Yes, Gentle Reader, I’m still pretty sick. The energy isn’t there for more than a few casual shots out the passenger-side window as I drive past the passing scene. But I hate to leave you with nothing to read, and my Co-Conspirators, normally a worthy bunch, appear to have gone mute for the time being. So here goes next to nothing.


1. One Of My Favorite Commentators Scores Heavily.

     Seldom have I read anything quite as penetrating as these two paragraphs from Roger Kimball:

     It is curious how people romanticize evil and insanity. The habit, I believe, is born in part of naiveté, or at least inexperience. The college student who prances about in a T-shirt bearing the image of Che Guevara, for example, generally has no idea of what a malignant figure Che was, how treacherous, how cruel, how murderous. He sees only a handsome “freedom fighter” swaddled in the gauze of exotic Latin flamboyance. The grubby reality escapes her entirely. Ditto with respect to Hamas.
     The knotty French philosopher Simone Weil saw deeply into this phenomenon when she observed that “imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring.” Weil understood the converse as well: “Imaginary good,” she wrote, “is boring, real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” Something similar can be said about sanity, what David Hume rightly extolled as “the calm sunshine of the mind.” Madness seems like an adventure only if you do not have to contend with it.

     The entire essay is worth your time. Hie thee hence and read it!


2. The War Over The Family.

     There was a fine book on that subject, written some time ago. Yet it is possible that the authors thereof, if asked to envision the current state of the battle, would have scoffed and dismissed it as impossible. Directly attack the family as illegitimate – as actively harmful to its members? C’mon!

     Yet it is so. The activist Left is more hostile to the nuclear family than to any other social phenomenon except Christianity. The family is the original source of moral and ethical guidance. Children derive more of their convictions and attitudes from their upbringing within their families than from any other source. The whole point of the Leftist “youth movement” of the Sixties and Seventies was the Left’s aim to nullify the family’s transmission of values through the generations. Only thus could those values be supplanted by Leftist nostrums.

     Which brings us to the Left’s assaults on America’s traditional holidays, especially Christmas and Thanksgiving:

     If you ask many people what Thanksgiving is about, they will provide an honest and accurate response: family and gratitude. And here we see why some radicals want to sully a unifying and wholesome holiday like Thanksgiving. Doing so taints a family occasion and promotes ingratitude, which helps undermine the American character.
     So it’s easy to see why they’re targeting a holiday centered around the family. As Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” Through the sacrament of marriage, men and women learn from one another, and the character of children is formed within the family. These are the bonds that root the individual and offer purpose.
     Families are built around the small moments and the deliberate protection of those moments: of making time to read to children at bedtime and having a standing tradition of sharing a meal together amid the busyness of everyday life. Thanksgiving is naturally a precious occasion and is often a connecting point enveloping multiple generations.
     The attack on gratitude is just as serious. Like forgiveness, gratitude is a choice, not grounded in naiveite or ignorance. Both forgiveness and gratitude require a confronting of wrongdoing, followed by a decision to dwell in the good rather than the bad.

     The steadily advancing secularization of America has created a wide inroad for such attacks. The correlation between assaults on Christianity and assaults on Christmas and Thanksgiving is very nearly perfect.


3. Second Amendment Incrementalism: Pros and Cons.

     This article at AmmoLand lays out the pros:

     A major point of disagreement among Second Amendment supporters was how to approach the problem.
     One group claimed anything but full and complete recognition of Second Amendment rights was futile and counter-productive. The argument was: any lesser legislation, moving incrementally toward full Second Amendment rights, would only legitimize infringements on those rights. They were/are the “All or Nothing” group. Some called/call themselves “principled”.
     The other group of Second Amendment supporters argued Second Amendment rights could be restored bit by bit. Pass legislation first, for a permit system. Keep reforming and improving the permit system. Reduce requirements, reduce fees, reduce “gun-free zones”. Keep on incrementally improving the law, until Second Amendment rights were fully restored. They were/are the “Incrementalists”. In the middle 1990’s it was not clear if either approach would be effective.
     Twenty years later, it was clear. Second Amendment Incrementalism worked.

     As it happens, the cons are equally well stated above:

     … any lesser legislation, moving incrementally toward full Second Amendment rights, would only legitimize infringements on those rights.

     To ask for only part of the right set forth by the Second Amendment is to imply that infringements on the rest of it are somehow acceptable. Perhaps Justice Clarence Thomas’s majority opinion in NYSRPA v. Bruen will help to dispel that implication. Whether or not that’s the case, it would be a strategic error to let the implication stand…as many people and some organizations nominally on the pro-gun rights side of the contretemps have done and are doing.


4. Can’t Find A Fella? Blame Trump!

     Amanda Marcotte has a long, colorful history of Left-wing lunacy. It would be a mistake to think that it’s limited to explicitly political issues. Certainly Marcotte doesn’t so limit herself:

     Salon writer Amanda Marcotte was recently triggered by an insufficiently woke Washington Post editorial warning that fewer young American women are getting married because “they can’t find suitable partners.” The Post basically claimed that these women aren’t getting married because far-left politics have become their religion and their identity, and suitable (read sane) men don’t drink their Identitarianism Flavor-Aid. These men have grown more conservative.
     Salon concludes, naturally, that this is obviously Donald Trump’s fault.
     “Supporting Trump is much like refusing to bathe, blowing your nose in your hands or farting loudly on purpose,” the TDS- suffering Marcotte writes. “It’s a repugnant habit that makes you repulsive to normal people,” says the writer.

