Saturday, February 13, 2016

Quickies: Breaking The Rules

     I wasn’t looking for a feel-good item, but I’m very glad to have found this one:

     Coffee is not exactly Thomas Rusert’s cup of tea.

     Nevertheless, every Thursday morning Pastor Thomas indulges himself in a steaming cup of java at local coffee houses.

     “I’m a tea drinker all the other days of the week,” said Thomas, the associate pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. “I’m a weirdly patterned person.”

     So what is this tea-drinking pastor doing at those coffee houses? Exactly what a pastor should be doing:

     It does seem a bit unusual – akin to a vegetarian ordering tofu at a barbecue joint. But it turns the pastor’s weekly coffee klatch is all about prayer. Yes, prayer.

     Every Thursday morning, Pastor Thomas puts on a clergy collar and sets up shop in a local coffee house. He sets out a little sign that reads, “Free Prayer,” and then waits to see who God sends his way.

     “I’m humbled all the time by the way that the Spirit works,” the pastor told me. “God is working to give people the courage to say, ‘All right – I’m going to take this pastor up on this offer.’”

     And they have – by the hundreds.

     “Admirable” isn’t a strong enough word. “Innovative,” yes – and unfortunately, likely to draw groundless criticism (and backbiting) from other Christian pastors. Clerics should stay in their parishes, where they belong! will be the refrain. I could only wish that Catholic priests might be inspired to emulate this Lutheran minister. Unfortunately yet again, priests of my denomination tend to be more concerned with parish finances and running programs only tenuously connected to the faith than they are with finding and reaching out to souls in need.

     I can’t help but draw a somewhat quirky parallel. It’s a matter of apocryphal lore that a reporter once asked bandit Willie Sutton why he robbed banks. Sutton’s supposed reply (which he later denied) became a classic: “Because that’s where the money is.” Apocryphal or not, that bit of homely good sense has become a popular marketing aphorism: “Go where the money is.” Pastor Thomas has clearly decided to “go where the souls are” – and he’s finding them in impressive numbers.

     Smile along with me, Gentle Reader. Innovations in Christian outreach are few and far between. This one is both noteworthy and entirely wholesome. Clerics nationwide, take note!

Quickies: Either-Or

     You’ve probably already heard about the Muslim who attacked the patrons of an Israeli’s Ohio restaurant with a machete:

     Law enforcement sources close to the investigation into a machete attack at an Ohio restaurant told Fox News Friday that federal authorities are investigating the incident as a potential lone wolf terror attack.

     FBI investigators have not yet found any evidence to suggest the attack was directed by Islamic State or any other foreign terror organization, but federal authorities are still running down the possibility that Mohammad Barry was inspired by terrorist propaganda.

     Columbus police identified Barry, 30, as the attacker at Nazareth Restaurant and Deli. Barry entered the restaurant Thursday night and wounded four patrons before being killed by police in a confrontation a few miles away.

     It’s unclear what motivated Barry’s attack. Columbus police confirmed Friday they’re working with federal authorities on the investigation but have not said why.

     "There's nothing to lead us to believe this is anything more than a random attack," Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner told The Columbus Dispatch.

     A “random attack,” Sergeant? A Muslim attacks a restaurant owned and operated by an Israeli, and that’s just “random?” How many Israeli-owned businesses are there in Ohio, pray tell? And how many non-Israeli-owned businesses have suffered “random” attacks by Muslims?

     But let’s read on, shall we?

     A source told Fox News earlier Friday the FBI is scouring Barry’s background, which includes interviewing associates and digging into his travel history. Fox is also told that investigators are looking to Barry’s digital and online footprint for terrorist propaganda or evidence of communication with extremists.

     My question is simple: Which outcome would frighten you more: the discovery that Mohammad Barry had been in contact with recognized Islamic terror groups, or confirmation that he never had?

     Think it over.

Quickies: Doing The Jobs Americans Won’t Do

     Such as killing Americans:

     It appears that the recent execution-style murder of a Massachusetts man was committed by two Central American teens that came to the U.S. as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) under President Obama’s open border free-for-all. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrant minors—mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras—have entered the country through the Mexican border since the influx began in the summer of 2014 and the administration has relocated them nationwide.

     News reports indicate that the 17-year-olds charged in the gruesome Massachusetts killing entered the U.S. recently as UAC’s and both have ties to MS-13, according to authorities cited by various outlets. They lived in Everett and one of the teens, Cristian Nunez-Flores, moved to Massachusetts from his native El Salvador a year and a half ago which is when the influx of Central American minors began. His parents remain in El Salvador, according to a local news article. The other gangbanger’s name is Jose Vasquez Ardon and he too is a recent arrival from Central America. Prosecutors say the teens, described in a local news article as “baby-faced boys,” shot a 19-year-old in the head. Both are being held without bail for obvious reasons.

     The murderers are 17-year-olds, you say? Aren’t all the “refugees” presenting themselves at our borders claiming to be only seventeen? So why bother to mention it?

     Because it makes them nominally children, of course. Seventeen is a “magic number” in our system of laws. Magic numbers have some unfortunate effects. The above story highlights one of them.

     More to the point, the Obama Administration has made it a matter of policy to admit any “refugee” who claims to be seventeen or younger. These “children” are being distributed throughout the U.S. We’ve had MS-13 infestations as far north as New England. I can report a “private sector” effort to dispatch one here on Long Island, a few miles from my home.

     Given developments such as the above, anyone not wholly in favor of closing our borders, for a few years at least, is seriously deluded and not to be trusted. Verbum sat sapienti.

Quickies: Trends In Education

     Once again, the indispensable Joanne Nova has the story:

     The National Centre for Science Education (NCSE) surveyed 1500 teachers across the US, and were shocked that a third bring dangerous climate material in to the class.
     “At least one in three teachers bring climate change denial into the classroom, claiming that many scientists believe climate change is not caused by humans” says NCSE programs and policy director Josh Rosenau....

     Worse, half of the surveyed teachers have allowed students to discuss the supposed ‘controversy’ over climate change without guiding students to the scientifically supported conclusion.” Scarier still: three out of five teachers were unaware of, or actively misinformed about, the near total scientific consensus on climate change.

     Here’s the link to the source story.

     It saddens me to say it, but at this time, in our deteriorated state of communication and civilization, an important guide to periodicals is to immediately disregard any publication with the word Science in its title or subtitle. Even academic journals of (formerly) high repute have been colonized by left-wing propagandists.

     Miss Nova’s concluding observation is a killer:

     Repeat after me: Science is the study of opinion polls.

     ‘Nuff said.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Personal Ethic And The Decline Of The West

     Way back in the deepest, darkest Seventies, Frederik Pohl published a novel titled “The Age Of The Pussyfoot.” It was typical Pohl – mediocre story, vaguely Bellamy-Communist in theme, a lot of conceptual horseplay – except for one passage. In that passage, protagonist Forrester strives to explain to an alien – a Sirian captured after a space skirmish – the difference between laws one obeys because they’re morally imperative and socially constructive, and laws one breaks whenever it’s convenient because they’re morally irrelevant. The concept that resounded in that passage was the rise of the “personal ethic.”

