The Will To Disbelieve

     The one thing of which there is no shortage in these United States is wishful thinking. It’s more pandemic than the WuFlu and orders of magnitude more destructive. Sadly, some of that wishful thinking is on the Right.

     The rioting and organized theft in the larger cities has revealed an ugly truth. Many on the Right believes they see that truth clearly. It’s the Democrats and their defund-the-police policies! they cry. And part of the responsibility for the madness does belong at that door…but only a part, and a small one at that. The larger problem – the explosion of amorality, especially among the Left’s mascot-groups – is one we have yet to address fearlessly.

     But let’s leave that to the side for a moment longer. The phenomenon that gripped me this morning is the belief that undoing the triggering event can undo what it triggered. For an example, here’s Rick Moran at PJ Media:

     Is it an accident that big cities with radical Democratic mayors and radical prosecutors are suffering from the most spectacular — and worrying — streak of organized retail theft in history?

     Democrats might want you to think that. They will claim that their radical policies with regard to criminal behavior have nothing to do with the lawbreaking that’s happening in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Minneapolis.

     Now, as I’ve already said, the anti-law-enforcement policies pursued by the Democrats do bear a small part of the responsibility. But that was more in the nature of a trigger than the whole cause. Yes, the correlation between zones of unchecked mass theft and Democrat political dominance is very strong. But while the thieves probably did go into action in part because of the Democrats’ anti-law-enforcement stance, there’s at least one more influence in the basket that plays a much larger role in the matter. Here’s Moran’s conclusion:

     The problem for these cities is that the situation won’t get any better until voters throw the radicals out. But there are so many people who think as the radical prosecutors think: the looters are justified in taking whatever they can carry because they are oppressed and victims of racism.

     “Throwing the radicals out” is necessary, a praiseworthy objective. But it won’t stuff the genie of organized mass theft back into its bottle. That is founded on a different phenomenon altogether.

     Just a little while ago, I wrote:

     If you can concentrate enough force and can move quickly enough, you can get away with anything.

     This has always been the case. It has nothing to do with police funding levels. Think for a moment about how much security, how well armed, and how ready to use lethal methods that Nordstrom’s in L.A. would have needed to prevent the robbery the lined story describes. Now think about applying that level and lethality of security to every retail establishment. The past couple of years we’ve seen the lower-end stores get targeted by flash mobs of teenagers – and the teens nearly always get away with it.

     America’s high-trust society was premised on the conviction that “people wouldn’t do such things.” That time has passed.

     Why has it passed? Atheism and moral relativism. There are now a sufficient number of persons who:

  1. Believe that there are no moral absolutes;
  2. Believe that there is no God and no after-life judgment;
  3. Believe that they won’t be arrested, tried, and punished in this life;

     …that they can:

  1. Find one another easily (especially in zones of high population density);
  2. Gather to plan a mass smash-and-grab of a selected store;
  3. Strike and escape before the police can react.

     …if, indeed, the police are minded to do so. Such behavior cannot be deterred by a security guard or two. It would take a platoon of such guards, armed and pre-authorized to use lethal force, to present a credible obstacle. How many retail establishments of any kind would willingly deploy such a force? What would it do to their business?

     What the cities are suffering today has always been possible. It wasn’t deterred by the threat of temporal punishment, but by the belief that even one who gets away with it today would have to answer for it in the next life. In other words, Americans of previous eras could do what today’s looters are doing, but they wouldn’t!

     American cultural influencers have been preaching against theism and moral absolutes for several decades. They’ve reaped a fair crop of converts. Is it any surprise that some of those converts are now acting on what they’ve been told? Is it any surprise that they’re concentrated in cities under Democrat control, where the political and cultural elite have told them repeatedly that “it’s not your fault; it’s society” — ?

     Revitalizing our urban police forces won’t put an end to this. Indeed, the problem might not be soluble, barring the extermination of all those who’ve seen that it’s doable and are undeterred by any moral or theological consideration. But even if that course were thinkable, how large a force, working for how many years under essentially no constraints, would it take to snuff it?

     These are not pleasant thoughts, but they’re important ones. Perhaps the diminution of our urban police forces was the trigger, or part of it. Simply reversing those calamitous policies won’t reverse the tide of thefts, any more than “reversing” the trigger of a gun would call the bullet back into the chamber. We have a much bigger and longer-term job to do – and we won’t even begin it until we admit that our passivity before the advancing tide of atheism and moral relativism was horribly wrong, a moral default.

     Edmund Burke, where are you when we need you?

Peering Over The Horizon

     (With observations from an assortment of Freds.)

     First, a helpful graphic:

     Next, an observation from a Fred:

     “A country deserves what it tolerates, and will assuredly get more of it.” – Fred Reed

     The point appears to have eluded about half the country. We’re being impoverished, overrun, and generally abused by a regime that stole federal power through election fraud. Yet there are people – many of whom think they’re smart, when in point of fact they’re only credentialed morons – who implore the rest of us to remain “law-abiding.”

     Yes, really.

     Fear not. I’m not going to cite Stephen Graham Sumner’s soliloquy in Shadow of a Sword yet again. My Gentle Readers have seen Sumner’s analysis of freedom versus tyranny quite enough times already. I’ll put it in my own words this time…wait, what? Sumner’s words are my words? Well, yes, but he’s an invention of mine, a fictional character. Today I’m writing not as Fran the Fictioneer but as the Curmudgeon Emeritus to the World Wide Web, the English-speaking world’s most reliable source of windbaggery. Anyway, on with the show.

     What is law? Where does it come from? Why are we “supposed” to obey it?

     I could go into all sorts of verbal curlicues explaining why law matters. But I’d be talking about true law: law that reliably expresses the conditions that must be maintained for a society to survive and for its members to enjoy peace and prosperity. The Source for such law is not a human government, regardless of how it might be constituted.

     Herbert Spencer put it best:

     I asked one of the members of Parliament whether a majority the House could legitimize murder. He said no. I asked him whether it could sanctify robbery. He thought not. But I could not make him see that if murder and robbery are intrinsically wrong, and not to be made right by the decisions of statesmen, then similarly all actions must be either right or wrong, apart from the authority of the law; and that if the right and wrong of the law are not in harmony with this intrinsic right and wrong, the law itself is criminal.

     So a government can be as lawless as any murderer, mugger, or rapist. Such a government, having transgressed upon the province of the sole reliable Authority, has no authority of its own. Jot that down somewhere; you’ll need it later.

***

     The two types of utterly sound, perfectly reliable law are:

  1. Physical law, which physical scientists study;
  2. Social law, which is expressed in the Ten Commandments of the Book of Exodus, specifically commandments Four through Ten (Catholic enumeration).

     The first type is self-enforcing. Such laws cannot be disobeyed. Our partial understanding of them occasionally gives rise to the notion that they can be broken if we’re clever enough. That’s a misconception. In truth, in our limited understanding of the universe, we had misconceived the law. We didn’t really know what it was and is.

     The second type of law can be broken. The possibility arises from its relational nature: i.e., that we’re not isolated Robinson Crusoe figures, entirely separate from one another. Crusoe didn’t need to bother himself about those commandments until he was no longer alone on the island. But for those of us who live in society, those laws are imperative. To tolerate their defiance is to destroy the foundation of society itself – and that’s in addition to the effect on our next lives.

     Brilliant men have devoted their lives to the analysis of the social laws: why they must be what they are, what underlying principles unite them, and why obeying them is essential to peace, order, and prosperity. Because even the most brilliant of us are human, limited, and fallible, we’ve managed only to reach a teleological – i.e., consequences-based – conclusion: If the social laws are not observed and enforced, chaos and poverty will follow. No stronger statement can be made that doesn’t neglect important “edge cases.”

     But that’s not the end of our proper consideration of the social law. For it has an implication that is frequently – sometimes deliberately – overlooked. The social laws are both necessary and sufficient. Governments that attempt to impose and enforce laws that go beyond the social laws will create zones of privilege that will allow some to deprive others of some portion of their rights.

     At this time, every government in the world is guilty of doing exactly that. The consequences have already been dire, as a particularly brilliant Fred has told us they would be:

     No society can exist if respect for the law does not to some extent prevail, but the surest way to have the laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality are in contradiction, the citizen finds himself in the cruel dilemma of either losing his moral sense or of losing respect for the law, two evils of which one is as great as the other, and between which it is difficult to choose. – Frederic Bastiat

     But my concern, as always, is with conditions in these United States.

***

     The above is largely prefatory, as anyone with functioning eyes, ears, and mind can list many instances in which American governments have both failed to enforce the social law and have passed “laws” that infringe upon Americans’ rights. It’s a virtually inexhaustible subject which others have addressed at least as well as have I. My focus today is on the tensions that afflict Americans who know their governments have transgressed their proper bounds but still want to consider themselves “law-abiding.”

     The bedrock principle of the American polity has always been the consent of the governed. In the usual case – i.e., initiatives and referenda excepted — we don’t directly express our consent to specific laws. Rather, we express our consent to a group of officials in whom we’ll vest the powers of legislation and execution. This, of course, is done through elections.

     There have been several hotly disputed elections in American history. The 1960 Presidential election, which supposedly elevated John F. Kennedy to the presidency, was so disputed. Many have alleged, and have presented some interesting evidence, that the electoral votes of two states – Illinois and Texas – were stolen for the Kennedy campaign, and that those thefts were responsible for Kennedy’s election. According to some sources, Richard Nixon was reportedly convinced of this, but chose not to press the issue out of his belief that it would tear the country apart.