     I have no difficulty believing that the hardening political polarization of America has added a barrier to the formation of male-female alliances. It’s a subject I intend to pursue at greater depth when I’m once again able to breathe. But to blame it on Donald Trump! Amanda, have you been taking your meds?


     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. I’m headed back to bed. Have a nice day.

The Loss Of Simplicity

     [I’m still afflicted by some sort of upper-respiratory torment, and expect to spend the day under about a dozen blankets, so have a reprint from Eternity Road of fond memory. It first appeared there on July 28, 2007. Sadly, some of the embedded links no longer work. Sixteen years is long enough to lose a few blogging colleagues. – 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?

Day Off

     Apologies, Gentle Readers. I’m a bit under the weather today, and lack the energy for my usual ranting and raving. However, the comments to this piece have cheered me greatly. If you haven’t read them, I recommend that you do so. After that, perhaps you might revisit this Baseline Essay, which is very much in keeping with the spirit of that piece and those comments.

     Enjoy your First Sunday of Advent in this Year of Our Lord 2023. Back tomorrow, I hope.

This Is America

     Presented without comment:

     …because it brought tears to my eyes.

     May God bless and keep you all!

Just How Does Harvard Award Professorships?

     You really have to wonder:

     Scientific American, which dates to 1845 and touts itself as “the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States,” recently ran an article arguing that scientists should prioritize “reality” over scientific “rigor.” What would make a publication with a name like this one set empirical evidence at odds with reality? Masks, of course.
     Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor of the history of science, argued that by “prioritizing scientific rigor” in its mask studies, the Cochrane Library may have “misled the public,” such that “the average person could be confused” about the efficacy of masks. Oreskes criticized Cochrane for its “standard . . . methodological procedures,” as Cochrane bases its “findings on randomized controlled trials, often called the ‘gold standard’ of scientific evidence.” Since RCTs haven’t shown that masks work, she writes, “[i]t’s time those standard procedures were changed.”

     This…person has just made the Left’s epistemological premise explicit. For the benefit of the less philosophically inclined, here it is, in large font:

If the facts contradict your Narrative,
Dismiss the facts!

     Harvard must have some strange criteria for awarding high faculty posts.

     Concerning Scientific American, I stopped reading it when the Left colonized and conquered it in the late Seventies. It’s no longer a reliable journal for any purpose I can think of. But then, how many publications of any description remain reliable reporters of verifiable facts?

“Sorry sir, your race card has been denied.”

     Perhaps this will trigger a general re-evaluation of the bilge poured forth by the racialist hucksters:

     It’s hard to believe it has been nearly five years since the Jussie Smollett hate hoax happened. It’s even harder to believe that despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Smollett has only spent 6 days in jail since then. But today an appeals court upheld his conviction so he may finally be finishing out the rest of his sentence.

     An appeals court on Friday upheld the disorderly conduct convictions of actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself in 2019 and then lying about it to Chicago police.
     Smollett, who appeared in the TV show “Empire,” challenged the role of a special prosecutor, jury selection, evidence and many other aspects of the case. But all were turned aside in a 2-1 opinion from the Illinois Appellate Court…
     A jury convicted Smollett in 2021 on five felony counts of disorderly conduct, a charge that can be filed in Illinois when a person lies to police.

     The sentencing back in March of 2022 was quite a scene. Smollett’s lawyers once again tried to claim he deserved a new trial but the judge denied their motion. Finally Judge Linn really uncorked what a lot of people had been feeling, straight to Smollett’s face. “[The] hypocrisy is just astounding,” Linn said. He went on to call Smollett, “profoundly arrogant and selfish and narcissistic.”

     In Illinois, no less. I’d have given it poor odds, but there it is. I wonder what sort of pressures Judge Linn had to withstand to uphold that verdict.

     Is the “blacks are oppressed” grift coming to an end? Are American Negroes, the most racist demographic in the Western Hemisphere, who’ve been soaked in victimism and hatred of whites since the Sixties, ready to accept that it’s at an end? And what about the Left, which has made racism and victimism the core of its political posture in these United States? Unclear. But we can hope.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes Dept.

     I just saw this graphic over at Mike Miles’s place:

     But Congress, which is 95% recidivists and 50% millionaires, would balk at both propositions. For one thing, the swollen Defense Department appropriations are a fertile source of pork for their constituents. For another, it’s a safe bet that a lot of them are in on the grift. How else does one get to be a millionaire while laboring on salary?

     Don’t expect the people who benefit most richly from an abuse to do anything to remedy it.

Omission Statement

     There are many in the right who feel we’re not making progress. Given that the political milieu hasn’t budged since the inauguration of the Usurper-in-Chief, I can understand the feeling. But in point of fact, we’re advancing “upstream,” in the battle over the culture:

     “Entertain first, not messages,” Iger said at something called the New York Times’ DealBook Summit. He added that “positive messages for the world” are great but shouldn’t be forced on the public or used as the story’s primary job.
     Iger claimed (falsely) that Disney’s propagandizing got worse after he left the CEO position and handed the reigns to Bob Chapek in early 2020. The board booted Chapek in 2022 and put Iger back in charge. Iger is contracted through 2026.
     Iger also said Disney produces too many sequels. Going forward, the sequel must work as a standalone movie before it will be greenlit.
     I’ll believe this change will happen when I see it, but even if Iger’s lying (and I think he is), it is still a total surrender. It might only be a rhetorical surrender, but it proves Iger understands the necessity of sending the message to tens of millions of normal people that he wants another chance. We screwed up. We know we screwed up. We’re sorry. Come back, Baby. Please, please come back.
     We know what happens when Baby comes back. She gets slapped again.

