn't like mass immigration is free to leave "without a mask [without being in disguise]" (thankfully jeered by his audience);
  • costs of invaders to taxpayers likely amounting to four times the official forecast;
  • 50% of invaders disappearing;
  • Muslims committing crimes with no consequences;
  • young Muslim men abusing German cops;
  • cops thinking they are losing control of the streets;
  • hundreds of Muslims in Hannover marching in streets with the black flag of jihad;
  • the chairman of the Military Reserve Association calling for reinstatement of conscription but oddly stating that "there is a chance" it will promote integration (surely meriting this fellow a Nobel Price for Wishful Thinking);
  • a gentleman talking common sense about underage female sexual "adventures" with young male Muslims "apply[ing] for asylum" coming under attack by the Gutmenschen and apologizing;
  • male invaders harassing German women in a Bavarian disco being banned by the owner (of the disco not the women) for that and because they were driving away regular customers;
  • local media and officials attacking this disco owner for being Nazi and racist;
  • Berlin's "center-left Social Democrats (SPD)" mayor secretly proposing legislation to allow seizure of private residences (constitution be damned);[2]
  • the German government's wanting to "bring in even more migrants" apparently by "airlift[ing] tens of thousands of migrants to German"; and
  • Chancellor (or Canceler) Merkel responding to critics: "The Chancellor has the situation under control. I have my vision. I will fight for it."
The photo in the Gatestone article of Merkel is chilling when you keep in mind this woman knows what she's doing and is going to do it come hell or high water. I used to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous with a girlfriend years ago[3] and one speaker once concluded his story of utter personal disaster caused by his drinking with the statement, "And my best thinking got me there."

And that is what we are seeing here in the West today. The very best thinking of the elites, the Treason Class, the globalists, and Chesterton's wooly-headed humanitarians has engineered a catastrophe for all Western people and it is by no means edging into hysteria to state that what is happening meets the legal definition of genocide. The burden is on the proponents of mass, uncontrolled immigration of Muslims and third-world people to Western lands to show how the policies of Western governments are, in fact, not genocidal, as absurd as it is even to raise this point.

But make no mistake. All throughout the West this attack on Western people is deliberate. People intend the natural consequences of their acts and Western leaders have, besides official intelligence reports, access to online videos that show the invading hordes in brilliant Technicolor high-def. Even people from Harvard and the Sorbonne can extrapolate from the hordes at the border cascading over fences and down interior rural roads to hordes in major cities of the West. Even now, London is no longer British, having long since been awash in a sea of black and brown faces with the alien cultures that come with them. This the autochthons are supposed to swallow with a smile and hat in hand.

John Derbyshire captured the reality of Western governments toward their own people thus:

We must face the fact: the national institutions of the West are now fiercely protective of Muslims and hostile to the native ancestral populations.[4]
While this is going on, the supposed president of the United States is madly pursuing an undeclared war against Bashar al-Assad in Syria and lecturing Vladimir Putin on what it is acceptable for him to do in Syria, namely, carry water for Barack Hussein Obama who believes it is for him to decide who may be brought down, who may be attacked, and who may be supported.

Now, today, Turkey has shot down a Russian fighter and Chinese marines have "established their presence"[5] in Syrian. Chinese marines?

Do treason and fiscal excess at home and dangerous, duplicitous, childish meddling abroad suffice as a shorthand statement of what Western governments are about? Just over 100 years ago the civilized world slid into barbarism. Are the feeble, clueless leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Norway (and Turkey), in fact, acting to avoid a similar catastrophe today? Or do they enjoy playing with their expensive toys too much?

As Blacklisted News ominously noted, "the east Mediterranean is about to become a warship and aircraft carrier parking lot . . . ."[6]

What could go wrong?

[1] "Germans Opposed to Mass Migration are 'Free to Leave'." By Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, 11/24/15 (link omitted).
[2] This just might possibly justify the question "Who exactly are the Nazis in Germany today? In today's ultra-left world it's possible to recklessly throw around charges that someone is a Nazi or a racist while you devote your waking hours to betraying your countrymen to an invasion of a hostile and primitive creed.
[3] I highly recommend going to AA meetings if there is an open meeting where you live. It's a cheap way to learn some common sense principles about understanding addiction and human nature, as well as repairing relationships.
[4] "Obama’s Agenda And The Treason of the Establishment." By John Derbyshire,, 11/21/15.
[5] "US, French Aircraft Carriers Rush Toward Syrian Coast To Find Numerous Russian Warships Already There." By Blacklisted News, 11/22/15.
[6] "Id.

