A Word I Hate To Use…

     …is slowly but inexorably forcing its way into my vocabulary. And no, it’s not should.

     Let’s spend a few moments on the incentive structure of retailing. For simplicity, let’s focus on a merchant who buys all his stock-in-trade from others, and attempts to sell it at a profit sufficient to be worth his while. Let’s call our hypothetical retailer Smith.

     Smith’s fundamentals fall into a small number of categories:

  1. Wholesale costs of stock;
  2. Retail prices of stock;
  3. Overhead costs (i.e., costs of operation);
  4. What return Smith deems an acceptable return for his time and labor.

     Even a retailer who sells only one kind of one item must reckon up all four of those considerations. Smith will do his best to know those four numbers as accurately as possible. A significant error in any of them could put him out of business.

     If Smith is a “brick-and-mortar” retailer, he’ll be particularly sensitive to overhead costs. Those include such mundane components as storefront rent, utilities, contracted services (e.g., someone to clean the place every so often), government permits and fees…and “shrinkage.” That last term is one that makes Smith scowl. “Shrinkage” is retailers’ jargon term for stock that cannot be sold. It must be paid for, like everything in Smith’s store, but before he can sell it, thus defraying the price he paid for it, it…vanishes.

     The usual reason for shrinkage is theft. Shoplifting. While Smith can write it off on his commercial tax returns, that only partly salves the wound. It’s very hard to estimate it beforehand – and afterward, there’s little to nothing Smith can do about it.

     Smith can take certain steps to discourage shoplifting, but each of them comes at a cost. Some of the measures in use today:

  • Security guards;
  • Closed-circuit TV systems;
  • Anti-theft RFID tags and door sensors for them;
  • Stock protected by locked cases that must be opened by Smith or his employee;
  • Remotely controlled dual-door systems that create a confinement space for entering customers.

     Smith must confront each measure’s cost and determine what it will do to his business overall before deciding whether to embrace it. Some of the costs could come in reduced good will from Smith’s customers, including losing their trade to competitors.

     No anti-theft measure is indefeasible. All of them will fall to a sufficiently determined thief. The thief who defeats all the prevention measures will be deterred only by his personal estimate of whether the justice system will catch him and call him to account…and that, Smith can do nothing to control.

     Some municipalities have thrown away the very possibility of bringing retail shoplifters to justice. The consequences have been appalling:

     [Organized Retail Crime] is prompting retailers to permanently shut down stores all over the nation. Right now, retail theft is happening from coast to coast on a scale that we have never seen in our entire history. Marauding bands of looters are barging into stores, grabbing as much merchandise as they can possibly carry, and then loading it into their vehicles. Online marketplaces make it easier than ever to turn stolen goods into cash, and at this point organized retail crime has become a multi-billion dollar business. As I have repeatedly warned my readers, America is descending into lawlessness. The thin veneer of civilization that we all depend upon on a daily basis is rapidly disappearing, and if we stay on this path our society will soon be completely unrecognizable.

     Smith, however he might try, could not do anything about an organized, well equipped gang of marauding thieves should it select his store to loot. Neither could Target or Walmart. All a victimized retailer could hope for is vigorous investigation, pursuit, and prosecution of such a gang…and several large municipalities decline to do so.

     And you thought porch package thieves are bad.

***

     The number of Americans who acquire everything they ever need or want through their own labor is small enough to be deemed negligible. Practically speaking, every one of us depends upon the ability to buy and sell without interference. But interference by criminals threatens that ability. Unwillingness among legislatures and prosecutors to act against such criminals magnifies the threat by removing the deterrence that would otherwise exist. And here at long last we come to the word I alluded to at the top:

Inevitable.

     That retail commerce would suffer massively from the default of the justice system was inevitable, as the cited articles suggest. But that’s not the only inevitability. Others are already rearing their heads:

  • Theft insurance is becoming unaffordable.
  • Retailers are imposing stringent shopping conditions on their customers.
  • Many retailers are closing stores; others are going completely out of business.

     As “obvious” as those consequences might seem, there’s another that’s just as “obvious” but considerably more horrifying: Retailers personally acting against thieves, usually with firearms.

     There are specific kinds of retail commerce where “the gun behind the counter” has been a feature for some time. Liquor stores in urban districts come to mind. That practice will spread. For some personal and familial proprietorships, it will become a literal matter of survival. This, too, is inevitable.

     I feel comfortable predicting a few of the consequences of a retailer killing a thief before the miscreant can get away:

  • The media will condemn the retailer for his “wanton act of violence.”
  • Politicians will trumpet the “need” for gun control.
  • The “justice system” will disclaim any responsibility for the crime wave.

     Perhaps these things are not inevitable…but I wouldn’t advise my Gentle Readers to bet against them.

Competence Deemed Racist!

     Seems like it, anyway:

     In 2019, we decided to host anti-racism events in white women’s dining rooms for one specific reason: To turn the age-old adage, “it’s rude to talk about politics at the dinner table” on its head.

     This is what we’ve learned—if you don’t talk about racism, you can’t dismantle it. But it isn’t just over the dinner table that this “niceness” rules.

     In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, you were eager, frenzied even, to do this work. A mere two years later, not only is that excitement for anti-racism work gone, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, into a verifiable whitelash against anti-racism work.

     If white womanhood is a house, your need to be perfect is the foundation.

     It is this need for perfection that makes it impossible to engage in antiracism work.

     Being perfect is the key to your happiness, to your success, to your very existence.

     Perfect hair. Perfect clothes. Perfect grades. Perfect nails. Perfect weddings. Perfect bodies. Perfect adoring and supportive wife and mother. Perfect employee and colleague.

     This is black hatred in the raw: the hatred of competence itself. Whites do not strive to be “perfect.” We strive to be competent. According to what standard? Why, the standard of competence, of course! But what is competence, you ask? I hold to a two-part definition:

  • The ability to choose what to do appropriately to your context;
  • The ability to do it to a high degree of exactitude.

     Obviously, a more specific answer is impossible, since the possible contexts are beyond anyone’s ability to enumerate. But whites of either sex learn early in life that while people might disagree about some details, there will always be broad agreement on the greater part of the standard of competence that applies to a given context.

     In engineering, the field from which I retired, the standard is tight on matters deemed important, but loose on others. It’s why we write performance specifications: without one the implementer wouldn’t know what to produce. Other occupations have other ways of approaching the subject. Homemakers don’t have performance specifications for their work, but every one of them can tell the difference between a clean home and a dirty one…laundered clothes and the dirty ones in the hamper…a hot, nutritious meal and junk grabbed at random in a convenience store.

     “Perfect” doesn’t enter into it. There is no such thing as a perfect program or a perfectly clean house. But each of us has standards for when the job is done. On average, whites have higher standards than blacks. It’s blacks’ problem if they don’t like it.