     There are things in there that clash with the opening admission: in particular, Iger’s pitiful attempt at self-exculpation, and commentator John Nolte’s cynicism about what’s really to come from Disney. But in point of fact, it’s Iger’s admission that he’d sold out Disney’s storytelling heritage for (as another wag put it long ago) “a pot of message” that matters most.

     Entertainment must entertain. You’d think it’s obvious. Well, there we go again, imagining that what’s obvious to sane and rational persons of ordinary attainments must also be obvious to the captains of industry. But it is not so. Plain truths recognized by Us the Hoi Polloi are never respected by persons with swollen egos…and the egos of the CEOs of the world are as monstrous as they come.

     In a sense, it’s just one more episode in the Schumpeterian march of “creative destruction.” They who fail must give way to others who might do better. The failure of contemporary entertainment is open for all to see. Why else would independent creators, who have been disdained by the entertainment industry’s gatekeepers, be beating those Established Ones in volume of sales and aggregate revenues?

     It’s a heartening thing. I’ll bet the soul of Andrew Breitbart is chuckling over it, too.


     The cultural battle is more important than the explicitly political one. The culture war is essentially over whether truth is a matter of opinion. Not even majority opinion, mind you. The noisy minority of “woke” activists has endeavored to force its lunacies on the rest of us by sheer volume of venomous shrillness. And yes, for a while it looked bad. But the worm has turned; normal people able to see the world as it is have risen up on their hind legs. Ask Anheuser-Busch and Target.

     Of course, we must remain alert and aware. The Left’s cultural forces are wounded, lessened, but they have not yet surrendered. I doubt they have the moral clarity to recognize defeat and admit to their errors. For better or worse, this is war to the knife: we must insist on unconditional surrender and a cultural Nuremburg tribunal in the aftermath.

     I suppose this is a longwinded way of merely saying We’re winning. Keep the pressure up. Yet that’s all I have to say. Patronize only those media and those entertainers who never spit upon your values nor insist that black is really white. The goal line might be only mistily visible, but we’re advancing toward it nevertheless. Don’t be one of those who, as they glimpsed victory, sat to rest, and while resting, died.

     Have a nice day.

The Eternally Misleading Vision

     Some thematic music:

As the dust settles, see our dreams,
all coming true
it depends on you,
If our times, they are troubled times,
show us the way,
tell us what to do.

As our faith, maybe aimless blind,
hope our ideals and
our thoughts are yours
And believing the promises,
please make your claims
really so sincere.

Be our guide, our light and our way of life
and let the world see the way we lead our way.
Hopes, dreams, hopes dreaming that all our
sorrows gone.

In your hands, holding everyone’s
future and fate
It is all in you,
Make us strong build our unity,
all men as one
it is all in you.

Be our guide, our light and our way of life
and let the world see the way we lead our way.
Hopes, dreams, dreaming that all our sorrows
gone forever.

     If you aren’t acquainted with Gentle Giant, it was an early prog-rock group – for an exposition about prog-rock, consult this invaluable guide — that produced quite a lot of impressive music. The above is a track from its concept album The Power And The Glory. It’s an excellent example of G.G. at its adventurous best.

     The central concept of The Power And The Glory is the rise of a tyrant. Initially wildly popular, borne upon the adulation of the crowd, he comes into essentially complete and unopposed power. However, as his schemes are seen to fail – drum roll, please – he defends them with religious fervor. Ultimately, he refuses to relinquish power.

     The pattern is as old as history. It’s powered by a dream: the dream of a painless, effortless solution to all that ails us, that comes to be personified in a single individual. But dreams are ephemeral. We awaken from them to a world with inviolable natural laws. Those laws are indifferent to our dreams.

     There is no mortal who can fulfill our dreams. Beware the “cult of personality.” Insist on specific proposals, objective evidence, and verifiable results. Better still: Insist upon being left alone to work on your own dreams.

     Just a reminder.

Apostate Glimpses A Critical Truth

     It cannot be said too often: Leftism, whether it goes by “liberalism,” “progressivism,” “socialism,” or outright “communism,” is a religious faith. As with most faiths, believers regard apostates as the worst of evils:

     The reasons are several, but paramount among them is this one: the Leftist regards his faith as a badge of intellectual and moral superiority. Anyone who voluntarily removes that badge has implicitly rejected that premise of superiority. Those who still wear it cannot escape that implication. It’s a thrust at their self-image they cannot endure.

     Never underestimate the power of courtesy toward those with whom you disagree.

The Diplomat

     peace n: A state of tension falling short of armed conflict. [Definition proposed by the late Keith Laumer in his Retief tales]

     Among the political fantasies of our era, the notion that one can negotiate an enduring peace with an enemy ideologically committed to one’s destruction ranks very high, possibly supreme. Yet that fantasy utterly dominates the minds of the statesmen of the First World. Even in this country, exceptions are few. The success of Ronald Reagan at defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War seems not to have taught the international bien-pensants anything.

     But why should one people be ideologically committed to the destruction of another? Sometimes, it’s beyond any rational man’s powers to explain it. Hatred on that order isn’t always rationally based. In such cases it isn’t rationally comprehensible.