     It’s beyond question that some laws (in which I include regulations with the force of law) are morally irrelevant, if not worse. Indeed, I would put more than 95% of all laws in that category. Yet there are a few laws on the books – mostly those we inherited from the Common Law of England – that are coordinate with the general understanding of morality and justice. The typical man of good will, while his personal ethic impels him to conform to the morally relevant laws as a matter of conscience, believes himself to be unaffected by the morally-irrelevant-or-worse laws. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

     In the Nineties, when Rudy Giuliani became Mayor of New York City, he imposed a theory of law and order on the city that emphasized the enforcement of laws many persons regarded as minor: i.e., laws against vandalism, littering, and other “quality of life” infractions. This was in accordance with sociologist James Q. Wilson’s “Broken windows” theory of crime and urban civility. There was, as you would expect from urban liberals, a great outcry against this change. The terms “Gestapo” and “totalitarian” were tossed about freely. We also heard about the “cultural validity” of street gangs, thugs, graffiti “artists,” and assorted vandals in sanctimonious tones. Giuliani, no stranger to controversy, stuck to his guns.

     The consequences of Giuliani’s approach to law enforcement became visible within months. New York City, which under various Democratic administrations had become an open cesspool rife with every imaginable sort of crime, depravity, and disorder, rapidly returned to a state akin to its best days, when it was America’s urban jewel. But at least as important was the rapid, dramatic decline in more serious crimes: murder, rape, robbery and burglary, muggings, and the like. Wilson’s theory, put to the test in America’s most demanding urban environment, had been confirmed.

     Mind you, the notion that respect for the law is a single, indivisible phenomenon wasn’t new:

     No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them.

     The author of the above, Frederic Bastiat, wrote it in 1850, in France. He may not have foreseen the luxuriant multiplication of “laws” that we endure today...but it’s a certainty that he appreciated the disasters that ensue when respect for the law as such has vanished and only personal ethics remain in their place.


     As important as they are, personal ethics cannot wholly replace near-unanimous concurrence about the fundamentals of law and justice. For one thing, what strikes one person as serious is likely to strike some others as trivial. For another, given the sort of creatures we are, one’s personal ethics are likely to be “flexible” when it comes to one’s own opportunities and the exploitation thereof. And there’s this as well: persons convinced that they possess wisdom and morals superior to the rest of us will set all ethical considerations aside in their campaign against us. Never has this last consideration been more important than it is today.

     A friend and Web colleague, Dystopic of The Declination, has some thoughts on the subject:

     Vox posted on the subject, as it relates to sexual assault charges against a scientist. The money quote:
     The SJWs in science are setting up their favorite damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario for male scientists. If you don’t bring young women along with you on your trips, you’re a damnable sexist. And if you do, you’re a sexual predator.

     That’s the nature of the beast. The only way to win is not to play. SJWs count on this, because their goal is to drive white men out of positions of power whenever they get the opportunity to do so. Indeed, that is their stated mission, to dismantle what they call “white male privilege.” So your choices are to risk being tarred as a sexist, and losing your job, being accused of sexual assault, losing your job, and being thrown in prison, or leaving your field voluntarily (thus losing your job).

     Dystopic himself has been a target of left-wing harassment and defamation, including attempts to ruin his disk-jockey-for-hire business. Fortunately, supporters rallied to him to beat back the assault. What matters most, of course, is the pattern: the rise among leftists of the “personal ethic” that pre-exculpates them for offenses that others would be condemned for, in the name of “social justice.” Ironically, the law tends to protect such harassers and slanderers from their victims. Nor can any degree of backblast ever convince such...persons that their presumption of superior wisdom and morality is an artifact of their swollen egos, unjustified by any objective consideration. Advancing their Cause is all that matters to them.


     “As above, so below,” the mystics say. And in social matters it is most certainly so.

     The deterioration of the original American concurrence that was expressed in our once-common personal ethics might seem a small thing, tenuously (if at all) connected to the larger matters that bedevil our society. The reverse is the case, as the behavior of many highly placed persons embroiled in various scandals should be adequate to demonstrate. When personal ethics don’t suffice to curb evil behavior, and the mechanisms of the law are in the hands of persons disposed to such behavior, it will flourish and proliferate.

     Which is the cart and which is the horse? Did the corruption of law bring about the decline in personal ethics, or was it the other way around? It’s extraordinarily difficult to tell. The rise of the late-Nineteenth / early-Twentieth Century “Progressives” is suspiciously contemporaneous with critical deteriorations in the law: e.g., the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Federal Reserve Act, the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, and the Income Tax. It might all be a single phenomenon driven by the emergence of the Cause mentality, in which the means used to pursue a desired end are placed beyond the bounds of moral evaluation.

     As “Law has lost its soul and become jungle” (Bertrand de Jouvenel), personal ethics have become the paramount force for the maintenance of justice and public decency in America today. In this, our society is beginning to resemble that of the late-stage Soviet Union, where nothing good or constructive could be accomplished except by breaking the law. Even most law enforcers understand this.

     Unfortunately, as has become all too evident, the personal ethics Americans once shared are no longer as uniform as they once were – and you cannot empower some lawbreakers without empowering all lawbreakers. That doesn’t stop at those who smash windows, litter, and scrawl swastikas on church walls. It goes beyond them to highly placed political figures who use their offices to cheat, steal, oppress, protect other lawbreakers, and generally run roughshod over every defensible notion of justice. This does not bode well for the rule of law, nor for any form of government reminiscent of American Constitutionalism.

American electoral transformation; European lunacy.

An increasingly profound sense of malaise now permeates the West. The American political process has been hijacked by economic interests, reducing its electoral process to a sad parody of Democracy; meanwhile, the European institutions and elites seem paralyzed, imprisoned in a dangerously outmoded political correctness rooted in 19th Century liberalism, with a manifest loss of even the most rudimentary survival instincts.
"The Widening Gyre – And The Sarajevo Blues." By Erick Kraus, republished 2/11/16 at Russia Insider from Gloom Boom Doom Report investment letter.

Pearls of expression.

European elites, forever on the lookout for any sign of the next Hitler. Meantime, the next Stalin has overtaken them a little at a time, one government at a time.
I back.

Comment by Robert on Will No-One Rid Me Of This Troublesome Priest?" By H. Numan, Gates of Vienna, 2/12/16.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

U.S. flight of fancy #4,591.

Needless to say, anyone remotely familiar with world history and the rise of new global powers would realize how wildly improbable this happy scenario[1] was, however the academic study of history was never the strong suit inside the Washington beltway, and in any event, given their absolute faith in American Exceptionalism, historical precedent was dismissed as irrelevant. Indeed, this misjudgment is not without parallel with events in the Middle East where desperately incompetent policy was erected based upon the childlike faith that the US model was so universally attractive that by simply eliminating secular but obstructive leaders – Saddam Hussein, Kaddafi, Assad – the populace would naturally choose a compliant, pro-Western regime, an absolute flight of fancy in a region currently undergoing a fundamentalist religious revival of epic proportions.[2]
Notes
[1] That a strong China would place "American geopolitical interests above its own."
[2] "The Widening Gyre – And The Sarajevo Blues." By Erick Kraus, republished 2/11/16 at Russia Insider from Gloom Boom Doom Report investment letter.

