Just Read About SC’s NG Troops

They, along with many of the other Red State’s National Guard members, will be returning home very shortly.

The stories about poor facilities, disregard for their sanitation/food/hydration needs, as well as the act of kicking them out of the Capitol building (the one that they were supposedly brought to Washington to guard), have had their effect. That, on top of total disregard for the risk of COVID in such close units, has led some states to pull the plug.

Some of the governors have spine, and concern about the uses to which their members are put. That includes:

  • Virginia
  • Vermont
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Tennessee
  • New Hampshire
  • Montana
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Mississippi
  • Texas
  • and my own South Carolina

Texas governor Greg Abbott was incensed about the investigation of the Guard for “possible extremists”.

Just Taking a Road Test

Squirming around, finding a comfortable position for my seat in the blog.

It’s looking good. Of course, I’ve long used WordPress on Right As Usual and other blogs over the years (The Declination, for a time).

Let the following picture give you hope for the Not-Left’s success. And, more than a little fear that the American People let him get close enough to winning to be able to Cheat His Way In.

Depression-Era Songs

     There’s a legend of sorts about the Federal Music Project (FMP), a subdepartment of the Works Progress Administration of FDR’s New Deal. That legend holds that many of the songs that became popular during that era were actually commissioned by the FMP – i.e., their composers were paid to compose popular songs. It could be true. Consider these titles:

     All these songs were composed and became popular during the Depression years. There were others, of course, but these are the ones I can remember offhand. (No, I wasn’t alive then, but my father was, and he used to hum all of the above until Hell wouldn’t have them.) I’m not sure whether they were FMP-funded tunes, but their association with those years is strong.

     One of my more unusual college classmates was addicted to several of the above songs. He had a habit of bursting into one or another of them in public, and regardless of the circumstances. It made the rest of us consider him a trifle odd…not the sort of bloke who’d enjoy a Led Zeppelin concert, don’t y’know. But then, his favorite band was Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, so he probably didn’t give a damn about the tastes that prevailed among the rest of our generation.

     Considering the tremendous effort the Usurper Administration is putting into returning America to the conditions that prevailed during the Great Depression, it wouldn’t surprise me if Depression-era songs were to experience a renewed popularity. In fact, just this morning I woke up with “Red Red Robin” playing in my head. Not a pleasant awakening, I must tell you…especially as the clock read 2:15 AM, an early arising hour even for your humble Curmudgeon. But then, I probably would have enjoyed the experience more were it not for the Newfoundland puppy (at ten months of age, well over 100 pounds) drooling into my left ear at the same moment.

     Bread lines and soup kitchens…25% unemployment…indigents with their hats out on every corner…gangland warfare and blood running in the gutters…hairy nuisances in sandwich boards proclaiming that “the end is near”…

     Ah! The memories!

The 13th Day

     The world has been taught to scoff at that which it cannot see, hear, and touch. It has paid a heavy price for its scoffing. I trust I need not enumerate the many tragedies men have inflicted on one another, as faith has retreated and secular humanism, with its innate arrogance and vaulting ambition, has advanced to fill the void.

     Matthew Arnold captured it in verse of crystalline brilliance:

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

     But while the Sea of Faith has retreated…or has been pushed back by overweening human pride…it has not vanished utterly. The divine Immanence still manifests to those who are willing to believe what they see and hear…even if no one else can see or hear it.

     In 1917, World War I was raging across the length and breadth of Europe. Millions had already died; millions more would follow. The flower of European manhood would fall to the war and to the influenza pandemic that followed. Russia had fallen to Communism, with consequences that would impoverish and oppress three generations. The faith of the Old World had taken a terrible blow. For many, it seemed an illusion the war had disproved.

     On May 13th, 1917, at noon local time in Fatima, Portugal, Lucia dos Santos, Jacinta Marto, and Francisco Marto, three shepherd children innocent in every sense, were granted a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was the beginning of what is known today as the Miracle of Fatima: a series of Marian apparitions, each of which occurred on the 13th day of the calendar month. It culminated on October 13 with the Miracle of the Sun, a supernatural event witnessed by some 70,000 persons in which the Sun seemed to gyrate, dance across the sky, and as its finale dive menacingly near to the earth.

     It happened. It was not mass hypnosis, nor mass hallucination, nor some kind of enormous hoax. At Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917, seventy thousand onlookers witnessed what could only have been a manifestation of divine power: a miracle.

