Friday, September 30, 2016

Tired Of Corporate Babblespeak?

     So is Al Yankovic:

     (Found at and shamelessly stolen from Dustbury. Bravo, Charles.)

     For those who’ve been wondering about the gradually increasing frequency of giggle-posts here at the legendarily serious Liberty’s Torch, the current record-holder for the most Web-induced suicides since 2013, it’s quite simple: I need to laugh as much as anyone else, the recent news has been of the sort that increases that need, and I like to share. And may God bless and keep the great Weird Al, one of the few truly funny men of our time. If there’s a Humor Hall of Fame, he most certainly belongs in it – if “they,” whoever “they” might be, don’t do the decent thing and name it after him!

Ultimate Silencings

     Every now and then it all seems to come together.

     I’m sure you’ve read about the several instances in which a “TRUMP 2016” sign has appeared at a college campus, and a torrent of whiny, mock-outraged protests has followed. No doubt you’re aware of the “identity” nonsense that’s got the entire nation, its rest rooms, and its pronouns in a lather. And of course there’s the cult of victimism, and the utterly false notion that “hate speech” – see your local leftist loony for the non-definition – isn’t protected under the First Amendment.

     It’s getting even better, Gentle Reader. Really it is:

     The most recent addition to the lexicon of leftist grievance is “message crime”, which popped up at this year’s OSCE/HDIM conference in Warsaw. According to the annotated agenda, message crimes constitute
     …a rejection of the victim’s identity which can have a marginalizing effect on entire communities. Secondary victimization, where representatives from broader society deny or minimize the seriousness of the incident, can also reinforce and perpetuate this message.

     There is no real attempt to define the new term, just a catchphrase-laden description. And consider the terms used to describe these “crimes”: “rejection”, “identity”, “marginalizing”, etc. That is, the characteristics of what is being anathematized are so vague as to make any judgment entirely subjective.

     Clearly, there are no limits beyond which the Left and its masters will not go. But that’s in the nature of a Ur-totalitarian movement: i.e., a movement that seeks not merely to squelch all opposition, but to prevent even the thought of opposition from entering anyone’s head. Quite obviously, if you can’t think it, you can’t do it. Makes the Ministry of Love’s job a lot easier, and you know how government types hate hard work.

     Speaking of the Ministry of Love, Orwell pinned these developments some seventy years ago, though he wrote about their terminus rather than their evolution:

     Down in the street the wind flapped the torn poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc. The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever? Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him:


     He took a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket. There, too, in tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin the eyes pursued you. On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrappings of a cigarette packet--everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed--no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.

     As antihero-protagonist Winston Smith discovers through experience, not even that tiny volume within his skull was immune to invasion and prosecution.

     But what is the point, you might well ask? The point, of course, is to induce in the victim – and never imagine that the Left sees you as anything but cattle to be fattened for eventual slaughter – a state of cooperative self-censorship: a condition in which you will be unable to think an unapproved thought because processes installed within your own mind will act to pre-censor it.

     Minority Report’s conception of a Department of Pre-Crime is bad enough, though some might say “Well, if even one life could be saved...” The Left seeks to create billions of automatically acting cerebral Departments of Pre-Crimethink, one per victim. Each of us would become his own, fastest-acting, and most reliable censor.

     Yes, you may well shudder.

     I’ve been having a lot of “What’s the use?” days lately. I’m sure you know the syndrome: that state of total personal enervation in which no effort seems justified by its probable results. Garbage like the above, which is gaining popularity throughout the Western world, is a part of the reason: It’s not being resisted. Not only “not effectively;” not at all.

     Even persons whom you’d expect to know better are falling in line. No less a defender of freedom than Glenn Reynolds, our beloved Instapundit, felt compelled to self-censor and apologize for – God help us all – a tweet.

     If Professor Reynolds can succumb, who is immune?

     How many times must I resurrect this essay?

     The essence of the taboo in American society is linguistic: not to speak the forbidden thought or attitude....But even those of us who defy the taboos ideologically are expected to obey their constraints on our vocabulary.

     But controlling our speech is not the Left’s true goal. The Left seeks the ultimate silencing of dissent: each of us must be ruthlessly, rigorously conditioned to pre-censor our minds.

     The disease is too far advanced to allow it further gains. If we’re ever to re-establish freedom of expression as an inviolable principle, the time to dig in our heels and mount a furious counterattack is now.

     Long ago, the late, great Robert Sheckley wrote a completely serious novel titled The Status Civilization. In it, protagonist Will Barrent awakens in confinement, all his memories having been erased except for “a meager store of generalized knowledge, enough to keep you in touch with reality.” Presently he is told that he was adjudged guilty of murder, for which reason he has been exiled to a prison planet called Omega. However, Barrent is certain, at some level, that he was falsely accused. The remainder of the story tells of Barrent’s struggle to escape Omega, to return to Earth, and to find those who had condemned him. The “robot-confessor” that sentenced him directs him to a particular address, “where you will find the informer.”

     What he finds comes as a stunning surprise:

     He stood in front of 35 Maple Street. The silence which surrounded the house struck him as ominous. He took the needlbeam out of his pocket, looking for a reassurance he knew he could not find. Then he walked up the neat flagstones and tried the front door. It opened, He stepped inside.
     He made out the dim shades of lamps and furniture, the dull gleam of a painting on the wall, a piece of statuary on an ebony pedestal. Needlebeam in hand, he stepped into the next room.
     And came face to face with his informer.
     Staring at the informer’s face, Barrent remembered. In an overpowering flood of memory, he saw himself, a little boy, entering the closed classroom. He heard again the soothing sound of machinery, watched the pretty lights blink and flash, heard the insinuating machine voice whisper in his ear. At first the voice filled him with horror; what it suggested was unthinkable. Then, slowly, he became accustomed to it, and accustomed to all the strange things that happened in the closed classroom.
     He learned. The machines taught on deep, unconscious levels. The machines intertwined their lessons with the basic drives, weaving a pattern of learned behavior with the life instinct. They taught, then blocked off conscious knowledge of the lessons, sealed it—and fused it.
     What had he been taught?
     For the social good, you must be your own policeman and witness. You must assume responsibility for any crime which might conceivably be yours.

     “The informer” is, of course, his own image in a mirror.

     If Orwell, Sheckley, and I haven’t given you enough to think about yet, there’s nothing more to say but...

     Have a nice day.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pandering As Statecraft

     [BEING, Some Peripheral Thoughts Stimulated By Angelo M. Codevilla’s Excellent Essay “After The Republic”]

     A substantial number of Gentle Readers have written to ask “So when are you going to comment on the Codevilla essay, already?” In point of fact, for some time I’ve been saying most of what Codevilla has said. All the same, a few associated notions have come to mind, specifically concerning the mechanism that’s brought us to this post-republican pass. Read on.

     Ever wonder why the quality of our leaders has been declining with each successive generation? – Angelo M. Codevilla

     Unicausal explanations for social, political, or economic phenomena are always suspect. However, their simplicity is tempting, which keeps them in demand among persons who “explain” sociopolitical currents and developments for money. Their shakiness is both revealed and masked by the inability to experiment: i.e., to create specific initial conditions from which to predict, with variables other than the proposed causes carefully controlled, and to watch for the predicted outcomes within the specified time limits. Not only are the variables too many and too stiff to control adequately, but people generally don’t like being experimented on.

     Even so, we may be fairly confident about certain things:

  1. Human character and personality traits exist in a distribution.
  2. Human action is propelled by desires and inhibited by fears and moral convictions.
  3. Given two courses of action toward a goal, then if all other things are equal, the one that demands less effort and/or less risk will generally be preferred.

     These are my reasons for holding the moral and political convictions that I do.

     Codevilla’s sly query has never baffled me. The three premises I enumerated above provide a perfectly serviceable explanation:

  1. Some people love power and prestige above all things.
  2. Some of those people have no moral constraints and inadequate fear of punishment.
  3. Such persons will cheerfully lie, cheat, steal, intimidate, and brutalize to get what they want.

     The enveloping conditions will determine all else. In a nation with a quasi-democratic electoral process for ascending to power, the most important one will be the moral state of the electorate.