     What President Reagan understood, in contrast to others who’ve risen to the captaincy of nations, is that the best guarantee of peace comes from a combination of two things: a lack of aggressive inclinations, plus a military capable of inflicting unacceptable consequences on aggression-minded others. He didn’t really mind international tension, for he knew that it’s a survivable, manageable condition. He did dislike military aggression, flying lead, and corpses. That informed his approach to international relations. It made the tasks of his Secretaries of State simpler than they would otherwise have been.

     There have been few professional diplomats who could boast successes comparable to those of Ronald Reagan.

     A much-lauded diplomat passed away yesterday at 100 years of age: Dr. Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was among the most influential thinkers on international relations of the century past. Yet in his years as America’s top diplomat he achieved very little. His famous attempt to broker peace between North and South Vietnam was a tragic failure. Yet for a while it appeared the diplomatic achievement of the Twentieth Century. It failed because neither Kissinger nor anyone else highly placed in the American foreign-policy apparatus grasped the firmness of North Vietnam’s commitment to the destruction of South Vietnam.

     No doubt the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch can name another people ideologically committed to another’s destruction. Diplomacy won’t do anything to dampen their ardor, either, no matter how capable the diplomat.


     There is no kind of peace which may be purchased on the bargain counter. – Carey McWilliams

     Peace, whether as conventionally understood or as Keith Laumer half-humorously defined it, is not a package on a shelf at some retail establishment. As fantasy writer Jo Walton put it, it’s “an active and complex thing.” If not maintained, it will deteriorate with frightening speed. Maintenance requires the willingness of men to stand ready to fight. The English learned that from the years of the Danegeld.

     Among the worst aspects of America’s posture as a “world policeman” has been our diplomats’ reflexive attempts to purchase peace. Stripped of all decoration, it amounts to a contemporary version of the Danegeld. It was plainly displayed in the Clinton Administration’s attempt to buy off the North Korean regime’s determined advance toward nuclear weapons. The American negotiators offered the North Koreans two light-water reactors plus a guarantee of many thousands of tons of fuel oil every year…for a promise that the Pyongyang regime would no longer seek to join the “nuclear club.” We know how that worked out.

     One nation cannot purchase an enduring peace from another. Its statesmen can offer to pay tribute in exchange for military forbearance, as the Saxon English paid the Danish Vikings. Historically such an arrangement has never lasted. Moreover, it involves a loss of sovereignty, and a sense of humiliation among the people so burdened. For a third party to step between two nations and say, in effect, “We’ll pay both of you not to fight one another” is even worse. Yet that has been America’s foreign-policy practice for many years.


     Whoever thinks over earnestly and objectively this question of a general disarmament, and considers it in its remotest contingencies, must come to the conviction that it is a question which cannot be solved so long as men are men, and States are States. – Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg

     We love peace, but not peace at any price. There is a peace more destructive of the manhood of living man, than war is destructive of his body. Chains are worse than bayonets. – Douglas Jerrold

     I never met Dr. Kissinger. I know him only through his writings and his public involvements. His thinking was intellectually impressive, yet when his theses were put to the test, they failed. A stable peace is not something that can be achieved through diplomacy. It will always require the willingness and capability to fight. The failure of the Paris Accords between North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the U.S. illustrate that tragically.

     Only one attitude – “If you dare to strike us, we will make you wish you hadn’t” – can found a peace that lasts for any significant interval. Worse, even that posture cannot guarantee peace between two peoples, if one is committed to the other’s destruction. That will remain among the central truths of Mankind until Mankind is no more. But don’t expect a diplomat to accept it.

Henry Kissinger is dead

My entire life I’ve heard of Henry Kissinger, the USA’s most famous diplomat, yada yada umptifratz.

Can someone older and wiser than myself point me to one of his successes? Something in his repertoire that warrants all the accolades he’s been given? ANYTHING that shows he’s actually done some good in this world?

I’m not saying it doesn’t exist. I’m saying that I don’t know about it.

Unions And Their Objectives

     The following fragments of conversations with union members are taken from Robert C. Townsend’s classic Further Up The Organization:

     Production Worker: “In a big union shop, management is the enemy – is something to overcome, or somehow get around. That’s the game everybody plays.”

     Machinist: “The minute you put on a blue hat [i.e., become a foreman], you’re automatically a son of a bitch.”

     Overheard in a bar: “Foreman asked me how long it would take to fix that electrode rack. Told him two weeks. Said ‘Why ask me? I’m only a millwright.’ Sure snowed that bastard. Coulda fixed it in a coupla hours. That sure felt good.”

     Welder: “All I have to do is burn one rod a day and they can’t fire me.”

     Electrician: “I remember how we used to get ready for the foreman to come in with his work assignments for the day. We had a regular plan for fucking him over by the time he walked in. As he was describing a job to an electrician, you could almost see the guy chuckling as if to say ‘That’ll never get wired right.’”

     The union mentality — i.e., that management is somehow the enemy to workers – comes through clearly. Unions encourage their members to think that. If you agree with that posture, thanks for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your day. This essay is not for you.

     All others: read on.


     Albert Shanker, at one time the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), stoutly maintained that his job was to represent the interests of the union and its members. Someone asked him, “What about the children?” to which he replied, “When school children start paying union dues, that‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” Suffice it to say that that did not endear him to the parents of school-age children…but then, they didn’t pay AFT dues either.

     Which brings us to two recent stories about teachers’ unions:

     Teachers’ unions are just as pernicious as any others. Their objective, always and everywhere, is to get more money and benefits for the union members regardless of any other considerations. If that means shortchanging their minor charges’ educations, so be it. Examples abound; the two cited here are merely the most recent.