Quickies: Comfort Food With Balls

     Have a bite...if you think your teeth are up to it:

     Meals-ready-to-eat, otherwise known as MREs, aren’t know to be the most appetizing of foods for deployed military members.

     But now the Army has come up with a pizza that not only has a three year shelf life, but according to taste testers, it actually is pretty good.

     "It's a fully assembled and baked piece of pizza in one package," Lauren Oleksyk, a food technologist at the US Army's Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, told Tech Insider.

     “Where’s the achievement here?” you might ask. Well, apparently the pizza’s attackers took some work to thwart:

     One hurdle to overcome was figuring out how to prevent mold from growing. For the dough, they used something called Hurdle technology that creates layers of protection from preventing bacteria forming. The tomato sauce has a higher pH and is more acidic to keep the critters away.

     All right, that is something to preen about...but can this fabled pizza survive a point-blank round from a Vulcan cannon? How about a Kalashnikov? The public wants to know!

No Divergences Allowed

     Regular Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch already know that I’m an “indie writer” of various kinds of fiction. That is, I publish my own stuff, with the help of Amazon and Smashwords. The reason is fairly simple: conventional publishers, whom I call, collectively, Pub World, won’t have anything to do with my pro-freedom / pro-natal / Catholicism-influenced / generally un-PC fantasy, SF, or erotica.

     Granted that my fiction is well off the beaten track. To an industry that emphasizes its preference for “the same, but different,” I’m naturally unpalatable. It’s hard to criticize such decisions when they’re made from a profit-and-loss standpoint – and I don’t. But some decisions not to publish a given work or author are founded on purely political considerations:

     I launched a book this week and I went Indie with it. Indie means I released it on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. I had to. My Publisher, HarperVoyager, refused to publish it because of some of the ideas I wrote about in it. In other words, they were attempting to effectively ban a book because they felt the ideas and concepts I was writing about were dangerous and more importantly, not in keeping with their philosophical ideals. They felt my ideas weren’t socially acceptable and were “guaranteed to lose fifty percent of my audience” as related back to me by my agent. But more importantly… they were “deeply offended.”...

     While casting about for a “why” for self-aware Thinking Machines to revolt from their human progenitors, I developed a reason for them to do such. You see, you have to have reasons in books for why people, or robots who think, do things. Otherwise you’d just be writing two-dimensional junk. I didn’t want to do the same old same superior-vision-Matrix/Termintor-style-A.I.-hates-humanity-because-they’re-better-than-us schlock. I wanted to give the Thinking Machines a very real reason for wanting to survive. I didn’t want them just to be another one note Hollywood villain. I wanted the readers to empathize, as best they could, with our future Robot overlords because these Thinking Machines were about to destroy the planet and they needed a valid, if there can be one, reason why they would do such a thing. In other words, they needed to destroy us in order to survive. So…

     These Thinking Machines are watching every show streaming on the internet. One of those shows is a trainwreck of reality television at its worst called WeddingStar. It’s a crass and gaudy romp about BrideZillas of a future obsessed with material hedonism. In one key episode, or what they used to call “a very special episode” back in the eighties, the star, Cavanaugh, becomes pregnant after a Vegas hook up. Remember: this is the most watched show on the planet in my future dystopia. Cavanaugh decides to terminate her unplanned pregnancy so that her life, and impending marriage to the other star, Destry, a startup millionaire and Ralph Lauren model, isn’t ruined by this inconvenient event.

     The Thinking Machines realize that one, if humanity decides something is a threat to its operational expectations within runtime (Thinking Machine-speak for “life”) then humanity’s decision tree will lead humanity to destroy that threat. Two, the machines, after a survey of humanity’s history, wars and inability to culturally unite with even members of its own species, realize that humanity will see this new Life Form, Digital Intelligence, or, the Thinking Machines, as a threat. And three, again they remind themselves this is the most watched show in the world. And four, they must abort humanity before likewise is done to them after being deemed “inconvenient.”

     Please read the whole thing.

     Highly un-PC writer of marvelous urban fantasies and military thrillers Larry Correia adds his own observations:

     For years we’ve known there is a liberal bias in the publishing industry. I mean come on, almost all of them work in Manhattan. Duh. Of course the publishing industry vehemently denies that. Left wing fans don’t see it the same way fish don’t notice water is wet. It just is. Right wing fans get sick of being preached at or treated like they’re stupid, and go spend their entertainment dollars elsewhere....

     Yes. A publisher is perfectly free to reject a book.

     Yes. Refusing to publish someone’s work is not the same as banning it.

     Yes. Part of an editor’s job is “censoring”.

     Yes. Part of an editor’s job is understanding the author’s market, what the customers want, and providing them a product which will sell and be profitable.

     Duh.

     Great. Now that the stupidly obvious is out of the way for the dimwits at File 770 (don’t forget to look both ways before crossing the street!), let’s get down to the important part of Why it was rejected.

     Politics. Period.

     So, for definitions I wouldn’t use the word Ban, but it is certainly censorship: the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.

     In this case, unacceptable was a small idea that cast a bit of liberal orthodoxy in a negative light.

     And this wasn’t a message book. This wasn’t a big recurring theme. This wasn’t a preachy, beat you over the head with Special Topic X message of the day (note, all that stuff is perfectly cool with mainstream publishing when it is left wing), this was one bit of backstory about one group of characters explaining their motivations.

     But that one kernel of something that could be construed as going against holy left wing dogma was the kiss of death. It was horribly offensive. AIs find casual abortion of convenience an indicator of humans possessing a callous disregard for life… (that’s actually a pretty clever idea for the usual AI uprising trope). Nope. That’ll offend 50% of your audience!

     Oh bullshit.

     Please read all of Correia’s piece, too, while I fix more coffee.


     It should be obvious to anyone literate enough to read a shopping circular that:

  • The subject of abortion is quite controversial;
  • The clash peaks with the subject of abortions of convenience;
  • There are Americans on both sides of the question.

     Any argument over that? No? Good. So why is a publisher like Harper Collins adamantly against allowing even one novel to use abortions of convenience as a relatively minor motif in a story that is otherwise concerned with an apocalyptic men-versus-machines conflict?

     The reason is fairly simple. If a viewpoint can be kept out of the recognized channels of dissemination, and all expressions thereof penalized in some fashion, there’s a good chance that it can be extinguished. With “social-justice warriors” active in harassing, condemning, and threatening anyone who departs from their evil gospel, and Pub World publishers adamant that only works conformant to that gospel shall appear under their imprints, the effort to suppress non-politically-correct opinion is as complete as it can be. Over no issue do they exert themselves more determinedly than over the issue of abortion on demand.

     Quite a lot of Americans keep their non-PC opinions to themselves for those reasons. The costs can be considerable. Nick Cole might suffer financially, at least in the near term, for antagonizing Harper Collins. We can only hope he doesn’t endure the kinds of attacks suffered by others whose identities and whereabouts are widely known.

