Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Intense Work Day Ahead

Apologies, Gentle Reader. I haven't got any free time to write just now. Long-distance telephone support -- debugging via phone! -- is the order of the morning, and probably of the afternoon as well. I might manage to post something later today. Until then or tomorrow, be well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lethal Vanity: A Personal Tirade

Sorry, Gentle Reader. Nothing on politics, economics, sociology, Christianity, or fiction today. This morning I have an overriding priority to serve, as you'll understand shortly...if at all.

On a weekday, I'm usually on the road to my place of business no later than 5:30 AM. I commute at that hour because the New York Metro traffic pattern becomes too ugly for me to bear if I wait any longer. The delays, the stop-and-go character of the driving, and the overall waste of time are more than my easily-triggered temper can withstand. Yet even at just half past five in the morning, the roads are nearly full. The traffic moves at a good pace, but there's little room to maneuver and less room for error. That's life and automotive transit in the precancerous zone around the Big Apple.

I just avoided becoming part of a multi-car pile-up on the Long Island Expressway. It's left me rather badly shaken.

I don't know what caused the accident. It could have been any of a number of things. But damned few such accidents result from causes beyond the drivers' control.

It's many years since I got my driver's license, but the experience remains vivid in my memory, mainly because my instructor was a thinker, much like myself. He didn't just tell me what to do and what not to do in a didactic, formulaic fashion; he explained why this practice is a good one and that practice is to be avoided. His tutelage left me with an understanding of traffic patterns and conditions that not everyone possesses, including a sense for what contexts are inherently safer than others and why.

Limited-access highways are potentially the safest traffic context of all:

  • Everyone is moving in the same direction at nearly all times;
  • The cars are tightly clustered around a median speed;
  • Turn signals and horns are easy to perceive and interpret;
  • In the absence of "proper motion," threats to the pattern can be confined to the entry and exit points.

For those without a background in astronomy, "proper motion" is motion transverse to the prevailing pattern. For example, a car deliberately changing lanes is in proper motion; a car that remains in its lane is not. Because it violates the pattern, a car in proper motion imposes risks and costs on cars near it, which must take special care to compensate for it.

That's not to say that proper motion is to be rigidly avoided. However, it should be soberly considered before it's undertaken. Relative speeds, the available space and time, and the trajectories of other vehicles must be respected. Anyone who's ever launched a "longshoreman's blessing" at a car that lurched spasmodically across three lanes without signaling, cutting off dozens of other drivers in a mad dash for an exit ramp far too near for more carefully considered maneuvering -- my wife calls this "driving north-south on an east-west road" -- will grasp this without further explanation.

Ill-considered or unconsidered proper motion gives rise to nearly all highway accidents.

Sources of bad proper motion are many, but the most commonplace (and worst) of them is driver vanity.

Do you know someone whose confidence in his driving strikes you as unwarranted? Who swishes back and forth among the lanes like a matador showing off before a packed stadium? Who routinely takes his eyes off the road for frivolous reasons, for example to send a text message? Who removes both hands from the wheel to grope through the snacks in his center console or the CDs on the passenger side floor? Have you ever said to yourself "He's an accident looking for a place to happen?"

You're right. The odds are that he, or someone very like him, will cause the next highway accident, and possibly a few lives in the bargain. But there's no telling that to him. He takes the mere mention of risk as a mortal insult. He probably has one of those idiotic "NO FEAR" decals emblazoned on his rear windshield, where it can conveniently obstruct his road vision.

If you are such a driver, repent of your sins and reform your ways before it's too late -- "too late" being when you cause the inevitable high-speed accident or when you encounter me, whichever comes first. I have no patience for persons who impose unnecessary hazards on unconsenting others. But sadly, if you are such a driver, the odds are that you would never, ever admit to yourself that your skills are perhaps a mite beneath those of Michael Schumacher and Jackie Stewart. The wound to your ego might cause you to bleed to death.

It's highly unlikely that the burst of proper motion that caused the accident that almost encompassed me arose from a blowout, a suspension collapse, or some other mechanical failure. Almost certainly, it was the fruit of driver vanity. It might have cost lives; I didn't hang around to find out. I can only pray that it didn't -- and give thanks that I managed to stay out of it.

So, Gentle Reader, if you'll excuse me for today, I think I'll sit and shake for a while longer before addressing the morning's tasks. Be well, stay safe, and return tomorrow for a dollop of the usual drivel.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Human Wave, Or Humans Waving?

Yes, this will be a two-post day. I have a little more free time than usual, am rather pleased with my recent efforts on the novel-in-progress, and have had my thoughts redirected by an unusual occurrence.