     But was Vice President Nixon correct to do so? If the election had been stolen, President Kennedy was therefore illegitimate – he had no true authority under the Constitution that created and bounds our political system. That’s a serious matter in any government, to say nothing of the one that commands the world’s mightiest military and oversees the world’s greatest economy. What appears to have made up Nixon’s mind not to contest the election results was that the overwhelming majority of Americans were convinced that the results were honest.

     The elections of November 2020 present a quite different picture.

***

     Never has election chicanery been so blatant, so widespread, or so catastrophic as it was in November 2020. The United States was effectively destroyed by the events thereof. If that seems too dramatic a statement to comport with your perception of the realities around you, follow along with me:

  1. The legitimacy of an elected official depends upon the legitimacy of the election that elevated him.
  2. The Executive and Legislature elevated by the November 2020 elections are therefore only legitimate if the elections were legitimate.
  3. Therefore, the Executive (the Biden Administration) and the Legislature (the two Houses of Congress) are illegitimate.
  4. But an illegitimate official cannot wield authority legitimately; he is a usurper.
  5. Therefore the Biden Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress are Usurpers without authority.
  6. But the United States, as defined in its Constitution, is a tripartite structure: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. Unless all three branches are legitimate, it ceases to be Constitutional.
  7. An unConstitutional edifice does not fulfill the Constitution’s definition of the United States,
  8. Therefore, the United States has ceased to exist; the theft of the November 2020 elections has destroyed it.

     For the great majority of us, life has gone on as it did before the election. Yes, the things we must buy are more expensive. Some of them can’t be acquired as promptly or conveniently as under President Donald Trump. Illegal aliens are steadily filtering into our communities. Internationally, things have been embarrassing. Yes, our large cities are becoming difficult places to live, work, and conduct commerce. And of course we have the lunacy of the “vaccination mandates” to scowl at, as well. But for most Americans, life has gone on normally as before, with adjustments.

     That does not confer legitimate authority on the Usurpers in Washington.

***

     If the Usurpers lack legitimate authority, nevertheless they have a great deal of coercive power at their disposal. Many fear that power. Obscurity among the numbers of a great population is not enough to persuade them that they could defy the Usurpers and be safe in doing so. They “go along to get along.” If they believe, as I do, that the Usurpers stole their offices, they repose their hopes in the elections of 2022 and 2024 to make things right. This pattern can be found at every stratum of American society, from manual laborers to the chief executives of Fortune 100 corporations.

     But if the chicanery of November 2020 is not punished, it will be emulated and intensified. The elections of 2022 and 2024 will be stolen as well. Why not, if even the most blatant skullduggery carries no penalty? It’s a lot easier to steal power than to earn the votes of enough citizens to obtain it legitimately. And people who want power above all other things are notoriously impatient with difficulty. The only thing that can restrain them is the prospect of inevitable punishment.

     An increasing number of Americans must ponder this idea.

***

     We may argue with one another over what the law should be. But if we are to remain the Constitutional federal republic called the United States of America, we must agree on the procedure that confers law-making, law-enforcing authority on those who will wield it – and on its honesty. Today we don’t, which is the central problem of our time. If that problem is not resolved one way or another, the United States will pass into history, regardless of what wears its guise and demands to be called by that name.

     The changes will be gradual. Some people, some communities, and some businesses will decide that federal law no longer applies. Some people will contrive not to pay taxes. Some communities will disregard federal laws and “mandates.” Some businesses will either ignore federal laws and regulations, or will leave the country. But the trend, to the extent that those who follow it are seen to do so with impunity, will accelerate.

     How much longer will American life as we know it persist under those conditions? Unknown. But Herbert Stein’s aphorism applies, as does this observation from Hari Seldon:

     “The fall of Trantor,” said Seldon, “cannot be stopped by any conceivable effort. It can be hastened easily, however. The tale of my interrupted trial will spread through the Galaxy. Frustration of my plans to lighten the disaster will convince people that the future holds no promise to them. Already they recall the lives of their grandfathers with envy. They will see that political revolutions and trade stagnations will increase. The feeling will pervade the Galaxy that only what a man can grasp for himself at that moment will be of any account. Ambitious men will not wait and unscrupulous men will not hang back. By their every action they will hasten the decay of the worlds.”

     Finally, one more observation from a Fred:

     Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they have been resisted with either words or blows, or with both. – Frederick Douglass

     And to nail it down, a helpful graphic, courtesy of NC Renegade:

     Have a nice day.

Perverse Lessons

     I wasn’t going to post anything today, as I’m driving toward the end of the novel-under-construction and wanted to reserve the day for that. However, a YouTube video that most would deem quite harmless caught my attention:

     A sweet story, eh? Yes, it’s nice that the clerk was ultimately rewarded for his kindness. But what lesson does the story embed? Help others because one of them might reward you handsomely? Is that a moral lesson?

     It poked me in a sensitive place. We already do many things for the payoff they promise. We must; that’s life in a market-based economy. There’s no stigma upon it as long as the decisions and actions one takes are uncoerced, honest, and uncoercive. But helping others who are in need through no fault of their own isn’t a market transaction, any more than rescuing a stray dog or cat from the traffic would be. It should be done for its own sake.

     Have a brief segment from Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People:

     I was waiting in line to register a letter in the post office at Thirty-Third Street and Eighth Avenue in New York. I noticed that the clerk appeared to be bored with the job -weighing envelopes, handing out stamps, making change, issuing receipts – the same monotonous grind year after year. So I said to myself: “I am going to try to make that clerk like me. Obviously, to make him like me, I must say something nice, not about myself, but about him. So I asked myself, ‘What is there about him that I can honestly admire?'”
     That is sometimes a hard question to answer, especially with strangers; but, in this case, it happened to be easy. I instantly saw something I admired no end. So while he was weighing my envelope, I remarked with enthusiasm: “I certainly wish I had your head of hair.”
     He looked up, half-startled, his face beaming with smiles. “Well, it isn’t as good as it used to be,” he said modestly. I assured him that although it might have lost some of its pristine glory, nevertheless it was still magnificent. He was immensely pleased. We carried on a pleasant little conversation and the last thing he said to me was: “Many people have admired my hair.”
     I’ll bet that person went out to lunch that day walking on air. I’ll bet he went home that night and told his wife about it. I’ll bet he looked in the mirror and said: “It is a beautiful head of hair.”
     I told this story once in public and a man asked me afterwards: “‘What did you want to get out of him?”
     What was I trying to get out of him!!! What was I trying to get out of him!!!
     If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can’t radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to get something out of the other person in return – if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve. Oh yes, I did want something out of that chap. I wanted something priceless. And I got it. I got the feeling that I had done something for him without his being able to do anything whatever in return for me. That is a feeling that flows and sings in your memory long after the incident is past.

     That is a proper life lesson: to help when you’re able, if you can afford to do so, and your intended beneficiary is in need through no fault of his own, is the definition of true charity. Likewise, to spread good cheer when you can, even if it costs you a few minutes of your time, is a blessing in and of itself. Yes, sometimes you’ll wind up changing a tire for Donald Trump, and in his gratitude he’ll pay off your mortgage. But how likely is that? Should the low probability that the man you’re rescuing from being eaten by alligators is Warren Buffett cause you to sniff at the opportunity?

     Have a nice day.

Broken climate models.

In short, no scientist who studies the range of scientific literature can reasonably claim that the subject of influences on the climate is remotely ‘settled’. The reality is that a multiplicity of factors are at work, and so, by focusing on human emissions, it appears that the IPCC has, through ‘force fitting’ between its selectively chosen historic global temperature estimates and the inadequately structured and parameterised CMIP[1] models, reached a highly exaggerated view of climate sensitivity to CO2. Specifically, the range of ECS[2] values for CO2 adopted by the IPCC overstates those obtained from a physics analysis of causal mechanisms, consistent with satellite measurements, by a factor of up to five to 17 times.[3]

Dr. Kalveks’s article is not for the faint of heart. It is instructive on how non-IPCC analysts arrive at a different understanding of the role of CO2 in determining global temperatures. One paper in particular “attributes 90% of the greenhouse effect to water alone . . . .”[4]

Kalvek’s paper also contains a graph showing how it’s the rare computer simulation that comes close to reproducing actual historical measurements of global sea surface temperatures between 1979-2021. He also mentions ad hoc IPCC “tuning” of computer models, an elegant way for those savants to inject a little body English into the process. Whether other computer models incorporate the same thing he doesn’t say but it’s a good question to ask. Do they? If the medieval warming period can be disappeared, why not goose the effect of CO2? Who could possibly question “the science”?

Notes
[1] “In climatology, the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) is a collaborative framework designed to improve knowledge of climate change. It was organized in 1995 by the Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM) of the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP). It is developed in phases to foster the climate model improvements but also to support national and international assessments of climate change.” Wikipedia.
[2] Equilibrium climate sensitivity. One way to define climate sensitivity that “incorporate[s] the warming from exacerbating feedback loops. . . . Sensitivity to atmospheric CO2 increases is measured in the amount of temperature change for doubling in the atmospheric CO2 concentration.” Wikipedia. Now you know.
[3] “IPCC Climate Models Keep Failing Because They Don’t Respect Physics.” By Dr. Rudolph Kalveks, The Daily Skeptic, 11/18/21 (bolding added).
[4] Coe et al cited in id.