An insult to zoos.

U/I school employee at black high school Overbrook High School in Philadelphia:
"It's mayhem. Students are in the halls, they're smoking in the bathroom; cigarettes, marijuana," said a worker at the school, who asked not to be identified. "We can't contain them and it's really hazardous for us working and these kids are not being educated at all."

"It's a zoo in here. Parents really need to come up here and see what's going on in this school because it's ridiculous," said the worker.[1]

When school is out, this is what it's like for whites in Philadelphia:
The upward trend of racial harmony was not clear to Steve Huber earlier this year when he wrote an article for Philadelphia Magazine titled "Being White in Philly." Huber talked about the unrelenting racial violence and the fear it creates among white people.

Mayor Nutter said the article was "disgusting" and called for an investigation by the City's Human Rights Commission.[2]

The new definition of "disgusting" is something that illustrates a stark, unavoidable truth.

I wonder if the mental disease that modern liberalism is is a reflection of the realization on the part of millions of progressives (liberals, socialists, and communists) that absolutely everything about progressivism is a lie or a complete failure of the intellect. The reason that attacks on truth tellers are so virulent is precisely because it is intolerable that what one has supported all one's life is a pathetic fraud and a lie of untold viciousness because of the damage it has inflicted.

The assault on reason, common sense, and free speech is the ultimate double-or-nothing bet -- adults emptying their bank accounts onto the betting table and then jamming their fingers in one's ears.

[1] "Black Mob Violence: New Denials... and New Violence." By Colin Flaherty, American Thinker, 11/26/13.
[2] Id.

H/t: Nicholas Stix.

Islam -- Cliff Notes version.

H/t: Moonbattery.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Quickies: Biter Bit Dept.

     According to Breitbart News, Hillary Clinton said the following in a promotional video:

     “You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed. We’re with you,” Clinton said in the video, which she addressed to “every survivor of sexual assault.”

     Leaving aside the ludicrous comparison of that statement with her husband’s several accusers, consider this: A right is a property that it’s moral to defend with force, including (if necessary) lethal force. Therefore, if Miss Smith, who alleges that she has been sexually assaulted, possesses “a right to be believed:”

  • If I choose to disbelieve her, she has the right to use force to change my mind;
  • Failing that, she can enlist helpers – most likely, policemen – to arrest me on the charge of violating her rights;
  • If, upon indictment, trial, and conviction, I were to continue to assert my disbelief, my life would be forfeit for it.

     Mrs. Clinton was at one time a lawyer. Lawyers are supposed to be sensitive to the meanings and connotations of words. Somehow I don’t think she really means what she said – especially given her acceptance of Bill’s philandering, her dismissal of the accusations of Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Monica Lewinsky, and Juanita Broaddrick, and her defense, in 1975, of accused rapist Thomas Alfred Taylor:

     In 2008, during the height of her presidential primary campaign, Newsday published an in-depth story about Clinton's involvement with the trial. Newsday argued that Clinton's account in "Living History" left out "a significant aspect of her defense strategy - attempting to impugn the credibility of the victim." She reportedly sent an affidavit during the trial requesting the girl undergo a psychiatric examination at the university's clinic, and without offering any source, alleged that the victim had often sought older men. The case, Newsday claimed, "offers a glimpse into the way Clinton deals with crisis. Her approach, then and now, was to immerse herself in even unpleasant tasks with a will to win."

     My, my!

On Solitude

     A little philosophy today:

     I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. [Henry David Thoreau]

     It seems a rule among men, and of all things sought now and then by men, that the more of something one has, the less he values it. This is as true of the opposed conditions of society and solitude as of any other.

     Today, when the great majority of us are seldom alone – indeed, when many of us find that we cannot contrive to be alone no matter how hard we might try – moments of solitude are simultaneously dreaded and sought with an ardor no other desire could approach.

     When I was a boy in upstate New York, I loved my time alone in the forests. I would walk through them for hours, savoring the silence and thinking my own thoughts. Since I retired, I’ve been alone most of the time: twelve to fourteen of my sixteen hours of daily consciousness. I’ve returned to it more joyfully than I could ever have imagined when I was still employed. It sometimes makes me wonder how I survived the enforced society of ten hours each day spent among hundreds of colleagues for so many years.