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine -- some of you from the old Eternity Road days will remember Duyen -- sent a young friend of hers named Minh to me for writerly advice. In this case, young doesn't mean "a few years younger than I am," it means young. Duyen felt ill-equipped to counsel Minh on her writing efforts, for two reasons:

  • Minh writes fiction; Duyen never has and, she says, never will.
  • Minh writes erotica. Really heavy-duty erotica, with all the horns and hooves still on it.

So, in an irony to eclipse all ironies, my sweet Catholic friend Duyen sent Minh to her not-quite-so-sweet Catholic friend Fran -- your humble Curmudgeon Emeritus -- for advice on who, what, when, where, why, and how to go about publishing her efforts and establishing herself among other writers of erotica. Minh sent along a story of which she said she's particularly proud, with a plea for my comments.

Glory be to God! I thought I'd seen everything. It's amazing how wrong I was. I must remember. When I finished reading Minh's tale I felt I should wash my brain out with soap. Lye soap.

But it was good. Really good. Well plotted, well characterized, and well written. It edifies while it entertains. More, it's true to life, instructive despite the coarseness of its subject matter and the shudders it would induce in many of its readers. How much more can a reader ask of a story?

And it left me wondering what I could say to this young woman who'd approached me, quite humbly, for advice on how to pursue, improve, and promote her fiction. "Don't be so in-your-face about the sex" -- ? Nope. The sex was the central driver of the human drama, as it so often is. "Soften the characters' edges" -- ? Nope. She wrote them as what they had to be, in every sense. "Refine your vocabulary" -- ? Nope. As rugged as they were, the words Minh employed were the right ones for the tale.

It caused me to think over some of the comments I've received about Freedom's Fury, which includes a plural marriage -- one man, two women -- as a critical motif. Several readers have written to say "It was great overall, but why'd you have to put that in?"

I "put it in" because it was necessary. It was essential from the very first; indeed, I'd unwittingly written the requirement for it into Freedom's Scion. From the first it was the path my characters had to follow. Had they turned away from it, the story would not have worked.

Take the admittedly rough sex and sexual language out of Minh's story, and it wouldn't work either.

There's an aspect of fiction writing that most non-practitioners would find surprising, perhaps even contradictory: the need for humility.

I'll admit there's also a requirement for a certain amount of brass. After all, you need to believe that you've got worthwhile tales to tell, the chops to tell them, and can get readers' eyes onto your stuff despite the millions of others who believe the very same things. But the humility requirement is subtler.

John Brunner's famous Laws of Fiction tell us that:

  1. The raw material of fiction is people.
  2. The essence of story is change.

Both these laws are titanium-clad. A writer violates them at mortal peril. The consequence of ignoring either one is the very worst thing that can happen to a storyteller: his stuff will be boring.

The first-order implications of the laws are, of course, the point:

  1. People have a nature that must be respected to make one's characters and their actions and reactions plausible.
  2. If a tale's Marquee Characters experience no changes, particularly no emotional changes, there is no story.

The requirement for humility lies in never violating -- indeed, never even toying with the idea of violating -- either of those precepts. No matter what motifs you choose as drivers for your story, you can never allow your characters to act in a fashion that violates what we know of human nature, no matter how badly you'd like to have them do so. More, they must change in reaction to the story's developments, even if the change seems ugly or bizarre. More still, the changes they undergo must be consistent with the way you've defined them.

And with that, we come to the Human Wave.

Sarah Hoyt's "Human Wave Manifesto" is an important, valuable piece of thought. It unflinchingly addresses the critical diseases that have infected the speculative genres, and slightly more arguably, modern fiction overall, and prescribes a batch of remedy-principles for averting contagion. Yet as with every set of rules or guidelines for doing anything, Bruce Lee's Maxim applies: "Respect the principles without being bound by them." There are bits of Sarah's prescriptions and proscriptions that simply must be violated when writing about certain subjects in certain contexts. Take this one:

Unless absolutely necessary you will have a positive feeling to your story.

The qualifier is important: unless absolutely necessary. When addressing certain subjects, such as the one Minh addresses in her short story, you cannot have "a positive feeling to your story." Indeed, in some cases doom must be approaching, and obviously so, from the very first sentence, even if it takes a meandering path to get there. If you choose to write about such a subject, prescribing a positive feeling is a violation of Brunner's First Law. Indeed, it's an illustration of the importance of writerly humility.

I'd say that in the majority of cases where a writer tells a reader that "My character(s) had to do that," he's simply citing Brunner's First Law and his submission to it. He might have struggled with the decision beforehand, much as I struggled with the need to have Althea seduce Claire in the early going of Freedom's Fury. The struggle might have been as unavoidable as the decision. It's the willingness to be humble before the First Law that matters.