     In his manifesto The People’s Pottage, Garet Garrett provides an illustration of how those determined to rule without constraint can corrupt the nation they seek to rule:

     Senator [Everett] Dirksen tells how Cordell Hull, then Secretary of State, expounded to him the New Deal’s doctrine of corrupting the people for their own good. “My boy,” Hull said, “ this follows a bent of human philosophy. At first people will demur at the idea of subsidies and accept them very reluctantly, and then after a while they will accept them with good grace, and later they will demand them.”

     They who hold the levers of power can often contrive to follow such a course. The subsidy might not be monetary in every case. It might arise from a law that effectively bars new competitors from entering a hot market. It might consist in a web of regulations that favor some commercial concerns over others. Or it might lie in administrative or judicial machinations that favor Smith over Jones. In one form or another, the subsidy – a governmental exertion to create a privilege for some at the expense of others – will be there. The ultimate effect is corruption: the habituation of the people and institutions of the nation to seeking the unearned prize via unjust means.

     Amoral masters can easily rule a corrupted people.

     For more than a century, the mechanisms of corruption have traveled under the label progressivism. Its apostles style themselves as progressives, with all the implications attendant thereto. Leave us to handle things, they say, and we’ll make everything better. And who, honestly, could be against that?

     Progressivism’s apostles have steadily demanded and received more power with which to pursue their overt agenda. We needn’t dwell on whether things have “gotten better.” The mechanics of the phenomenon – the steady accretion of power by corruption of the electorate – is the important thing.

     If only a tiny fraction of the populace is corrupt – i.e., willing to accept the unearned in payment for political support – the scope and power of the State will be well restrained. But corruption exhibits a fungus-like growth pattern. By virtue of the subsidy it receives, that tiny fraction will “do better” than others not so graced. Since success breeds emulation, some of the others will set their moral convictions (and personal pride) aside to “get in on the gravy.” Their young will be less well morally formed, and therefore more susceptible to the lure of the subsidy. The fungus will expand.

     The progressives, seeing their “constituency” expand and become more vocal, will increase their pressure for more power and less constraint. In the usual case, they’ll get their way. A sociopolitical “climax ecology” is reached when approximately 50% of the nation is receiving some sort of net subsidy. (Ironically, virtually everyone will think he’s getting something from the State, though half of them will be wrong on net balance.) At that point, the powers and operations of the progressives become effectively unbounded. Not only can they do as they please without let or hindrance, they can prevent effective opposition from ever arising.

     It’s a stasis that can only be shattered by revolution.

     I haven’t said anything about whether any of the progressives are sincere about their overt aims. That’s because it doesn’t matter. As a great yet generally unknown philosopher once said, sincerity is the ultimate asset: once you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Those who are in the game solely for the power and prestige will emulate the sincere ones, overshadow and eventually displace them. The dynamic of corruption, once in motion, guarantees it.

     The relevance to the present-day United States is obvious. Never before has the Land of the Free been so unfree, so corrupt, and so hagridden by malefactors. Our deterioration from the Constitutionally constrained Republic of the Founders to the venal, subsidy-dominated quasi-democracy of our time is incontestable. It’s rendered American government ugly beyond dispute. The ruling class of which Codevilla speaks in his recent essay is completely divorced in moral terms from the rest of the nation. Its members acknowledge no limits. Neither will they ever surrender their positions before any conceivable pressure from us “deplorables.”

     Pandering as statecraft has become the essence of the system.

     We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. – Angelo M. Codevilla

     I’m not quite as pessimistic as Codevilla. I think we still have a chance to pull out of this tailspin. It’s rather against the odds, owing to the power of the corruption-by-subsidy dynamic, but it’s still possible.

     The method must be moral rather than utilitarian. It requires a resurgence of the Christian moral and ethical precepts that were strong at the Founding – yes, even among those Founders who didn’t explicitly embrace Christianity – to the point that near to unanimously, the American people will:

  • Refuse all subsidies;
  • Denounce and depose the ruling class.

     How likely is that? And how might we who still care increase its chances?

     More anon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ubiquitous Yet Counterproductive Deceit

     Honesty has apparently gone out of fashion.

     Have you been thinking approximately the same? The political lies alone are enough to drive an “indifferent honest” man to drink. The self-promotional lies being told by business institutions and ordinary persons around us are marginally comprehensible for motive, at least. Whatever impels them, every deceit great or small leads us deeper into what Samuel Johnson termed “the general degradation of human testimony.”

     If you’re wondering what triggered this particular outburst, it’s an email I just received. It comes from a well-known newspaper which operates, as they all do these days, a Web annex. The subject line did the job all by itself:

Sale extended due to popular demand! 99c for 3 months or $9.99 for 6 months of digital access [Now ends 9/30]

     “Sale extended due to popular demand?” No commercial institution has ever extended a sale because it was popular. The very idea boggles the mind. A sale is instituted to encourage customers. If a sufficient number of persons respond positively, the sale will end. It will only be extended if the institution’s operators badly need additional customers and the first iteration didn’t produce enough of them.

     A newspaper that stages a sale is admitting, sotto voce, that it needs subscribers – “eyeballs,” in journalism jargon. The bulk of a news outlet’s revenue comes from advertisers, and advertisers prefer outlets that can claim a large subscribership. “Popular demand?” Please! “Advertiser indifference” would be the honest reason the sale is being extended.

     Such insults to our intelligence are the very worst sort of lie. They work against the objectives of the liar. In effect, he’s saying to his target that “you’re too stupid to notice what I’ve done here.” The intelligence to be downgraded in such a case is his.

     SF writer John C. Wright recently wrote that he could understand and even somewhat admire a well-crafted lie that actually advances the purposes of the liar. Such a lie is morally deplorable, but tactically justifiable. What he couldn’t grasp were the sort that sets those purposes back. Yet such deceits are all around us – and a great fraction thereof come from persons already well established as founts of fabrication.

     It would seem that there’s an underserved market niche: instruction in how to lie constructively and effectively. I’d rather see that niche remain unfilled, but this is the United States of America, where demand calls forth supply as regularly as the Sun rises in the East. Or perhaps we’ve at last deduced what sort of creature pays to go to those innumerable, intolerable “self-improvement” seminars, most of which are operated by persons whose entire fortune comes from...operating self-improvement seminars.

     Later, Gentle Reader.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Anger Gambit

     Quite a bit of our political discourse is, to put it non-discoursively, nothing but shouting. The participants, whether consciously or otherwise, simply reject the use of facts and reasoning. They shout by preference.

     Time was, this was not considered acceptable conduct in a discussion intended to establish which of two policy directions was the preferable one. Today it appears to be the default route. Moreover, Left-inclined persons typically adopt it from the outset of any exchange, under the pretense of having been “triggered.”

     This video, supplied by commenter Brinster, provides an example. Though it’s unpleasant to watch, the illustration it provides is valuable:

     The young black woman who leaps into the fray screeching about how she’ll owe a substantial amount of money for her college education while her white contemporaries won’t – a dubious assertion, to say the least – is practicing the Anger Gambit. It’s a tough thrust to parry, because for some decades now whites have been conditioned to respond to an angry outburst with conciliation, especially when the angry person is black. This overlooks the tactical nature of the outburst. It is essentially tactical rather than sincere even if the speaker is sincerely angry.

     There is no calm-yet-profitable way to reply to such an outburst. Conciliation is the least desirable route, as it tends to ratify the speaker’s complaint as legitimate and relevant. That is seldom the case in political discourse.

     Yet consider the roots of the speaker’s complaint, assuming it’s factual:

  • She attends a college that charges tuition and fees, as most such do.
  • Her earnings and savings aren’t adequate to meet those charges.
  • Her parents, assuming they’re alive, can’t or won’t defray the balance.

     Look at the assumptions behind those assertions:

  • She assumes she has a right to attend that college.
  • She assumes that other people have an obligation to pay for it.
  • She assumes that being black will protect her from counterfire.

     The appalling thing is that such assumptions go unquestioned far more often than not. But would it be effective to respond as follows:

  • “What makes you think you have a right to go to college?”
  • “Why didn’t you work and save for a few years, so you could afford it?”
  • “Why are white people responsible for giving you what you want at no cost to you?”

     Scorn and laughter will occasionally carry the day against the Anger Gambit – but seldom. They must issue from someone of impervious confidence and bearing. White men with such qualifications are rare in our time.

     Central to all this is our reluctance to meet anger with anger.