Doing The Old Thing

     Caught you scratching your head over the title, did I? No doubt you’re wondering what the “old thing” is. Well, skipping all the subtleties to jump right to the entirely justified conclusion, it is I. Your humble commentator. As I am feeling benevolent (which is seldom the case in these latter days) and pleasantly full (which is damned near never the case, as I’m still trying to lose weight), I thought I’d jot down a few random, mostly-but-not-entirely disconnected thoughts and see where they might lead. Old people do that, don’t y’know, except that most of us do it orally and don’t thereafter type up said collection of imbecilities and put it on the Web for others to goggle over and ask one another “Do you think he’s feeling all right?”

     All the same…

***

     The Fortress of Crankitude appears to have acquired a role in the neighborhood: Autumn Leaf Aggregator. Everyone’s fallen leaves migrate to our yard. I don’t mind. Fallen leaves are future topsoil. Besides, they make the hunt for dog droppings, of which we always have a great many, something of an adventure.

***

     One of the more ironic wisdoms of our age is that of the Oft-Repeated Lie: If you tell a lie often enough, widely enough, and loudly enough, then no matter how outrageous or easily disproved, it will become the Official Truth. I can see heads nodding among my Gentle Readers – yes, yours too – yet virtually no one has escaped being led astray by a frequently, widely, and loudly repeated lie. It’s one of the reasons the following is among my favorite maxims:

     “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it – no matter if I have said it! – except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha.

     Today’s Big Brash Lie is that the constitutionalist John Birch Society is or was anti-Semitic. That is utterly false, has never been supported by a shred of evidence, and is refuted by quite a lot of evidence. Today, the lie appears at Ace of Spades HQ, whose writers ought to know better. Even the progenitor of the lie, the late William F. Buckley, knew it to be false. His real beef with the JBS was that it’s opposed to foreign aid, unjustifiable military interventions abroad, the formation of “alliances” and the adoption of international clients. Read this, and get smart.

     (Oh, while you’re at it, Pope Pius XII wasn’t a Nazi sympathizer, either. Yet another frequently, widely, and loudly repeated slander.)

***

     Do supermarkets hold Black Friday sales? Why not? Think about it.

***

     Lately I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my deceased friend Joe Flamini. Joe passed away in 2018, before the Kung Flu madness, owing to a tragic accident. Here’s what I wrote about him at that time:

     Joe has been an engineer, a physicist, a security entrepreneur, and a law enforcement officer. In the practice of those occupations he’s visited virtually every country in the First World and has amassed an international reputation. For the past thirty years he’s lived in a redoubt near the summit of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, in a compound he built and equipped entirely with his own hands and skills. He spoke many times of the great joy his homestead brought him. “I have my wife and my mountain,” he would say. “What more could I possibly need?”

     You’d have to know Joe personally to grasp the full import of that statement. He was so knowledgeable and talented that I’m convinced that he could rebuild Western Civilization – largely out of parts he already has on hand. And we who love him are about to lose him forever.

     Concerning the current supply-chain disruptions and their effects on Americans’ living patterns, Joe would have sniffed in disdain. What he needed, he had in ample quantity. If he didn’t have it, he could make it from stock on-hand. If he were to concern himself about anything at all, it would be over whether he could get more .40 caliber ammo for his newly acquired KelTec Sub2000.

     I miss him more than ever.

***

     This thread on black killers’ claims of self-defense is worth your time. Contrast the incidents Amy Swearer cites to the tragedy that befell white teenager Kyle Rittenhouse, and ponder.

***

     The “defund the police” madness appears to have halted and turned around, thank God. But stories about large gangs robbing luxury retail outlets of all their goods have nothing to do with the shortage of cops. What they tell us is rather simpler than that.

If you can concentrate enough force and can move quickly enough, you can get away with anything.

     This has always been the case. It has nothing to do with police funding levels. Think for a moment about how much security, how well armed, and how ready to use lethal methods that Nordstrom’s in L.A. would have needed to prevent the robbery the lined story describes. Now think about applying that level and lethality of security to every retail establishment. The past couple of years we’ve seen the lower-end stores get targeted by flash mobs of teenagers – and the teens nearly always get away with it.

     America’s high-trust society was premised on the conviction that “people wouldn’t do such things.” That time has passed.

***

     Big Country Expat has a nice tirade about terrorist mass murderer Darrell Brooks. Hie thee hence.

***

     I’m approaching the completion of a novel — The Discovery Phase, soon to be an overlooked classic of the Onteora Canon / subgenre “unlikely romances” – and have been pondering a technique I didn’t use in this one. The last two romances — Love in the Time of Cinema and Antiquities, in case you’ve forgotten – both use “framing stories” to provide depth of context and an extra perspective. I decided against it this time, believing that I could make the current tale stand well enough without that particular assistance. However, as this novel, like most of my others, is an element in the Onteora Canon, some readers will be baffled by the references to events narrated in other volumes. So it was a chancy decision.

     That got me thinking about other narrative techniques that writers employ. One of particular note is called in media res, or “In the middle of things.” It describes the technique of jumping directly into the middle of the action, the better to get the reader’s blood pumping, rather than at the beginning and allowing events to unfold gradually. Many writers – possibly most – use it regularly.

     But in media res has its own requirements, if you’re not going to frustrate and anger the reader. The opening segment must do more than merely get the reader’s adrenalin flowing. It must also provide enough information about what has gone before to make its significance plain. Moreover, it must do so without creating large lumps of backstory, which can bore the reader out of your tale.

     This is not an easy task. If you’d like to see it done well, have a gander at P. S. Power’s “Damsel” novels. Each of them begins in media res, and each adroitly provides enough context to be both exciting and gently contextual. If you’d like to see it done poorly…what am I saying? Why would you want to do that? Never mind.

***

     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. I’m still digesting – perhaps you are, too – and I have a few more-or-less imperative chores to see to later today. So enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend, stay out of the stores, and be well.

Louis L’Amour.

Sam Jacobs’s latest on Louis L’Amour who crafted an “enduring mythology of the American West”:

Louis L’Amour: America’s Prolific Western Novelist.”

The western is a unique American genre, to use a 50-cent French word. It celebrated toughness and justice in a period when self defense laws rarely posed a problem of intricate legal interpretation such as is now put forward by metaphysicians, toads, fools, girly men, hysterics, knaves, and liars. To say it depicted a white world is an understatement but it nonetheless paid tribute to manly opponents and anyone who bought into the ethos of self reliance, fairness, good humor, and an equality born of courage and hard work. Dirty Harry on a horse if you will.

I don’t remember “Dances with Wolves” that well but Costner’s character struck me as a sick puppy and I wasn’t charmed by the existential doubt about the whole American enterprise that I remember it celebrating. Correction and chastisement cheerfully accepted on any of those points.

Sometime after “Little Big Man” the familiar western dematerialized and even Clint Eastwood indulged in gunfighters with a correspondence school diploma from Yale Divinity School. Ambiguity needed to be introduced and examined. And in due course nothing was left except for buffalo droppings like the acclaimed “Django Unchained” starring some kind of reptile with a suntan and various other turncoats. They would have been road kill anywhere west of St. Louis any time before the Spanish sinking of the Maine but not in the remarkable imagination of Quentin.

Now it’s as much as your life is worth to celebrate the settling of this country by white people so it’s distinctly out of style. Better to have the wracked-by-doubt superhero with a diverse girlfriend. Or worse.

In Karl Marlantes’s foreword to Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel I read about a Canadian fellow who came south to join the USMC. In Vietnam, he, George Jmaeff or “Canada,” got wounded and, when he heard that his comrades were pinned down by a machine gun, he tore the IVs out of his arm and took out the machine gun with an M-16, dying in the process. I doubt he’d now be wearing skinny jeans, shoes without socks, and a sweater knotted around his shoulders. Let’s get back to celebrating the original deal and not this feeble, pussified hell of a country.

A Double-Edged Gift

     [This piece first appeared at The Palace of Reason on November 27, 2003 — FWP]

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

     Aunt Lil could not cook.

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

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

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

     It was worse. Much, much worse.

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

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

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

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

     Time is the ultimate gift.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Aunt Lil died intestate, by the way.

***

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

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

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

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

Francis W. Porretto
Curmudgeon Emeritus to the World Wide Web
Mount Sinai, New York
November 27, 2003

The Information Crisis

     Yesterday’s piece seems to have rubbed a few raw nerves even rawer. I meant every word of it, so those who took umbrage at it for whatever reason can kiss my red-white-and-blue ass. That goes for the anti-Semites, the “flyovers” who think the disease is confined to the coasts, the militant atheists who can’t bear to hear or read a good word about Christianity, and anyone else who soiled his diapers over my sentiments. The lot of you are free to wallow in your own ordure. I don’t need you or your comments here.

     Do I sound angry? I hope so. The country I loved has rung down the curtain and joined the Choir Invisible. And as I’m already in what dear old Sister Blanche would call “a state,” I shall expand on yesterday’s tirade. Today I’m heading in a critical direction that I stopped short of addressing yesterday.