     There are two aspects to solitude that are underappreciated by those who continuously immerse themselves in society:

  • Freedom;
  • Peace.

     Theoretically, it’s law that supposedly restricts your freedom. In practical, day-to-day terms, it’s what other people do or might do: how their actions and reactions, actual and possible, will constrain you. When you’re alone, those constraints are as far away as you can put yourself from other people.

     Alongside that, you cannot be completely at peace when in society. Society marries its benefits to all sorts of costs, including noise, bustle, and the continuous possibility of conflict. Noise alone, the inevitable byproduct of all human action, creates stresses of which we’re often unaware. While some environments are inherently noisy, being in company is always noisier than being alone.

     Granted that some human activities require that we accept the company of others – sex and Scrabble® come immediately to mind – nevertheless, solitude offers many benefits Americans of the Continuously Connected Era lack. Perhaps we should consider reacquainting ourselves with them.

     I know a number of persons who are afraid to be alone. They’ve become addicted to human interaction. They seem not to have any concept of self except in relation to others: how they’re the same, and how they’re different from those in their company. If they don’t have a buddy physically nearby, they’re on their cell phones.

     I don’t grasp it. Fear of solitude strikes me as a fear of oneself: the afflicted one’s uneasiness about what he might get up to without others to curb him. Or perhaps it’s a fear of self-discovery: that acquaintance with oneself outside of all society might reveal personality or character traits he’d rather not recognize.

     How could a man possibly be comfortable with others if he’s not first comfortable with himself? And how could he become comfortable with himself, as himself apart from others, without learning his nature in solitude?

     I can think of three generic conditions a man must master to feel himself fully realized as a mature man:

  • Solitude;
  • Casual society;
  • Emotional intimacy.

     We do need one another. As Marshall Fritz once observed, the toughest Delta Force special operator or Navy SEAL, if isolated on a tropical island without the means of escape, would be hard put to maintain his sanity or his body weight. Practicalities aside, each of us needs a degree of social acceptance and some source of love. But we need ourselves as well. One must be whole and firm before he can risk the company of others, and there is no substitute for solitude as an avenue to the crafting of a character and a personality that can withstand the abrasions, contusions, and occasional lacerations one must endure in society.

     Much of “what’s wrong” with America could be remedied by the rediscovery of solitude and its benefits: whether it’s to be alone with agreeable reading or music, or to stroll at leisure through some congenial woodland or meadow, or merely to be alone with one’s thoughts. It’s a pity that our working lives allow so little solitude. It’s even worse that whether we’re working, playing, praying, or lazing, we’re surrounded with so many inducements to shun it.

     Just some food for thought on a lazy Monday morning when I’ve had my fill of our various social pathologies.

Quickies: Forfeiture Report

     Time was, we were told that civil asset forfeiture would focus on the revenues and resources of large criminal organizations. It would be used, its proponents said, solely to impede commerce in outlawed drugs, illegal arms, and similar contraband.

     Maybe not so much:

     (Thanks to David DeGerolamo for the link to the video.)

     Surprised? I’m not. The incentives are so starkly against the rights of private property that it would have been lethally surprising had this not occurred. Consider in this light the frequent assertions by politicians, police chiefs, and courts, including the Supreme Court, that the citizen does not have the right to resist an illegal order or action by the police – that his only avenue of redress is a lawsuit in the very courts that have sanctified civil asset forfeiture.

     The great wonder is that so few police lose their lives in their attempts to seize law-abiding citizens’ rightful property. Of course, that could change.

Moderate Muslims, snipes, and buckets of steam.

Notoriously difficult to find.
Islam is clearly important factor in understanding jihadis. Those – including David Cameron and Barack Obama – who insist that jihadis are not ‘real Muslims’ miss the point. The fact that supporters of IS [ISIS] practice their religion in a way that horrifies most liberals does not make it any less Islamic.

Yet, if the insistence that jihadism is disconnected from Islam makes little sense, so does the claim that Islam alone can explain why jihadis act so unconscionably. The vast majority of Muslims abhor the actions of IS, and would find their actions morally inexplicable.[1]

The first paragraph above states a simple truth. Wishin' ain't gittin'.

However, the otherwise thoughtful Mr. Malik's subsequent assertion that the "vast majority of Muslims abhor the actions of IS [ISIS]" is unsupported by the evidence.