     The connection to the blossoming movements for educational alternatives – homeschooling, private or religious schooling, educational “pods,” and so on – could hardly be clearer. As the cost of public education rises and its “product” – properly educated graduates – declines in quality, other approaches to getting the desired “product” will gain favor. The teachers don’t like that, of course. The hierarchies of teachers’ unions like it even less.

     Yet historically, rapacious unions faced with declining memberships and dwindling ability to persuade workers to unionize have not changed their behavior. I can’t explain it from general principles, and as I’ve never been a union member, I have no other relevant perspective to offer. As a result, union dominance of America’s workforce has dropped to a low not seen since the Nineteenth Century. The sole bright spot they enjoy is in government and government-managed institutions…such as the public schools.


     The Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch hardly need it explained in detail why unions for government workers are faring well while unions for private-sector workers are shrinking fast. The important detail to note is that neither governments nor government workers can be held accountable for their misfeasances, their malfeasances, or their nonfeasances. And of course, it’s taxpayers who foot the bills.

     I’ve heard others say, at times past, that unions are “necessary” to prevent “the exploitation of the workers.” That’s a socialist idea, an implicit rejection of the idea that market competition protects the interests of managements and workers both. Yet it commands a lot of concurrences. Others have merely said that unions “were necessary at one time.” But that too implies that there are conditions in which managements would not be constrained by competitive forces.

     Finality in such arguments is elusive, just as it is between competing schools of economics. But of one thing we may be sure: whatever benefit teachers may derive from their unions, a significant part of the cost is imposed upon vulnerable, impressionable children…sometimes with the teachers’ prior knowledge and willing collaboration.

     And it will continue to be so.

Will the Left Stop With Pogroms, or Will They Go All the Way to a Final Solution?

This didn’t suddenly crop up. The hate the Left has for Jews, whether National Socialist, Socialist, or Communist, has been around for a very long time.

I wrote about it in 2005, early in my blogging career.

The resistance to acknowledging the Left‘s hatred is one of those things that makes me doubt the fabled high intelligence of the Jewish people. I mean, you would pretty much have to be low IQ to still support the Left, given the speed with which they are throwing the Jews under the bus.

Some of it is probably normal human disinclination to uproot your life for a threat. Look at all the people who wait until the last moments to start packing for a well announced weather evacuation. Or, all the folks who only think about getting food and other supplies once the shelves are picked nearly clean.

Think about the low esteem that Preppers have in many people’s eyes. And, yet, year after year, weather and other interruptions to the normal movement of food and fuel happen across the country. Too often, people will not plan for emergencies, and are thereby reduced to begging for food and water.

In pre-WWII Germany, many Jews had become completely assimilated into the culture. Many weren’t practicing Jews. Often, they had married out of their historical faith, and were indistinguishable from other Germans.

Until some Leftist ideologues decided to make it THEIR business to identify, isolate, and destroy anyone with even a slight connection to the Jewish faith, however remote.

It may be already too late to push back. I hope not. But it is PAST the time when Jews need to act, to be prepared to get in the faces of their opponents.

Meekly trying to stay in the shadows didn’t work very well for previous generations.

The Judicial Abuses Continue

This one is related to President Trump’s legal advisor, John Eastman. He is overwhelmed with debt, out of work, and in danger of being disbarred.

Hell, even murderers who were caught on video committing their crimes are entitled to lawyers! This was a fair opinion, from a Constitutional scholar, and no action should have been taken against him.

He has a legal defense fund – donate here. Consider telling your family and friends that they should redirect any money they had planned to use for gifts for you, and instead make a contribution. If that isn’t possible, skip a treat for yourself, and open your wallet.

We really should not leave Legal Dissidents without recourse. There are many who are being targeted with penury, all for choosing to exercise their Constitutional Rights.

Naming What They’re Doing… And Why

     Pascal sent me a link to the following brief speech by Laura Aboli, about whom I previously knew nothing. I think we have a new heroine – and I hope to hear more from her.

     Perhaps Rand was prescient about this as well:

     “There was a time when men were afraid that somebody would reveal some secret of theirs that was unknown to their fellows. Nowadays, they’re afraid that somebody will name what everybody knows. Have you practical people ever thought that that’s all it would take to blast your whole, big, complex structure, with all your laws and guns—just somebody naming the exact nature of what you’re doing?”

     At any rate, we can hope.

“That Can’t Be!”

Dave: Everybody cheats. I just didn’t know.
Dad: Well, now you know.

[From Breaking Away.]

     Have you become more skeptical as you’ve aged, or less?

     There’s an awful lot of utter nonsense being purveyed by the extended media, these days. By “extended,” I mean to subsume all providers of information, not just the ones we fondly call the “legacy media.” Often a single false assertion will come from many sources concurrently, which tends to reassure those who encounter it…until the rug is yanked out from under them. It’s not always possible to dismiss a falsehood when it’s being emitted by a great many mouths. The problem worsens when a number of those sources have acquired a reputation for reliability.

     Everyone is wrong from time to time. In previous eras, people learned how to detect mistakes, how to respond to them, and what to expect from the mistaken one. We also learned the proper attitude toward those who refused to admit their errors. That particular bundle of skills is no longer as common as it was. Given the legion of “experts” the media routinely parade before us, it’s understandable that the general level of skepticism should be on the rise.