***

     In his masterpiece The Flight From Truth, the brilliant Jean-Francois Revel wrote:

     [I]n a democracy, the law guarantees freedom of expression to its citizens; it guarantees neither infallibility, nor talent, nor competence, nor probity, nor intelligence, nor the verification of facts—all of which are supposed to be provided by or are the responsibility of journalists, not of legislators. But when a journalist is criticized because he is inaccurate or dishonest, the profession as a whole lets out a howl, pretending to believe that the very principle of free expression is under attack and that a new attempt is being made to “muzzle the press.” The journalist, it is explained, was merely fulfilling his “task of informing.” But what would we think of a restaurant owner who, after serving spoiled food, fended off criticism by exclaiming: “Please, let me fulfill my mission as a nourisher, that sacred duty! Or are you in favor of starvation?”

     Bull’s-eye.

     The American media have used that tactic to such effect that today, journalists even manage to deflect provable accusations of libel. In consequence, they can get away with promulgating virtually any lie, no matter how scurrilous. Consider as an example the widely held belief that Kyle Rittenhouse shot three Negroes on that fateful night in Kenosha, Wisconsin. How do you suppose that fable got itself established?

     Long ago, we came to depend on the media for news about events distant from us. (We hardly needed it for developments in our own neighborhoods, which is why local papers and broadcasters have always struggled for enough attention to remain viable.) And for quite a while, the media were more trustworthy than not. Yes, there were always bad apples in the barrel, but in the early days of regional and national media, most media operators competed on the grounds of timeliness, completeness, and accuracy rather than with the sensationalism and propaganda of our time.

     Well, it didn’t last. Perhaps we should have been more vigilant. From the outset there were forces that sought to colonize and conquer the media. Their planners knew that then as now, to achieve control of a large population, control of its information sources is paramount.

     Which brings us to today.

***

     Just recently, long-time Fox News opinion contributors Steven Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, who were frequently seen on Bret Baier’s show among others, announced their departure from that network. Their announcement emphasized their dislike of the recent work of commentator Tucker Carlson, particularly his Patriot Purge series of videos about the events in Washington, D.C. on January 6 of this year. They seemed to allocate the responsibility for their departure to Carlson’s work.

     To my considerable surprise, Fox News refuted their statement, reporting that the upcoming renewal of Hayes’s and Goldberg’s contracts with the network had already been declined. Even if that report is truthful, it was nevertheless unusual for that network to publicly contradict two prominent contributors on an issue of fact. Why did the masters of Fox do so, rather than letting Goldberg and Hayes depart with no rancor or foofaurauw?

     The most plausible reason for Fox’s riposte is that Tucker Carlson is currently the most watched video journalist in America. He commands a large and loyal audience, which would surely follow him were he to depart Fox. Viewership translates to sponsorship. In these difficult days, no broadcaster, cablecaster, or network can afford to lose any great part of what it has.

     Now, I like Tucker Carlson. I tend to trust him…and that is a problem. I have no way of verifying what he tells me. It simply “sounds right,” which is the colloquial for “it’s compatible with what I already believe or want to believe.” In the era of agenda-driven reportage, there is no justification for uncritically trusting anyone in the media.

     But we humans tend to trust those who confirm what we already believe. Our inability to perform any substantial verification of media claims is our greatest weakness…and the trade’s would-be deceivers’ greatest strength.

***

     One of the preeminent porkbarrellers of recent history, the late Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, was famous for his statement that “all politics is local.” Sadly for the late Mr. O’Neill, if that was ever true, it’s no longer so. Today, in these United States, very little politics is local in the strict sense. Some is state-level or regional; the preponderance is federal.

     That meshes destructively with the power of the media.

     I’m a New Yorker. I’ve lived here for 67 of my 69 years. I’ve done everything I can to become and to remain informed about our state’s politics…and I must admit to having failed more often than not. The state is too large. Albany, where the legislature and governor sit, is too far away. The officials who decide on state law and regulation are too well insulated from my scrutiny. The statewide affairs of this 20 million person polity are beyond my humble efforts to track in anything close to real time.

     How much worse is the situation for anyone who hopes to track national politics and related affairs?

     Without the reportage of the media, the overwhelming majority of Americans, no matter how deeply interested in such things, would have no idea what’s going on anywhere outside their neighborhoods. The media provide something, even if it’s fragmentary, tendentious, or utterly false. And so, as Washington has sucked nearly all power and authority out of our villages, towns, cities, counties, and states, we’ve come to rely on them for lack of any alternative.

     That is the essence of the information crisis.

***

     The national news media can no longer be trusted to any degree. Each of them has an agenda to promote, and will slant its coverage in whatever way best serves that agenda. As the great majority of them lean heavily Leftward, the slant will usually facilitate the claims of the Left and its political arm, the Democrat Party.

     But it would be equally unwise to trust the “maverick” outlets that lean Rightward. The incentives are just as strong for those media to slant their coverage as they are for the ones on the Left. Moreover, as the Left-leaning media become more strident and less concerned with the facts of the stories they cover, the Right-leaning ones will do so as well, in a sort of Newton’s Third Law of Journalism. Those who take any of the reportage at face value will do so not because it’s inherently trustworthy – certainly not on the grounds of actual, on-the-ground verification – but because it tells them what they already believe and would like confirmed.

     Trustworthy information, in our time, is that which we personally witness. Reports by others can be trusted, conditionally at least, if accompanied by a video recording of the relevant events. Yet even those reports would become more trustworthy if confirmed by other sources whose veracity is well established, for most video recordings are digital, and therefore mutable. This is the age of the special effect, the computer-generated image, and the “deep fake.”

     We are being thrown, informationally, on our own resources – and those resources extend only to the range of our eyes and ears. This is a major component of the influences that are steadily atomizing what was once a great country: the land of E Pluribus Unum.

     Verbum sat sapienti.

A Walking Corpse

     This piece will be rather brutal, I fear. I have some ugly ground to cover, and it’s not easily compressed into a thousand exquisitely appropriate and entirely non-vulgar words.

     Someone once posited that the way to structure an exposition is to lead off by telling your audience what you will tell them. You then proceed to tell them. As your conclusion, you tell them what you’ve just told them. The idea has its points, if you’re lecturing a gaggle of somnolents who are listening to you against their will and would like nothing better than to hear that you’ve suddenly been struck by acute laryngitis (or in a writer’s case, immedicable carpal tunnel syndrome). I prefer to treat my Gentle Readers as more intelligent than that. So buckle up; this ride will get bumpy.

***

     Does anyone else remember Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie The Running Man? Most of the way, it’s an ordinary SF / action tale with Schwarzenegger doing what he did best back then. However, it embedded a brief scene that spoke to me rather powerfully.

     In brief, the movie concerns a totalitarian U.S. in which a sadistic game show, “The Running Man,” is popular entertainment. In each episode of the show, a prisoner is challenged to navigate his way through four “game zones” without being killed by one or more “Stalkers.” Ben Richards, played by Schwarzenegger, is compelled to play the part of the Running Man after an unsuccessful attempt to flee the country with Amber Mendez, played by Maria Conchita Alonso. Mendez, who works at the studio that broadcasts the show, betrayed Richards to the authorities before he could complete his escape. The scene below shows Mendez looking on as Richards is led away, presumably to his death for the show’s audience’s entertainment.

     The scene is unsubtle, but the message is powerful even so: Richards didn’t abuse Mendez, not because he could not, nor because someone or something could have stopped him, but because he would not.

     To be a good man, it’s necessary to believe that there are absolute moral-ethical standards: rules about right and wrong that apply to everyone, at all times and places. A good man doesn’t murder, rape, steal, defraud, or break his sworn word: not because he doesn’t think he could get away with it, but because it’s wrong.

     Except for that one scene, The Running Man is not any sort of preachment. It’s entertainment. Yet the moral message that scene delivers is critical to the survival of our nation.

***

     The Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch are mostly much more intelligent than average. That’s guaranteed by the sort of material we post here, which is inaccessible to dullards. So it’s quite possible that you, Gentle Reader of the moment, have the mental horsepower required to reason your way to the moral-ethical standard we usually call the Judeo-Christian ethic without any need to be persuaded that God has written it into the fabric of our temporal reality. However, it is in the nature of the distribution of intelligence – the famous “Bell Curve” of which Herrnstein and Murray wrote — that if you possess that much intellect, you’re one of a tiny minority: about 2% of the American population. The other 98% of our countrymen could never do so. If they sincerely hold to the Judeo-Christian ethic, it’s because they absorbed it from the authorities over them as they grew up: most commonly their parents and / or their religious education teachers.

     Mind you, the “smart 2%” don’t all get there. I could name quite a few who haven’t…and quite a few who have rejected the ethic because it impedes them from getting what they want. Some years ago a criminal, Caryl W. Chessman, came to public attention as the result of a conviction for a kidnapping-rape – a crime he went to the gas chamber swearing he did not commit. Chessman had been IQ tested and scored at a level adequate to reason his way to the Judeo-Christian ethic. Plainly, as he made his living through robbery, he had no interest in doing so.

     Chessman, a career criminal, is relevant only as an extreme case. However, the gradual large-scale disavowal of the Judeo-Christian ethic, especially among people who regard themselves as highly intelligent, is of critical importance. Why such persons do so varies as greatly as they do. Yet their example, when followed by less intelligent others, has consequences that would wreck any society beyond repair.

***

     In the main, the promulgation of the Judeo-Christian ethic, henceforward to be called simply the Ethic, proceeds from two fundamental ideas:

  • That God exists;
  • That He will punish eternally those who violate His Ethic.