So Minh's story, which I found worthy and illuminating despite its rough character, might not qualify as "Human Wave." Yet it does qualify as "Humans Waving:" characters taking a course they might have known better than to take, while striving to "wave aside" the inevitable consequences, but suffering those consequences all the same.

There is room for such tales. An uninterrupted diet of them would be very unpleasant, of course, but as leavening for more positive fiction they provide an important contrast. You can probably hear my Catholicism coming through in that. After all, we're a fallen, fallible race. Mistakes, including the very worst mistakes of judgment, will be part of human existence until the Second Coming.

Which is an important perspective, not only on fiction, but on Man in general.

If you want to read Minh's story, it's here. Just don't say I didn't warn you. By the way, Duyen met her in church. Draw what conclusions you will.


Is everyone properly terrified yet? We all know the reasons to fear everything but our own shadows, don't we? So no excuse remains for trusting that all will be well.

But there's still a lot of mindless, heedless trust out there, Sarah Hoyt's essay on the subject notwithstanding. More, it's the worst kind of trust: confidence in the benevolence and competence of institutions, including governments.

Why anyone would ever trust an institution, be it a private corporation or a government, I cannot imagine. Yet the phenomenon is appallingly widespread, even in these days when governments appear determined to prove that they cannot and should not be trusted.

What's that you say? You think an exception should be made for eleemosynary organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Way? Bubba, are you ever in for a shock. The annual balance sheets of such institutions are matters of public record. Take a close look at a few of them. Tell me afterward if you still feel the same.

Trusting an individual can be hard, given what each man knows about his own fallibility and corruptibility. Trusting an institution -- a faceless, bodiless construct which, in the usual case, was created specifically to shield its members against personal responsibility for what "the institution" does -- is insane.

Yet trust is the sine qua non of a decent, functional society. We literally can't conduct the least of our affairs without it. But to extend it foolishly turns it into a blade we hold to our own throats.

Regular Gentle Readers of Liberty's Torch have seen this quote before:

There is no need in human life so great as that men should trust one another and should trust their government, should believe in promises, and should keep promises in order that future promises may be believed in and in order that confident cooperation may be possible. Good faith -- personal, national, and international -- is the first prerequisite of decent living, of the steady going on of industry, of governmental financial strength, and of international peace. -- Benjamin M. Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914 -- 1946

I have no doubt that Dr. Anderson was a thoroughly decent man, at least as ethical as any other individual of his time. More, the above statement from his landmark economic history of the Nightmare Years contains much truth. Where it falls short is in its absolutism.

Isabel Paterson noted in The God of the Machine that "A corporation has neither a soul to be damned nor a body to be kicked." It is immune to the consequences of its misdeeds, with the sole exception of financial consequences. As true as this is of any private organization, it has much more force when applied to a government: a body invested with coercive powers and pre-indemnified for their use. The consequences of governmental wrongdoing fall solely on those it wrongs. Even when one of its agents commits an outright murder, he nearly always escapes all penalties for it. When one of its agencies runs totally amok, the inevitable sequel is a cover-up, sometimes effective, sometimes not.

But a hefty fraction of Americans still trust "their" government, most of the time. The reasons are various.

In part, that trust arises from the acquaintance so many of us have with individuals who work for a government. Governments employ about twenty percent of the American workforce, which makes such acquaintanceships commonplace. As the overwhelming majority of Americans, including government employees, are decent, ethical persons, at least when not tempted beyond their strength, there's a tendency to transfer the trust we extend to them to the government agencies that pay their salaries.

Another component of it stems from the general admiration for our superb military, the one and only arm of the federal government that actually seems to work as designed, and efficiently at that. There's a certain irony in this, as the purpose of an armed force is to impose the decisions of one government upon another. Yet the American tradition of the "citizen soldier," who brings the ethics he learned at his mother's knee to the barracks, thence to the training ground, and thence to the battlefield, has resulted in the most ethical warmaking power in human history: a force that kills and destroys only as absolutely necessary to accomplish its objectives. If there were a possibility of holding all of government to that standard, perhaps trusting it wouldn't be quite so irrational.

Finally for this tirade, as Sarah notes in her essay, in certain matters many feel they have no choice but to trust government:

Things for which we used to trust the government, if not exactly to at least be in the right ballpark: Unemployment, inflation, the state of the economy, the state of the population, disease statistics, warnings about what was safe and unsafe (yes, sometimes we got the alar scare, but the truth is, it usually erred on the side of too much caution), the state of the world, the state of our enemies’ forces, the state of our forces.

There are more things I’m not calling to mind now, a myriad points that informed us that civilization was in fact still working, that statistics were still being gathered, and that we could – through them – know the state of the world that we couldn’t verify on our own.