     It’s employers’ problem, too. The “civil rights” laws have made it so. But that’s a subject for another tirade.

     Throughout history, the less-competent have striven to water down the general standard of competence, that they might not be compared unfavorably to their more competent countrymen. It’s natural, but if there’s a better demonstration that not everything that’s natural is therefore good, it hasn’t occurred to me this morning. That the black racialists of the “anti-racism” grift would disagree doesn’t bother me one whit…and once again, it’s their problem if they don’t like it.

The Signs Point To The Return Of…A Sign

     We all remember what happened to Sweet Cakes By Melissa, Jack Phillips’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Memories Pizza in Indiana. Those are recent enough that the names are practically self-explanatory. But soft! What fresh contretemps through yonder website breaks?

     A Virginia-based conservative Christian advocacy group was turned away from a local restaurant just an hour before their reservation last week.

     A representative of the Family Foundation said he was frustrated after the group was turned away from Metzger Bar and Butchery last Wednesday. The group claims the refusal had to do with their religious beliefs.

     According to Todd Gathje, Director of Government Relations for the Family Foundation, one of the owners of Metzger called a representative of the Family Foundation about an hour before the reservation time, saying that the group would not be dining in the restaurant.

     “We’ve had events at restaurants all over the city and never encountered a situation like this,” Gathje said. “It’s no secret that we are very much engaged in the public policy debate on a number of controversial issues. But we never expected that we would be denied service at a restaurant based on our religious values or political beliefs.”

     For businesses like restaurants, federal and state laws do not allow discrimination based on protected classes such as race, religion, sex and more, as defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

     But the myrmidons of the State will allow it this time, I’m sure. This time, the rejected customer is the wrong sort. Conservatives and Christians are not protected by the “public accommodation” provisions of civil rights law. We engage in “hate speech,” which the Left assures us is really “violence.” We will be told that even when such “speech” consists of religious and political positions expressed elsewhere than in the restaurant under discussion, it is not protected by the First Amendment and therefore opens us to selective discrimination.

     It can’t hold. Two standards means no standard. Eventually the entire edifice, which demands arbitrary discrimination between protected and unprotected characteristics, behavior, and beliefs, will collapse. And we will see the return of a little sign that was once ubiquitous:

We Reserve The Right
To Refuse To Serve Anyone.

     And people and businesses will sort themselves out once more, as they did in those halcyon days of yore.

     As one who strongly defends the right to discriminate, I find the journey initiated by the multiplication of such controversies to be in the right direction – a step back toward the time when a business owner had the same right to choose his commercial associations as you and I have to choose our friends. But the severe cognitive dissonance that’s been imposed on the majority of Americans will continue to torment men of good will until they lift the veil and admit – to themselves if no one else – that what is, is.

     We don’t have to like it. We just have to accept it.

Life, Death, and Decay: A Coda

     Old people think about such things far more frequently than young people…but now and then, a young person will think about them. It’s about mindset:

     The lecture hall had emptied, but Armand and Teresza remained in their seats. Armand had not moved since the closing bell, and Teresza was afraid to nudge him. She simply sat, his big hand between hers, and waited for him to return from his private space.
     They’d sat in complete silence for several minutes when he murmured, “I think I see.”
     “What, Armand?” She chafed his hand gently.
     “Where he’s going with this.” He looked straight ahead, toward the lectern but not at it, a true thousand-yard stare. “He’s been hinting at a unified theory of society, like they’re looking for in physics. I think I see what it is.”
     He doesn’t look happy about it.
     “There’s only two forces that really matter,” he said. “Life and death. Everything else is a sideshow. When we work to live, and to make more life, and to take pleasure in life and help others do the same, that’s healthy. That’s freedom. But the people of Earth weren’t free. They were surrounded by their States. By death. And the States never let up for a moment. So they couldn’t make more life, or take a lot of pleasure in it. They had to distract themselves from all the death hemming them in. All the bodies piled up around them.” He rose and turned to her at last, and she rose in response. Tears trickled down his face. “But our ancestors chose life. The Spoonerites made the Great Sacrifice and broke the circle, so our ancestors could get free.” He wiped at his tears and smiled, a peculiar compound of pity for those who had died in bondage and gratitude that he and she and their compatriots would not. “We are so lucky.

     That’s the mindset of a thoughtful young man who came to maturity in a free society. Our young people haven’t had that privilege. I think that explains a great deal about our present troubles.

An Early Morning Thought

     What the statistics tell us, quite clearly, is that when it comes to rates of violent crimes and crimes against property, demographics matters, while the legal availability of firearms does not. Where there are large numbers of persons predisposed to ignore the laws, the laws – including laws about firearms acquisition – are more frequently ignored. This correlation is not overlooked by private citizen Americans. They demonstrate their awareness of it by their behavior.

     Leftist politicians are aware of it, too…but they dare not speak of it. To do so would alienate violence-prone minorities, whose votes they depend on, and would undercut their anti-gun positions. They can’t afford politically to speak of the facts, so they must continue to promulgate the thoroughly disproven lie that more guns mean more crime and violence.

     Has anyone ever succeeded in getting a Leftist politician into a public debate on the subject? Someone like John Lott or Don Kates would tie any of them in knots. But I suppose they’re already aware of that.

Life, Death, and Decay

I found this article on the world’s fascination with zombies today.

It’s interesting. The writer makes many connections to pop culture, including Michael Jackson (both the video Thriller, and his later living decay, as he made frantic efforts to maintain a youthful exterior. Would that he had focused on the Eternal Life of his Soul, rather than a destined-to-be decayed body.

But, I also was thinking about the sad efforts of so many, trying to stave off aging – or, at least, the exterior signs of it.

Kristie Alley

She experienced the normal aging of many women. We tend to add weight as we transition to motherhood, and – for many – it is an ongoing battle to keep weight gain at bay as we age.

For celebrities, that is the most dreadful and cruel fate that is possible. Many disfigure themselves in Botox, liposuction, and plastic surgery, in a vain effort to pretend that they are somehow exempt from the aging process. To fail to put that effort at the forefront of every appearance will doom the celebrity to “deserved” ridicule from media and the public.

Why?

It’s a perfectly normal process. Those who ridicule the celebrities are also aging, and may do not have the flawless appearance that they damn the fat/aging/ill celebrities for not maintaining.

Here’s two pictures of Jane Fonda – one more or less ‘au natural’, and the one below it after extensive plastic surgery and ‘plumping’.

It’s not just women, men have destroyed their natural faces in a effort to keep up a facade of youth.





I have no problem with someone deciding to work to get rid of excess weight – it’s a hell of a stressor on the joints. I’ve known several who had the bariatric surgery to lose weight. The psychological problems and metabolic stress of that surgery can be huge. In some cases, it contributed to an early death.