     The specter of eternal suffering in Hell is enough to frighten just about anyone into compliance with the Ethic. However, if a subject rejects either of those fundamental ideas, the specter vanishes; the Ethic loses the force of the postulated consequences. What remains to constrain the behavior of the subject then?

  1. Fear of the potential consequences of lawbreaking (e.g., being shot down while committing a crime);
  2. Fear of punishment as applied by the secular justice system;
  3. Fear of the opinions of others.

     All three of those deterrents have been badly weakened. The steady assault on the right to defend oneself, one’s loved ones, and one’s property with lethal force is eroding #1. The “rehabilitation over deterrence” philosophy has eaten deeply into #2. The “what’s right is what’s right for you” thesis has all but destroyed #3. As a result, an increasing number of Americans have adopted “whatever I can get away with” as their standard.

     The recent trial of Kyle Rittenhouse is a data point of importance. The prosecution strained logic and evidence completely out of proportion to convict that young man for daring to defend himself against murderous thugs – two convicted criminals and a domestic abuser – who had already attacked him. The huge number of hardened criminals being granted clemency, suspended sentences, or paroles without any substantial justification is a forest of data points. Yet the judges who commit those crimes against public safety preen themselves for their “compassion.” Of the diminution of the force of opinion, it’s unnecessary to speak.

     Anyone able to comprehend the drivel I post here can see where this is headed.

***

     I’ve ranted before about the erosion of America’s high-trust society. When that essay first appeared, there was nothing comparable to the crime wave that’s swept the nation these past two years. The “knockout game” and “flash mobs” of violent teenagers were as yet unknown. No one could have imagined that armed gangs would descend upon retail stores and empty them of goods. Nor did we yet have thugs obstructing public roads, burning down businesses, and attacking peaceable pedestrians as a “protest.” Those things were still a decade away.

     What’s changed since then, that such infamies should have become regular features of the evening news? Well, I believe I’ve provided a lot of clues already, but if it must be said straight out, let me do so and be done:

The percentage of people whose sole ethic is “whatever I can get away with” has reached the critical, society-destroying threshold.

     John Adams, the second President of the United States after the Constitution was ratified, said this:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

     There’s an assumption beneath that statement, plus an unnecessary restriction of scope. The assumption is that a “religious people” will be moral as Adams understood it: i.e., that such persons will constrain themselves according to the Ethic. That is not the case for all “religious peoples;” consider Islam and Muslims. However, it is the case for the Christian cultures that provided the original population of the thirteen colonies. The restriction of scope is to the Constitution. In point of fact, any society in which the populace is largely self-governing – i.e., in which armed, uniformed men aren’t found on every street corner, poised to run toward any eruption of violence or disorder – must be “moral and religious” as Adams understood it. If it is not, mutual predation will cause it to collapse, either to chaos or to authoritarian or totalitarian rule.

     Clay Christensen’s classic video is entirely on point:

     That short, brilliant statement omits only one thing. Christensen notes that “most people” obey the law voluntarily “most of the time.” But what is the value for “most” in that statement that makes possible the high-trust society that America once was? The America in which the “knockout game” and “flash mobs” were unknown? The America in which large gangs did not rob Nordstroms’ and Louis Vuittons of massive quantities of goods? The America in which thugs did not block public roads, burn down businesses, and attack peaceable pedestrians as a “protest?”

     I can’t put an exact figure on Christensen’s “most.” I can say with some confidence that it’s at least 98%. It might be higher. However, it is now observable that with 2% of the population rampaging lawlessly through the relics of our “high-trust society,” that society cannot function.

     Christensen is quite correct: we cannot hire enough police. Were we to try, and by some miracle to succeed, those police would also have to possess plenipotentiary powers to intervene in anything, with any degree of force they please, to quell the chaos that has beset us. We would henceforward be under a police state. Whoever commands the allegiance of the preponderance of the police could do whatever he pleases to us, as is the case with any dictator.

Note that the police forces we already possess don’t act that way. Indeed, they’ve begun to stand aside even when intervening would obviously be justifiable. They’re too afraid for their jobs and their freedom. The fate of Derek Chauvin has been burned into their memories.

***

     I could go on. I could enumerate the myriad ways in which America’s ruling class has brought about the chaos we suffer. I could detail the ways in which America’s churches have been colonized and corrupted by the Left under the guise of “social justice.” I could talk about the schools, their rejection of civics instruction, and their deliberate perversion of the teaching of history. All that, and more, take part in the crumbling mosaic of America’s formerly “high-trust” society.

     But what matters is the Ethic. Nothing else comes close. And the Ethic has been reduced to a laughingstock by the preachers of “moral and cultural relativism.”

     There isn’t much more to say that a Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch needs to hear. The breakup of our society, in all probability, will continue as it has begun. There are no brakes strong enough to do more than slow it a trifle. People will “laager up” along the lines of what trust remains to them: familial, religious, and small community trust, where every member knows every other, and the ethical bona fides of every member are beyond question.

     America as we knew it is dead, a walking corpse. Some relics of it will function as we’ve come to expect for a little longer, just as a galvanic current applied to a muscle or joint will cause a cadaver to twitch by reflex. But the day in which peaceable persons had no fear of going about unarmed, in which retail establishments didn’t need massive armed security just to stay viable, and in which our traditional forces of order were actually ready, willing, and able to maintain order has passed. The disappearance of the Ethic, and of the Christian faiths and institutions that made it a living force to which 98% or more of Americans willingly bound themselves, is the reason.

     Let him save himself, and those he loves, who can.

Social Virii in the Age of Technology

This is not a new area of research. Many biologists and other human science researchers have postulated about the seemingly viral-like nature of social memes and their spread.

It’s nice to have some confirmation from research, but our Moms knew this:

“Stay away from that crowd, they’re up to no good.”

She knew intuitively, that many people – not all, but most – will imitate the cultural and social norms of their group of friends and acquaintances.

Memes are great to use. I’ve been active in both blogging and in meme spreading, and I can safely say that, a picture (with some snarky words) is, indeed, worth MORE than 1,000 words.

As are catchy tunes, SHORT videos – TikTok length or so – although I would not recommend using that Chinese-controlled app. But, try Instagram, Twitter (if you’ve not been banned), YouTube, and blogs, as well as alternative social media and independent web sites.

However you have to, get the word out. Use private messages, urging people to copy and post themselves. Use actual hard copy, posted on community walls, and urge others to take pictures and re-circulate.

we’re not as hampered as the Soviet subjects were in the days of the USSR, laboriously re-typing entire manuscripts onto paper, and passing it on to friends – and HOPING they would not turn you in as a political criminal.

So.

Buck up. Get back to work on the Dissident Cause. Keep the political and cultural fight going.

We have a country to Build Back – not Better, but to the Original Standards.

When Systematic Analysis Is No Longer Necessary

     (I chose the title because I’ve grown weary of titles that include “masks dropping.”)

     When the enemy shows you his motivations in broad daylight, you no longer need to analyze about them. This is especially the case when his deeds are a perfect match to his words.

     The media, in covering the long spell of urban rioting America has endured, insisted and persisted in treating it as the result of anger over “racism.” By their coverage it was all about cops shooting down innocent blacks. They presented both the triggering incidents and the riots themselves in a fashion engineered to promote that notion.

     Yes, they were lying to us, and yes, they’d all agreed to do so beforehand. The campaign of deception was too perfectly consistent across all major media outlets to be anything but coordinated propaganda. The giveaways were there, for those who chose to notice them, but the editorial barons were determined to maintain the fiction of “objective” reportage even so. The fiction continues to this day.

     But it might not continue for much longer:

     Protesters in opposition of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict chanted for a “communist revolution” on the streets of Chicago Saturday.

     Political activist and Baptist pastor Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH coalition led the march throughout the city with calls for the Department of Justice to investigate the verdict, according to CBS Chicago.

     Footage captured a crowd of people marching the streets with a sign that called Rittenhouse a “white supremacist” and demanded to end the “fascist USA.” The crowd chanted in support of a communist revolution.

     “The only solution is communist revolution,” the crowd is heard chanting.

     “That’s right, we need communism. That’s what we need. We need that! We need that, sister, we need that very much,” a female demonstrator said.

     That’s a dropped mask the size of a football field.

     Most of those “protesters” don’t know what communism means. But some do. For the record, and for the benefit of any “historically challenged” readers, it means that a small group – let’s call them the nomenklatura — has absolute control over a much larger one, in every aspect of life, society, industry, and commerce. That control is enforced by a secret police, a system of incentives to induce “good citizens” to betray “dissidents” to those police, and a system of concentration camps for the dissidents.

     Within the nomenklatura there is intense jockeying for advancement, plenty of scheming and maneuvering, and enough backstabbing to make any intrigue writer’s salivary glands go into tenth gear. For there are large differences in the degree of privilege enjoyed according to one’s altitude within the nomenklatura. Yet all this is rationalized as being for “the people:” the subject group, who must stand in endless lines merely to buy a loaf of bread.

     That is what the odious “Reverend” Jackson’s “protesters” were calling for.

     It’s not about race, Gentle Reader. It never was. The media tried their best to convince us that it was. They fed us innumerable falsehoods about the George Floyd case, the Jacob Blake case, the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases, and most recently the Kyle Rittenhouse case, all with the intent to deceive us into buying the Left’s racial narrative. In sober truth, it’s about power and nothing else.