There was rejoicing in the Muslim streets after the 9/11 attacks and after the recent attacks in Paris. Different day, same insanity.

Muslim communities in Western lands immediately set themselves apart from the Western neighbors and the usual Muslim pathologies and crimes flourish without being reported by Muslims. The most loathsome examples of Muslim arrogance and contempt for the West are the most visible. CAIR, the most visible Muslim advocacy organization in the U.S., was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal Holy Land prosecution. Smooth talk and familiar accents masked support for al Qaida crimes. "Moderate Muslim" modus operandi noted.

Muslim idea of citizenship.
Everywhere Muslims congregate there are acts of terror and immediate efforts to encroach on local laws and customs. This exists side by side with unabashed, vigorous advocacy for a total revolution in the legal and cultural life of the entire Western nation blessed by their presence. All those moderates support jihadi savages, as well as the immediate implementation of shariah everywhere they have been welcomed by Westerners.

Muslims all belong back in Muslims lands where they can enjoy shariah and jihadi bullshit to their hearts content. Three things Westerner can do without, though Obama still hasn't gotten the memo.

[1] "Why Do Jihadis Seem So Evil?" By Kenan Malik, Pandaemonium, 11/22/15 ((emphasis added).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

For The Feast Of Christ The King

[Today is the Feast of Christ The King, which falls on the last Sunday before Advent. It’s a unique holy day for several reasons, and one that I find particularly personally significant. I was casting about for what to write about it, when I remembered the Rumination below, which first appeared at Eternity Road on January 6, 2008. For the purpose of illuminating the import of this day, I find that I cannot improve upon it. -- FWP]

Let's talk about...Zoroastrianism!


The ancient creed called Zoroastrianism predated the birth of Christ by about a millennium. Its founder, Zoroaster, laid down a small set of doctrines:

  • There is one universal and transcendental God, Ahura Mazda, the one uncreated creator and to whom all worship is ultimately directed.
  • Ahura Mazda's creation — evident as asha, truth and order — is the antithesis of chaos, evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict.
  • Active participation in life through good thoughts, good words and good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep the chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism.
  • Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation — even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to "darkness" — will be reunited in Ahura Mazda.
  • In Zoroastrian tradition, the malevolent is represented by Angra Mainyu, the "Destructive Principle", while the benevolent is represented through Ahura Mazda's Spenta Mainyu, the instrument or "Bounteous Principle" of the act of creation. It is through Spenta Mainyu that Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind, and through which the Creator interacts with the world. According to Zoroastrian cosmology, in articulating the Ahuna Vairya formula, Ahura Mazda made His ultimate triumph evident to Angra Mainyu.
  • As expressions and aspects of Creation, Ahura Mazda emanated seven "sparks", the Amesha Spentas, "Bounteous Immortals" that are each the hypostasis and representative of one aspect of that Creation. These Amesha Spenta are in turn assisted by a league of lesser principles, the Yazatas, each "Worthy of Worship" and each again a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation.

I find nothing objectionable in the above, except that only God, by whatever name He might be known, is worthy of worship; the most a lesser being is entitled to is veneration. But the word "worship" has had many meanings and subtleties over the years, so I'm inclined to let it pass. More important than Zoroastrianism's harmless mythos is its ethos, which Zoroaster himself encapsulated in a unique and memorable command:

Speak truth and shoot the arrow straight.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of other pre-Christian creeds, Zoroastrianism was -- and is -- rational, humane, and life-loving rather than life-denying. It emphasized human free will, moral choice, and the need to defend truth and order against lies and chaos. These attributes made it the dominant religion of classical Persia and environs, though Zoroastrians' numbers are far reduced today.

(No, I haven't converted to Zoroastrianism. You can all relax.)

In the Western world, the Zoroastrians were the first practitioners of the pseudo-science we call astrology. They reposed a fair amount of confidence in it, for the creed had had its own prophets, beginning with Zoroaster himself, and among the prophecies were several tied to events foretold to happen in the night sky. The Zoroastrians therefore took great interest in the stars, and made careful records of occurrences therein, for comparison to the utterances of their prophets.

One of those prophecies involved the birth of God in mortal flesh.