This is not – ah – to say that we, we particularly who tend to hang out in this blog, believe in these things in whole or even implicitly. No, but we did believe in them more or less, and kind of. We would say things like “Of course, the census overestimates the uncounted in the big cities, but—” or “They’re having a panic fit over the disinfectant in smokeless cigarettes, ignore that.”

However, for the big things, important things, we trusted government. You know, weather alerts, forewarning the economy was about to take a dive, election results, that sort of “big thing.”

Yet the extension of trust over those matters is waning as it should.

I have a large collection of lapel buttons with clever sayings on them. Time was, I would hardly leave the house without choosing one that seemed appropriate for the day. One of my favorites in the batch says:

You Trust Your Mother,
But You Cut The Cards

Indeed. Always cut the cards. It's an essential element in "the game," regardless of the specifics of the playing field or the rules. It doesn't matter that the dealer is your mother, you cut the cards anyway. It's not just for your peace of mind, but for hers as well.

When "the dealer" is government, "cutting the cards" can be a matter of life and death.

On a handful of subjects, mainly pertaining to war and international relations, there's no way to "cut the cards." But on nearly everything else, alternatives are rapidly multiplying:

  • Private security companies will protect life and property, rather than arriving after they've been violated.
  • Water and electric power are things most of us can get from a variety of vendors, or can provide to ourselves.
  • Local trade is ever more frequently conducted via barter, or with precious metals as the medium of exchange.
  • There are alternative sources of information about everything demographic or economic.
  • There's always an alternative to "public transportation."

Even should you choose to use the government alternative in any of those venues, you should keep the existence of the others in mind -- and you should keep in touch with those who use the others, so the government can't bamboozle you about its "superiority." That approach to "cutting the cards" is far more important than regularly reading several news sources, which, happily, is now the habit of the typical American news consumer.

The general awakening to the untrustworthiness of governments, politicians, and bureaucrats must be followed by a widespread shift toward nongovernmental alternatives in as many walks of life as possible. Now that voting can no longer effect a significant change in the direction of our deterioration, there is no better way to keep necessary trust -- trust in deserving individuals and in the soundness of our communities -- healthy and growing.

It's already begun.
Make yourself part of it.
Create alternatives of your own.
Help to publicize ones not yet widely known.
It might be the most pro-social thing an American can do.

We can all pitch in. Those of us who have awakened, that is.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Going To Lengths

The indefatigable Robert Stacy McCain has posted an important piece detailing an exchange with a typical feminist, in which McCain meticulously dissects the feminist methodology for advancing its inherently anti-male, anti-heterosexual, anti-freedom agenda. The stimulus for the exchange was McCain's assertion of those three characteristics of feminism, all of which have been obvious to any thinking person since the movement morphed from a quest for legal equality for women to a declared war on men, society, and normality itself.

McCain's analysis of the feminist rhetorical approach makes several references to feminist polemicists with whom few men are likely to be familiar. Even those of us familiar with them are unlikely to have read much of their crap, for a simple reason: to "support" their thesis, the writers McCain cites obfuscate to an extent anyone not obsessed with obtaining power would find terminally irritating. They treat clarity and simplicity as their mortal enemies.

Though the "issue" beneath the exchange is the seemingly trivial contretemps called "GamerGate," it provides a handy microcosm of Leftist advocates' polemic strategy:

  • Assert the existence of a pervasive injustice to which others are blind.
  • Claim "deep reasons" or "deep mechanisms" to be the genesis of the injustice.
  • Direct attention away from facts that contradict the polemicist's core assertions.
  • Conflate utterly unrelated phenomena; vehemently deny fundamental facts and truths.
  • Keep your "argument" obscure by employing as much quasi-academic jargon as possible.
  • Immediately and unqualifiedly categorize those who disagree as oppressors and malefactors.

Anyone who could tell you how many cans there are in a six-pack should be able to laugh such arguments aside -- and many do. But not everyone.

Clarity and simplicity are truth's best friends. Its worst enemy is the unjustified concession of authority.

I was once sent a cassette tape -- say, remember cassette tapes? -- of an anti-capitalist "lecture" by Noam Chomsky, in which the celebrated linguist and notorious Marxist unwittingly created a case study of the Left's rhetorical strategy. To condense the thing to its minimum size: he talked fast; he used a plethora of obscure terms, and he carefully averted attention from evidence that contradicted his contentions. But he who is undaunted by Chomsky's reputation in linguistics, who is willing to tease Chomsky's contentions apart one by one, and who assesses each of Chomsky's claims against objective facts would find the whole "lecture" to be utterly risible.