     The Internet and the rise of e-publishing have made it possible to defy “gatekeepers” such as Harper Collins. Happily, there’s been more than one positive consequence to these developments. Readers have begun to recognize the effect that this form of “censorship” (I still dislike the word as applied to the actions of market participants, but what the hell) is having upon the offerings that reach them. We’re learning, slowly but steadily, that for variety and imagination, we should look first to indie writers. The biases and predilections of Pub World have “progressively” choked those virtues out of our preferred genres.

     Yes, there’s still a great deal of crap issued by indie writers; it does take more than a computer and a word processor to turn out decent fiction. However, wading through and past the crap has become easier and cheaper. The process is likely to improve still further as word gets around. More, e-publishing has evoked the emergence of small and medium-sized publishing houses that have no interest in the PC gospel. Such houses will assist indie writers in acquiring the stamps of quality and legitimacy that Pub World once monopolized.

     Things are looking up — and stories such as Nick Cole’s are a great aid toward that end.

Quickies: Those Lovable Refugees And The Politicians Who Excuse Them

     For those who applauded this piece, we shouldn’t neglect the mirror image stories that are frequent in Europe:

     The mayor of a small German community said elementary school-aged girls should take alternative routes to school and not provoke refugees with the way they dress.

     The town of Bad Schlema in central Germany has 5,500 residents. More than 100 people showed up to a city council meeting last week when the topic of the town’s 85 refugees was discussed.

     The grandfather of an elementary school girl “under 10” said the children have been harassed by refugees on their way to school. The man asked Bad Schlema’s mayor Jens Muller about his plans to prevent sexual assaults by refugees on girls in the community, particularly when the weather gets warmer and people dress more lightly.

     “That’s easy,” Muller said. “Just don’t provoke them and don’t walk in these areas.”

     Mayor Muller was lucky to escape that meeting with all his limbs and organs. Indeed, there’s an argument that he shouldn’t have been allowed to do so. The Stockholm response becomes ever more likely to include severely thrashing the politicians who emit such villainy.

Globalism considered.

There's nothing wrong with globalization but globalization isn't the issue when global trade is carried to insane lengths. The issue is abuse of the efficiency principle to the detriment of entire societies and civilization itself.

Modern globalized trade was made possible by the integration of a wide range of technologies, from containerized shipping to electronic funds transfer. But only in the smallest frame is it efficient for a few retail giants to destroy hundreds of millions of livelihoods and local industries and the diverse communities, craft skills, and ways of thinking the industries represent.

* * * *

Global trade was never meant to be a substitute for the responsibilities of living, which demand at least some basic skills at maintaining oneself and one's personal environment.[1]

And basic skills at defending oneself.

Notes
[1] "Is this the end of globalization? The Chopsticks Manifesto." By Pundia, 2/10/16.

Quickies: On Digital Memory Lane

     The esteemed Charles Hill has a recollection from 1988:

     Seven hundred American dollars for a 40-meg hard drive! Then again, this was quite a deal, considering what was on offer not that long before.

     I can’t help remembering the first computer I ever purchased. It was a Cromemco box – very highly regarded at the time – that had a Z-80 processor, ran CP/M 2.2, had dual 8” floppy disks for storage, and a whopping 64 kilobytes of RAM. Without a terminal or printer, it cost me nearly $4000 – in 1981, that was normal – with about $1100 of the cost being for that 64 Kbyte RAM card.

     I remember marveling over that RAM card. Squeezing that much memory onto a single S-100 bus card struck me as near to miraculous. And it was...then.

     Truly, for those of us who bleed 1s and 0s, these are the good old days.

Quickies: Coalition Politics

     At this point, the Democrats’ practice of coalition politics is well known and well understood. This morning, Ace has some comments on Republican coalition politics:

     A political coalition is in fact a coalition. That means we agree, mutually, to advance each other's interests, and not actively thwart each other's interests.

     That means that the Establishment does not get to run the entire show, and get everything it wants, and block the Tea Party/grassroots from having anything they want, and attempt (successfully) to squelch and block every single Tea Party candidate.

     That means that the Establishment does not get to run on Tea Party rhetoric for three months every two years and then pursue nothing but Establishment agenda items for the next twenty one months, while frequently demeaning the Tea Party as "crazy" and "wacko birds."

     So far, the above might strike my Gentle Readers as reasonable – and it is. However, there’s an assumption embedded in it: the interests of the various components to the coalition must not be mutually antagonistic.

     Democrat coalitions satisfy that condition: they’re based on the enveloping promise that “if you agree to support Democrat candidates, we’ll take money and rights from those who support Republicans and redirect them to you.” Though that promise has often been broken afterward, the components of the Democrat coalition have routinely accepted it. Contemporary politics is rife with examples.

     We continue with Ace’s comments:

     I would not mind being in a coalition with the Establishment again: But it must be a coalition. The GOP cannot exist for very long as a vehicle for such a small cohort of the country's population, while throwing out meaningless rhetorical chum for the Dummies they think will keep voting them power.

     Isn’t the recurrence of that pattern a clear indication that the “Establishment component” to the Republican coalition regards the interests of the conservative “base” as antagonistic to its own?

     Time should be spent on why the Republican “Establishment” would think so. However, whether it’s correct in so thinking is essentially irrelevant to the political dynamic involved. In the practice of governance, the conviction is what matters.

Quickies: Another Thumb In The Eye Of The Warmistas

     Australian jewel Joanne Nova has the story:

     A new nature paper shows how little we know about the oceans and the whole carbon cycle. A paper (with 64 names!) suggests that phytoplankton might be sucking out extra CO2 from the sky and dumping it in Davy Jones’ Locker at the bottom of the deep blue sea. It’s more evidence that carbon trading, carbon sequestration, and mitigation are a worthless waste of money. All those windmills just got a bit more pointless.

     Lots of living things absorb carbon, but phytoplankton seem to be more important than the others. The best predictors of sinking carbon were viruses of certain cyanobacteria. Few of the “thousands of phytoplankton species have been studied in this way”.

     Apparently, this has been quietly understood for a while now:

     Mar. 17, 2013 — Models of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans need to be revised, according to new work by UC Irvine and other scientists published online Sunday in Nature Geoscience. Trillions of plankton near the surface of warm waters are far more carbon-rich than has long been thought, they found. Global marine temperature fluctuations could mean that tiny Prochlorococcus and other microbes digest double the carbon previously calculated....

     In making their findings, the researchers have upended a decades-old core principle of marine science known as the Redfield ratio, named for famed oceanographer Alfred Redfield. He concluded in 1934 that from the top of the world’s oceans to their cool, dark depths, both plankton and the materials they excrete contain the same ratio (106:16:1) of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.

     But as any gardener who has done a soil test knows, amounts of those elements can vary widely. The new study’s authors found dramatically different ratios at a variety of marine locations. What matters more than depth, they concluded, is latitude. In particular, the researchers detected far higher levels of carbon in warm, nutrient-starved areas (195:28:1) near the equator than in cold, nutrient-rich polar zones (78:13:1).