     I am a racist, a sexist, an ableist, a homophobe, and an Islamophobe. I admit it freely. Able-bodied white Christian heterosexual males built Western Civilization. Non-whites, non-Christians, homosexuals, the handicapped, and women have made only minor contributions, though they enjoy the benefits. If they can’t afford or partake of some of the benefits, it’s no fault of ours.

     That attitude equips me to meet the Anger Gambit with heavy counterfire of a sort that’s rare in such exchanges. It’s also why I rarely involve myself in such exchanges. They have a nasty habit of descending to violence. I dislike the consequences of interpersonal violence, even when all the bleeding and broken limbs accrue to the other party.

     But counterfire, even when the consequences are successfully weathered, doesn’t change anyone’s mind. If third parties, unpersuaded prior to the exchange, are listening, they’re likely to walk away thinking “A pox on both their houses.” So from the perspective of one who seeks improvement rather than the mere visceral satisfaction of meeting provocation with a good vent, there’s no point.

     In consequence, there’s essentially no discourse remaining. Instead, the Left keeps screeching to “keep the hate alive.” The reaction on the Right is usually something like this:

     I’m increasingly pissed off by what I’m seeing and I resent the people behind it. Guys like Juan Williams should be on TV demanding the cops round up every last Charlotte rioter and pack them off to Africa. The rich black guys on TV talking sportsball should be mortified that their co-ethnics are embarrassing their race with these antics. If the roles were reversed and it was whites making asses of themselves, you can be sure the honkies on TV would be furious and embarrassed, demanding a halt to it.

     That’s not how it works and that’s what is getting tiresome. Those two black girls get the idea in their heads to make a nuisance of themselves in the street and I’m supposed to feel guilty about it. Frankly, Glenn Reynolds was right. Let’s have a few motorists drive over these people and then we can talk about feeling guilty. Let’s have the cops unleash the dogs and water cannon on these rioters and then talk to me about feeling guilty. I’ll be happy to feel guilty as long as the streets are clear.

     I’ve simply had enough.

     Open-if-insincere anger versus repressed-but-justified anger. Who wins?

     Mind you, this is not an argument against getting angry. It’s about what anger-in-discourse means and how it can be used.

     The Left’s adoption of a politics of division compels them to brandish anger as their principal weapon. And to the extent that it gains its objectives, it will be emulated and intensified.

     To prevent Leftist anger-in-discourse from gaining its objectives, we must meet anger with anger – and our anger must be of incomparably greater magnitude.

     There’s already a perceptible movement in that direction. Whites are sick and tired for being blamed for the myriad failures of American blacks. Christians are sick and tired of being persecuted de facto for their beliefs. Men have pretty much had it with feminists and their endless shrill denunciations. And so on.

     It’s a start, but only a start. It must grow, and become vocal, and to the extent required by circumstances – girls, hold onto your boyfriends -- it must meet violence with superior force.

     That will be a sticking point for many, who prefer to leave “that sort of thing” to the politicians, organizers, and commentators (and the superior force part, of course, to “the authorities”). However, dealing ourselves out because we’re private persons who “just want to be left alone” is no longer viable...especially as “the authorities” are tacitly complicit in the Left’s tactics. Consider the “official” reactions to the rioting in Ferguson, Baltimore, Charlotte, and Milwaukee.

     Paddy Chayevsky’s Howard Beale had the right idea:

     I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be.

     We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!'

     So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

     But yelling out the window mustn’t be the end of it. The Anger Gambit is too resilient to be defeated that way.

     Give it some thought.

Monday, September 26, 2016

So Up-To-The-Minute...

     ...that the minute itself will be deemed late:

     The meme is so new it hasn't even hit Know Your Meme: "Describe yourself in three fictional characters." I agonized over this rather longer than I'd intended to, mostly because some of the characters on my first list were there, not so much because they reminded me of me, but because I was overly fond of them. Eventually I pared that list, and these three individuals are left.

     Charles’s selections don’t surprise me overly. When I started thinking about my own was when the surprises began.

     Perhaps Gentle Readers who are also readers of fiction – and I do hope that’s both all of you – will attempt this exercise and put your cogitations in the comments. Among other things, it would give me a sense for what sort of fiction really strikes home with you. That would make my pandering marketing a bit easier.

"Black Lives Matter" in one graph.

H/t: Maggie's Farm.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Miscellaneous Religious Irritations

     No, this doesn’t qualify as a Rumination. Those are generally more hortatory, more inspirational in tone. But then, you got a quick one at midweek. No, this is more of a “clear your brain before the static ruins your Sunday” sort of piece.

     Now and then, one must grit one’s teeth at some of the bilge being proffered as Christian doctrine. “Opinions are like assholes; everybody’s gotta have one.” (Me) And priests, of course, are part of “everybody.” But there are places where opinions, particularly political opinions, are both unwarranted and destructive of faith. The pulpit is one such place.

     Just now, a certain Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, a.k.a. Pope Francis, is doing great harm to the Church by orating on political and economic subjects. If he were to confine the former to freedom of religion and the latter to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he’d be on safe, even sanctified ground. But this, to put it gently, is not the case.

     More locally, If I hear Father Francis X. Pizzarelli call illegal aliens “the undocumented” one more time, I just might change parishes. I intend to let my pastor and the prelate of the Diocese of Rockville Center know that, in flaming letters.

     It also offends me to hear non-Christians speak about Christian doctrine, or about what Christians are obliged or expected to do. How dare they? How would they take it if the shoe were on the other foot – say, if a Christian were to prescribe and proscribe for a Jew? Surely the offense would be equal in magnitude, if opposite in direction.

     Yet that is what David Goldman, a.k.a. “Spengler,” dares to do to Andrew Klavan this morning:

     It isn’t so simple for a Jew to convert to Christianity. We were called to be God’s people at Mount Sinai some 3,400 years ago. You [Goldman is addressing Klavan here] were there, even if you don’t remember it. This is something that Christians also believe, for they read the same Bible as the Jews. We Jews accepted a divine mission, and by “we,” I mean all of our generations, including yours....

     For a Jew to convert to Christianity raises a number of problems that you do not appear to have considered. Are Jewish Christians obligated to perform the mitzvoth, to keep the Sabbath and to keep kosher? The Jewish Christians of the early Church surely did. Wyschogrod answered in the affirmative, in a famous open letter to Cardinal Lustiger. Whether or not you feel called to Christ in the Spirit, you are still chosen in the flesh, and because Jewish flesh is holy—it is the vessel for God’s Indwelling on earth—it must be given the appropriate sanctity, for example kashrut.

     Here is the paradox: You cannot be a Christian unless you also accept your Election as a Jew, but you have never lived as a Jew, and do not know what it is to be a Jew.

     The insult is beyond my ability to characterize. It borders on unforgivable. I’m certain Goldman would have felt greatly offended had Klavan catechized him in such a fashion. And if Goldman were attentive even to the prescriptions of Leviticus, he would have known better.


     Finally for this morning, a few words on freedom of religion.

     If we are free in any area of life, it implies the absence of coercion and constraint over that area by any temporal authority. It does not imply that the laws of Nature ought not to stand in our way. Yet innumerable persons claim to be “unfree” because of a law of Nature – for example, the laws of biology.

     Worse, atheists frequently side with the State over the individual when the subject is freedom of religion. As atheism is itself a species of faith, this is particularly ludicrous. An atheist wouldn’t last five minutes after openly avowing his faith in Iran, for example.

     The most conspicuous example of this in our day is, of course, the prescriptions of ObamaCare concerning the provision of abortion and contraception coverage to the employees of any sufficiently large firm. Thus, Catholic company owners are forced to pay for what their faith – yes, and mine – condemns as heinous mortal sins. This is so manifestly a denial of freedom of religion that even a child aware of the doctrines of the Catholic Church would see it at once. But the arrogant atheist, immovably convinced that his faith is the only true faith, cannot see it.

     As I’ve written before, true freedom of religion is only possible in a sharply limited political order, such as that set down in the Constitution of the United States. That’s why the First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The drafters of the First Amendment did not intend it to apply to state governments. But of course, the arrogant atheist will have no truck with that.

     Many and great will be the lamentations on the Last Day.

     Forgive me, Gentle Reader. I had to get these things off my chest. They obstruct my practice of my religion. Given the Law of General Benevolence that all wholesome creeds share, it’s particularly important to emphasize that I mean no one any harm. I condemn behavior, not persons...though I must admit, some persons do cause me to test the elasticity of that doctrine.