Yet, few seem to put as much time and attention to improving the state of their soul.

We are fast approaching the point where Christians will be a distinct minority in most of the world. The established churches aren’t helping that outcome. Many point out that leaders of Christian churches seem to be in a competition to see who can stray the furthest from Christian doctrine. That goes double for the Catholic Church, allegedly led by Pope Francis.

In the past, the Church laity has risen to the need, and revitalized the Church – often over the leadership’s kicking and screaming. The need is there. More orthodox parts of the Church are experiencing less decay than those more in line with Francis’ Progressive ideals.

Does anyone else have some thoughts on this?

Largely Personal Scatterings

     I’m in a strange place this morning, for miscellaneous reasons some of which might become evident as you proceed, Gentle Reader. I don’t have a coherent subject in mind just now, as is usually the case when I light off on a piece for Liberty’s Torch. All the same, I feel the usual (for me) compulsion to write, so here goes nothing, or as close to it as my mental calipers can grip.

***

     Among yesterday’s wanderings was a trip to a local Federal Firearms Licensee, Front Line Training Center of Bohemia, Long Island, to pick up a shipment of ammunition from CheapAmmo.com. FLTC is exactly what its name makes it. It offers all manner of courses, including (of course) firearms-related courses designed to train the shooter and keep him on the right side of the law. The folks there are friendly and accommodating. Among other things, they perform no-fee transfers of firearms and ammunition. That’s something you won’t find very often.

     In reply to a question from me, one of the staffers there informed me, gloomily, that New York’s permitting mechanisms for would-be handgun owners now compel a new applicant to wait three years at minimum. I can’t conceive of a good reason for such a delay in conceding a man’s Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Then again, this is New York, and there’s no state in the Union that’s more hostile to the Second Amendment and the rights it guarantees.

     Frankly, there could never be a better reason for exterminating the whole race of politicians, throwing their corpses into a mass grave, and closing the grave with dogshit as a warning to aspiring successors. For I tell you truly, there is no such thing as a politician who really wants to see Us the People in possession of arms. No matter what any of them says, they fear us – and the greater our potential, the greater their fear.

***

     Our Newfoundland, Joy, has been fragile this past year. Yesterday she endured her third surgery of the year, this one to correct a serious umbilical hernia that our primary-care veterinarian swears “just appeared.” I was exceedingly dubious, but rather than alienate the poor woman I let it pass.

     This is the downside of giant-breed dogs. They have significant medical problems: heart murmurs; hip dysplasia; easily wrenched leg and foot joints; and a propensity toward doggie arthritis that doesn’t trouble the smaller breeds nearly as often or as severely. And in keeping with those vulnerabilities, their lives are short. Newfs average about ten years on Earth before going back to God.

     Yet they’re the most loyal, most affectionate creatures known to Man. It hurts worse than words can express to have to say farewell to one of them…and I’ve been through it twice already.

     Que sera, sera, as my ancestors used to say. Yet in my darker moments I find myself half-hoping that Joy will outlive me. I wonder what the odds are.

***

     Long Island was once a green, open, and thinly populated place. That made it a retirement destination quite as popular as Florida today. The saying then was that if the retirees and the potato farmers were to evacuate in a body, only the insane asylums and their, ah, residents would be left. But that was long ago. Well before Robert Moses, at any rate.

     Today the Twin Counties of Nassau and Suffolk –why twins? We have absolutely nothing in common – boast an aggregate population of over 3 million persons. That’s enough to make this piece of terminal moraine feel a trifle crowded at times. One of those times is the daily rush hour.

     The roads here are at capacity, if not a little beyond that. The situation is so bad that a serious accident on an important commuting road can stop traffic completely for hours. The C.S.O. and I were caught in one such stoppage yesterday evening. Being long-time Islanders, we’ve learned how to tolerate such delays, with the usual amount of grumbling. But on that occasion, we had a post-surgical Newf in the car with us, and she was not equally disposed to tolerate it.

     This is another downside of the giant-breed dogs: when they barf…well, never mind.

***

     The “COVID lies” now stand revealed in their entirety. There’s not one shred of truth remaining to any of the claims that were made in the course of the pandemic. All the following statements have been verified beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The virus was made in a lab in China.
  • It was no more dangerous than the common influenza virus.
  • The same demographic cohorts were the ones most endangered.
  • The lockdowns and closure of the economy were far more destructive than the virus.
  • The cohort least endangered by the virus, minor children, were the most negatively affected by the lockdowns.
  • Face masks did nothing to impede the virus’s transmission.
  • The “vaccines” were a fraud and worse.
  • Governments at all levels and around the world saw the pandemic as an excellent opportunity to seize totalitarian power over private persons and their enterprises – and nearly every one of them did exactly that.
  • In keeping with the above, governments are straining to perpetuate the “emergency” not for the sake of anyone’s health, but for what it let them get away with.

     I regard Anthony Fauci as a murderer by indirection, as is every politician who seized upon his “expertise” as a justification for oppressing us. The Usurper Regime in Washington should have been removed by force and its capos subjected to public trials for their crimes. Yet we left it intact. We hardly even penalized its state-level henchmen.

     Draw whatever conclusions you like about the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. I’ve drawn mine.

***

     The day before yesterday, I wrote:

     I’ve come to dislike the word need almost as much as the word should. “Why do you need an AR-15? Why do you need a Mercedes S550? Why do you need a wife…a home in the suburbs… a Newf… a lawn tractor…a five-computer network…a supercharged, chrome-plated, fully gurgitated, Escher-certified three-pronged blivet?” He who takes need questions seriously, rather than dismissing them with a grimace and a growl, has admitted a hungry predator to his life, one capable of consuming his peace of mind and eager to do so. My advice? Don’t.

     Since then, I’ve received a few queries of the more plaintive sort. I’ve delayed answering them until now, but the time has come:

     And I don’t care how badly your fresnoid needs one!

***

     In closing, Happy Saint Nicholas of Myra Day. Saint Nick was, of course, the “original Santa Claus.” To celebrate the occasion in proper style, throw a bag of coins through someone else’s window. (Make sure the window is open first.) It’s time for breakfast here. Perhaps I’ll be back later. I might make more sense after I’ve eaten, but don’t count on it.

It Seems That MOST of the World’s Progressive Leaders Are in Trouble

Britain – not able to keep Prime Ministers in office, other than short duration.

France – Heavy competition from Nationalists, like Le Pen.

Italy – Meloni wins a surprise (to the Elite) election. Here policies havce widespread support from the voters.

Russia – Putin may be ill with cancer. At the very least, his control of his top staff is lacking – they are not afraid to spread details/rumors (hard to tell what is Truth and what is Pravda in Russia).

China – Xi had to publicly take out a rival. Challenges to his rule are escalating – lockdown rebellion, use of Apple apps to organize resistance (stopped by Apple, at China order).