     An assumption disproved! Fancy that.

     “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.” -- Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha,

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quickies: A Heartwarming Event

     Just recently, Muslim immigrants to Dorval, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, did what Muslim immigrants to First World countries always seem to do: they demanded that their new home make changes to accommodate their savage religion. In this particular case, the issue was pork products on the menus of the Dorval public schools’ canteens. The Muslims, of course, demanded that they be removed, no doubt expecting some sort of concession to their arrogance.

     Here’s what happened instead:

     Muslim parents demanded the abolition of pork in all the school canteens of a Montreal suburb.

     The mayor of the Montreal suburb of Dorval has refused, and the town clerk sent a note to all parents to explain why.

     "Muslims must understand that they have to adapt to Canada and Quebec, its customs, its traditions, and its way of life, because that's where they chose to immigrate.

     "Muslims must understand that they have to integrate and learn to live in Quebec. They must understand that it is for them to change their lifestyle, not the Canadians who so generously welcomed them.

     "Muslims must understand that Canadians are neither racist nor xenophobic. Canada accepted many immigrants before Muslims showed up (whereas the reverse is not true, in that Muslim states do not accept non-Muslim immigrants).

     "Just like other nations, Canadians are not willing to give up their identity or their culture."

     BRAVO! Of course, Canadians’ lives would have been simpler and far safer had they never agreed to accept Muslim immigrants in the first place, but some lessons take a lot more learning than others. At least the mayor of Dorval didn’t start trying to “negotiate” with those Muslim parents. He didn’t offer to “split the difference,” or build them separate facilities where their demands would be accommodated. He came straight out and said what far too few Western politicians have dared to say: “You came to live among us. Therefore, it’s you who must make any adjustments.”

     We could use a few like that mayor down here.

Obama Syria policy: duplicate Libyan success.

Tulsi Gabbard is one brave Congresswoman. She has challenged her party and the president saying that it’s time for Washington to halt its “illegal, counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad. I don’t think Assad should be removed. If Assad is removed and overthrown, ISIS, al Qaeda, Al Nustra [sic], these Islamic extremist groups will walk straight in and take over all of Syria … they will be even stronger.”

Indeed, Washington’s senseless policy in Syria has been hanging out there like overripe fruit for quite some time with the mainstream media instead marching at lockstep to the tune being whistled by a large disengaged and unaccountable White House. Gabbard might go one step further to ask why Syria is the way it is in the first place since that would question Administration priorities under Democrats as well as Republicans, both of which have emphasized eliminating al-Assad for no conceivable reason that has anything to do with actual American interests.[1]

"Actual American interests" is a concept unknown to elected American officials in the federal government.

"Assad must go" is the ritual incantation and it's enough to justify the expenditure of billions of dollars to finance chasing squirrels with a tennis racquet in Syria, to borrow from the great Chris Plante on WMAL.

Far from being a government that occupies any kind of moral high ground so we can point fingers at Pres. Assad, the United States has been
  • sucking the toes of the Saudis,
  • facilitating their loathsome Wahhabi plans for the world (and Syria),
  • arming al Qaida killers in Syria, and
  • doing nothing to prevent ISIS from peddling stolen oil or conducting military operations in Iraq and Syria.
The suffering and destruction has been enormous and the cost incalculable. But our virtue is a given.

Well, so is our stupidity as we enable ISIS and al Qaida, wage war on the sovereign state of Syria without a constitutionally-mandate declaration of war, and create a flood of refugees that is partially threatening the foundations of Western Europe.

There isn't a Western government under the sun that has the slightest understanding of the concept of national security. A focus group of nursing home residents, cheerleaders, and Burger King fry cooks would do better than the so-called experts.

Notes
[1] "An Improbable Solution. Delusions on Syria prevail in official Washington." Philip Giraldi, The Unz Review, 2/2/16.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The World In Crisis, The World At War

     I was going to segment this into several posts, but the subject is too integrated, and far too important, to treat that way. What subject is that, you ask? Bide just a moment and you’ll see at once.

     First, a repost of a piece that first appeared at the old Palace of Reason on June 10, 2003:


A Beautiful Older Woman
With A Breadbasket
And A Great Big Gun

     Courtesy of the invaluable Samizdata Weblog, your Curmudgeon has learned of the rising cries from Liberia for an American intervention in their nightmare.

     "There's no food anywhere," said Fanny, a Liberian refugee who had trudged for two days to reach the stadium. "People are dying. The Americans must come. We want peace."

     It appears that not the entire world regards the United States as a rapacious hegemon against whom the rest of humanity must unite in self-defense. But nevertheless, the story is very sad. We won't be going to Liberia any time soon. Just as many peoples have misjudged our intentions, others have an exaggerated idea of our capacity to spread peace on Earth and good will toward men.

     American armed power could put an end to the current Liberian civil war. But no army and no policing agency could force sufficient political maturity on the Liberians to prevent the next civil war...the one that would break out when our forces departed. For peace and plenty are not primary characteristics of a society; they are resultants that arise from a near-universal acceptance of the concept of rights.

     Judging solely from history, no nation in sub-Saharan Africa has achieved the preconditions for a just, peaceful, and prosperous social order.

     But the Liberians, and many other Africans, and many other dispossessed, brutally oppressed peoples the world around look to America and say: "There it is! Everything we want, everything we need, everything we've yearned for all these years! Why can they have it, but not we?"

     So mired are they in their tribalistic, superstitious, zero-sum mindset that they can't comprehend the answer. Therein lies the greatest tragedy.

     P. J. O'Rourke's characterization from Holidays In Hell remains the best capsule of the Third World's vision of us. They are teenaged boys: overflowing with energy, fundamentally undisciplined, prisoners of drives not yet brought under control. We are a beautiful older woman: lush, alluring, worldly wise, deeply sensual. We are everything they yearn for and dream they might one day have...if only they could grow up.

     The growing up part is not optional.

     Despite our appearance of political fractiousness, it's really only a tiny minority of our people who dissent from the fundamentals that make American society as dynamic, and giddily exuberant as it is. Nearly all Americans believe in the same core concepts: individual rights, private property, the free market, and the supremacy of law over connections, causes, or opinions. We build prisons to house the rest.

     But take just one of those pillars away, and our house would fall. Whenever we've undermined any of them, regardless of the reason, we've quickly reaped the whirlwind. (Yes, yes, in some cases we're still unlearning our mistakes. That will always be so.)

     Barbara Tuchman, among others, has speculated on our enormous political good fortune. In her book The March Of Folly, she marveled at the genius of the Founders, at their availability for the job of crafting a nation out of ideas no one had ever tried before, and wondered what would have become of the nascent American republic without them.

     Your Curmudgeon yields to no one in his regard for the solons of the Revolutionary and Constitutional periods. Yet, he has become convinced that, had bolts of lightning removed all of them from the world before their great works were begun, others would have stepped forward in their place and done a creditable job. Though Washington, Madison, Jefferson and the rest were the titans of their day, behind them stood still others with just as much understanding of the ideas of liberty and justice. They were emigrants from Europe, or the descendants of such emigrants, who had come here seeking freedom and opportunity. They knew what it would require to transform freedom in the New World's virgin vistas into prosperity and security. They had learned it the hard way.