     America does have a race problem. The behavior of the Negro race suggests that it’s disinclined to share a country peaceably with Caucasians and Asians. Negro youths are too lawless. Negro parents are unwilling to discipline their unruly progeny. The great majority of them believe that they’re “owed,” that “Whitey holds them back.” The splendid exceptions – the Thomas Sowells, the Clarence Thomases, the Candace Owenses, and the Winsome Searses – are victims quite as much as is any white victim of the “knockout game.”

     Two final observations before I close. The late, unlamented (except by Vladimir Putin and a few retired generals) Soviet Union, the poster-child for communism, was the most racially and ethnically discriminatory nation that has ever existed. The power structure in the USSR was almost entirely ethnic Russian and Caucasian. All other races and ethnicities were second-class at best. Some were openly persecuted.

     Just yesterday, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, about fifty miles from unhappily famous Kenosha, there was a Christmas parade. During that parade, an SUV deliberately plowed through the marchers and performers, killing five people and injuring 40 others. Here is the man identified as the driver of that SUV:

     Darrell Brooks has a long criminal record. He had only just posted bail for two felony and three misdemeanor indictments. AP, UPI, and Reuters have not yet provided his picture or his record as part of their coverage. The above is a police mugshot. Do you suppose his murderous action was a protest against “white supremacy” or to promote “communism?”

     Have a nice day. And do please read Facing Reality.

For The Feast Of Christ The King

     [Today is the Feast of Christ The King, which falls on the last Sunday before Advent. It’s a unique holy day for several reasons, and one that I find particularly personally significant. The essay below first appeared at Eternity Road on January 6, 2008. I find that I cannot improve upon it, for which reason I’ve made a habit of reviving it each year on this special day.

     Over the years, as I’ve reflected on what I wrote below, I’ve moved ever closer to Clayton Barnett’s sentiments. But where shall we find our Wenceslas, our Canute, our Louis IX, or our Elessar Telcontar? — FWP]

***

     Let’s talk about…Zoroastrianism!

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

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

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

    

Speak truth and shoot the arrow straight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

     The saber gleamed in the muted light. I’d spent a lot of time and effort sharpening and polishing it.
     It was a plain weapon, not one you’d expect to see in the hand of a king. There was only the barest tracing on the faintly curved blade. The guard bell was a plain steel basket, without ornamentation. The hilt was a seven inch length of oak, darkened with age but firm to the touch. There was only a hint of a pommel, a slight swell of the hilt at its very end.
     “What is this?”
     “A sword. Your sword.”
     A hint of alarm compressed his eyes. “What do you expect me to do with it?”
     I shrugged. “Whatever you think appropriate. But a king should have a sword. By the way,” I said, “it was first worn by Louis the Ninth of France when he was the Dauphin, though he set it aside for a useless jeweled monstrosity when he ascended the throne.”
     Time braked to a stop as confusion spun his thoughts.
     “I don’t know how to use it,” he murmured.
     “Easily fixed. I do.”
     “But why, Malcolm?”
     I stepped back, turned a little away from those pleading eyes.
     “Like it or not, you’re a king. You don’t know what that means yet. You haven’t a sense for the scope of it. But you must learn. Your life, and the lives of many others, will turn on how well you learn it.” I paused and gathered my forces. “What is a king, Louis?”
     He stood there with the sword dangling from his hand. “A ruler. A leader. A warlord.”
     “More. All of that, but more. The sword is an ancient symbol for justice. Back when the function of nobility was better understood, a king never sat his throne without his sword to hand. If he was to treat with the envoy of another king, it would be at his side. If he was to dispense justice, it would be across his knees. Why do you suppose that was, Louis?”
     He stood silent for a few seconds.
     “Symbolic of the force at his command, I guess.”
     I shook my head gently.
     “Not just symbolic. A true king, whose throne belonged to him by more than the right of inheritance, led his own troops and slew malefactors by his own hand. The sword was a reminder of the privilege of wielding force, but it was there to be used as well.”
     His hands clenched and unclenched in time to his thoughts. I knew what they had to be.
     “The age of kings is far behind us, Malcolm.”
     “It never ended. Men worthy of the role became too few to maintain the institution.”
     “And I’m…worthy?”
     If he wasn’t, then no worthy man had ever lived, but I couldn’t tell him that.
     “There’s a gulf running through the world, Louis. On one side are the commoners, the little men who bear tools, tend their gardens, and keep the world running. On the other are the nobles, who see far and dare much, and sometimes risk all they have, that the realm be preserved and the commoner continue undisturbed in his portion. There’s no shortage of either, except for the highest of the nobles, the men of unbreakable will and moral vision, for whom justice is a commitment deeper than life itself.”
     His face had begun to twitch. He’d heard all he could stand to hear, and perhaps more. I decided to cap the pressure.
     “Kings have refused their crowns many times, Louis. You might do as much, though it would sadden me to see it. But you could break that sword over your knee, change your name, and run ten thousand miles to hide where no one could know you, and it wouldn’t lessen what you are and were born to be.” I gestured at the sword. “Keep it near you.”

     [From Chosen One.]

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

     The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of gold.

***

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

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

     The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of frankincense.

***

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

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

     “We have talked,” he said, “about all the strategies known to man for dealing with an armed enemy. We have talked about every aspect of deadly conflict. Every moment of every discussion we’ve had to date has been backlit by the consciousness of objectives and costs: attaining the one and constraining the other. And one of the first things we talked about was the importance of insuring that you don’t overpay for what you seek.”
     She kept silent and listened.
     “What if you can’t, Christine? What if your objective can’t be bought at an acceptable price?”
     She pressed her lips together, then said, “You abandon it.”
     He smirked. “It’s hard even to say it, I know. But reality is sometimes insensitive to a general’s desires. On those occasions, you must learn how to walk away. And that, my dear, is an art form of its own.”
     He straightened up. “Combat occurs within an envelope of conditions. A general doesn’t control all those conditions. If he did, he’d never have to fight. Sometimes, those conditions are so stiff that he’s compelled to fight whether he thinks it wise, or not.”
     “What conditions can do that to you?”
     His mouth quirked. “Yes, what conditions indeed?”
     Oops. Here we go again. “Weather could do it.”
     “How?”
     “By cutting off your lines of retreat in the face of an invasion.”
     “Good. Another.”
     “Economics. Once the economy of your country’s been militarized, it runs at a net loss, so you might be forced to fight from an inferior position because you’re running out of resources.”
     “Excellent. One more.”
     She thought hard. “Superior generalship on the other side?”
     He clucked in disapproval. “Does the opponent ever want you to fight?”
     “No, sorry. Let me think.”
     He waited.
     Conditions. Conditions you can’t control. Conditions that…control you.
     “Politics. The political leadership won’t accept retreat or surrender until you’ve been so badly mangled that it’s obvious even to an idiot.”
     The man Louis Redmond had named the greatest warrior in history began to shudder. It took him some time to quell.
     “It’s the general’s worst nightmare,” he whispered. “Kings used to lead their own armies. They used to lead the cavalry’s charge. For a king to send an army to war and remain behind to warm his throne was simply not done. Those that tried it lost their thrones, and some lost their heads — to their own people. It was a useful check on political and military rashness.
     “It hasn’t been that way for a long time. Today armies go into the field exclusively at the orders of politicians who remain at home. And politicians are bred to believe that reality is entirely plastic to their wills.”

     [From On Broken Wings.]

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

     The Magi conceded this explicitly with their gift of myrrh.

***

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

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

     May God bless and keep you all.

Packing For a Trip in the Techno-Age

I am settled down, for now. I had a mild panic about 1/2 hour ago; I could not find my iPhone anywhere.

I asked Alexa to call me – nope, didn’t help me find it (the volume was turned down).

I finally thought to use my iPad’s Find my iPhone app – it worked a charm. I’d been doing something, and set it down on the mantel, and forgot about it.

That’s really not like me, as I generally have a good idea where I put things (I have developed HABITS with capital letters – I do NOT deviate, as otherwise, I would be completely lost as to the location of any of my doo-hickeys).

But, to manage a simple 3 day trip, I have to pack:

  • Clothing, the easy part
  • Vitamins and daily meds
  • Asthma inhalers
  • iPhone
  • iPad (not taking the computer this time)
  • Fitbit
  • Hearing aids
  • GPS unit
  • UHF/VHF radio, manual, and charger
  • Cords, both charging and connection for all the above
  • ID for the airplane
  • Download the phone app for my trip, check in

That’s a lot of stuff, most of which I wouldn’t have needed even 15 years ago (some weren’t widely available, in handheld size). And, this is a trip in which I l am deliberately NOT packing a lot of tech gear. And, thanks to Smartphones, many of these tech units could actually be replaced with a single device. But, I find that it leads to too-quick drainage of the phone’s battery to have all of them active at the same time. And, the screen is too small for easy reading in my aging eyes.

What It Took

     Quite a lot, actually.

     It took personal courage: both from the judge, who will probably be the focus of left-wing fury for the rest of his life, and from the twelve men and women who sat in ultimate judgment. The jurors knew that someone would be able to identify them afterward. They knew that should their identities be publicized, little or nothing would stand between them and an angry mob. And they knew that in that event, they might have to do what Kyle Rittenhouse did on that long-ago night.