USA – FJB is continuing to spread, even on Christmas paper. The *resident is widely seen as senile and weak, and that’s a problem, as our enemies may decide to act while they can.

BOTH available at the link above.

And, it’s nearly Christmas.

Many don’t feel inclined to let loose their festive side, given the poorly performing economy, the rising national debt, gas shortages, and a citizenry still nervous about spreading infections.

Myself?

I think it time to kick my Christmas prep into high gear – cards, shopping, decorating, Christmas cookies, and prepare for the annual Celebration of the Birth of My King.

And, a party –

My family will enjoy gathering for that. I’ve sent out the invite, but may schedule it for 12/23. The Original Die Hard, popcorn, drinks, Christmas cookies, and, of course, C4.

After all, it’s tradition.

I saw this post in the Bablyon Bee. I had to link from Twitter, as my &^%$#$%^&^% Windows Security stuff blocked the site, then sent me to a malicious site.

And, if you want to remember that rare departure from Commercial Santa, over-the-top focus on purchasing crap, and irreligious drek, here it is.

“Freedom: I Won’t!”

     This will be an extremely trying day here at the Fortress, for doggie reasons: our Newf must go back under the knife yet again, this time to correct a dangerous abdominal hernia. So I doubt I’ll be posting anything much.

     Accordingly, I’d like to recommend that anyone who hasn’t yet read Eric Frank Russell’s classic novella “And Then There Were None” take the hour or so it requires to digest it fully. I first read this tale at a very early age, but even then, long before I began a deeper acquaintance with politics, propaganda, and the evil we call The State, it stirred me deeply. It remains one of my favorite fictional treatments of freedom. The message is simple:

“No” Is The Freest Word In Any Language.

     Treat yourself. Then unbox your telescopes and start searching the sky for that planetoid.

Mark Levin: We are moving toward a Democratic run police state.

One of his finest:

Apparently “No Law Abridging” Cannot Mean No Law Abridging

     “I have always read ‘no law abridging’ to mean no law abridging.’” – Associate Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black

     Time was, Black was regarded as a jurisprudential giant, especially by liberals. Of course, we don’t really have liberals any longer; they’ve been swallowed up by the “progressives.” You know, the political creed that’s opposed to progress. Such is life in our time, when I identify as is taken as a license to deny inconvenient realities of every sort.

     Of course, we’ve been here before. But this time around on the Left’s ideological roulette wheel, the little ball has dropped into the double-zero slot:

     Dems were actively engaged in encouraging Twitter to suppress voices and news they didn’t like. According to them, the First Amendment isn’t absolute.

     There are lots of revelations coming out from Elon Musk releasing key Twitter files surrounding the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story. Deanna wrote about Gaddes and Roth, which is jaw-dropping on its own.

     Now through additional tweets on the subject, we see that most Democrats truly believe that the First Amendment can be bent to their will if it furthers their narrative. What mattered to them was dragging basement-hiding Joe Biden over the finish line in November and any news item about Hunter Biden was a problem. Then, suddenly, the laptop showed up. And, the Democrats circled the wagons.

     The very same Democrats who always screamed that Twitter is a company so they can do what they want regarding speech and censorship, actively asked Twitter to censor the Hunter Biden story. They didn’t want the info out there as they knew it could hurt the campaign. How to make this go away? Pretend this was a hacked laptop, thus all info from that laptop must be viewed as suspect.

     It’s time to refresh our awareness of the Left’s attitude toward words, statements, and truth:

     It’s hard for most people to grasp that objective truth is a conception, rather than something self-evident. Yet furious philosophical battles have been fought over it. The negative side has never conceded defeat. They’ve advanced reason after reason to doubt the existence of objective reality. As each one is destroyed, they shift to another. In a sense, their proposition is its own strongest weapon, for they respond rather frequently to even the most obvious points by saying, “No, that’s your truth” — an implicit claim that it’s the not the observation but the observer’s willingness to accept it that really matters.

     John Q. Public has heard little of this, of course; it’s mostly fought in the ivory towers, and in the publications that cater to professional intellectuals. All the same, it matters to him more than he’s able to appreciate.

     Truth is an evaluation: a judgment that some proposition corresponds to objective reality sufficiently for men to rely upon it. The weakening of the concept of truth cuts an opening through which baldly counterfactual propositions can be thrust into serious discourse. Smith might say that proposition X is disprovable, or that it contradicts common observations of the world; Jones counters that X suits him fine, for he has dismissed the disprovers as “partisan” and prefers his own observations to those of Smith. Unless the two agree on standards for relevant evidence, pertinent reasoning, and common verification — in other words, standards for what can be accepted as sufficiently true — their argument over X will never end.

     An interest group that has “put its back against the wall” as regards its central interest, and is unwilling to concede the battle regardless of the evidence and logic raised against its claims, will obfuscate, attack the motives of its opponents, and attempt to misdirect their attention with irrelevancies. When all of these have failed, its last-ditch defense is to attack the concept of truth. Once that has been undermined, the group can’t be defeated. It can stay on the ideological battlefield indefinitely, preserving the possibility of victory through attrition or fatigue among its opponents.

     Slam that last paragraph. It describes the Left’s attitude in all matters they cannot protect against counter-arguments. Mike Adams provided a case for study:

     When I asked another feminist to debate me on abortion she said that she didn’t discuss such personal topics publicly. But then I read her biography. After talking about losing her virginity (including details about how she cleaned the blood off the couch afterwards) she dedicated countless pages to the issue of abortion and how a “lack of choice” adversely affects young women. After reading on, I realized why she didn’t tell me the truth. She revealed that she was a postmodernist who didn’t like to use the word “truth.”

     The next time I got into an argument with a feminist – over whether a female student who lied about a rape to get out of a test should be expelled – I understood the postmodern feminist position better. Feminists just can’t help but lie because there really is no such thing as the truth.

     Since so many feminists cannot tell the truth – because it doesn’t even really exist – I simply cannot take them seriously.

     Feminists of that sort are merely one family within the Leftist clan. “Truth” is something they evaluate as either an asset or an obstruction, rather than an objective characteristic of a statement that’s independent of whose agenda it serves. They cannot permit it to stand apart from its political value.

     Therefore, they cannot allow “no law abridging” to mean no law abridging. The phrase must somehow be magicked away, or measured against “national security,” or a “compelling government interest,” or some such. They’ve gotten away with similar exercises in politically expedient dishonesty many times, especially as regards “public use,” “cruel and unusual punishment,” powers “reserved to the states, or the people,” and “the right to keep and bear arms.”

     It will take more than mere words to put a halt to it.

A Light In The Darkness

     Quoth Neil Oliver:

     I love Christmas … always have and always will. In every conceivable way, Christmas is light in a time of darkness and for many of us, that light has never been more welcome and so can’t come soon enough.