     One consequence of today’s barrages of misinformation is the conversion of skepticism into something much graver. One who has become widely and reflexively skeptical – that is, he’s been conditioned to doubt anything he’s told, regardless of the source – will often embrace cynicism: the presumption of low motives in everyone other than himself and a few close friends. Upon encountering an institution or individual with a proposition, his default expectation is that the proposition is dubious and the proposer is a fraud. “What snake oil are you trying to sell me?” is his reaction, whether or not it’s spoken.

     But cynicism is nearly always a mistake in and of itself. The great majority of men are good, in the conventional understanding of that word. Their incorrect assertions are honest mistakes rather than attempts to deceive. While there are exceptional individuals wholly encysted by liars and thieves, such that honesty is vanishingly rare around them, for most of us cynicism is a negative thing.

     Yet cynicism is swelling among us. We, the posterity of men who built a magnificent society founded on the default assumption that those around them are trustworthy, are steadily embracing the opposite attitude. It may even be the majority position today. And that is a terrible thing.


     Hub: “Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”

     [From Secondhand Lions]

     The dismissal of that credo is commonplace today. The cynicism expressed by the previous quote is, if not yet unanimous, coming to dominance. It’s consciously prevalent in certain situations. One such is women’s assumptions about men who approach them in social situations. Another is the cynicism we tend to feel toward solicitors from organizations that want money…which is just about every organization on Earth.

     I won’t deceive you: I’m afflicted by that second attitude. Cold callers always get a cold shoulder from me. I don’t know anyone who reacts differently. But now and then it’s a mistake. Hence, a brief vignette.

     Not long ago, I was positively impressed by an email news organ’s mention of an unusual charity. It’s a Christian listening / counseling service called The Hope Line. Its counselors man a bank of phones and take calls from people who are depressed, disheartened, or otherwise unhappy. The caller is encouraged to speak his mind and heart, and the Hope Line counselor attempts to help with Christian encouragement and advice. (It’s not quite a “suicide help line,” though I’m sure it’s functioned that way from time to time.) Inasmuch as hope is one of the three theological virtues, that a Christian charity exists to dispense it to those who need it is more than merely appropriate.

     To shorten this somewhat, upon learning of The Hope Line, I sent a modest donation and a few words of praise for their mission. Shortly thereafter I got an email thanking me, which I expected; it’s customary for charities to do that much. What I didn’t expect came a few weeks later.

     My domestic phone rang. As my answering machine had recently gone to its reward, I answered it. The caller was a young woman from The Hope Line, and identified herself as such. What came next is the point of this tale: I reflexively assumed she was calling to solicit a further donation and I said so.

     But that wasn’t the reason for her call. She was calling simply to repeat the thanks expressed in the aforementioned email, and to ask if there was anything she or her fellows could do for me.

     I was stunned. (Pleasantly so; I didn’t need CPR.) Not many cold callers are calling to ask what they can do for you, though many posture that way. The young lady and I had a long and exceedingly pleasant conversation that covered all manner of things. The experience left me smiling the whole day long. But it also seeded me with a dark thought.

     My cynicism about cold callers, while justified more often than not, had erred in that particular case. I started to wonder how often it might have been erroneous in the past, especially during the period when I used my answering machine to buffer all incoming calls and disdained to answer or reply to the great majority of them. Perhaps the percentages would favor cynicism more often than not, but the assumption that a cold caller merely wants money had been incorrect that once. Therefore, it could have been incorrect on other occasions.

     Cynicism – about anything – suggests a deficit of hope.


     “There’s only one way to improve society. Present it with a single improved unit: yourself.” – Albert Jay Nock.

     I’ve written more than once about our loss of trust in one another. Even if the contrary assumption is more likely to be correct, it’s still a sign of something foreboding. We’ve lost faith in one another, which is a short step from losing faith in ourselves.

     The assumption of trustworthiness is founded on a deeper assumption: specifically, that nearly all of us adhere to a common ethical code. In America, that code was the Ten Commandments of the Book of Exodus. When we assumed that we all held to that code, we trusted one another. How could someone who sincerely believes that “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness” possibly misuse us in common social or commercial interplay?

     Pervasive skepticism and consequent dour cynicism, brought on by the barrages of falsehoods and propaganda, sneaked in under that code and undermined it. It’s near to nullifying it.

     There is no Last Graf but this: do as Albert Jay Nock has advised us. Be better: less cynical, less manipulative, and less defensive. Sometimes a fraudster will get through; that’s to be expected. But to “pre-classify” others as fraudsters, even if it protects us, costs us dearly in other ways. The cost has begun to loom larger than the benefit.

     Be well.

Quote Of The Day

     The state of our country can be defined by this simple fact: Someone can be convicted of murder and sentenced to jail even though the “murdered” man’s death certificate states he died of a drug overdose. — David DeGerolamo

Notes On Extremistry

     Yes, that’s a coinage. It’s in the vein of chemistry, which is the study of how chemicals behave. There’s also palmistry, which is the study of palm trees. (What’s that? Palmistry has nothing to do with palm trees? Well, never mind then.) However, the comparison isn’t all that close. What I mean to tag with extremistry is propaganda in which some opponent of How Things Are Currently Done is delegitimized by being called an “extremist.”

     You can style any proposition “extreme” simply by asserting that it’s so. Of course, the label wouldn’t fit well unless there are significant divergences between what’s proposed and current practices. Nevertheless, the label is used even in cases where the divergences are modest, or where the proposition is to revert to an earlier set of norms.

     Remember Pim Fortuyn? I do. His political opponents labeled him an “extremist” for daring to assert that uncontrolled immigration to the Netherlands was on the verge of ruining that country. It might have been what got him assassinated.