     Have a nice Sunday. Go Giants.

An Announcement

     I’ve had enough.

     Too many sites are using badly flawed “active server” techniques to pour reams of advertising down our throats. It makes those sites effectively unreadable. Particularly annoying are the ones that use half-clever, “anti-adblocker” techniques to circumvent the visitor’s protections of his browser.

     In consequence, users’ browsers are freezing and their attempts to surf away are being impeded. A great deal of irritation and hostility have resulted – some of it mine.

     If that strikes you as a minor nuisance, think about this for a moment: “Smart TVs” are integrating browser capabilities into their standard, central function. Do you own one? Do you expect to own one? Would you like your television to freeze the way an overrun browser does?

     I will list offenders here as I discover them. Today’s offender is This is unfortunate, as there’s a lot of good material there. But that doesn’t win them an exemption for freezing Chrome and Internet Explorer on consecutive visits.

I will not explore any ad featured on such a site. Neither will I ever purchase from the advertised vendor. I exhort my Gentle Readers to do the same.

     For the moment,, a browser explicitly designed to block all advertising ab initio, appears to thwart the push-purveyors...though I’m sure they’re working on that. However, for the present I intend to use exclusively. Though it’s in beta-test, I recommend it for general use.

     We’ll see how matters develop.

Leftist sanctimony at its best.

SanctiMOANy is more like it.

Short version: Self-important anti-Trump celebrities renowned for their political insight and historical knowledge, trembling lips, quavering voices, barely suppressed tears, pregnant pauses, something about "sincerity," saving the day for "our children," protecting the country from fear and ignorance, and, inevitably, "common sense" gun laws (universal concealed carry, presumably).

One startling point is that Trump's signature reality show "firing" of apprentices (on TV) is the proof that he enjoys "firing" things and will therefore "fire" nuclear missiles to pass the time of day. If the logic of the last point is clear to you, you're in the target audience for this clip and have found your way to this web site totally by accident.

The actual logical result of this Trump predisposition is that he would "fire" the missiles in our arsenal, that is get rid of them, because they are no longer needed. This has occurred to none of the actors in the video. Trump, the clear peace candidate.

Opposed by Hillaria Maxima, The Destroyer of Nations.

H/t: The Federalist.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Ice Cream Is Running Low

     There are many days in anyone’s life when “it’s all getting to be a bit much.” I’m no exception, and I’m having one now. So rather than dribble on about essentially nothing of consequence, I’ll provide a few links to others’ jottings from which I took some edification or amusement.

     First and foremost for today, Nicki at The Liberty Zone has produced a classic rant, admirable in every way. When I finished it, I muttered “so I’m not the only one,” and wondered thereafter whether that’s a good thing.

     Second, if you’ve been struck by the similarities among the various “Black Lives Matter” riots, you’re not alone. Kelly Riddell provides a look at where some of their funding comes from.

     Third, please read this swift, unsparing dissection of the “Islam is a religion of peace” fraud. I’ve known that for quite some time, but the resistance to the idea persists among far too many Americans.

     Fourth, if you haven’t yet pondered the strange form of capital we call political power, read Dystopic’s analysis. Far too many people fail to understand that no one and nothing can “corrupt a politician.” A corrupt politician arrives in office already corrupt, because it’s the love of power that corrupts.

     Fifth and last for today, when the subject is feminism, Stacy McCain often becomes repetitious. However, here he gets both the length and the substance just right. Young women puzzled by feminists’ open, avowed hostility toward men (and young men inclined to think there might be exceptions) especially need the insights here.

     See you tomorrow, I hope.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Political Dynamics Engender Fiscal Dynamics

     When you must purchase the political support required to attain (or stay in) power, you’ll seize on any source of funding:

     Donald Trump wants to completely repeal the federal estate tax. Hillary Clinton wants to raise it in two key ways. On this issue, their views could not be more opposite. Whether you call it an estate tax, a death tax, or a tax on accumulated wealth, it is controversial. It is entirely distinct from income tax. You pay income tax as you earn, but whatever you have left at your death, might be taxed again.

     Presently, estates worth $5.45 million or less are exempt from federal estate tax. Beyond that dollar limit, the estate tax kicks in, generally requiring you to pay a tax of 40%. Clinton wants to raise that 40% tax rate to 45%. She also thinks the $5.45 million exemption threshold is too high. She would cut it materially so that more people have to pay estate tax, dropping the exemption amount from $5.45 million to $3.5 million.

     That would result in a rather significant increase in the tax burden on such an estate – and in an even more significant strain on the sort of small family-owned businesses that are typically the targets of the estate tax. Reporter Robert Wood elaborates on this effect:

     Already, it is hard for many family-owned businesses to stay afloat after the death of a key figure. Not all of the reasons are managerial. Many are financial, and taxes can force a sale. With no step up, we could have the world’s highest estate tax rate. Some have calculated an effective death tax rate of 57%. Then, if you add in state inheritance taxes, the combined tax rate could go as high as 68%.

     [Applause to CM Blake for the link.]

     Yet the predominant characterization of the candidates is that Trump is “for the plutocrats” while Clinton is “for the little guy.”

     Some years ago, a politician – a conservative, of course – made a rather penetrating statement about the estate tax: “Death should not be a taxable event.” Of course a sentence that includes the word should is an expression of opinion. Yet that statement drew a great deal of attention at the time, and despite heavy counterfire from the Democrats about “privileging the rich,” considerable approbation from Americans generally.

     For me it’s a reminder of what the late Cyril Northcote Parkinson said:

     Wasting the labour of the people “under the pretence of caring for them” is exactly what our governments do. Freedom is founded on ownership of property.... It cannot exist where the rulers own everything, nor even when they concede some limited right of tenure. But the modern belief is that spendable income is a concession of the State. The taxation which is intended to promote equality, the taxation which exceeds the real public need, and above all the tax which is so graduated as to prevent the accumulation of capital, is inconsistent with freedom. Against a State which owns everything, the individual has neither the means of defence nor anything to defend....

     There are many human achievements, including some of the finest, which need more than a single lifetime for completion. The individual can compose a symphony or paint a canvas, build up a business or restore order in a city. He cannot build a cathedral or grow an avenue of oak trees. Still less can he gain the stature essential to statesmanship in a highly developed and complex society. There is a need for continuity of effort, spread over several generations, and for just such a continuity as governments lack. Given the party system more especially, under the democratic form of rule, policy is continually modified or reversed. A family can be biologically stable in a way that a modern legislature is not. It is to families, therefore, that we look for such stability as society may need. But how can the family function if subject to crippling taxes during every lifetime and partial confiscation with every death? How can one generation provide the springboard for the next? Without such a springboard, all must start alike, and none can excel; and where none can excel nothing excellent will result.

     [C. Northcote Parkinson, The Law, Complete. Emphases added by FWP.]

     Parkinson, best known for his First Law (“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”), was largely disregarded by the thinkers of his day. Yet he was more insightful than any of his contemporaries. The above thoughts are especially pertinent to us of today.

     But the Left is opposed to excellence, don’t y’know. It cross-cuts their thesis about “equality,” one of the most abused words in political discourse. And of course, their politicians and rabble rousers need the money.

     For an organization that adopts “coalition politics” as its strategy, the prevailing dynamic is to purchase, via privileges, subsidies, and other subventions, voting blocs amounting to “50% + 1 votes.” To make this possible:

  • A sufficiency of voting blocs must exist;
  • The cohesion of those blocs must be highly reliable;
  • And the means required for bribing them must be available.

     There is a counter-dynamic, which kicks in at or near the desired threshold: Each group importuned at that point, if it’s been watching developments, will know that it can make the coalition a majority. That raises its price. In short, the last of the required votes is the most costly.

     In this connection, thundering about “tax privileges” for the “rich” is particularly attractive to the Left. While lowering the upper bound on a wholly nontaxable estate wouldn’t result in a large gain in revenue, it’s a most effective pander to the envy of many Left-inclined voters. In an envy-riddled society, the pitch itself is of greater value than the revenue.

     If I may be allowed a brief tangent, we have here yet another demonstration of how envy obstructs the ability to see second-order and more remote consequences. A confiscatory estate tax not only “brings the rich down;” it also prevents the not-rich from accumulating wealth of their own. But that item of analysis is lost on the typical Democrat voter.