     The Miracle of Fatima brought millions to the Faith, and renewed the Faith in millions who had fallen away. God does this sort of thing when the world slips perilously close to the edge of the Great Abyss. And note: He doesn’t deliver it to kings or premiers, but to the lowest and humblest of our kind.

     There have been other miracles. Many have attracted scoffers certain that they could prove that nothing miraculous – that is, nothing inexplicable by what we think are the laws of nature – had occurred. But many alleged miracles have withstood every test the scoffers have rained on them. Including Fatima.

     The Miracle of Fatima is now more than a century in the past. Yet it continues to inspire men to faith…and to works of art and drama. Including producer-directors Ian and Dominic Higgins, who made of it a movie of exceptional beauty and emotion.

     See The 13th Day. I just did, and I promise you won’t regret it. It’s available on DVD from Amazon, or directly from Ignatius Press.

     And have faith.

Publick Announcement

Greetings, liberty lovers! Mike from Ye Olde Cold Fury websty here, welcoming one and all to the new incarnation of your Curmudgeon Emeritus’s humble blog, Liberty’s Torch. As you probably know, Francis was concerned about his future prospects as a Right Wing White Supremacist Nazi Death Beast on Google-owned Blogspot; we constructed this joint to help him refugee on out of there before the infamous boxcars were dispatched.

So here we all are. Hope you’ll enjoy your stay. As always, do feel free to alert us to any problems or malfunctions that may crop up. There’s sure to be a few of ’em; after nearly twenty years of doing this stuff, I’ve learned that a big part of the whole process is an almighty Bug Hunt at the fag-end of it. Not to worry, we’ll get ’em all squashed.

Consider this the penultimate function-test post before taking the new site live—actually more of a check to see whether my third-party posting software is going to play nice with the new install than it is of the site itself. And then: on with the show!

Valid Argumentation And Expertise

     The list of fallacies relevant to argument includes one that isn’t, strictly speaking, a fallacy under all circumstances: the “argument from authority.”

     If we read authority to mean expert status, there is a place for it in arguments over substantive matters. Problems with expertise-based arguments arise in two venues:

  1. The validation of the claimed expertise;
  2. Its position in the priority scheme of argumentation methods.

     If the above seems a bit too abstract, commenter Zachriel at Bookworm Room has provided a compact elucidation:

     An appeal to authority is a type of inductive argument {eta: based on the experience that experts are more likely to be correct than non-experts in a field, though not infallibly so} and is evaluated as follows:

  • The cited authority has sufficient expertise.
  • The authority is making a statement within their area of expertise.
  • The area of expertise is a valid field of study.
  • There is adequate agreement among authorities in the field, and the authority is expressing this agreement.
  • There is no evidence of undue bias.

     The proper argument against a valid appeal to authority is to the evidence.

     Excellent – and vitally important to contemporary arguments over all sorts of matters. There is a priority order to valid forms of argument. Expertise has value, if it’s authentic and founded on prior demonstration. However, it has less value than evidence. Evidence trumps everything else – and a true expert will always concede that.

     Let’s get back to my Problem #1 for a moment. It bears directly on Zachriel’s exposition on authority / expertise. How does one validate a proposed authority’s expertise sufficiently to make his arguments worth considering?

     Well, first off, we should avoid those darlings of the talk shows, the Anything Authorities:

     Virtually everyone is touched at some point by the arrogance of an expert. I have to saw one in half about once a month, but for a reason tangential to Ace’s analysis: their readiness to assert “expertise” in fields other than their own. Arthur Herzog skewered this tendency in his 1973 classic The B.S. Factor:

The thirst for answers in a difficult world has brought about the rise of Anything (or Everything) Authorities. The Anything Authority is one whose credentials in one field are taken as valid for others — sometimes many others….

The trouble with an Anything Authority is not that he takes a position or works for a cause, but that he seldom seems to apply the same standards of research and documentation to the field in which he is not an expert as he would to his own….

Psychiatrists are a special breed of Anything Authorities because their field is anything (or almost) in the first place….

When an Anything Authority becomes successful, he joins the Permanent Rotating Panel Show and appears on television programs, which pay him….the Anything Authority must never be stuck for an answer. Glibness helps, and so does the fact that many emcees do not know the hard questions to ask.

If the above passage has you thinking of Fox News regular Dr. Charles Krauthammer, you’re not alone.