Much of the Left's success is founded on a widespread unwillingness to do those things. That unwillingness is partly reasonable; after all, how many of us have the time? Besides, we tend to grant persons with high reputations in one field credit for high general intelligence, and therefore with a better-than-average degree of penetration into other subjects as well. In other words, we tend to grant them an authority they haven't earned and seldom deserve.

Quoth Arthur Herzog:

The thirst for answers in a difficult world has brought the rise of Anything (or Everything) Authorities. The Anything Authority is one whose credentials in one field are taken as valid for others -- sometimes many others. Examples are Dr. George Wald, the biologist; Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician; Jane Fonda, the actress -- all of whom are Anything Authorities on war, peace, and politics -- and Dr. Linus Pauling, who said of President Nixon, "For fifteen years I have studied insanity. I saw the eyes on television, and there is madness, paranoia."

That last should clank against the mind, for Dr. Pauling himself is known to have suffered sharply decreased mental capacity in his latter years, possibly from undiagnosed Alzheimer's Syndrome. But even were that not the case, no one is qualified to diagnose insanity on the basis of a televised image.

But Dr. Pauling's insane claim is exceptional in its boldness and baldness. Chomskyish obscurantism is far more popular with Leftist "thinkers." They prefer what the late, great Cyril Northcote Parkinson called "froth and gas," the sort of rhetoric that intimidates with its pseudo-intellectual veneer of erudition and deep study.

Viewed from that angle, the problem reduces to persuading people not to be intimidated.

Great volumes of verbiage prove nothing. But they can wear down one's resistance. Anyone who's unwisely accepted a promotional "free three night / two day resort vacation" in exchange for agreeing to sit through a harangue about the absolute imperative to buy a timeshare right now can testify to that effect.

This, of course, is not germane to the problem of the willing dupe, nor that of the evilly motivated adopter. However, the majority -- perhaps the overwhelming majority -- of persons who subscribe to Leftist convictions are of neither sort. Some of them are victims of rhetorical bludgeoning of the sort delineated here. It's possible to recommend a set of palliatives to such a person:

  • Be mindful of the facts.
  • Demand evidence for the polemicist's contentions.
  • When the polemicist attempts to evade a question or an objection, mark it against him.
  • Uphold a standard of clarity and simplicity: If a social, economic, or political argument can't be completely framed in a thousand words of common English, it cannot possibly be valid.

And there's this, from Siddhartha Gautama, whom history has styled the Buddha:

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it -- no matter if I have said it! -- except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense.

Words to live by, Gentle Reader. Words to live by.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quickies: A Dead-Center Bull's-Eye Diagnosis

Please read this entire article. Here's the meat of its thesis:

The zeitgeist we are swirling in demands cold, hard decision making coupled with brutal honesty. Neither of which is forthcoming from the angry marxist college professor-in-chief and his army of racial and gender studies ideologues that are dominant in the executive branch of the national government. If you are part of that government, you’d might start to wonder if you are doing anything of value when you have to lie with every breath you take about everything you do to everyone, except to your fellow apparatchiks inside the bubble.

While the apparatchiks may think that the rest of the country is too stupid to understand, it is they who look stupid, detached from reality, and quite frankly, psychotic. Invented crises like; “climate disruption,” a transgendered military, wife beating in the NFL, white privilege, micro-aggression, the ongoing oppression of the leftist white woman in academia and corporate America, are all signs of a society that is ignoring the very real, very hard, and very deadly realities that are pressing down on the nation.

My only divergence from this assessment is this: The apparatchiks might look stupid, but there's a nonzero probability that their actions (and inactions) are having precisely the effects they intend...and that probability rises as we near the pinnacle of the power elite.

It's On, The Ongoing Saga

From Colin Flaherty:

Some stories you have to read 10 times before deciding: ’Yes: What I thought was too crazy is really true.’

This is one of those stories. Here goes, believe it or not:

A black Baltimore bus driver organized a mob of 20 black people to assault a white family of three on her bus, which they did with gusto and pepper spray. All the while, the other black passengers hooted and hollered in encouragement.

All while the bus driver waited for the beating to finish so the attackers could get back on the bus. With her thanks.

The bus company didn’t give a darnn. And it took Baltimore police two months before they even investigated it....

The Baltimore Sun said this is the second recent example of a bus driver assisting people who assault riders.

The author of "White Girl Bleed A Lot" remains alert to developments in our contemporary race war. Sadly, whites generally remain in denial about the true and horrifying state of affairs, particularly in our larger cities.

It really is on, Gentle Reader. Don't kid yourself -- or leave yourself or your loved ones defenseless.

Quickies: A Pontificate Bent On The Destruction Of The Church?