     To sum up: Inasmuch as the “racism” gambit has failed the Clinton for President campaign, I expect to see the Democrats return to their old soft-Marxist class-warfare themes: the political expression of envy. Whether it’s still possible for them to get a middle class that’s suffered badly during the Obama Interregnum to believe that middle-class families’ travails are the fault of “the rich” is uncertain. However, the attempt is not – and the estate tax will be an important component of the approach.

     Perhaps there’s a countermeasure. It might lie in the thinking of Cyril Northcote Parkinson, if supplemented with this insight from C. S. Lewis:

     What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence — moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods? You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level. The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.

     As our beloved InstaPundit might say: Heh. Indeed.


The president of Daimler-Benz gave an interview about six months ago stating that for years now they have been waiting for such young and motivated potential workers. Bayer reminded everyone that in Europe many small emigrations are happening at the same time. Thousands of young people from Spain are migrating to South-America, Brits are migrating to Australia because they can’t find work here. From Hungary about 250,000 (by the leftists’ estimate, about half a million) left the country to work somewhere else in the EU, but the President of Daimler-Benz does not want these young European workers; he needs the Bedouin goat-herders and poppy-seed producers for a “motivated” workforce, the journalist commented cynically.
Zsolt Bayer in "Our Duty is to defend Europe," translation by CrossWare published at "What Kind of Europe do we Want Our Children to Inherit?" By Baron Bodissey, Gates of Vienna, 9/22/16.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Just Some Thunderous Applause...

     ...for WeirdDave, who included this in last night’s Overnight Thread at Ace of Spades HQ:

     This Green Beret Saved A Young Boy From Being Kept As A Sex Slave And Beat His “Owner” … Obama Responded By Kicking Him Out Of The Army

     There is a reason we have cars and medicine and grocery stores full of food. There's a reason why women can walk down the street unmolested and children aren't kept as slaves in America. There's a reason we can speak our mind freely and walk our streets (mostly) safely.

     It's because we're better than they are.

     Specifically, our culture is better than their culture. We used to take this with us when we fought. When Germany surrendered at the end of WWII, any German woman with a lick of sense or the opportunity made for the American zone as fast as she could. Why? Because the Soviet zone was an orgy of rape. With rare (and immediately prosecuted) exceptions, the American zone wasn't. Even in third world shitholes, American soldiers stand for doing the right thing. That's what this soldier did, and he got a dishonorable discharge for his trouble.

     Fortunately, that soldier’s expulsion from the Army was reversed. (Now and then, the Good Guys do win one.) That, of course, doesn’t undo the injustice of the prior expulsion – nor can we overlook the motives of those who caused it. Frankly, those who ordered First Sergeant Charles Martland dishonorably discharged should be horsewhipped naked down every street in the District of Columbia, preferably to the beat of some brisk martial music.

     But we mustn’t miss WeirdDave’s peroration:

     Why? Because “all cultures are equal, man”? I never see anyone making that statement moving to live in another one. Because it's not right to “force” our culture on someone else? That's what they are doing. Migrant In Court For Violent Rape: ‘I Came to Austria to F*ck the Women’. Islam means “submission”. In their culture, rape is used as a method of flaunting your superiority over populations you've subjugated. That's what all of those shouts of Aloha Snackbar! MEAN during a terrorist attack; “Our god is great, we can kill you whenever we want”. The West is losing a 1400 year old war because we refuse to recognize that we're in one.

     It cannot be put better nor more succinctly than that.

Illumination From An Unexpected Source: A Quickie Rumination

     Fox’s evening series Lucifer isn’t really based on the Biblical story pertaining to the Great Adversary, though it does incorporate some elements of the Christian mythos. It struck me as an unlikely place to encounter a piercing insight...but anyone who desires to advance in wisdom should be prepared to be surprised.

     I viewed the first episode of the second season just yesterday evening, and was struck by the exchange between detective Chloe and a newly introduced lab technician who wears a conspicuous cross pendant. Chloe asked the tech whether she really believes in God, and the tech responded that she sometimes has doubts about her faith. Chloe, somewhat surprised by the admission, asks, approximately thus: If you had a chance to be sure one way or the other, would you take it?

     The tech’s answer was stunningly penetrating for an emission from a nighttime entertainment. She replied that either answer would destroy her faith, and that her faith is something she needs.

     Pope Benedict XVI, in our time one of Christianity’s foremost intellectual forces, admitted to doubts. Yet he, too, argued that faith that admits of no doubt is virtually unknown – probably impossible.

     This is part of a larger human need. I’ve said as much myself:

     We observed the life, ministry, Passion and Resurrection of Christ just as we observed your own, more recent adventure. It was plain that he was of an order superior both to Mankind and to the Brothers of the Realm. His passing rewrote laws of Creation so fundamental that we had never previously suspected their existence. We believe that it was his power that you invoked to expel Tiran from Creation. It was a match for the forces he commanded in every observable way. We cannot prove it...but we believe it.
     —That’s faith, isn’t it?
     Indeed. Be grateful.
     —Hm? How so?
     Your psyches are built to require it. An emotionally healthy man with no faith is the rarest of creatures.

     Indeed. No ideal ever embraced, whether by one man or a multitude, can be proved. Devotion to an abstract proposition, whatever its import, will always require faith. Faith in the existence of God, in His benevolence, and in the possibility of some day dwelling near to Him in eternal bliss, is but one case thereof.

     May He bless and keep you all!

Black But White?

     The rioting in Charlotte, NC over the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott appears indifferent to some rather significant facts:

     We wrote here about Keith Lamont Scott and his long criminal record which includes assault convictions and gun offenses. But what about Brentley Vinson, the black police officer who fatally shot Scott?

     The Charlotte Observer provides this profile of Officer Vinson. From it, we learn that he grew up in Charlotte, was a football star in high school, and dreamed of becoming a police officer like his father.

     Vinson was all-conference in football as a high school junior, but was unable to play during his senior year due to a serious knee injury. The next year, he played at a prep school, earning a scholarship to Liberty University.

     At Liberty, Vinson studied criminal justice. He became a captain of the football team and led it in tackles as a senior in 2012.

     In 2014, Vinson joined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police force. He has not been subject to any disciplinary action, according to personnel records released by the police department.

     Officer Brentley Vinson appears to be exactly the kind of upright, admirable person a sensible American would want as a police officer. Add that he’s black, which makes him exactly the kind of black American we need more of: the kind who would not hesitate to discipline the unruly and disorderly among us, without regard for their race. This is a doubly valuable man whom we should encourage young men to admire and emulate.

     Yet you can almost hear the mutterings from the rioters:

     “But he a brother! He ain’t supposed to shoot no brother!”

     It would seem that a black man who puts on a policeman’s uniform becomes white by association, which provides the title for this brief piece. Or perhaps the rioters have placed Officer Vinson in an entirely new racial category: not black, but blue. There’s a certain unreality about the suggestion, but for the Charlotte looters and rioters it’s apparently sufficient.

A Squib On The Electoral College

     Anyone reasonably conversant with the history of the American Constitutional order will know that the Founding Fathers designed the electoral college as they did to prevent the more urban, more populous states from politically dominating – and suppressing the interests of – the smaller, more agrarian states. Yet the scheme was not proof against the passage of time, as the following graphic shows:

     In the projection above, taken from MarketWatch, Hillary Clinton would prevail in only 22 states, yet she would edge Donald Trump in the electoral college, thus becoming the 45th president of the United States. Now, I’m not about to call that “unfair.” It would be entirely consistent with the Constitutional design. What it does illustrate is how powerfully the urbanizing tendency of the century behind us has shaped the American political scene.

     I wrote some time ago about how the concentration of a population into cities magnifies the power of the political class. The strategists and kingmakers of that class are fully aware of this tendency. It’s perfectly consistent that those who want power should gravitate to cities...and that those who seek the pinnacle of power in the United States should concentrate their efforts on the most urbanized states, which mainly sit along the national borders.

     Conservatively inclined New Yorkers have complained for decades about the Big Apple’s dominance of New York State politics. Given that Gomorrah on the Hudson contains more than 40% of the state’s population, there’s little to be done about it at the moment. However, it does suggest that conservatives willing to play a “long game” should ponder the possibility of a decades-long strategy to encourage the de-urbanization of New York.