     Remember Anwar Sadat? I do. His political opponents labeled him an “extremist” for daring to negotiate a peace between Egypt and Israel. That definitely got him assassinated.

     Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni is being called an extremist, too. Why? Because she defends traditional, Catholic Italy and wants to stop its invasion by North African migrants. Those migrants are ruining Italy.

     Barry Goldwater was called an extremist for daring to assert that the Constitution of the United States was being violated by the very federal government it defined. Thankfully, he lived to a ripe old age. But Ronald Reagan was called an extremist, too. He barely survived an assassination attempt. And for some years now, the “extremist” label has been slathered over Donald Trump.

     Today Argentina is in the news. Its people, who’ve suffered under massively corrupt government and disastrous levels of inflation, have just chosen a certain Javier Milei to be their next president. Milei has said and written some things that have gotten him labeled an extremist. Mostly, he’s said that what’s going on must change, and change dramatically at that. If I were Milei, I’d be very careful going through doors and such.

     In all cases, the extremist label is shorthand for another proposition: “This man is dangerous and must be stopped by any means necessary.” But dangerous to whom? Dangerous for what reasons? Those questions are deflected, at least while the cameras are rolling. Later on, in the comfort and privacy of their conference rooms, those who feel endangered are rather more candid.

     “Extremist” has the same rhetorical application as “far-right:” the intent is to frighten the gullible and unreflective – which is most of Mankind, in case you were in any doubt – away from the person so labeled. In point of fact, those who hold the levers of power, who currently sit around mahogany conference tables plotting out How Things Must Be, are the terrified ones. They fear the loss of their power, prestige, and pelf. They cannot permit even the smallest crack in their protections. Even one such could admit light enough to bring their edifice crashing down.

     That is their definition of extremist: “One who could threaten our positions.”

     And that’s all that extremist and extremism mean.


     I hope Larry Niven and the ghost of Jerry Pournelle won’t mind the following lengthy excerpt from their novel Inferno. It’s a scene in which protagonist Allen Carpentier is being introduced to some of the features of Hell:

     A towering oil-fueled power plant of spidery framework and miles of pipes and valves poured power into a cable thick as my waist. Transmission towers took the cable downhill.
     I peered along its length, but the murk defeated me. How did they use electricity in Hell? But outside the power plant was an athletic man chained to a wheelless bicycle set in concrete in front of the exhaust pipe of the generator. Black smoke poured around him, almost hiding him from view.
     As we watched he began pedaling furiously. The hum of the gears rose to a high pitch—and the generator inside died. There was a moment of quiet. The man pedaled with sure strokes, faster and faster, his feet nearly invisible, his head tucked down as if against a wind. We gathered around, each wondering how long he could keep it up.
     He began to tire. The blur of his feet slowed. The motors inside coughed, and black smoke poured out. He choked and turned his head away, and saw us.
     “Don’t answer if you’d rather not,” I said, “but what whim of fate put you here?”‘
     “I don’t know!” he howled. “I was president of the largest and most effective environmental protection organization in the country! I fought this!” He braced himself and pedaled again. The hum rose, and the generator died.
     Billy was completely lost. He looked to Benito, but our guide only shrugged. Benito accepted everything. I knew better. This couldn’t be justice, not even Big Juju’s exaggerated justice. This was monstrous.
     Corbett had to be guessing when he suddenly asked, “You opposed thermonuclear power plants?”
     The guy stopped dead, staring as if Corbett were a ghost. The dynamo lurched into action and surrounded him with thick blue smoke.
     “That’s it, isn’t it?” Corbett said gently. “You stopped the nuclear generators. I was just a kid during the power blackouts. We had to go to school in the dark because the whole country went on daylight saving time to save power.”
     “But they weren’t safe!” He coughed. “They weren’t safe!”
     “How did you know that?” Benito asked.
     “We had scientists in our organization. They proved it.”
     We turned away. Now I knew. I could quit looking for justice in Hell. There was only macabre humor. Why should that man be in the inner circles of Hell? At worst he belonged far above, with the bridge destroyers of the second ledge. Or in Heaven. He hadn’t created this bleak landscape.
     I couldn’t stand it. I went back. Benito shrugged and motioned to the others.
     Within the cloud of blue smoke his face was slack with exhaustion. “It wasn’t just the problem of where to bury the waste products,” he told me. “There was radioactive gas going into the air.” He spoke as if continuing a conversation. I must have been his only audience in years, or decades.
     “You got a rotten deal,” I said. “I wish I could do something.”
     He smiled bravely. “What else is new?” And he started to pedal.
     I glared at the nothing sky, hating Big Juju. Carpentier declares war. When I looked down, Benito was fumbling through saddlebags attached to the stationary bicycle.
     The man cried, “What are you doing?”
     Benito took out papers. The man snatched at them, but Benito backed away. He read, “Dear Jon, I could understand your opposition to us last year. There was some doubt about the process, and you expressed fears all of us felt. But now you know better. I have no witnesses, but you told me you understood Dr. Pittman’s demonstration. In God’s name, Jon, why do you continue? I ask you as your sister, as a fellow scientist, as a human being: why?”
     He began pedaling again, ignoring us.
     “You knew?” I demanded. He pedaled faster, his head bent.
     I leaned down and put my face close to his.
     “You knew?” I screamed.
     “Fuck off.”
     Big Juju wins again. Too much, but appropriate. As we walked away, Jon screamed after us, “I’d have been nothing if I gave up the movement! Nothing! Don’t you understand? I had to stay as president!”