     Especially since the festival is once again under attack by the joyless division. In line with what has become a tradition of the season in benighted Britain, yet another bunch of interfering, patronizing preachers of the witless cant of “diversity and inclusivity” have decided it’s their turn to take a pop at Christmas.

     I wonder if it’s as bad in Britain as it is here.

     Just in time for the holidays, ads proclaiming, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake,” will appear on Washington, D.C., buses. The American Humanist Association will pay the $40,000 price tag.

     It almost sounds good to “just be good for goodness sake.” Why do we need God to scare us into being good? Why can’t we just be good on our own for the sake of pure goodness?

     As reported in the Associated Press, Fred Edwords, spokesman for the Washington-based humanist group explained: “We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you. Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.”

     That campaign first reared its head fourteen years ago. I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing it again this year, along with other, similarly sour-spirited attacks on the feast that commemorates the Nativity of the Son of God.

     These “non-theists…feel a little alone” – ? So we who believe must renounce our celebrations and wishes of Christmas cheer? Has Christmas not yet been secularized sufficiently for them? Or is it that they’d love to share the joy of us knuckle-dragging theists, but being in the presence of open displays of faith gives them a pain they can’t – or won’t – admit?

     Perhaps you’re aware that there’s been a coordinated attack on Christian-derived celebrations and expressions of sentiment. The “Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays” thing is the most prominent, but there are many others as well. The secularizers have become ever more relentless these past few decades. They want all remaining traces of the Christian faith not merely silenced, but anathematized and driven from public view. Many unbelievers who aren’t militant about it passively support them.

     But why? “It’s exclusionary,” some reply. “It makes persons of other traditions feel bad not to be a part of it.” Who tells them that they can’t be a part of it? But others say “It’s judgmental. It castigates people for their weaknesses, their failure to be perfect.” Christians don’t hold themselves to be perfect; we merely hope to be rescued from our imperfection. And still others simply reject it as “a myth:” “A man born of a virgin, willingly embracing poverty to preach throughout Judea, accepting death by torture, and then rising from the dead? Absurd!”

     My dear non-theist friends: Either it happened or it didn’t. If it did, as the available evidence has persuaded me, disbelieving it won’t make it untrue.

***

     I’ve been challenged about my faith. “Why? Do you need to believe it?” It’s about as irritating as any non-injurious phenomenon I’ve suffered. Though I regret it, I must admit that a couple of such incidents have evinced rather uncharitable responses from me.

     Such persons have a cockeyed conception of “need,” to start with. Need is personal and contextual, always. “Need for what?” should be the reply. “Are you asking how I consume it, or what I plan to buy with it, or what project I hope to incorporate it into?” Even when uttered in the gentlest tones, the riposte flummoxes the majority of irritants, which is itself a sufficient reason to recommend it.

     (Digression begins: I’ve come to dislike the word need almost as much as the word should. “Why do you need an AR-15? Why do you need a Mercedes S550? Why do you need a wife…a home in the suburbs… a Newf… a lawn tractor…a five-computer network…a supercharged, chrome-plated, fully gurgitated, Escher-certified three-pronged blivet?” He who takes need questions seriously, rather than dismissing them with a grimace and a growl, has admitted a hungry predator to his life, one capable of consuming his peace of mind and eager to do so. My advice? Don’t. End of digression.)

     But let’s imagine that your interlocutor stands his ground and presses the matter. He might not be hard of hearing. He might be worried. The possibility that you’re right and he’s wrong troubles him deeply, so he must prove you wrong, or at least that you’re inadequate by some standard. This is especially the case with persons who‘ve been persuaded to believe themselves more intelligent than others specifically because of their atheism.

     Yet even the most resolute atheist will hear the “still, small voice” at some point in his life. God does all things for each of us, though not necessarily in the same way, at the same time, or under the same circumstances. Some only hear it in the final moments of their lives. Some hear it repeatedly, perhaps for days or weeks at a time.

     And some only hear it when they’re with you or me.

***

     Many a Christian is daunted by the certainty and self-satisfaction of the militant atheists. He shrinks before the challenge such persons represent, especially those among them who are of good repute despite their Godlessness. The Christian might say to himself, “What can I do? I’m only a man, one voice in a cacophonious multitude. As ill-equipped as I am, far better to keep silent than to tread dangerous conversational ground.”

     I know the feeling. I’ve been there.

     Time was, there were two older persons whose neighbors held them in high esteem. To their sorrow, they had never produced a child. Yet despite their years they had not given up hope. They prayed that that empty place in their lives might somehow be filled. And it was:

     There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
     And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
     And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
     And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
     And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

     And what a child John proved to be:

     Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
     Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
     And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
     He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
     Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
     And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
     And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
     And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
     And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.

     And many heard John and believed, though he was not himself the Messiah.

     Who might hear you?

     May God bless and keep you all. And Merry Christmas, of course!

More Than Coincidence?

Maine is also a Constitutional-carry state. No permit required, though I think the state will issue you one on request, for use in other states that observe reciprocity. Considerate, eh?

Please Share This Link

It’s to Project Veritas’ story about HHS’s complicity in human trafficking of migrants.

I’ve been active this morning:

On Blogger

Substack

And, just generally getting stuff around the house done.

Yesterday Was Newsworthy

     And for more reasons than one.

1. The Twitter News.

     Elon Musk has made good on his promise. I hardly need tell my intelligent, observant, highly skeptical, exceedingly handsome Gentle Readers what I mean by that. Despite the flood of revelations he’s provided through journalist Matt Taibbi, there remains enough ambiguity for any federal operatives involved in the censoring of the Hunter Biden Laptop story to maintain “deniability.”

     It remains to be documented beyond all possibility of refutation that a federal agency requested the suppression of the laptop story. Apparently, if such an agency was involved — FBI, White House, or what have you — it was subtle enough to camouflage itself and / or its demands against future accusations of this kind. At least, the material I’ve seen so far suggests so.

     I believe that there was federal involvement: i.e., that a federal agency of size and enforcement power “put the screws” to various persons capable of suppressing the story. Indeed, I want to believe that. But that desire is itself a danger. (“We believe easily what we fear or desire.” — La Rochefoucauld) Whether it happened or didn’t must be nailed down tight before the feeding frenzies start.

***

2. Death Cult Chronicles.

     Sometimes the masks don’t just come off, their wearers rip them off:

     “The pregnancy center provides free pregnancy testing, peer counseling, education, support and referrals to pregnant women who need support. They also provide free baby clothes and other parenting-related supplies,” Live Action reported.

     Will anyone sincerely argue that these “pro-choice” monsters are not in fact pro-death?

     For a seriously wide-angle take on this gruesome subject, read David Warren’s poignant essay “From 8,000,000,000 to Zero.”