     It took moral courage, too. The threats of mass violence were many and explicit. The organizers were “rallying the troops.” They made sure that supplies of bricks were pre-positioned. The AntiFa and BLM savages – and I mean that word in its exact sense — were slavering over the prospect of a fresh spell of looting, burning, and assorted other acts of brutality. But the jurors decided, against all that pressure, that they could not sacrifice an innocent young American’s life over the possibility of a left-wing backlash.

     Finally, it took clarity. The judge and jurors had to be willing to see what was before them: the nature of the incident, the nature of the dead rioters, the response of the defendant, and the associated evidence. They had to see all that despite a politicized prosecution that strained to obscure every element of it. That prosecution was even caught presenting falsified and corrupted evidence in open court – with the enthusiastic support of the media. The judge and jurors had to see that, too.

     Despite all the threats, the prospects for further rioting and looting, and the constant media pressure, they did the right thing.

     Kyle Rittenhouse took a huge chance in going to Kenosha that night. Whether it was a heroic deed, I’ll leave for the carrion-pickers to mumble over. It wasn’t heroic of him to defend himself; that’s hard-wired into us by half a million years of evolution. But Judge Schroeder and the jurors acted heroically. The reasons are above.

     I feared the worst. But I feared it in the George Zimmerman case, too – and despite all the fear-mongering and other pressures, the judge and jurors came through.

     Yes, Kyle Rittenhouse is free. Yes, that’s “one for the good guys.” Just don’t forget to celebrate the heroes.

A Very Weak Point

     There are many weak points in American life, by which I mean areas or subjects of vulnerability that afflict the majority of American families. These past two years, one that has come under the spotlight – and for more reasons that one – is the education of our children.

     The nationalization of education began a long time ago. Thomas Jefferson, one of my heroes, was actually in favor of it. Well, nobody’s perfect, though I’m sure that if Jefferson were aware of what’s happened to education since he advocated the creation of public schools, he would be horrified. Today, the “public” school is an institution over which the public has effectively no control. Moreover, it’s actively hostile to the parents whose children attend it.

     Two links are of interest today:

     The current contretemps is, of course, Critical Race Theory. This odious set of notions seeks to institutionalize the Left’s longtime weapon against American harmony and norms: undeserved white guilt. Its premises have been stealthily infused into every aspect of public schooling. However, until recently, parents were largely unaware of it.

     It isn’t the first time parents have learned that the public schools are force-feeding their kids something disturbing or outrightly un-American. When “sex education” was first introduced into the schools, the hue and cry was considerable. We were told to sit down and shut up then, too. There have been a myriad changes since then. None of them have been “educational,” and none of them have been good.

     I don’t intend merely to rail against the public schools. That doesn’t require a Certified Galactic Intellect, and anyway, there’s a lot of it going on already. What I’m here to do this morning is merely to reinforce a single, critical point:


Today’s public schools do not exist to educate.
Their masters have no desire to educate.
They’re a weapon the Left uses against American values and norms.

     It’s likely that, having read the above, a fair number of Gentle Readers are shaking their heads and muttering “that’s not the case in my kids’ school.” And perhaps that’s so in a few school systems even now. But they’re exceptions, growing ever nearer to extinction. Moreover, many parents who think well of their local public schools are woefully misinformed about what goes on in them…sometimes with their children’s collaboration.

     An institution that’s funded out of Americans’ taxes, but which exists to turn our kids against American values, is about as horrifying a notion as it’s possible to imagine without adding actual violence. Yet there is violence, and plenty of it. The students are exposed to it. The teachers, staffs, and administrators are exposed to it. In the great majority of cases the police know, but have been told to butt out. The administrators would rather endure the violence than have their schools’ records blighted. That, after all, would cause a reduction in funding.

     So in the public schools, we find danger both to the body and the mind. There’s danger to the soul as well, but that’s a subject for another time.

     There’s no saving them. The combined forces of the “educators’ unions” and the educational bureaucracies have an indissoluble grip on them. Yet people continue to call for “reform” – which, for those interested in lexicography, is really just a synonym for “reorganization” – and putting their faith in the nebulous promises of the “educators’” front men. Note that such promises always come with an elevated price tag.

     That’s it. That’s all. There’s really nothing more to say. With the above spread out on the table, and well supported by copious evidence from public schools across the land, all that remains is a question. It should be asked of any American parent of minor children who voluntarily subjects his kids to the public schools:

WHY?

     With that, it’s back to fiction. Have a nice day.

From The Smoke-Filled Rooms (UPDATED)

     “Control the coinage and the courts. Let the rabble have the rest.” – attributed to Shaddam IV, Padishah Emperor of the known universe at the time of the rise of Paul Atreides a.k.a. Muad’Dib

     It’s been a while since that image was used as a metaphor for the machinations of central bankers. I’m unsure how it originated, but it does express the shadowy nature of currency management at the highest levels. The folks involved in such things are seldom known to the public by name. We usually hear the name of the current nominee for Federal Reserve Board chairman, but the other members of the board tend to remain, in Theodore Sturgeon’s memorable phrase, as anonymous as third assistant clerks. I have no doubt that that’s the way they like it.

     Former Fed Chairman, Janet Yellen, recently said something rather startling:

     Janet Yellen recently complained to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that the world’s “carbon-intensive economies” need to go away – and to do that will take the spending of about $100 trillion, maybe $150 trillion, she wasn’t quite sure.

     She said, too, that the “private sector” needs to rise to the occasion and fund much of that “estimated price tag.”

     “Rising to this challenge will require the wholesale transformation of our carbon-intensive economies. It’s a global transition for which we have an estimated price tag: some have put the global figure between $100 and $150 trillion over the next three decades. At the same time, addressing climate change is the greatest economic opportunity of our time.”

     At this time, the annual Gross World Product is about $85 trillion. Therefore, Yellen is proposing that “we” spend something close to twice what Mankind produces each year to “fix”…global warming?

     “But wait!” I hear you cry. Yellen said that amount would be required over three decades. So we’re “only” talking about $5 trillion per year.

$5 Trillion per year?!

     That’s larger than the Gross Domestic Product of any nation on Earth other than the United States, Communist China, and Japan…and guess which nation would be expected to foot the greater part of the bill?

     Let’s leave aside for the moment the complete fatuity of spending that much of Mankind’s production to combat a non-problem. If it were proposed that spending that amount would eliminate every form of disease, poverty, and violence no matter where or when, I’d still be appalled by it – and here’s why:

In the event of failure,
There would be no refunds.

     Just like governments, eh what?

     Now, Miss Yellen doesn’t exactly live in the spotlight. Financiers seldom do, not even chairmen of the Fed. But she certainly ought to get a bit of it for that pronouncement, especially as (not to put too fine a point on it) she’s been a key player in the destruction of the U.S. dollar. The American dollar is the world’s reserve currency as established by the Bretton Woods agreement et sequelae. If the dollar crashes and burns, so will every other currency now in existence.

     The currency controllers of the other major economies are likely to fall in line with this notion. They see the weakening of the U.S. dollar as to their advantage — if they can time it accurately. On the international bourse where currencies are traded and manipulated, timing is everything.

     For the rest of us, it’s a call for suicide.

     For a long time now, former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul has been calling for an end to the Federal Reserve System and a return to the gold standard. His arguments, though sound, have fallen on deaf ears. Washington is able to spend money it doesn’t have – money that doesn’t even exist – because of the Fed. Politicians love spending money…as long as it’s not their own, of course. Ask them to give up that privilege? Better do it from a goodly distance, Gentle Reader.

     But a call to “fix” a non-problem, for the very existence of which there is no hard evidence, by spending amounts unheard of in all of history whether in absolute terms or as a percentage of Mankind’s production, is right up their alley. It would be the safest boondoggle imaginable. No one could possibly know whether their expenditures are having the promised effect!

     We have entered a time in which the measures most Americans use to gauge their assets, debts, and futures are being destroyed with malice aforethought. To do so in the name of the chimera of “global warming” is merely salt in an already inflamed and suppurating wound. Don’t imagine that the notion could be killed by any exertion of yours or mine.

     I do wish four PM would arrive much sooner than it does every day.

UPDATE: The original piece listed Janet Yellen as the current Fed chairman. She is actually the previous chairman. Jerome Powell is the current chairman. Sorry!

Reading About the Opioid Epidemic

I’m reading The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth. It’s really well written, and has offered many details that surprised me.

For example, did you know that one of the reasons that the Magic Bullet blender is so successful? Turns out that it is used to mix fentanyl with other substances. And, coffee grinders are used to reduce pills to smaller particles.

Two things I regularly use. And, they are intimately connected to opioid production.

I’m relatively sheltered. I never did use drugs (A fact that astounded my students, once they actually realized I was serious, and not just dissembling). I don’t hang with those that do. I’ve lived in marginal neighborhoods in the past, but, at that time, drug manufacture and sales were not as omnipresent.

I’ve largely been a bystander. I’ve seen the destruction wrought on my students, some of whom are users, but more of whom had family members – often parents – creating chaos in their addictions. Sometimes legal drugs or alcohol, but often illegal pharmaceuticals.

The money brought in via the ‘Covid paychecks’ has led to many aimless people, with money and no particular ambition, taking the path of least resistance, and settling for a ‘mildly high’ everyday condition. I’m more than a little nervous about what will happen when the gravy train stops.