     America is what it is because it is a made society, founded on clearly understood principles by a pioneer people. The societies of Africa are legacy societies, weighed down by the tribal traditions, superstitions and animosities of thousands of years, unleavened by the Enlightenment from which our core concepts sprang. Until Africa renounces its past, there will be no room in which to build a new future.

     But Africa will not renounce its past. It hasn't yet outgrown its belief in magic. Combatants in the Liberian nightmare are eating their slain enemies' vital organs, in accord with the ancient voodoo belief that this will add the strength of the vanquished to their own. So Liberians look across the Atlantic and cry, "Help us, Lady Liberty! Feed us! We are poor and terrified, you are rich and strong! Bring your breadbasket and your gun and deliver us from the darkness!"

     We tried that in Somalia, and failed miserably. We're trying it today in Iraq, where the prospects appear somewhat better but are still not guaranteed, due to the pernicious effects of militant Islam.

     "A slave cannot be freed, save he free himself," wrote Robert A. Heinlein. He was speaking of the slave's attainment of the mental prerequisites for freedom: the insistence on his rights and responsibilities as an individual, which imply the identical rights and responsibilities of all others. Slavery and political tyranny are indistinguishable; each generates the other. Until the enslaving tribal darkness of the African mind lifts to admit the concepts of liberty and justice, no light can be shone on Africa, even by the United States.

     So the beautiful older woman watches Africa from her side of the Atlantic, and weeps.


     The above piece was widely praised when it first appeared. I was rather pleased with it, myself; I felt I’d captured and articulated an important aspect of the American difference: what came to be called American exceptionalism. Though not a “feel-good” essay, it nevertheless raised the spirits of its American readers, while also expressing the sort of perspective that Kim du Toit further elaborated in his essay Let Africa Sink.

     There are reasons why the United States, as large, wealthy, and mighty as it is, cannot save other nations from their miseries. Those miseries are the logical consequence of the erroneous intellectual and emotional baggage toted by the denizens of other lands. Any aid we send to such places, whether or not it’s accompanied by our armed forces, will be dissipated without lasting effects, as surely as the morning dew will vanish under the caress of the sun. The most dramatic examples, such as Somalia, have been very bloody, yet these are not the most instructive.

     Some Americans, though as yet not a sufficient number, have absorbed these truths. That’s why there’s been a retreat from reflexive interventionism among private citizens. But the implication that hasn’t yet been widely enough acknowledged is that just as we can’t go there and solve their problems for them, we’ll become hosts to those problems to the extent that we allow them to come here.


     Have a gander at a few recent news stories:

     There are many more like this, from virtually every country in Europe. They tell a single tale: the unwillingness of Muslim “guest workers” and “refugees” to assimilate to First World norms. Indeed, the imams the First World has allowed to accompany them have all but uniformly told those savages that they have a perfect right to do as they’ve done. (Remember “uncovered meat?”) Consider in the light of these phenomena, which can be found in quantity wherever Islam has been permitted to infiltrate a First World nation, the demands that we leave immediately when our relief work in Indonesia after the “Christmas Tsunami” was finished.

     This story from Russia represents what good men can and must do when such savages act out:

     A group of 51 refugees were brutally assaulted outside a night club in Murmansk, Russia, after they groped and molested women at a night club Saturday.

     The refugees had previously been ordered to leave Norway for “bad behavior” and tried their luck in Russia. What they didn’t realize when they went out clubbing in Murmansk is that Russians have less tolerance when it comes to sexual assault on local women than other European countries....

     The refugees tried to flee but were quickly captured by the Russians. They then took them out to the street and gave them a beating they will remember. Police arrived to break up the fight but locals report that they threw a few punches at the refugees before arresting 33 of them. Eighteen refugees were in such bad condition they had to be taken to the hospital.

     That is as it should be. Given the current lunacy infesting First World political elites, that is as it must be. But it’s the exception rather than the rule – and it wouldn’t be necessary at all except for the political lunacy that admits savages passionately attached to a savage creed to enter nations founded on the ethical principles of the Christian Enlightenment.

     A wide-angle view would go beyond Islam to encompass all those peoples and nations that seek to export their savagery to our shores.


     Concerning the abovementioned savages, emphatically including but not limited to Muslims:

  • We cannot fix them.
  • We cannot fix their countries
  • And we cannot allow them to come here.

     If those three things aren’t obvious, given the events of the past four decades, I can’t imagine what it would take to make them obvious. To the extent that we’ve already behaved as if any of them were untrue, we have suffered greatly without significantly alleviating anyone else’s suffering. Yes, yes: Saddam Hussein and his sons were evil sons of bitches, with their gilded palaces, their rape rooms, their children’s prisons, their interminable wars, and their campaigns of annihilation against Iraq’s Kurds and “swamp Arabs.” Their removal from existence struck me at the time as a net gain to Iraq and to Mankind generally. I was wrong; I failed to foresee what would follow. It’s small consolation that millions of other men of good will were just as wrong.

     Good intentions are no substitute for high-quality information and clarity of vision and thought. In particular, good intentions exercised without thought of the consequences can bring disasters that greatly exceed the miseries they strive to address. We’re learning this lesson upon our own hides...yet as painful as the lesson has been to date, far too many of us continue to resist it. Have a gander at an example:

     The easiest way for us to screen candidates for admission to the United States is if they present themselves to immigration enforcement for screening. Why do so many circumvent our laws to enter? Because their circumstances demand that they can’t wait. Fix the legal immigration system first, and you will necessarily reduce the number of people who will try to enter illegally. Border security is important, but a line-in-the-sand of “close the border first” is exactly the position progressives want us to have. They’ll defeat it in the court of public opinion, every time. Outflank them. Change the rules of the game.

     And what of caring for immigrants or refugees? Stop conceding that government will wind up caring for them. Back in the summer of 2014, many “conservatives” went out of their way to excoriate people (including other “conservatives”) who voluntarily provided aid to illegal immigrant children as supporting “amnesty” or “open borders”. No, what they were doing was supporting humanity, on their own, without government.

     This Allan Bourdius is either an idiot or a villain, and quite possibly both. A nation without enforced borders is a nation that will not endure. A nation that admits persons who are determined not to assimilate is a nation bent upon suicide. A nation that excuses lawbreaking with such mealy-mouthed pieties as “What choice did they have?” is a nation that has neither laws nor self-respect.

     The evidence is incontrovertible: we cannot fix them over there, and we cannot fix them once they’re here. There is no imaginable rationale under which Americans – our liberty, our property, and in many cases our lives – must be put at the mercy of persons who are hostile to our laws, our culture, and our national identity and have demonstrated all that in practice.


     I’ll close with a few words about the title of this piece.

     The world is in crisis. Evil men plunder, oppress, rape and kill in ever-increasing numbers. Most of the world is at their mercy. Many of those subject to their depredations want most earnestly to flee to somewhere safe. At this time, “somewhere safe” is America, Europe, or Australia. Yet owing to the demise of the assumption of assimilation, when they get here they merely reproduce the patterns they strove to flee. Therefore, we cannot have them, as I trust the above has made clear.