From Ann Barnhardt's latest:

    Q. How could Pope Francis keep making blunder after blunder, saying and doing things that are turned into massive media victories for the enemies of The Church?
    A. Because they aren’t blunders. It is all but certain that he knows exactly what he is doing, and the effect it is having. It is all but certain that his objective is amassing as much personal power as he can through worldly popularity, and everything else, including The Church and the souls of every human being on the planet, can LITERALLY be damned in service to that goal.

I find it difficult to believe that a pope would knowingly set out on a course that would bring about the destruction of the Church, especially since that would also destroy the basis for his authority. Nevertheless, it is possible -- and it's also possible, unfortunately, that Pope Francis has that in mind.

What's certain is that the pope's pronouncements, especially his most recent ones, are causing rifts in the Church comparable to those of Luther's time -- and Luther, at least, had a corrupt Church hierarchy, steeped in the indolence and luxuriance of Renaissance Rome, for his target.

Secular authorities -- kings avid for more power -- have claimed to have "deposed" a pope or two. I don't know if the Church even has a procedure for dethroning a sitting pope. Present papal trends continuing, the next few years might enlighten us all.

Quickies: The All-Purpose Governmental Excuse

First have a gander at this revealing story about the recent behavior of the Centers for Disease Control:

Top public health officials have collected $25 million in bonuses since 2007, carving out extra pay for themselves in tight federal budgetary times while blaming a lack of money for the Obama administration’s lackluster response to the Ebola outbreak.

U.S. taxpayers gave $6 billion in salaries and $25 million in bonuses to an elite corps of health care specialists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2007, according to data compiled by American Transparency’s, an online portal aggregating 1.3 billion lines of federal, state and local spending. The agency’s head count increased by 23 percent during that time, adding manpower and contributing to higher payrolls despite relatively flat funding.

From 2010 to 2013, all federal wages were frozen because of budgetary constraints, but CDC officials found a way to pay themselves through bonuses, overtime, within-grade increases and promotion pay raises....

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told The Huffington Post last week that the CDC had been working on an Ebola vaccine for more than a decade but was hampered by shrinking budgets.

First, by now we all know that the CDC's budget has been increased each year for the past several years, and we all know about the fatuities the CDC has been spending its budget on. Gun control, global warming, and "bullying" are only the most widely known of them. Second, an agency formed to control the spread of infectious diseases is expected control the spread of an infectious disease! In the typeset phrase of the moment, "You had one job." Third...bonuses? For what? What record of achievement justifies the distribution of bonuses among executives who hardly dare to face the public, and when compelled to do so, can't even tell a consistent lie?

A personal vignette: Some years ago I was foolish enough to form a subchapter-S corporation for a purpose that need not concern us today. Within a few weeks I began receiving notices from the State of New York that my quarterly sales tax remissions were late...before I had taken in a single dollar in revenue. So I called the relevant office in Albany to straighten out the matter.

I was put on hold.
I was left on hold for more than thirty minutes.
I concluded there must be a phone problem and decided to try again the next day...which I did.
The next day, I was left on hold for two hours.
But I resolved to wait it out.
And my call was answered.

I was in a fine state of anarchist wrath by then.
I upbraided the bureaucrat for leaving me on hold for so long.
Would you like me to tell you what the very first words out of her mouth were?

"We need more money!"

I'll bet she got a bonus that year, too.

This must stop. But it won't stop itself. Putting Republicans into elective offices won't stop it either. Draw the inference.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quanta Of Wasted Verbiage

1. Ebola, Ebola, Ebola...

Our latest national scare-package is being unwrapped gradually, lovingly, such that with each new revelation a fresh batch of Americans get to worry about it. The most recent admission from the CDC -- i.e., that the transmission of Ebola does not require direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person -- should be enough to kill the airlines, the hospitality industry, and every activity that requires people to gather together with strangers. What minimum percentage of Americans will voluntarily go to work for the duration of the crisis remains to be seen.

We are being socially atomized, reduced to individuals and nuclear families...and not all families will withstand the terrors of this disease.

2. The Midterms.

It has been said, and truly, that if the Republican Party should profit from the upcoming elections, which it appears poised to do, it won't be because of heightened public approval of the GOP, but because of deep disgust with the Democrats. All the same, a Republican-majority Senate could thwart at least some of the Obamunist nonsense that would otherwise slip by. This is especially the case with nominations to the Cabinet and the federal judiciary.

Given the unreviewable nature of Supreme Court pronouncements, the prospect of an Obama appointee to SCOTUS should frighten anyone with three functioning brain cells. Granted that there are Republicans in the Senate already who haven't got the balls God gave a cockroach and would more greatly dread the venom of the press for defying The Won than the wrath of God (not to mention that of the electorate) for going along with another Sotomayor or Kagan, we can nevertheless hope that a strengthened GOP caucus would at least retard such an appointment long enough for popular awareness to morph into indignation and anger.