     Clearly, that can’t require having a large fraction of New Yorkers return to farming and hunting for their livelihoods. But if there exists a path toward such a de-urbanization that would serve the economic and social interests of New Yorkers – or any other heavily urban state – it would be worth considering for its political impact, as well.

     Hm. It seems I’ve just suggested that conservative lawmakers and strategists should urge happy (mostly) city dwellers into the countryside. No, I haven’t been possessed by the ghost of Pol Pot. But it does suggest that I should have more than one cup of coffee before setting my fingers to these damnable keys. Well, we all have our little ways.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Movie That Begged To Be Made

     Those of us who dream of eventually spreading Mankind to the stars have long hoped for some technology that would make the trip practical – specifically, for living human beings to board a starship, and for the same living human beings to debark at their destination in another solar system. Unfortunately, no such technology has yet emerged.

     At this time the only conceivable method for interstellar propagation of the human species is the “generation ship.” They who board the ship would not be the eventual colonists of the target system. Rather, the new home would go to their remote descendants, several centuries later. Several generations would live, work, reproduce, and die without ever knowing any environment other than the ship.

     For example, if it were possible to build a sufficiently large ship to provide a complete agricultural / industrial / informational infrastructure for a few thousand persons and get it to a currently achievable velocity – say the escape velocity of Earth, approximately 25,000 miles per hour – traversing the gulf between our solar system and Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to us (which, unfortunately, doesn’t have any habitable planets) would require a journey of over 114,000 years. That’s over 4000 human generations, according to the usual reckoning of a generation as 25 years. Very few persons would be interested in embarking on such a voyage.

     Robert A. Heinlein told of such a ship – and of what fate might befall it – in his early novel Orphans of the Sky. It’s a bleak story wrapped around a plausible development: the degeneration of the ship’s population away from the high intelligence and dedication of those who boarded it in Earth orbit, resulting in the loss of the entire concept. Heinlein’s portrayal of the quasi-medieval society that emerged, whose denizens weren’t even aware that their ship was a ship, was frighteningly plausible. Unfortunately, he concluded it with an implausibly happy ending, at least for its main protagonist.

     Passengers, built on the idea of a crew in suspended animation intended to emerge at its destination as young and hale as when it boarded, centers on another possible calamity: the awakening of some members of the crew much too early, such that in contradiction to what they were told, they’ll never live to see their destination. Given that a suspended-animation technology would probably receive less testing than it should before being put to use, it’s more than plausible:

     The movie stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and is slated for release in late November. I’m hoping against hope that Miss Lawrence, the most compelling actress to come along in decades, will have the good sense to restrain her unfortunate political and religious opinions until then.

Does Rhetoric Matter?

     Among the Left’s favored practices is condemning any statement from a figure on the Right that edges even slightly toward the promotion of American interests above the interests of other nations. America, in the eyes of the Left, needs to be chastened, humbled, and broken to the harness of the “international community.” Therefore, it will countenance no promotion of America’s well-being, especially if that would put it even slightly above the interests of other lands. While that might not account for the pusillanimity of the rhetoric of Barack Hussein Obama, it’s certainly consistent with it – and with the firm conviction among many that Obama’s true allegiance is not to the United States.

     A surprising number of persons who style themselves libertarians speak in the same terms. It’s among the reasons I decided to distance myself from the label.

     For a useful contrast, consider this brief story concerning Vladimir Putin:

     “I swear if they bomb Russia, in half an hour every muslim will die” Vladimir Putin

     The Russian leader is reportedly mounting an enormous military mission to take control of the terror group’s stronghold of Raqqa.

     The city is the self-declared capital of ISIS in Syria and is patrolled by as many as 5,000 jihadi members.

     Putin is set to mobilise 150,000 reservists who he conscripted into the military in September.

     Yesterday, following the Paris attacks, Putin hinted he was ready to join forces with the West to tackle Islamic State.

     He told David Cameron: “The recent tragic events in France show that we should join efforts in preventing terror.”

     Noting equivocal or wishy-washy there, eh? Why, you’d almost suspect Putin of putting Russia’s well-being ahead of that of other nations and peoples.

     Yes, Putin is a dictator. Yes, he’s sent Russian forces to invade the Ukraine and strike at groups loosely aligned with America. Yes, he’s killed his political enemies. Yes, I condemn those things. But how I wish the man in the Oval Office loved America as much as Putin loves Russia.

     Rhetoric doesn’t always matter, but when those who speak are known to back their statements with their deeds, it matters quite a lot. Anyone can talk the talk.

     Donald Trump’s statement of approbation for Putin should be viewed in that light. Trump loves his country. He wants it to have a political class that loves it just as much. Viewed from that perspective, it’s easy to envy the Russians, despite their president’s proclivities for snatching land that belongs to others and bumping off those who’ve annoyed him.

Summary of U.S. Syria policy.

To recap: The US has indeed claimed its primary aim in Syria is to “degrade and destroy” ISIS - but instead of allying with the Syrian army, which has been battling ISIS on the ground, Washington has spent years backing opposition “moderate rebel” forces who are fighting Bashar Assad’s government forces. In other words: Washington is backing the groups that are attacking the army which is best positioned to defeat ISIS. Or even more simply, Washington supports one anti-Assad group but bombs the other.

The US supports the rebel forces in pursuit of their broader goal which is Syrian regime change. As the war has dragged on, it’s become clearer that the US-backed rebel forces are not “moderate” in the sense that you or I might use the term. They have fought alongside and “intermingled” with Al-Qaeda’s official Syria affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (which recently rebranded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham). One of the major sticking points in ceasefire negotiations between the US and Russia has been the question of Washington’s ability to disentangle the so-called “moderate” rebels from the extremists. So far, no such disentanglement has taken place, demonstrating that the US has little to no control over its proxies.

"It's Time to Admit Washington's Syria Policy Has Gone Completely off the Rails." By Danielle Ryan, RT, 9/19/16.

H/t: Russia Insider.

The deliberate U.S. air attack on the Syrian Army at Deir Ezzor.

Gates of Vienna has the video and transcript of the Russian reaction to the U.S.-led coalition air strikes on the Syrian Army defending the Deir Ezzor airfield against ISIS. Allegedly, the strike was carried out by aircraft of Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Australia, though the blog Moon of Alabama thinks the planes involved may not have belonged to these nations. I assumed that the planes were U.S. planes when I made my comment below on the Gates of Vienna article. It's not an important point as it's a certainty that the strike was ordered by or at the behest of the U.S. military, although Adam Hill at Russia Insider implies that U.S. planes were involved as well.

I republish my comment here (with minor bracketed additions). There is simply no way that I can dispose of the issue of American intention by assuming this degree of American incompetence:

** three tanks, three armored vehicles, four mine throwers and one rocket launcher **

This [equipment destroyed is] like a “clue” that the position struck was not an ISIS position. The US leaders didn’t coordinate with the Russians because they knew it was a Syrian position. Otherwise, how hard would it have been to make a call to Russian HQ and say, “Hey, Ivan. We have an armored ISIS unit as a high-priority target at Deir Ezzor? What have you guys got?” They did coordinate [to all appearances] with ISIS, however, who just happened to mount an attack right after the US strike.

Apparently, the real ISIS position next door could not be seen by the US. What do real ISIS positions look like anyway? Do they even use armor in this area and how does it get here and from what parent unit? Does ISIS have depot maintenance facilities somewhere that we haven’t bombed the bejeebers out of?

Let us see the gunsight camera video and listen to pilot-controller audio for the strike and the previous day’s of surveillance. Does the US claim this has been an “ISIS” position all along, or does US intelligence see all military positions in highly contested areas as tabula rasa, without any tactical history? How long had the Syrian unit been there? The ISIS units? If the unit targeted had not been there a long time, how can its presence be explained? Can it be understood to have fit in with an ISIS strategy or a Syrian strategy? Against what threat did the commander of the targeted position dispose his forces? Which way were the tanks’ guns pointing to put it in terms that even the Golfer in Chief can understand?