***

3. America’s Premier Trustworthy News Provider.

     My admiration for the courage, penetration, and joyous snark of the writers and producers at The Babylon Bee only grows with time:

     I doubt it could be done better than that.

     I attended college a long, long time ago, beginning in 1968. Even then, there was a trend toward getting the most easily acquired, practically substanceless degree possible. The argument ran as follows:

  • Employment is what matters.
  • Employers want to know that you have a degree, and that your grade-point average was respectable, but they’re not really interested in what your degree is in.
  • So get a degree – whatever you can – in some subject where you can get mostly As and Bs without effort.
  • That goes on your resume; the rest is just gravy.

     That trend acquired sufficient members to invalidate the Bachelor’s degree as a credential employers would trust. The consequence, at least at the places where I worked, was an intensified interviewing scheme that really probed:

  1. Whether the candidate knew anything much…
  2. …About anything relevant to our business…
  3. …And whether he could actually think rather than just regurgitate.

     As a front-line supervisor, I was one who implemented such a scheme. It wasn’t fun, especially for the candidates, but the deterioration of the college degree had forced it on us. Conditions have continued to deteriorate…while contemporaneously, Departments of Labor, both state and federal, have striven to restrict what questions and criteria an employer can impose on candidates.

     Things aren’t looking up. The current shortage of persons willing to work makes the near-term outlook grim. And I believe I’ll drop the subject here.

***

4. Nerve Struck.

     Yesterday evening, in a fit of melancholy about current events, I wrote at Gab::

We must accept…
That the Constitution is a dead letter.
That the last two elections were fraudulent.
That the edifice in Washington is hostile to us.
That we cannot trust anyone who holds public office.
That “movements,” so called, are mostly a trap for enthusiasts.
That no explicitly political undertaking will restore our rights or our nation.

These are not happy pronouncements. I’m distressed by the need to make them. But reality is not a matter of opinion. Today we have a government of Usurpers who mean to rule by force, and with no particular regard for our rights. They will not yield to anything but massively superior force.

So what then?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I’m an old man who’s seen too much and has no stomach for yet another fight. But what is must be frankly faced. America is now a nation ruled by an unelected oligarchy that selects its own successors, much as the Kremlin did. And as bad as its oppressions and exactions are today, present trends continuing, they’ll get worse.

How do we prevent “present trends” from “continuing?” And please, nobody say “Vote harder!”

     It got a lot of likes, reposts, and comments. It’s also been picked up by other sites, Mike Hendrix’s Cold Fury and Western Rifle Shooters being the most prominent. Perhaps it will get others thinking about alternatives to passive acceptance.

     Trouble is, the alternatives I can think of are attached to massively unpleasant possibilities. But as I said, I’m an old man with no stomach for another fight. I’m not unpacking the guns for anything less than a direct assault on my home and loved ones. Hell, even speaking your opinion freely has become a risk-taking enterprise. Anyway, have at it in the comments.

***

     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. I have a novel to work on…well, five of them, actually, plus I’ve just had a sixth idea that’s getting harder to resist with every passing moment, and miscellaneous other obligations. See you tomorrow: same time, same URL.

     “Be there. Aloha!” – Jack Lord.

Musk And The Censors

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

     [You know perfectly well where it’s from.]

     The ironies have gone beyond my ability to capture them in an original and unique manner. But that doesn’t matter, for Jonathan Turley has captured them for us:

     Unable to convince users to embrace censorship, [Hillary] Clinton and others are pressuring corporations and foreign governments to deter [Elon] Musk from restoring free speech. Since users are embracing the new Twitter, the campaign has focused on preventing them from signing up by removing the app from the Apple and Google stores. In the meantime, Apple is joining the boycott by withholding advertising revenue to coerce Musk to reverse his free-speech pledge.

     Musk, however, is sitting on the ultimate weapon to bring this war to an end: free speech itself.

     Professor Turley is in danger of getting himself “read out of meetin’,” as the old folks used to say before we censored them. The shade of Eric Frank Russell must be applauding wildly. At any rate, he should be.

     We know that the Left’s censors aren’t “offended” by freedom of speech. They’re threatened by it: most particularly, by the possibility that uncensored speech will reveal their crimes to all and sundry. Their efforts to silence us have largely been strokes in their own defense. But they have a little problem. The Left, historically, has championed freedom of expression so fiercely that they’ve raged against any kind of suppression thereof. Obscenity? Pornography? Slander? Threats? Incitement to riot? “Freedom of speech! they shrieked. “Carve-outs are a slippery slope straight to Hell! There must be no exceptions!”

     It’s come back to bite them on the ass, and it’s glorious.

     Needless to say, they haven’t given up. They’ve simply invented an exception of their very own, a truly exceptional exception: for “hate speech.” “Hate speech is not free speech!” they trumpet. But what is it? “Never mind!” comes the reply. “We know it when we see it!” If memory serves, that was the Supreme Court’s test for whether a movie was obscene enough to be banned, back when.

     Over the years the Church of the Left has grown ever more dogmatic. Time was, there were such things as pro-life Democrats. No longer! Nat Hentoff, one of the fiercest advocates of complete freedom of speech, found himself shunned by persons who agreed with him on every other subject, because he was against abortion and said so freely and fearlessly. If memory serves, toward the end of his distinguished career he was denied a lifetime-achievement award for that very reason.

     I’ve reached an age and a condition such that few things reliably make me giggle. It’s nice to know that hasn’t been reduced to the null set just yet.

***

     Many are the things the Left doesn’t want anyone to say openly. Discussion of certain subjects – for example, the influence of federal regulation and the profit incentive on the behavior of large pharmaceutical companies these past few years – has been ruled completely out of bounds. Discoursing on such a subject on any of the big sites risks being banned and shunned as a “hater.”

     The tendency has been for persons who value their participation in various social media – ironically, about the most antisocial phenomenon that has ever existed – to “self-censor.” Contact with their “Facebook friends” is simply too vital to endanger. Combined with the Left’s swiftly pouncing “banning brigades,” ever ready to bring the sins of others to the “trust and safety” cadres, this has stifled public examination of developments that have deserved close, widespread scrutiny.

     It’s become a kind of self-mockery. They who, once upon a time, would have been strident in demanding absolute freedom of expression for themselves are now the world’s most minutely scrupulous censors. (I almost wrote “sensors,” and what would Mr. Spock think of that?) The significance is too plain for anyone to miss. Their edifice of lies and betrayals has grown so large and so fragile that for a single popular site to dismantle its suppression mechanisms threatens its very existence.

     I would not have credited the possibility before Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter. Indeed, I did not. Perhaps my imagination is failing me. That’s a terrible thing for a novelist to contemplate.