3. Hell.

The mailbag produces some fairly regular surprises. Among those are questions about theological subjects that I often feel unqualified to address. However, even the most orthodox Catholic is allowed to speculate about things beyond the veil of Time, especially since the Church itself has been more than a little wobbly about such subjects.

This morning's eye-opener was from a reader in the Midwest:

Do you have any opinions about Hell?

Well, yes. First and foremost, I don't want to go there. But second, I think the nature of Hell, the condition of eternal damnation, is closely tied to the nature of Heaven, the condition of eternal bliss. A few words will be required to elucidate this.

We have been told very little authoritatively about Heaven, but its nature surely includes release from bondage to Time. Nothing else would be consistent with a state of eternal bliss. Indeed, an immortal sentenced to temporal eternity would find it to be the most extreme imaginable torment. Time is the medium of desire, effort, fulfillment, failure, and mortality; to compel an immortal, unalterable creature to endure it would utterly destroy any delight he might be offered within its folds.

Mix in the inescapable knowledge that one has forever forfeited both nearness to God and the gift of all-encompassing comprehension, and it sounds to me like we have a very good recipe for Hell. Maybe throw in perpetual rainfall, unending calls from telemarketers, and an eternal Obama Administration for lagniappe.

4. The New Totalitarians.

Time was, the word tolerance connoted a virtue, the willingness to "live and let live." It was nowhere more important than in matters of freedom of speech and religious belief. That's no longer the case today. Today we suffer a totalitarian "tolerance" that includes the suppression of freedom of speech and religious belief, as the antics of the lesbian Mayor of Houston should make plain.

This is not an "outlier," but an act characteristic of the most implacably vicious activist community at work in these United States. Muslims have nothing on the homosexual activist community. Ask Brendan Eich what such activists cost him. Then ask yourself whether it's either right or possible to "tolerate" such persons in a supposedly free republic.

5. Gun Grabbers And The Therapeutic Community.

If you want to test a man's deepest ethics, offer him power and observe the consequences. In particular, watch his responses to others who hold their own varieties of power, including the power to defend oneself:

California legislators recently passed a bill allowing family members to ask a judge to confiscate firearms from relatives who they see as a danger to themselves or others. The seizure will be enforced only when the judge deems the family’s concerns to be “legitimate”.

Liberal lawmakers, who never leave a tragedy unexploited, drafted the bill in response to Elliot Rodger’s deadly rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus earlier this year.

California Assembly Member Nancy Skinner, who introduced the bill, said: “Family members are often the first to spot the warning signs when someone is in crisis. AB 1014 provides an effective tool to get guns out of the hands of loved ones to avoid these tragedies.”

I like that "legitimate" qualifier, don't you? Given the California power elite's demonstrated hostility to the private ownership of firearms -- by anyone but politicians and movie stars, anyway -- just what degree of concern by a "family member," which I'm certain will be expanded to include neighbors, occupational colleagues, and medical personnel, is a judge likely to dismiss as "illegitimate?"

But I'll guarantee you that the therapeutocrats -- psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and their various hangers-on -- purely love this bill. Whether they were behind it to any degree I cannot say...but I wouldn't bet against that, either.

6. Blind Squirrel Finds Nut.

I have very little regard for Eric S. Raymond, but even he can be right now and then, and this time it's on a topic of particular importance:

"What the press is teaching Americans to assume, story after story, is that if ‘youths’ commit public violence and they are not specified to be white, or hispanic, or asian — then it’s yet another black street gang on a wilding. . . . I don’t like where I think the well-meant suppressio veri is taking us. I think it’s bound to empower people who are genuinely and viciously bigoted by giving them an exclusive on truthful reporting. I don’t think it’s good for anyone of any color for bigots to have that power."

Allow me to add a big indeed.

7. An Intelligent Approach To The Assessment Of Islam.

Raymond Ibrahim nails it:

What relationship does the Islamic State, ISIS, have to Islam? Almost every Western politician answers: “Absolutely nothing.” President Obama adamantly stated in a televised address that the Islamic State “is not Islamic.”

So how does one determine what is, and is not, Islamic? The traditional process — the Islamic answer — is as follows:

What do the core texts and scriptures of Islam say about the thing in question? Does the Koran, believed by Muslims to contain the literal commands of Allah, call for or justify it? Do the hadith and sira texts — which purport to record the sayings and deeds of Allah’s prophet, whom the Koran (e.g., 33:21) exhorts Muslims to emulate in all ways — call for or justify it?