The Magi of the Incarnation story were three esteemed nobles of Persia, wealthy in gold, wisdom, and the admiration of their societies. In contrast to the pattern prevalent among the nobilities of later times, these three, whose names have come down to us as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, were deeply religious men whose involvement in the investigation of the Zoroastrian prophecies was sincere. When they spied the famous "star in the east" -- quite possibly a nova in Draco now known to have occurred at about that time -- they resolved to follow its trail, to find the divine infant and pay him homage.

I shan't retell the whole of the story. It's accessible to anyone reading this site, in both secular and liturgical versions. The most salient aspect of the story is that these three exalted nobles -- kings, in the most common accounts -- of a faraway land came to pay homage and present tokens of vassalage to a newborn infant.

Of course! What else would be appropriate, before a King of Kings?


I will pause here to draw an important distinction: "King of Kings" is not the same as "Emperor." "Emperor" is a title appropriate only to a conqueror; that's more or less what it means. Atop that, an emperor is not necessarily concerned with justice, whereas a king, of whatever altitude, is obliged to make it the center of his life:

The saber gleamed in the muted light. I'd spent a lot of time and effort sharpening and polishing it.

It was a plain weapon, not one you'd expect to see in the hand of a king. There was only the barest tracing on the faintly curved blade. The guard bell was a plain steel basket, without ornamentation. The hilt was a seven inch length of oak, darkened with age but firm to the touch. There was only a hint of a pommel, a slight swell of the hilt at its very end.

"What is this?"

"A sword. Your sword."

A hint of alarm compressed his eyes. "What do you expect me to do with it?"

I shrugged. "Whatever you think appropriate. But a king should have a sword. By the way," I said, "it was first worn by Louis the Ninth of France when he was the Dauphin, though he set it aside for a useless jeweled monstrosity when he ascended the throne."

Time braked to a stop as confusion spun his thoughts.

"I don't know how to use it," he murmured.

"Easily fixed. I do."

"But why, Malcolm?"

I stepped back, turned a little away from those pleading eyes.

"Like it or not, you're a king. You don't know what that means yet. You haven't a sense for the scope of it. But you must learn. Your life, and the lives of many others, will turn on how well you learn it." I paused and gathered my forces. "What is a king, Louis?"

He stood there with the sword dangling from his hand. "A ruler. A leader. A warlord."

"More. All of that, but more. The sword is an ancient symbol for justice. Back when the function of nobility was better understood, a king never sat his throne without his sword to hand. If he was to treat with the envoy of another king, it would be at his side. If he was to dispense justice, it would be across his knees. Why do you suppose that was, Louis?"

He stood silent for a few seconds.

"Symbolic of the force at his command, I guess."

I shook my head gently.

"Not just symbolic. A true king, whose throne belonged to him by more than the right of inheritance, led his own troops and slew malefactors by his own hand. The sword was a reminder of the privilege of wielding force, but it was there to be used as well."

His hands clenched and unclenched in time to his thoughts. I knew what they had to be.

"The age of kings is far behind us, Malcolm."

"It never ended. Men worthy of the role became too few to maintain the institution."

"And I'm...worthy?"

If he wasn't, then no worthy man had ever lived, but I couldn't tell him that.

"There's a gulf running through the world, Louis. On one side are the commoners, the little men who bear tools, tend their gardens, and keep the world running. On the other are the nobles, who see far and dare much, and sometimes risk all they have, that the realm be preserved and the commoner continue undisturbed in his portion. There's no shortage of either, except for the highest of the nobles, the men of unbreakable will and moral vision, for whom justice is a commitment deeper than life itself."

His face had begun to twitch. He'd heard all he could stand to hear, and perhaps more. I decided to cap the pressure.

"Kings have refused their crowns many times, Louis. You might do as much, though it would sadden me to see it. But you could break that sword over your knee, change your name, and run ten thousand miles to hide where no one could know you, and it wouldn't lessen what you are and were born to be." I gestured at the sword. "Keep it near you."

[FromChosen One.]

Note further: a mortal king cannot and does not define justice; he dispenses justice, according to principles drawn from a higher authority. The King of Kings, from whom the privilege and obligation to mete justice flows, is the definer. In the matter of Law, all lesser kings are His vassals.

The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of gold.


The pre-Christian era knew few, if any, rulers who claimed their jurisdiction solely on basis of might. Nearly all were approved and anointed by a priesthood. In that anointment lay their claim to be dispensers of true justice, for God would not allow a mortal to mete justice that departs from His Law. Let's leave aside the divergence between theory and practice for the moment; it was the logical connection between Divine Law and human-modulated justice that mattered to the people of those times.