     No doubt the environmentalist executive thought his sister an “extremist.” As the saying goes, what she had proposed threatened his well-filled rice bowl.


     If you’re a regular Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch, you’re already aware of my love affair with the English language. It’s the most powerful tool for communication that’s ever been devised, and it continues to be extended and refined by you, its users. But there’s no such thing as a tool with built-in values. Tools are value-neutral. They can be put to good uses or to evil ones.

     They who intend evil will do evil, and they’ll use the most powerful tools available to do so. That explains a great part of public discourse in our time.

     The misuse of our language fills me with fury. That it’s gone on so long that today it’s everywhere and all-pervading only makes it orders of magnitude worse. If I have a consciously chosen mission – and as it happens, I have several – it’s to combat the perversion of the English language that’s making an incomprehensible hash of discourse in our time.

     George Orwell said it brilliantly:

     [O]ne ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

     Let’s start by banning the words extremist and extremism from our lexicon and closing our ears to those who use them. Ask them rather, “What do you really mean by that? Either be clear and specific, or shut the BLEEP! up.”

     The Dictator Verborum to the World Wide Web has spoken ex cathedra. Go forth under the banner of the One True Faith:

     “Say what you mean, mean what you say.” – “Bob Cody,” played by Chris Cooper in Interstate 60

The Third Decree

     [A very short story for you today. It has been said – by me, among others – that if you must have a government, the ideal would be a monarch absolutely committed to justice. For the only legitimate use of force against others is to effect the maintenance or restoration of justice. That’s why the Left has made a point of perverting the term justice by grafting all those irrelevant modifiers to it. But where would we find a man whose commitment to justice is absolute and perfect? – FWP]


     Though he spoke softly, such was the king’s majesty that the word rang throughout his realm. Its innate command would have summoned his designated recorder from anywhere, no matter how distant. The scribe sped to the king’s audience room and prostrated himself before the throne.
     “Are you prepared to record an issuance?”
     “Always, my liege. What is your will?”
     The king rose. “A decree,” he said. “Perhaps it will put to rest the squabbling that has disturbed the peace of Our realm.”
     The scribe nodded. “I await your words, Sire.”
     The king assumed the posture in which he announced his will, paused briefly, and began.
     “Let it be proclaimed to all,” he said, “that We are troubled by the disharmony among Our people. There is no possible excuse for it. We wish it to end at once. We have twice articulated the prescriptions and proscriptions required for general peace and flourishing. They are immutable and perfect. Yet they are widely dismissed, always for absurd reasons. Thus is progress disrupted and its substance squandered in futile strife.
     “But it has occurred to Us that it is possible that some of Our people have not heard those prescriptions and proscriptions. Furthermore, it is possible that not all those who have heard them are aware that We are their source. And so We have decided on a third proclamation thereof, which is to be Our last word to you.
     “You shall do no murder, nor any other harm to an innocent.
     “You shall not commit adultery, nor break any other word you have sworn.
     “You shall not steal the rightful property of another, whether through force or fraud.
     “You shall not give false testimony against another.
     “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his goods.
     “You shall honor and protect those who gave you life.
     “You shall do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
     The king’s demeanor became supremely commanding. The scribe, who had been inscribing his decree meticulously upon a parchment of sheepskin, gazed up at him in awe.
     “These,” the king said, “are the laws. There are no others. Be ever mindful of them…and be vigilant against those who claim otherwise, whether to add to or subtract from Our word. For We are growing weary of you, and Our day of reckoning, when all accounts shall be settled, draws ever nearer. We make this decree for the third and last time, on the twenty-sixth day in Our year of two thousand twenty-three.”
     The king resumed his throne, relaxed, and emitted a thunderous sigh. With a gesture he imprinted the scribe’s parchment with his seal. “Print enough copies that everyone will get one.”
     “As you command, Sire,” The scribe rose from his knees, checked his work carefully, and faced his liege. “Do you think they will all hear it this time?”
     “It is to be hoped,” said the king. “Yet We are prepared to be disappointed, for they are a fractious bunch. Those who hear don’t always obey.” He shook his head. “We are growing mortally weary of their crap.”
     “Mortally, Sire?”
     “Mortally for them, at least. But We gave them free will, and We have chosen not to retract nor to diminish it. The consequences will be what they will be. We will not diminish those, either.”
     “Of course, Sire.” The scribe bowed and turned to do as he had been commanded, but paused. “Sire?”
     “Yes, Our good and faithful scribe?”
     “This pluralism…”
     The king frowned. “On Earth or in Our realm?”
     “Your practice of speaking of yourself in plurals, Sire.”
     “Ah. What of it?”
     “It seems to have…caught on beneath the veil of Time. Others have adopted it as their own idiom.”
     The king nodded. “We are aware, of course. It is an affectation among those who fancy themselves chosen by Us to rule others. It gives them no warrant for their presumptions. They will learn that in due course.”
     “Of course, Sire.” The scribe pondered. “Yet surely they can see that it makes no sense.”
     “They could…but they must choose to see. Which among them are three Persons and yet one as well? Is not such a feat infinitely beyond them? Perhaps some of them will learn better before they must stand before Us.” The king smiled grimly. “They should hope so. Now be about Our business.”
     “As you command, Sire.” The recording angel bowed once more and made away to do his king’s bidding.


     Copyright © 2023 Francis W. Porretto. All rights reserved worldwide.


     [For the feast of Christ the King, of course! – FWP]

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