If any ambiguity still remains, the next inquiry is: what is the consensus (ijma‘) of the Islamic world’s leading authorities concerning it? Here, one most often turns to the tafsirs, or exegeses of Islam’s most learned men — the ulema – and considers their conclusions.

Muhammad himself reportedly said that “my umma [Islamic nation] will never be in agreement over an error.”

Please read the whole thing. Then watch the video in the post below.

8. And Finally...

...just in case you were wondering, the quantum of wasted verbiage is the feh. Use it at your next cocktail soiree and enjoy the admiring looks!

The Horrors Of Math

In 2012, Paul Ryan gave it its day in fiscal and budgetary matters. Today, Ben Shapiro does the job on Islamic radicalism:

Watch it all. Please.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Long Divisions

One of the most important pseudo-conflicts in Western society is that between employer and employees (or "management" and "workers"). It's not a real line of division and never has been, for one needs the other just as much as the other needs the one. Yet for many decades collectivists of all stripes have striven, with a deplorable degree of success, to foment strife between the two sides. To this point, it's been the most profitable of all their campaigns.

Today we have a glaring example before us:

Speaking at a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference in Washington this week, Kendell Fells a national coordinator for Service Employees International Union, said an increased minimum wage is not the ultimate goal of his group.

Fells, who also serves as president of Fast Food Forward – a group that advocates for an increased minimum wage for fast food employees across the country and including in Chicago – said his movement is more about unionizing employees in the fast food sector than it is about them making more money.

“Just to be clear, this is not a minimum wage campaign, these fast food workers are not trying to raise minimum wage,” Fells said. “They want to sit down with the $200 billion fast food industry and get the money out of their pockets and negotiate a union contract with them.”

That's an unusually candid set of admissions from a union goon. Normally they present themselves as first and foremost coming to the aid of the downtrodden and shamefully exploited worker. But Fells has openly stated that his primary aim is the unionization of the many thousands of persons employed by fast-food restaurants...not that anyone with three functioning brain cells would suspect otherwise.

With the single exception of government employees, every occupation that has suffered unionization has declined sharply as a result. The trend is impossible to hide; a reasonably alert worker, regardless of his specific occupation, cannot fail to be aware of it. As workers have fled the unionized industries, they have generally bettered their situations. The principal negative impact has been to the power, pelf, and prestige of the union barons.

Why would we expect union goons to attend to others' interests before their own? They never did so in the past. They seek only to improve their own standing, both materially and as power brokers.

Power of the sort unionists seek requires conflict: something the Left has always worked assiduously to provoke.

The campaign to unionize workers involuntarily is merely one aspect of the "progressive" campaign to foment increasing division and strife in American society. Divide et impera is the guiding principle. "If you don't have an opposition, you don't have an issue" is the Gospel According To Alinsky. The separation of Americans from one another into mutually hostile camps, against the far more natural inclination to see others' desires as reflections of one's own, is central to their aim.

Needless to say, there's a lot of it going on. Racial divisions. Ethnic divisions. Religious divisions. Divisions between men and women, between young and old, between better-off and worse-off.

Much of this is directed at concealing a real division: that between those who wield the powers of the Omnipotent State and those who suffer under its lash.

Kendall Fells speaks of a union contract with "the $200 billion fast food industry" as if that were a real corporate entity. But we who use words according to their exact meanings speak of an "industry" only in a generic sense. McDonald's is a real corporate entity, as is Burger King; the two, major members of "the fast food industry," have no corporate connection and no common interests. Coalescing them rhetorically does nothing to change that.

But the collectivization of fast food workers is equally a travesty. Those folks have no common interests either! Distributed as they are across a wide variety of locales, ages, and life circumstances, they cannot reasonably be said to share the same priorities. Some have just taken their first step onto the ladder of capitalism; others are earning or supplementing their family incomes; still others are merely filling their time with something profitable and (hopefully) agreeable. Compelling them into a collective bargaining contract must inevitably do violence to the interests of some of them at all times.

Fells hardly paused over those minor obstacles. Collectivists are like that. Truth, justice, accuracy of statement...all must give way to the Left's collectivizing juggernaut.

You'd think American society already endures enough fault lines. You'd think men of good will would labor to close them, or bridge them over, rather than contriving new ones and widening those that exist. You'd be right. There are no men of good will among the union goons. There are vanishingly few elsewhere on the Left.

Expect the campaign to divide us from one another to continue and intensify, regardless of overt political developments. Division and the consequent strife are the essential nutrients of the power-brokers. Without them, they could achieve nothing for the simplest of reasons: No one would listen to them.

Verbum sat sapienti.