     I’m fortunate in being immune to “cancellation.” No one alive has anything to hold over my head. Therefore I can say what I think without fear. That isn’t true of most Americans. Even on the newly liberated plains of Twitter, there are still hazards in publicly going against the Left. If you’re in business, or earn your living as someone else’s employee, or have a significantly “diverse” social circle, you must still weigh the satisfactions of plain speaking against the possible consequences.

     But there’s a chink in the armor at last, and it’s thanks to one maverick, slightly eccentric billionaire, who saw the wrong and set out to right it as his personal cause and at his personal cost.

     To Elon Musk: Thank you. To his would be-censors: Have a nice day.

Meaning What?

     It’s time for another tirade on clarity in expression. Let’s start with a little George Orwell:

     [O]ne ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.… Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – From “Politics and the English Language”

     Orwell wrote that essay, one of his most pointed non-fiction statements, in 1946. Suffice it to say that the disease has “progressed” in the decades since then. Its severity today threatens the life of the body politic and the sanity of the politically attentive reader / listener.

     Rare is the politician who says what he means clearly and unambiguously. Politicians abhor being tied down to a position. They want as much wiggle room as they can get for themselves. Simultaneously, they strive to tie their opponents down as firmly as possible, thus giving them a fixed position to attack. The aspiring politician must master the circumlocution, the periphrasis, the adroit substitution, and the misleading implication, for his opponents will use these weapons against him.

     Babblespeak – the deliberate proliferation of ambiguity, obfuscation, and vermiculation — is the small-arms fire of political combat. Prohibited nowhere. No license is required.

     Two examples of political babblespeak are stuck in my craw this fine December morning. Though one of them is not from an aspirant to political office, both are political in the intentions behind them. The first is from Congressman Jim Jordan (R, OH):

     “This is the latest example of systematic corruption happening at the highest levels of the FBI, and the American people deserve full transparency.”

     This is typical of Jordan’s style. It’s full of sound and fury, but what, exactly, did he mean? “Systemic corruption:” a good round thumping phrase, but of what is he speaking? Did the “system” corrupt the FBI’s top people, or did they corrupt the “system?” What specifically did he mean by “deserve full transparency” — ? “Transparency” meaning what? Is the FBI to publicize the details of all its operations and discoveries henceforward, perhaps on the Web? Can there be such a thing as partial transparency? “Transparent” on what subjects: all, some, or only one? And how on Earth did “the American people,” itself an ambiguous construction, come to “deserve” any of that? Did we earn it somehow, or purchase it retail, or is it the subject of an entitlement buried somewhere in the Constitution?

     The second example comes from a departed Twitter executive:

     Yael Roth, who resigned as Twitter head of safety Nov. 10, said during an interview at a Tuesday Knight Foundation event that the social media site was less safe since Musk took over the site, Reuters reported.

     I do love that word “safe.” The non-specificity of it is unequaled in political jargon, unless by the approximately equivalent term “security.” Safe from what? What actual hazards to life, limb, or property have emerged from Twitter since Musk’s purchase? Are there degrees of safety that we can measure with some notional calipers? And by the way, whose safety is at issue? The random Twitter user? The Twitter workforce? Or perhaps the Usurper Regime, the Democrat Party, and their media handmaidens?

     There aren’t many people who unpack political statements as meticulously as I do. But then, I’m a fanatic of sorts: I insist on knowing exactly what’s meant by such pronouncements. The typical news consumer might not be aware of the dangers inherent in such orations, but many, perhaps most, have a formless feeling of unease about it all. Something is lurking in the shadows cast by these statements, and we know without being able to pin it down that it means us nothing good.

     Arthur Herzog, in railing against such stuff in The B.S. Factor, prescribed what he called “sharp questions:”

     “Why?” “What for?” “When?” “What do you mean?” “Who?” These are terrifying questions, in a way, considering how seldom they are answered. And when answers are given, they don’t appear to be the right answers….

     The point is that such questions are designed to illuminate what is happening and they tend to take little for granted by way of conventional answers. The aim of the radical skeptic is to lower the confusion and eliminate the nonsense, hedges, and non sequiturs which make the American political dialogue something that approaches real torture.

     But rather than ask such questions and insist on specific answers to them, the typical American news consumer is more inclined simply to “tune it all out.” Despite my diametrically opposed inclinations, I have a great deal of sympathy for him.

     “Say what you mean, mean what you say. You know that if everybody followed that rule, there’d be a lot less trouble.” – Chris Cooper as Bob Cody, in Interstate 60

     And a lot less verbal offal to pollute our news organs, airwaves, and ears.

The Triad, The Dyad, And The Monad

     If you’re aware that there is a school of philosophy that rigidly separates “real” things from men’s experiences of them, you’re a rare individual, and I commend you. If you’re aware that the promotion of that dichotomy has engendered some of the fiercest disputes in the history of philosophy, you’re an even rarer individual, and I salute you. Finally, if you managed to grasp Phaedrus’s difficulties in coping with the concept of quality, and understand how it can be harmonized with Ayn Rand’s fictional defense of Aristotelianism, you’re among the rarest of the rare, and I applaud you.

     (Yes, I’m sure you’re aware that your Curmudgeon is a long-winded bastard who spends too much of his time reading the effusions of other long-winded bastards. Hey, we all have our little flaws.)

     Many a writer has brushed his thoughts over the question What is real? Few have coped with it successfully. Writers on the nature of perception have struggled to link it solidly to “real” things and events…and have usually failed. Writers who’ve concentrated on the inner workings of the mind have often stumbled into Plato’s Cave and failed to find the way out. Finally, there are writers like Douglas Hofstadter and your humble Curmudgeon, who muddle the mess with a big spoon – don’t stir, fold! – in the hope that their readers will like the flavor.

     I once knew a very bright man – there were no flies on this guy; he had doctorates in both Physics and Theology – who contended quite seriously that all knowledge is illusory. His reasoning? Knowledge cannot be separated from perception, and our interpretations of what we perceive are irremediably “theory-laden.” When I pressed him for an explication, he merely smiled and moved away.

     Are you feeling all right, Gentle Reader? Perhaps you sense a headache coming on? A glimpse down the road to solipsism can do that to anyone.

***

     What is real? The question is basic…and ultimately irrelevant to human life. The world – whatever that is – provides a stream of data we apprehend through our several senses; we struggle to “make sense” of that data stream; we reach conclusions about it; and we act accordingly. Our nature as “project pursuers” (Loren Lomasky) dictates all of that and our reactions to it. Those who fail to steer the process into a sufficient degree of correspondence to reality – whatever that is – are generally classified as insane, and housed in pleasant institutions where the harm they can do to themselves or others is minimized.