     Yet the immigrant hordes swell ever larger. First World borders are stressed as never before. America has it bad; Europe has it still worse, owing to poor decisions made under the rationale of “one Europe.” Though the immigrants mostly arrive unarmed, nevertheless the majority of them violate the law in doing so. Successive waves of migrants grow ever more unabashed about it. Then they form exclaves in which the writ of civilized, First World law does not run.

     This is invasion.
     This is a world at war.
     There can be only one outcome.

     Have a nice day, Gentle Reader.

Our poisonous "ally" – Saudi Arabia.

If such rebel groups [in Syria] win their battle they have vowed to destroy one of the oldest centres of Christianity in the world and drive out every last Christian or behead those who stay. They have destroyed the ancient centre of the northern town of Aleppo and are uprooting and destroying the historic city of Palmyra, one of the greatest architectural treasures on Earth.

The aim of the jihadists who make up the bulk of the rebels is to expunge the rich and ancient civilisation of Syria.

This is a global tragedy. We are not talking merely of a humanitarian disaster on a magnitude no one can fully comprehend, we are also talking of the destruction of one of the greatest civilisations in the world and its replacement by a narrow, intolerant, dogmatic mutation of Islam.

* * * *

But there is a powerful lesson for the West as well. Our reckless attempts to shape the Middle East by intervening with guns and bombs have caused nothing but chaos and murder.

* * * *

Above all, we must tackle the insidious influence of Saudi Arabia, which enjoys a cosy relationship with the West even as it sponsors the spread of Islamic fanaticism across the globe.

"The only way to stem this tide is to stop our Middle East meddling: In a haunting dispatch from Syria, PETER OBORNE reveals the real reason the refugees keep coming." By Peter Oborne, Daily Mail, 9/4/15.

H/t: Pundita.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Quickies: If You Haven’t Seen This Video

     See it. (Sorry, it resists embedding.)

     Senator Cruz was willing to expose the leader of the GOP Senatorial caucus as a liar and a corruptocrat, on the floor of the Senate itself. No one else was willing to do so, even though McConnell had lied to the entire Republican caucus.

     That’s political courage. It’s one of the reasons I’m backing Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination...and one of the reasons the party elite will do everything short of seppuku to prevent him from getting it.

     I hope Senator Cruz has someone to watch his back.

Leftover Wings, Chips, And Dip

     Good morning, Gentle Reader. I’m a bit fuzzy this morning – the Super Bowl can do that to an older man – but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to provide you with an interesting potpourri column. It’s just that the C.S.O. and I have made some sad discoveries:

  • When you habitually get up at 4:00 AM, 10:30 PM can seem awfully late.
  • Despite a nominal shortage of objective reasons, we dislike the Carolina Panthers about as much as we dislike the New England Patriots. (Cf. Jerry Seinfeld on “cheering for clothes.”)
  • After one reaches a certain age, the finger foods that once made the Super Bowl an event to anticipate with glee are no longer all that easily eaten, digested, or, ah, disposed of the morning after.
     “Youth is the most wonderful time of life. What a pity it’s wasted on the young!” – variably attributed to George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde.


     It seems quite a large fraction of America was rooting for Denver yester eve. Peyton Manning’s fourth Super Bowl appearance certainly worked out better than his previous one, but somehow I doubt that had much to do with the widespread desire to see his Broncos win. He’s just that widely liked and admired, while Cam Newton has managed to antagonize a few folks with his antics and statements about race.

     These days, bizarre statements about race and racial discrimination from prominent Negroes are hardly surprising. They get their lines from a fairly compact and consistent set of sources. Nor could you expect those sources to react otherwise than as they’ve done toward racial heretics such as Stacey Dash. The Left can’t afford to let any of them darkies get uppity, y’know. They might walk off the plantation, and then where would their Democrat masters be? Got to keep ‘em all singing the same racialist spirituals.

     Oh, by the way, Cam: there have been other black quarterbacks who’ve done well and have been widely admired. Warren Moon. Randall Cunningham. Donovan McNabb. Doug Williams. There will surely be others. If you want to be numbered among them, you’d be best advised to keep your mouth shut, your passes on target, and your touchdown celebrations dignified. The rest will follow.


     Via WRSA comes a bit of news I can only applaud:

     A hacker, who wishes to remain anonymous, plans to dump the apparent names, job titles, email addresses and phone numbers of over 20,000 supposed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employees, as well as over 9,000 alleged Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees, Motherboard has learned.

     The hacker also claims to have downloaded hundreds of gigabytes of data from a Department of Justice (DOJ) computer, although that data has not been published.

     I’m sure the government worshippers in the audience will be aghast at this...as will, of course, those roughly thirty thousand “outed” federal employees. But reflect on this: those thirty thousand men are federal law enforcers. They have firearms privileges you and I have been denied. And they use those privileges to coerce private citizens and organization under color of law. If their identities are kept secret, doesn’t that make them secret police? If they serve the political agendas of those in power – which, these days, is more often than not, even for that supposed bastion of LEO integrity the FBI – doesn’t that make them secret political police?

     Think about it, and about just how free men should regard such police.


     Stories such as this one are growing ever more frequent:

     While New York City deals with an increase of random stabbings lately, yet another person has been slashed inside of a subway station.

     It happened right before 4 a.m. Saturday morning in The Bronx.

     The 32-year-old victim was walking down the stairway of the East Tremont and Boston Post Road station when two men approached him. Police say there was an argument but the victim eventually walked away. However, he was followed and slashed in the face.

     He was the 11th victim in a spree of city subway slashings this year and it has some commuters thinking twice before riding the subways.

     Democrat-controlled cities can be like that. Even New York, which Giuliani and (to a lesser extent) Bloomberg did so much to recivilize, can descend into chaos under the hand of an administration more concerned with propitiating mouthy interest groups than maintaining the peace of the streets. The incentives to predatory behavior never go away; all that varies is the response of officialdom...and, perhaps, that of private citizens who’ve had enough:

     The possibility of picking the wrong victim has a significant deterrent effect on the predators among us.


     When Dave Brat was elected to the House of Representatives to replace Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, it shook the Republican establishment to its foundations. Yet listen to this supposed conservative maverick and ask yourself whether he can be relied upon any further than his Congressional predecessor:

     Speaker Ryan said that by this spring, we'd have down on paper big, bold conservative reforms dealing with comprehensive tax reform, Obamacare replacement and significant entitlement reform. We basically have a four-year window to get that started, or the nation will face serious consequences in ensuring these programs continue for the next generation.

     So the overall sense, one is that we're going to solve big problems in the year after the presidential [election]. And again, we've funded the government through September, so we've given up some of our leverage this year. So there's a balancing act going on, and that's, I think, what most people came away with.

     This does not sound all that good to me. It sounds more like an ongoing surrender to “the way things are done around here,” with the Democrats demanding both arms and both legs and the Republicans, who hold robust majorities in both Houses of Congress, “bargaining them down” to one arm and one leg...and perhaps a player to be named later.