The progression is plain:

  1. Acquisition of a credential of some kind, often an academic one.
  2. Practice in one’s field.
  3. Acquisition of notoriety in consequence of some publicized event.
  4. Interest in one’s thinking from persons other than one’s fellow specialists.
  5. Increasing boldness, in part due to sustained attention from laymen and journalists.
  6. Ascent to Anything Authority status.
  7. Television gigs and book tours.

The strong relationship between the Anything Authority and major figures in national politics follows automatically.

     But that’s only one end of the spectrum. We must also take care to ignore the Nothing Authority:

     What lies between those two extremes?

     I was once deemed an expert of sorts. My field was real-time software, and I was respected at it. But expertise in engineering has a special set of characteristics: it involves prior achievements that are beyond dispute. In other words, you can see, hear, and feel it.

     Engineering is the discipline that solves problems by applying physical knowledge and /or existing technology. When engineers argue, their expertise is counted to a certain extent and no further: what has worked in the past. Such expertise is discounted when considering new methods made available by subsequent technological advances. Of course, those new methods must prove themselves in the crucible of application, but that’s where we enter the realm of evidence.

     Expertise in any of the realms of knowledge that don’t involve problem-solving – e.g., physics, chemistry, astronomy, et alii — is founded on prediction. To establish oneself as an expert requires a series of successful predictions: the use of the knowledge one has claimed to create a demonstrable connection:

  1. From a specified context;
  2. Affected by a specified stimulus;
  3. To a consequence that arrives at a specified time.

     Once again, I have the pleasure of citing the late Sir Fred Hoyle’s novel The Black Cloud:

     “It looks to me as if those perturbations of the rockets must have been deliberately engineered,” began Weichart.
     “Why do you say that, Dave?” asked Marlowe.
     “Well, the probability of three cities being hit by a hundred-odd rockets moving at random is obviously very small. Therefore I conclude that the rockets were not perturbed at random. I think they must have been deliberately guided to give direct hits.”
     “There’s something of an objection to that,” argued McNeil. “If the rockets were deliberately guided, how is it that only three of ’em found their targets?”
     “Maybe only three were guided, or maybe the guiding wasn’t all that good. I wouldn’t know.”
     There was a derisive laugh from Alexandrov.
     “Bloody argument,” he asserted.
     “What d’you mean, ‘bloody’ argument?”
     “Invent bloody argument, like this. Golfer hits ball. Ball lands on tuft of grass — so. Probability ball landed on tuft very small, very very small. Million other tufts for ball to land on. Probability very small, very, very very small. So golfer did not hit ball, ball deliberately guided onto tuft. Is bloody argument, yes? Like Weichart’s argument….Must say what damn target is before shoot, not after shoot. Put shirt on before, not after event.”

     The prediction must come before the consequence to be predicted! Anyone can say “Just as I predicted!” after the event occurs. That doesn’t take knowledge, only a lot of gall.

     Concerning the claims of expertise submitted in the political arena, the majority aren’t even worth committing to paper so we could have the fun of shooting them full of holes. The persons making arguments from authority:

  1. Lack sufficient expertise;
  2. Are outside any area of expertise they might validly claim;
  3. Their field, if any, is not a valid field of study;
  4. There is no agreement among authorities in that field;
  5. They’re demonstrably biased.

     That final point is the most telling of all: When their claims are contradicted by the evidence, they dismiss the evidence. Indeed, some of them have taken to hiding the evidence to protect their claimed “expertise”…and, of course, the benefits that flow to them from their assertions of “authority.”

     A genuine expert, who possesses the self-respect that comes from demonstrable accomplishments, would never do such a thing. As we mathematical types like to say, quod erat demonstrandum.

     I could go on about this. History is filled with examples of “experts” who did all manner of contemptible things to protect their stature as such. The one that comes to mind most readily is Trofim Lysenko. But there have been many others.

     Remember always:

When evidence is available,
The true expert will defer to it.

     All else is vanity.

“Too Much Like Work!”

     Don’t expect the Left or its mascot groups to solve their own problems. They’ve been told – relentlessly, for decades – that their problems aren’t really theirs to solve. No, that responsibility belongs elsewhere…probably to “the government.”

     What’s that you say? If they created the problem – perhaps by letting the garbage pile up until their neighborhoods are unlivable from the filth and the rats – why shouldn’t they be expected to solve it? You’re asking the wrong guy, Gentle Reader. I’m with you! Still, they who dwell in such places simply won’t stir their stumps for their own sake, nor for the sake of their children.