But the King of Kings would need no clerical approval. Indeed, He would be the Priest of Priests: the Authority lesser priests would invoke in anointing lesser kings.

The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of frankincense.


We of the Twenty-First Century are largely unaware of the obligations which lay upon the kings of old. They were not, until the waning years of monarchy, sedentary creatures whose lives were a round of indulgences and propitiations. They were expected not merely to judge and pass sentence, but also to lead the armies of the realm when war was upon it. The king was expected to put himself at risk before any of his subjects. Among the reasons was this one: the loss of the king in battle was traditionally grounds for surrender, after which the enemy was forbidden by age-old custom to strike further blows.

The king, in this conception, was both the leader of his legions and a sacrifice for the safety of his subjects, should the need arise. He was expected to embrace the role wholeheartedly, and to lead from the front in full recognition of the worst of the possibilities. Not to do so was an admission that he was unfit for his throne:

"We have talked," he said, "about all the strategies known to man for dealing with an armed enemy. We have talked about every aspect of deadly conflict. Every moment of every discussion we've had to date has been backlit by the consciousness of objectives and costs: attaining the one and constraining the other. And one of the first things we talked about was the importance of insuring that you don't overpay for what you seek."

She kept silent and listened.

"What if you can't, Christine? What if your objective can't be bought at an acceptable price?"

She pressed her lips together, then said, "You abandon it."

He smirked. "It's hard even to say it, I know. But reality is sometimes insensitive to a general's desires. On those occasions, you must learn how to walk away. And that, my dear, is an art form of its own."

He straightened up. "Combat occurs within an envelope of conditions. A general doesn't control all those conditions. If he did, he'd never have to fight. Sometimes, those conditions are so stiff that he's compelled to fight whether he thinks it wise, or not."

"What conditions can do that to you?"

His mouth quirked. "Yes, what conditions indeed?"

Oops. Here we go again. "Weather could do it."


"By cutting off your lines of retreat in the face of an invasion."

"Good. Another."

"Economics. Once the economy of your country's been militarized, it runs at a net loss, so you might be forced to fight from an inferior position because you're running out of resources."

"Excellent. One more."

She thought hard. "Superior generalship on the other side?"

He clucked in disapproval. "Does the opponent ever want you to fight?"

"No, sorry. Let me think."

He waited.

Conditions. Conditions you can't control. Conditions that...control you.

"Politics. The political leadership won't accept retreat or surrender until you've been so badly mangled that it's obvious even to an idiot."

The man Louis Redmond had named the greatest warrior in history began to shudder. It took him some time to quell.

"It's the general's worst nightmare," he whispered. "Kings used to lead their own armies. They used to lead the cavalry's charge. For a king to send an army to war and remain behind to warm his throne was simply not done. Those that tried it lost their thrones, and some lost their heads -- to their own people. It was a useful check on political and military rashness.

"It hasn't been that way for a long time. Today armies go into the field exclusively at the orders of politicians who remain at home. And politicians are bred to believe that reality is entirely plastic to their wills."

[From On Broken Wings.]

But the King of Kings, intrinsically above all other authorities, would obviously be aware of this obligation. More, His sacrifice of Himself must perforce be for the salvation of the whole of the world -- indeed, the whole of the universe and every sentient creature in it. Nothing less could possibly justify it.

The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of myrrh.


Today, Christians celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, called the Theophany by some eastern Christian sects, when the Magi prostrated themselves before the Christ Child and made their gifts of vassalage to him. A vassal is a noble sworn to fealty to a higher authority: a higher-ranking noble or a king. The obligations of the vassal are to enforce justice as promulgated by the vassal's liege, and to support and defend the liege's realm by force of arms as required. To the King of Kings, God made flesh in the miracle of the Incarnation, every temporal authority is properly a vassal, obliged to mete justice in accordance with the natural law and to defend the Liege's realm -- men of good will, wherever they may be -- against all enemies, whenever the need might arise. To do less is to be unworthy of a temporal throne, palace, official office, or seat in a be unworthy of Him.

He took on the burdens of the flesh to confirm God's love for Man and to open the gates of salvation. He went to Calvary in testament to the authenticity of His Authority. The Magi knew, and in their pledge of fealty to Him, made plain that He had come not merely to succor Israel, but for the liberation of all Mankind.

May God bless and keep you all.