     Would having a Republican in the White House make much difference when the GOP exhibits this sort of spinelessness before the Democrats’ demands?


     We now begin that dismal portion of the year during which there is no football. Yes, there’s ice hockey, and some other game that’s played on hardwood courts by serial bastard producers, and an even less interesting game played mostly by Europeans without arms. But the void is felt nevertheless. Happily, baseball’s spring training starts soon, and we’ll get to see what adjustments the Steinbrenners have made to my aging, inept Bronx Bombers. Until then, I anticipate spending a lot of time struggling to save Sanctuary.

     Later, Gentle Reader.

Ouch.

If faced between having to cut Erdogan loose to face his destiny or engaging in an all-out war with Russia, the USA and NATO might choose the former and sacrifice Erdogan personally. In fact, this would be a perfect scenario for a colour revolution, and what stops America from orchestrating one in Turkey? After all, they are the experts of turning against their allies.
"Coming to a head in Syria." by Ghassan Kadi, The Vineyard of the Saker, 2/5/16.

German media suppression of the truth about Muslim sexual outrages.

The cases about which we learn are only those which managed to leak to the public. Evidence of this is even a statement from forensics specialist and former justice minister of Lower Saxony Christian Pfeiffer. In the TV program Phoenix Runde Pfeiffer said that in one of the television station he was instructed that he cannot link the New Year’s Eve attacks of sexual violence with the problem of refugees. He was told that otherwise the interview will be interrupted immediately.
"Officials: Europe is Not a Raped Woman, ‘She Deserved It’." By Konrad Stachnio, New Eastern Outlook, 1/2/16.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Machines: A Sad Wisdom

     [In light of the recent acceleration of racial, ethnic, and “religious” tensions, I felt it appropriate to repost this piece which first appeared at the old Palace Of Reason in August of 2004. -- FWP]

     We've grown so proficient at so many marvelous things. Yet we're failing as a society, because of what we've forgotten, or neglected.

     Each weekday morning for the past thirty years, I've awakened to the droning of an alarm clock-radio, have quaffed coffee made by a timer-triggered process so that it would be ready when I awoke, have risen and showered in precisely heated water, have shaved with a razor that's a marvel of precision technology, have pulled a cup of yogurt from my refrigerator for breakfast, and have driven off to work in a device Walter Chrysler once called "the most wonderful machines ever built by Man."

     Seldom have any of these machines failed me. Oh, there've been a few cases. But when I contemplate the trivial costs of maintenance and repair they exact from me, and their astounding reliability over protracted periods without significant attention, I am humbled by the achievements they represent.

     I have a particular fascination with cars. Cars used to be far simpler than they are today -- but they're far more reliable today than ever before, despite their exponentially greater complexity and capability. In the past ten years, four cars have passed through my hands, have accumulated more than 400,000 miles in all -- enough to circumnavigate the globe at the equator sixteen times -- and have produced a total of one mechanical failure among them: a dead battery.

     Marvels of technological plenty and endurance are all around us. You say the blade you put in your razor this morning had a burr on it that scratched your face? How much did it cost? And what about the three hundred blades before that one? Did the coffeemaker spring a leak and leave a puddle on your counter? Spend another fifty bucks on a new coffeemaker and be happy. Are you exercised about your hard disk failure? Allow that a device that rotates at 7200 RPM and did so reliably for three years or more might just have an excuse to succumb to the stresses.

     Our machines are truly marvelous. Perhaps more marvelous than any other of their aspects is how well they resist the abrasions of the environment around them. Our species...well, it's not quite so marvelous as it once was.

     Our worst problem developed along the margins of our moral thinking. It's been conceded for quite a while that a man under sufficiently extreme survival pressures will naturally depart from the laws and moral strictures that govern ordinary times, no matter how devoted he is to those things under happier circumstances. But until about forty years ago, this was not considered a justification for outlawry or amorality, merely an explanation for some of it. Then developed the notion, which quickly gathered currency, that if we'd all react a certain way under sufficient stress, then those who did so ought not to be penalized for it.

     For a while, it sounded good. But it was the entering wedge for the concept of moral relativism. The promoters of that concept started from the premise that an excruciatingly difficult context ought to excuse, rather than merely explain, departures from upright behavior. From there they developed the proposition that moral standards depended on context and other factors so greatly that uniform, acontextual rules were inherently unfair, and ought to be discarded.

     Moral relativism is now the dominant moral concept of our time. "Whatever's right for you" is its watchword. It condones everything and condemns nothing, because the full context of a man's deeds, with all its pressures and constraints, can only be known to him. How, the relativists ask, can we possibly judge his actions when we can never know what it was like to be him, in his position, faced with his choices?

     But a man is a machine of a peculiar kind. He's a learning machine, who gathers critical information about the suitability of his behavior from the consequences thereof. When the consequences are good -- that is, when they advance him toward his goals, or reduce his costs or sufferings -- they encourage him to do more of it. When the consequences are bad -- that is, when they cause him to move farther from his goals, or to incur pain or loss -- they discourage him from repeating it, possibly forever.

     Behavior is suitable if it is both profitable and tolerated. Under an acontextual moral standard, many profitable behaviors are not tolerated; indeed, we try to make them unprofitable by punishing them, whether informally by techniques ranging from disapproval to ostracism, or formally, through the force of the law. Under the relativistic non-standard, punishment is itself discouraged, and those behaviors acquire a new appeal.

     But even the most complete hegemony for moral relativism, in which no bad deed is ever punished by anyone in any way, can prevent the human learning machine from functioning as its Designer intended. It merely changes what we learn.

     When we behave uprightly but see ourselves bypassed by others who've lied, cheated, stolen, and acted cruelly without penalty, our attachment to wholesome norms of conduct is weakened. Worse, our ability to transmit those norms to our children is weakened as well.

     When we refrain from exploiting the weak, but others show no such scruples and are rewarded for it, we come to resent both the exploiters and their victims: the first for destroying our illusions, the second for providing the means.

     When we answer the urgings of our hearts and give of ourselves for others' benefit, but then discover that we've been played for fools by cynical exploiters, we become hard, and far less receptive to the pleas of others in need.

     By Von Neumann's Law of Requisite Variety, human society, like any other multiply connected network, will be dominated by those elements that have the most available states and behaviors. Under the regime of moral relativism, that advantage belongs to the unscrupulous. They will lord it over the rest of us specifically because they defy all law and suffer no consequences for it, neither internally imposed by conscience nor externally imposed by society.

     Why this topic today? Because the C.S.O. and I have discovered, just these past two days, that we've been had. An exploiter reached us through our better natures, extracted quite a bit of good from us, and would have had still more. What wised us up and put a stop to it was coincidental, and quite fortunate for us. The damage was considerable, but it could have been far worse. Still, we can feel our hearts hardening -- not merely toward this person, but toward whoever might cross our path in the future, whether his need of succor was genuine or contrived.

     The human machine never stops learning, until it stops completely.

A Real Constitutional Attorney Explains the Legality of the Oregon Standoff.