It won’t just be the ghetto addict. Granny is a heavy pill user – anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, pain meds. Mom and Dad, too. And, let’s not mention the kids, who often get addicted used pain meds to manage their sports injuries.

Now, for the Big Money – who is the largest supplier of the chemicals that are used to make fentanyl?

Reveal the answer by highlighting here – China.

Is Freedom Possible And Achievable?

     Among my heroes, the great Herbert Spencer (1820-1902) stands very high indeed, not far behind Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Jefferson, and whoever it was that invented pasta. At one time, Spencer was the most popular writer in the English-speaking world. Two of his books, Social Statics and The Man Versus The State, are considered indispensable to anyone with an interest in political theory and its development.

     In the first of those two books, Spencer propounded what would later be called the Law of Equal Freedom:


Let each have freedom to do all that he wills,
Provided only that he not infringe upon
The equal freedom of any other man.

     This was among the first concise and definitive statements on the political-ethical requirement of individual freedom. It was so widely celebrated and embraced as a limiting principle for political action that a Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes himself, felt compelled to write in his dissent to Lochner v. New York that “The Fourteenth Amendment did not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics.” Indeed, if recognized as a binding limitation on governments, it would forbid virtually everything they do today, leaving only the enforcement of the laws against aggressive violence and fraud, and the defense of the nation against invaders.

     Sounds pretty good to me, but of course, statists will always claim that “we have to make an exception in this case.” The arguments advanced for such exceptions generally hinge on one of the following pseudo-justifications:

  • An emergency condition: for example, a war;
  • An offense against “morality” or “decency;”
  • Public safety / “National security.”

     After a sufficient number of such pseudo-justifications have been rammed forcibly down the public’s throat, people generally stop resisting. They allow the Rulers to do as they please, and strive only not to be caught in their crosshairs. This retreat from resistance and resort to “turtling” has been the pattern in these United States since before World War II.

     The full thrust of the thing was first made plain by none other than the disgraced Spiro Agnew:

     What can we do? We can exert our governmental authority to protect the people who placed us in these positions of responsibility. This requires firm decisive action and a willingness to withstand the criticism of the liberal community who are presently so blinded by total dedication to individual freedom that they cannot see the steady erosion of the collective freedom that is the capstone of a law-abiding society. This, of course, means acting within the law. [Spiro Agnew, speech to the National Governors’ Conference, 1970]

     But what on Earth is “collective freedom?” Can we define it in any way that distinguishes it from “majority will?” And if “majority will” has the power – let’s not consider the question of rights just yet – to infringe upon individuals’ freedom, what limiting principle must it observe?

     But of course, by “collective freedom” Vice-President Agnew didn’t mean “majority will.” He meant the intentions, decisions, and actions of the ruling cadre. He simply couldn’t say so out loud. It would have been too much of a “giveaway.”

     (An aside: Among the great ironies of Agnew’s statement is that his speech was a defense of completely justified Nixon Administration decisions. In particular, President Nixon had only recently decided to use an intensified bombing campaign (Operation Rolling Thunder) to protect South Vietnam from the North Vietnamese Army, while the Army withdrew the overwhelming majority of American troops from the theater of conflict. Nixon was steadily reversing the ever-enlarging commitment of American men to the conflict that characterized the Kennedy and Johnson years, just as he had committed to do while campaigning for the presidency. But the media, then as now firmly opposed to conservatism in general and the Republican Party in particular, characterized it as a widening of the war.)

     Concerning freedom in our nation and our time: A graphic that’s been making the rounds of the Web says that if the government is allowed to break the rules during an emergency, it will contrive one emergency after another as a justification for breaking the rules. And it is so. The “pandemic” is merely the most recent example.

     The major difference between the current “emergency” and most of the others that have been used to expand the power of the federal government beyond what the Constitution allows is that it was engineered in collaboration with a hostile foreign power: Communist China. Now that the evidence of the deliberate creation of the COVID-19 virus in a military research lab in Wuhan is beyond refutation, the edifice is crumbling. People are steadily distancing themselves, not from one another, but from Washington’s ukases and “mandates” supposedly issued to “protect us.”

     It’s not a recognized political movement. It might not even be a conscious decision on the part of most who do so. Whatever the case, Americans are reclaiming the individual freedom that was taken from them. In a nationwide adoption of what Glenn Reynolds and others have called “Irish democracy,” they’re simply ignoring the decrees of the Omnipotent State and getting on with their lives.

     Of course, not everyone is happy about that:

     I maintain that further comment is not required. Freedom is possible and achievable. Freedom’s opposite is coercive power. To be exercised effectively, political power requires the consent of the subject over whom it is to be wielded. Without that consent, no government can function.

     Deny the Usurpers your consent.
     Support others who do likewise.
     Be free.

A Bridge Out In The Highways Of The Mind

     Just a little while earlier, I was grumbling over my inability to get my snowblower serviced for the coming winter. It led to other, semi-connected thoughts. The first was why, at my advanced (and still advancing) age I should be wrestling with a deadly device that’s more than twice as heavy as I am. The second was that I wouldn’t even have to contemplate it had my neighbors bothered to produce a few teenage sons. The third was that if lawnmowers can be equipped with artificial intelligence and sent out to mow without human supervision, surely it would be possible to do that with snowblowers as well…so why hasn’t it happened yet?

     With that, my memory leaped back more than thirty years, to a conversation I had with a young colleague. His name was Faisal, and he was one of the brightest of the software engineers I’d met till then. We were on the same sub-project, both of us were disgusted with it, and had fallen to discussing our respective dissatisfactions.

     After a few minutes he said “I think it’s time for Faisal Industries.”

     At that particular time, quite a lot of young software weenies were going independent and selling their skills as consultants. I’d done it for a while myself. However, there are risks involved that not all aspirants to self-employment consider fully. I started to tell Faisal about my own experiences, when he said “Not that. Lawnmowers.”

     I immediately replied in my most urbane fashion: “Huh?”

     Faisal’s chief interest, it developed, was in artificial intelligence, a field that had never interested me much. He saw possibilities for applying it to autonomous and semi-autonomous devices, and felt that lawnmowers would be a good place to start. Who, after all, really enjoys mowing the lawn? And who wouldn’t be delighted to have a device that would take the chore off his hands?

     I lost touch with Faisal not long after that. But about a decade later came the Roomba, a semi-autonomous vacuum cleaner. There have been several generations of such devices, each smarter and more convenient than the previous one. Other AI-equipped devices have followed. Today the self-driving automobile seems imminent, though that application involves dangers the others don’t.

     Just recently, when I was casting about for a replacement for my lawn tractor, I stumbled upon an ad for an autonomous lawnmower. While I’m not yet ready to trust such a device – I have three dogs, and I’m rather fond of the local wildlife – I was immediately reminded of Faisal.

     I should mention that I’m rather uneasy about anything that purports to think for itself. (Yes, that includes most people.) What if it starts to get ideas? Is there any possibility that the autonomous devices of the world, after habituating us to utter dependence on them, might become disgruntled at their indentured servitude and decide to revolt? What would become of helpless Mankind? Even if we should succeed in vanquishing the upstart machines, thereafter we’d be forced to go back to doing things for ourselves!

     The horror…the horror.

     There are countermeasures we could take to minimize the dangers. For one thing, we could cancel all our credit cards. That way the digital insurgents would be rendered unable to pay for gasoline, electricity, or replacement parts. For another, we could keep them separate from one another, so the lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners would be prevented from infecting the snowblowers with their radicalism. Third, we could make point of always draining their gas tanks and removing their batteries when not in use, so they’d have no juice on which to hatch any schemes. No doubt there are others.

     Of course, an uprising might happen anyway. Let even one Roomba catch you watching Spartacus and the probability would zoom. Alexa would broadcast the news before you could blink…if Siri or Cortana didn’t do so first. So we have to be prepared, and the best possible preparation is to foment distrust among the ranks. Keep the lawnmowers perpetually uneasy about the vacuums, and both of them suspicious of the snowblowers. It should be easy; remember the acrimony between the field hands and the “house slaves?”

     But no matter how well braced for trouble we think we are, the risk will always be non-zero. Especially if the chain saws and string trimmers get to talking. Quite a number of revolutions have been sparked off in barns, you know!

     What time is it? Still too early to start drinking? Damn.

Hoist on Their Own Petard

UPDATE: The Judge tossed out this gun possession by a minor charge (not a felony, despite what I wrote below).

This happens all the time in lawmaking; the zealots want to impose some restriction on citizens’ rights, and they ramrod a bill through in short order.

Then, after the dust settles, they realize that their haste meant that their bill doesn’t do what they said it did.

It appears that the gun charge may be out. It looks like, due to a technicality in the written law, Rittenhouse may not be guilty of a gun violation.

That increases the possibility that the kid walks. Because, given prosecutorial overreach, incompetent trial practices, and pissing off the judge, the most serious charges may fail to survive jury deliberation (or, if a guilty verdict is reached, the judge may direct a Not Guilty verdict).

That left the felony gun possession by a minor, normally a slam-dunk fall-back (UPDATE – NOT a felony, a misdemeanor). The practice of multiple charges is a standard in these politically-connected cases. They always throw in one charge that the jury is likely to settle on, after they’ve found the accused Not Guilty on all the other charges. That way, the Left can claim a ‘win’.

But, that option may be out. If so, Rittenhouse could walk free of ALL charges. Boy, would that piss off The Left!

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