The Pentagram claims they thought it was an ISIS tank position. What tanks does ISIS have? Last I heard, they got their hands on a zillion of the Abrams tanks we left for the Iraqis. Do Abrams tanks look like the Soviet tanks in the Syrian inventory or does ISIS also have Soviet armor? If only Abrams, can US photo interpreters tell the difference? Are these questions left for pilots of US fighter-bombers to answer for themselves afresh over the target or is there some kind of a sophisticated intelligence analytical capability we have to make these target assessments beforehand? DIA and Air Force imagery with all sorts of labels and arrows is routinely generated in combat areas. What was generated in this case and when, and what did it show? What did the pre-mission pilot brief show? We’re the pilots told it was an ISIS site or were they told it was an SAA site? What can US pilots tell us about the logic of US target selection, its efficacy as part of an anti-ISIS/anti-al-Qaida strategy, and rules of engagement?

Did our JSTARS aircraft pick up any movement from Syrian controlled areas to the Deir Ezzor target area? Was this information ignored by US intel or was this movement observed to learn more? During the first Gulf War, it was clear that JSTARS planes could track bicycles and chickens (free-range). Are we to believe that the origin, route, and destination of the armor destroyed at this Syrian site was not tracked and available to US strike planners? Or does the American military shell out billions for high-tech JSTARS systems because it has an academic interest in tracking Gila monsters, rabbits, and goats as a possible global cooling global warming climate change climate disruption beggar-thy-neighbor strategy?

Where was the target in relation to other ISIS positions? Did the commander of the unit attacked choose his position so that it was more capable of being supplied logistically by ISIS or by the Syrian government? How were the targeted armor vehicles to be resupplied with fuel and ammo?

Did the US not understand the CRITICAL role the besieged air base plays in keeping eastern Syria from complete ISIS control? Was the US strike one of many against ISIS in eastern Syria and only this one happened not to be coordinated with the Russians and YouTube? Or is this strike sui generis and understandable only as supporting ISIS since it fits in with no anti-ISIS strategy? Is the US strike to be understood as a reckless or incompetent action? How likely is it that the US military is this incompetent? That this was an honest, “stuff happens” mistakarooney?

Who ordered the strike?[1] Who else was involved in it in any way?

These are the questions that occur to this observer after a mere [150] minutes of effort. Moreover, my estimation of the likely answers to these questions leads me yet again to wish for a speedy and orderly end to the present reign of liars, fools, metrosexuals, twits, dweebs, twinks, flakes, neocons, warmongers, Russophobes, regime changers, body men and women, opportunists, BLM enthusiasts, fundamental transformers, open borders fabulists, living Constitutionalists, natural born citizen poseurs, “refugee” resettlers, con persons, statists, Republican bed wetters, conservative capitulationists, globalists, MSM bag men, Saudi agents, communists, Muslim Brotherhood infiltrators, dilletantes, and sociable justice warriors.[2]

[1] Addendum: "The U.S.-led coalition has a rigorous process for approving airstrikes, involving extensive surveillance to confirm what is being targeted and to ensure civilians are not in the area. Targets have to be approved by a one-star general or above." "Top U.S. military official: Syria cease-fire not derailed." By Jim Michaels, USA Today, 9/19/16. H/t: Pundita.
[2] "Russian Military Briefing on the US Air Strike Against Syrian Forces." By Baron Bodissey, Gates of Vienna, 9/18/16.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Loss Of Simplicity

     [I wrote what you’re about to read nine years ago. It first appeared at Eternity Road in 2007. I’ve unearthed it owing to the stimulus provided by this piece at the Return of Kings website, a principal promoter of neomasculinity (good) and shameless sexual exploitation of women (bad). I advise you to read the RoK piece first before proceeding below. -- FWP]

By way of the esteemed Pommygranate, your Curmudgeon happened upon this emission by previously unknown Ruthie Zaftig in the wee hours:

Long, long ago (well really, about a month ago) Tom Paine wrote about the reasons for blogging. Blogging, he says, is a vain activity but a worthy one— the blogosphere enables us to escape our typecast roles that we fall into in everyday life. It lets us speak truth as we see it, unencumbered by "the conventions of everyday life." Blogging lets us see past a person's normal, public facade and into the inner workings of their mind, the heart of their being.
Meet them in their everyday lives and they would be playing their parts. We would not really know them. In a sense, they would not really be them. As bloggers (particularly anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers) their inner voices speak.

Ruthie goes on at length about this thesis, concluding thus:

A blogger's identity—especially those who use pseudonyms and avoid personal references—can theoretically be free from outward social stigma and stereotypes— ideas and words judged by their worth and quality alone.

Your Curmudgeon must disagree. Rather strongly, at that.

Bloggers, like saner persons, can be partitioned into those who are the masters of their own souls and those who are not. The former type may have adopted what's colloquially called a "role" -- husband and breadwinner; mother and homemaker; pillar of the community; what have you -- for practical reasons, but he plays it; it doesn't play him. When he speaks, whether on the record, off it, or pseudonymously, he's candid, sincere, and trustworthy. He might be wrong about any given thing, but he's not trying to deceive you. What he tells you about himself is what he himself believes.

The latter type is the reverse. His "role" is his defense against a world he fears to show his real face. It's stronger than he; that's why he adopted it. It doesn't matter whether you know his name or not, for even if you did, what you'd be getting from him when he opens his mouth is the role, not his heartfelt convictions or sincere desires.

Anyone not blinded by his own prejudices and fears can tell the two breeds apart, whether they adopt nommes-de-plumes or write under their public names. This gives the former, publicly named sorts an edge with your Curmudgeon; it means they're willing to stand behind their statements regardless of what others might say or think.

But that's not exactly what your Curmudgeon is here to talk about.


The cult of celebrity has taken an appalling toll upon the persons on whom it focuses. Take the much-reported descent of actress Lindsay Lohan into degeneracy as an example. Despite multiple prior brushes with the law and with serious self-inflicted harm, this young woman is apparently unable to control her desires for alcohol and cocaine -- all the way to the extent of driving California's already life-threatening roads in a state of intoxication that would induce paralysis in half the human race.

One must ask why. If there's ever been anyone one could justly say had the world by the tail, it's this beautiful, talented, wealthy young woman. Why would anyone so gifted and fortunate seek out the oblivion of routine intoxication? What objective fears for herself could she possibly have? What does she lack that her assets could not secure for her?

Well, actually, there are a couple of things.

The first is love. One price of being forever in the public eye is the loss of the ability to determine whether people actually see you when they look at you. A celebrity's public image is seldom controlled by the celebrity; it's almost always the creation of skillful flacksters whose sole interest is in the commercial possibilities of the person they promote. This is true even of the reports of "journalists" -- yes, those are "sneer quotes" -- from supposedly objective news organizations. A celebrity with a quiet, sane private life cannot be used to sell advertising space.

To be wrapped thus in an artificial veneer, however glamorous and pseudo-exciting, deprives one of the ability to take others at their "emotional word." Every offering, advance, or gesture becomes subject to question: What does he really want from me? The undermining of the requirements of mutual trust makes intimacy remarkably difficult to achieve. It can even affect one's relations with one's parents, who are often seduced into becoming part of the "money machine" and stripped of their natural love for their child.

(Yes, parents do love their children. Overwhelmingly, and despite their many flaws. Why do you think infanticide is so rare? If you don't think the point is relevant, you've never changed a diaper.)

The second thing is privacy. This is hardly an arguable point. The entertainment industry, like any other, is focused on profit. That's not a condemnation; your Curmudgeon could hardly be accused of decrying capitalism, and despite the entertainment world's many shortcomings, we would be worse off for its loss. But the cult of celebrity and the use of entertainers' off-screen and off-CD personae as marketing vehicles for their movies, discs, and television shows has made it impossible for anyone significant in that industry to have a truly private life. They're followed, whether they wish it or not, through every move they make. Even the ones who preserve some solitary space behind high walls and locked iron gates have to be aware at all times that the barriers that keep the "journalists," paparazzi, and obsessives locked out also keep them locked in. Their marketability has imprisoned them in a cage of klieg lights and telephoto lenses.

In our era, when the mass media are everywhere and thousands scramble madly for every iota of potentially profitable attention, this may be unavoidable. It also suggests that anyone who heads into an entertainment career in full knowledge of the price of stardom might start out a trifle "tetched." But those considerations stand apart from your Curmudgeon's major thesis: the cult of celebrity is a mechanism that destroys the stars upon whom it focuses.

Yes, there are exceptions. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward come to mind, as do Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. These are to be commended for their fortitude. But such exceptions are rare, and are growing rarer as we speak.

But that's not exactly what your Curmudgeon is here to talk about.