     That’s life, Bubba! It’s The Algorithm we all execute continuously:

  1. Select a technique that you think will get you what you think you want.
  2. Will this technique require you to lose body parts, go to jail, or burn in Hell?
    • If so, return to step 1.
    • If not, proceed to step 3.
  3. Do a little of it.
  4. Are you at your goal, approaching it, or receding from it?
    • If at your goal, stop.
    • If approaching, return to step 3.
    • If receding, return to step 1.

     Iterate until dead.

     (If you can hear, far off in the distance, Alan Turing muttering “But does it halt?” congratulations. Some think it will, others think it won’t, but at some point we’re no longer around to quibble about it.)

     That’s how people work, reduced to the bare elements. It’s not how beavers work. Beavers do what they do from instincts and drives built into their flesh. They don’t select among priorities or paths toward them. They don’t question the probable consequences of their projects. Above all, they don’t abstract.

     That’s our blessing and our curse.

***

     You’ve probably been wondering what bizarre events have me following the line of thought above. As it happens, this is a recurring line of thought for me. This morning it took the wheel owing to a stunning essay by N. S. Lyons. Therein the author discourses on two of my favorite writers – J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis – as predictors of a possible anti-human dystopia:

     Which dystopian writer saw it all coming? Of all the famous authors of the 20th century who crafted worlds meant as warnings, who has proved most prophetic about the afflictions of the 21st? George Orwell? Aldous Huxley? Kurt Vonnegut? Ray Bradbury? Each of these, among others, have proved far too disturbingly prescient about many aspects of our present, as far as I’m concerned. But it could be that none of them were quite as far-sighted as the fairytale spinners.

     C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, fast friends and fellow members of the Inklings – the famous club of pioneering fantasy writers at Oxford in the 1930s and 40s – are not typically thought of as “dystopian” authors. They certainly never claimed the title. After all, they wrote tales of fantastical adventure, heroism, and mythology that have delighted children and adults ever since, not prophecies of boots stamping on human faces forever. And yet, their stories and non-fiction essays contain warnings that might have struck more surely to the heart of our emerging 21st century dystopia than any other.

     Talk about having encountered a kindred spirit! Lyons’s observations are both piercing and terrifying, for both Lewis and Tolkien wrote from a sense of mission: an inner foreboding about the dark possibilities that loom before us and what might be done to head them off. While his essay is long, it will amply reward your attention. It will also give you a new appreciation for Lewis and Tolkien not as mere storytellers but as seers, moral philosophers, and guides.

     Lyons’s essay came to my attention through a shorter piece by Francis X. Maier:

     Every so often an article appears that demands to be shared. So I’m doing that here. If you do nothing else in the coming week, read N.S. Lyons’s recent essay on J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and technocracy at his Substack site, The Upheaval. It’s worth every minute of your time.

     And note that the name “Lyons” is a pseudonym. In real life, the author is an analyst working in the U.S. foreign policy community. The Upheaval is not a religious site; it covers a wide range of global topics. But Lyons’s skills go well beyond the mechanics of foreign policy.

     If you value a human future, you’d do well to read both pieces – preferably Lyons’s essay first – and give them your soberest consideration.

***

     Now, concerning the unusually obscure title of this unusually obscure piece: every man lives in three different realms, depending on the degree of abstraction he indulges at any moment:

  • The Triad: The three-part world of subject, object, and our thoughts and emotions about them;
  • The Dyad: The two-part world of external things and our perception of them;
  • The Monad: The integrated, entirely unabstracted gestalt we conventionally call reality.

     Grasping the qualities of and the contrasts among those three realms compels an acceptance that only a mind that’s both capable of abstraction and capable of eschewing it can achieve. There is no clash among them; each is as necessary and valid as the others. We cannot validly dismiss any of the three, all of which pre-exist our opinions and reasoning about them, as unreal.

     Our thoughts and emotions are real.
     Our perceptions are real.
     The world is real.

     If not, then nothing is or can ever be. “Theory” has nothing to do with it.

     If the above hasn’t tired you out, refer to Godel, Escher, Bach, specifically Birthday Cantatatata, the dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise about Achilles’s birthday. Can you spot the escape hatch now? For extra credit, read Robert Nozick’s discourse in Philosophical Explanations on treating the word thing as a verb.

Busy as a Babylon Bee

Not that I’m as talented a parodist.

I’ve been updating both my Substack site and my legacy Right As Usual blog.

Annual Enrollment for Medicare has just 7 days to go. At that point, I’m planning a Pamper Me day. I will, by then, deserve it.

There is still time for people under 65 to sign up with the Marketplace plans (Obamacare). If you choose a plan by 12/15, it will be effective in January. The signup period continues until January 15, but the plans won’t take effect until February 1st. I have NO idea why they decided to extend the signup period.

The Fish Rots From The Head

     …but in time the decay will reach the whole of the corpus:

     [Wil] Wilkins has called Montana home for more than 40 years. He bought his property, just over nine acres adjacent to the Bitterroot National Forest, in 2004. When he bought the property, surrounded by pine trees and with plentiful birds and wildlife, it corresponded to a vision he’d had his entire life….

     Outside his front door sits Robbins Gulch Road, built and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, the result of a limited easement granted to the Forest Service by the property’s previous owners in 1962. That agreement permitted the Forest Service to build and maintain this unpaved access road through the private property, now owned by Wilkins and his few neighbors along the road, into the national forest, primarily for purposes of timber harvesting and general maintenance.

     Importantly, the 1962 easement did not grant access for general public use — the road was to be for Forest Service employees and permitees only. When he bought his spread, Wilkins wasn’t entirely enthused to have the road on his property. But since the easement agreement restricted the road’s usage, he figured he could live with it.

     Unfortunately, it soon became clear the government was not abiding by the terms of the original agreement. Wilkins says that after the Forest Service posted signs encouraging public use of the road for visitors seeking entry to the national forest, traffic and parking increased dramatically. Wilkins and his neighbor have endured trespassing on their property and even theft — someone stole a pair of elk horns he had mounted on his porch. One of his neighbor’s dogs was killed by a speeding driver, and at one point someone shot Wilkins’ cat (which survived).

     Wilkins reviewed the easement agreement, which clearly designated Robbins Gulch Road as a right-of-way for limited use. But discussions with the Forest Service to get the agency to honor its agreement were fruitless. Wilkins hasn’t forgotten the response from a district ranger: “He crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair, looked at me and he started laughing,” Wilkins recalls. “He said, ‘Wil, you can always sue us.’ And that’s when I said to myself, ‘OK then, I will.’”

     Funny, isn’t it? You let a few of the top guys – you know, the Clintons, the Obamas, the Bidens – get away with a felony or two, and pretty soon even Forest Rangers in Montana figure they can do what they please to whomever they please. Whoda thunk it?

     Incidents similar to this – I hope my Gentle Readers all remember Cliven Bundy and Donald Scott — are what will precipitate the tide of bloodshed that has become inevitable.

Load more