Like most Americans who own freestanding homes, your Curmudgeon is assisted in his toils by a host of machines:

  • Two cars
  • A lawn tractor
  • A walk-behind mower
  • A snowblower
  • A chain saw
  • A hedge clipper
  • An air compressor
  • A wide variety of other power tools
  • A washing machine and a dryer
  • A dishwasher
  • A furnace and a hot-water heater
  • A water softener and a carbon-filtration system
  • Two vacuum cleaners
  • A carpet-steaming appliance
  • Two fans and three window-mounted air conditioners
  • A host of computers and related devices

As you would expect from a brute of gorilla-like strength with a Certified Galactic Intellect, your Curmudgeon could tear any of these devices down to their lowest components and reassemble them flawlessly. He could easily service any of them that might experience a breakdown, without so much as a tip of the fedora to paid service personnel. He can do all of these things, and he has...but not recently.

Life is too BLEEP!ing complicated and tiring already. Why add to one's burdens when one could easily, at modest cost, shunt them onto the backs of others?

No doubt many Eternity Road readers are in sympathy, whether they possess your Curmudgeon's array of skills or not. Our lives are fantastically complicated. Even given that he can hire out many irritations to the attention of paid specialists, the challenge of a typical day demands that the typical American exhibit competences of unprecedented variety and delicacy from the moment he rises to the moment he drops his briefcase or toolbelt in the foyer. It leaves him prostrate with exhaustion by six PM. He'd rather spend a hefty fraction of his income on those specialists than assume a greater burden than he already carries.

If you've been wondering why you have less time, energy, and inclination to play with your kids than your parents had for you, this is a large part of the answer.

Complexity is fatiguing all by itself. A complex situation that demands a response also demands a significant investment in analysis and the assessment of risks. Mental fatigue is just as important to our overall enervation as physical fatigue. Indeed, it might be more so.

One of your Curmudgeon's favorite colleagues, Og the NeanderPundit, has said on many occasions that his most cherished dream is to retire to a cabin in the woods bereft of any technology more recent than the centerfire rifle. This is an undisguised cry for a return to simplicity -- a return to a milieu in which one could expect to exercise complete personal control over every element that affects his life in any way, and still have time and energy left to ogle the girls and enjoy the sunset.

Your Curmudgeon knows exactly what Og means. He's occasionally wished for it himself, as much as he might miss his broadband Internet connection.

But -- you guessed it -- that's not exactly what your Curmudgeon is here to talk about. Then what, you may justly ask, is he here to talk about?

Why, the Girl Next Door, of course. What else?


One of Fritz Leiber's delightful early short stories, "The Last Letter," concerns Richard Roe, a young man in a bizarre future society where all communication-over-distance is monitored by agents of the State and everyone is expected to marry the Girl (or Boy) Next Door. Our hero spots a young beauty in his travels who is most definitely not the Girl Next Door and writes her a letter -- don't ask how it was conveyed to her; exercise a little willing suspension of disbelief, willya please? -- to propose marriage. The mere act of writing that letter causes major convulsions among the Powers That Be, who intervene swiftly to determine what could possibly have moved young Richard to such a deviant act. He's told that he's supposed to marry the Girl Next Door. Everyone is.

That's not too far from the way things used to be here in America. Minus the official inquisition for having written a letter, that is.

One of the measures of our lives' greatly increased complexity is the geographical measure of our relationship-bonds. How far away was your spouse born and raised from where you were born and raised? How about your closest friends? Your associates at work? If your children are grown and out on their own, how far away from you do they live? In your routine personal communications, what's the physical distance between you and the other party? (Include your chats on the Internet.)

It can be a bit frightening to tot it all up that way. Your Curmudgeon knows that very well. He's blathered about it before. But its major significance is the increment of difficulty this complexity adds to the search for something all of us need: love and acceptance.

Allow your Curmudgeon a small but critical tangent. One of the prevalent emotional motifs of our time is the notion that all of us are entitled to "unconditional love." You can hear this asserted in any forum you prefer, not merely on daytime talk shows. But your Curmudgeon would like to demur, in the fashion you all know so well:


No one is inherently entitled to anything, whether physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. Each man must earn what he needs and desires, or receive it as a gift from someone favorably inclined toward him, or learn to do without it. Love is no exception.

Love always comes on a condition: the condition that one must be lovable.

Being lovable is a bit different from "being yourself," one of the other maximally irritating mantras of our time. He who is focused on "being himself" is unlikely to be lovable; he's too self-obsessed for that. He may be admirable in many ways, but without the openness to self-extension and generous accommodation of others that genuine intimacy demands, he will not be lovable -- and he will not be loved. The Girl Next Door would find him weird and repellent...if she were still there.

Who is -- or was -- the Girl Next Door? Why, she was someone you knew from sustained proximity. Someone whose "little ways" are no surprise to you. Someone whose conduct was no more than mildly at variance from the norms dictated by polite society. Someone whose family was well known to you, so that you need have no fear of them, or of their interactions with your own kin. In other words, she was someone you could love, if you chose, without fearing anything too untoward in consequence.

But the Girl Next Door isn't there today. At about age seventeen, she moves a great distance in physical, psychological, and/or emotional space. Usually, that distance is great enough to forestall any intentions you might have had toward her. You seldom wind up marrying her, whatever relations you might have had with her before she joined the Great American Diaspora.

The physical displacement is bad enough. The psychological displacement is worse: she almost always comes under the sway of "authority figures," sometimes teachers or employers and sometimes just charismatic contemporaries, who are determined to wipe out her original, authentic self and replace it with something molded to suit a crabbed and monomaniacal ideology. The emotional displacement is worst of all: while those "authority figures" -- why, yes, I do have a key labeled "Sneer Quote;" why do you ask? -- are at work on her, her hunger for any sort of connection to others is steadily being transformed from an asset to a liability. She accepts random hookups as substitutes for genuine affection, and fastens on bright lights among the glitterati of the entertainment world to admire, in place of the uncelebrated but substantial heroes of her youth whose shoulders steadied the sky above her.

If the Girl Next Door returns home, it's for a brief visit. Those who knew her before are stunned by the transformation, and not in a good way. The weird clothes and makeup, the tattoos and piercings, and the changes in diction and sentiments are signals that not all has gone as well for the Girl as her parents and their friends had hoped. When she concludes her visit and returns to the remote wherever, they're secretly relieved. Their cherished image of her is forever compromised by the alien who came to call bearing her name and the vestiges of her face.

These are the fruits of the physical diaspora, the displacement of solidity in favor of celebrity, and the severance of our traditional connections to home, family, and neighborhood. In sacrificing these things, we don't shed burdens as we might once have imagined; we discard the most important supports for life in a world more complex than anyone has ever managed to bear alone. We sacrifice all hope for the most critical simplicity of all: emotional simplicity, the sort that comes with knowing that one is accepted and loved, and can accept and love in return, without compromise or pretense.

And we sacrifice the Girl Next Door.

Good luck with that babe from the back of beyond you took into your bed. How long do you think it will be before you know her? Really know her, enough to be confident that the chemical infatuation that fueled your lusts will be enough to get you past her "little ways" -- or her past yours?

Keep your Curmudgeon posted.


The opening segments of this tirade were not an accident. Their connections to one another and to the rest are not tenuous. Do you see them now?

A man will only seek to conceal his identity if his identity is an impediment or a burden to him -- that is, if who he is stands athwart his path to his goals. In other words, he'll conceal his true self if it complicates his acquisition of whatever he happens to want. This has been demonstrated to compelling effect in every imaginable venue; think "singles bars" and shudder along with your Curmudgeon.

A young woman of beauty, wealth, and talent will only embark on self-destruction by drink and drugs if she cannot cope with who she is, or who she's been hyped to be. If "who she is" is be defective, but "who she's been hyped to be" forbids her to reveal a flaw, she could implode as catastrophically as Marilyn Monroe. If "who she is" is sound, but "who she's been hyped to be" demands that she be a degenerate party animal for the publicity it will garner her, she'll be revulsed by her self-betrayal, and attempt to hide it from her consciousness. To both of these escapes, drink and drugs are a venerable avenue.

The purpose of all human striving is to get and keep what we want, and to avert or shed what we don't want. The state of mind in which one is confident that there will arise no body- or mind-defying barriers to those meta-purposes is what your Curmudgeon means by simplicity.

Do you have enough of it for your needs?