     Whatever the problem, it’s always someone else’s fault, and someone else’s responsibility. That’s the code of the Left.

     Now and then, some well-meaning sort – usually a conservative, politically – picks up the Left’s slack:

     MAGA fan Scott Presler was tired of all the constant bickering in the media about Baltimore’s numerous problems, so he personally decided to do something about it. Rather than simply complain or join the online chorus, he has organized a massive trash clean up of the city set to take place in the near future. Presler just wants to help out in any way that he can.

     “I’m so tired of people saying, ‘We should do this, we should do that’….I was just like, ‘I’ve had, it. I’m going to go to Baltimore, even if it’s just me on a street corner picking up trash,'” he told The Epoch Times.

     On Saturday, July 28, the activist told his online following that anybody who wanted to come to help clean up Baltimore was welcome. He encouraged Trump supporters to wear Trump gear but told The Epoch Times that anybody can participate when the event takes place.

     “I just want the citizens of Baltimore to see [that] we do care. We do give a darn. And at the end of the day, we’re all American and if ya’ll are struggling in Baltimore and you guys need help, then we’re going to be there for you,” he said.

     Presler isn’t all talk and no action; he followed through. Over 170 volunteers descended on one of the worst districts in West Baltimore, attacked the trash and filth with energy, and cleaned it out. And what followed that effort? Why, this, of course!

     Look, we appreciate anyone who is willing to roll up their sleeves to help Baltimore. More than 170 people came from all over the country and cleaned up nearly 12 tons of trash, according to Mr. Presler’s Twitter feed. He doesn’t post any photos of the totality of the trash, so we’ll have to take his word for it….

     Whatever he says his motives were, Mr. Presler’s presence in Baltimore reinforces the tired image of our failing urban cores. That the poor people in this dilapidated city can’t take care of their own neighborhoods and all the public officials around them have failed as well. The bureaucratic, all-talk Democrats strike again. If a crowd of volunteers could clean up 12 tons of trash in 12 hours, how incompetent and helpless must Baltimoreans be if they can’t manage it in decades, right?…

     The silver lining in all of this is that the residents of West Baltimore did get a much needed cleaning up. That is something that they deserve. Streets and alleyways free of trash go a long way in improving the psyche of a neighborhood and its residents. Not to mention deterring crime. Mr. Presler says that people around the country are planning similar clean up events in their own communities. A loud round of applause for that as well. Spiffier neighborhoods are good for everyone.

     We also hope Mr. Presler keeps his promise to return to Baltimore once a month. It would definitely give his motives more credibility. It might also give him better perspective about the city’s problems than any single visit can provide. Maybe it could even lead him and his followers to advocate for federal housing, health care, transportation, education, criminal justice, civil rights and anti-poverty policies aimed at urban communities.

     In the meantime, we’ll see how clean the neighborhood still is when he returns in September.

     Allow me to say this, right out front: The editors of the Baltimore Sun are villainous scum. They deserve to be stripped naked and flogged through the streets of their own city. Here’s the giveaway, right from their own despicable editorial:

     …the residents of West Baltimore did get a much needed cleaning up. That is something that they deserve.

     They deserved it? By what right? By what standard? And from whom? Why weren’t those alleys clean in the first place? Who put them into the condition Presler’s volunteers found and remediated? Are these “editors,” who deserve to spend a month sleeping in such an alley, suggesting that all that trash and filth was brought there from afar? Are they suggesting that the precious “residents of West Baltimore” had no part in its creation – or that they had no responsibility to see to its removal?

     We both know better, don’t we, Gentle Reader?

     Kim Du Toit once wrote a visionary article about another benighted place: Let Africa Sink. He understood that savages cannot be civilized by external means – that they must rise into civilization by their own efforts. First World involvement with Africa, however well-meaning, has only deepened its problems by providing its savages with more and better tools of savagery.

     So also with our domestic savages.

     Know the savages by their works, Gentle Reader. Know them by what they produce…and by what they tolerate. Know them by the degeneration of their neighborhoods into crime-ridden, rat-infested middens. Know them by the conduct of their progeny. Know them by their complete spinelessness in the midst of such violence and squalor. Know them by the way they disavow all responsibility for those things. It’s always someone else’s responsibility to put it right.

     But when someone else lends a hand, they denigrate it. They cast aspersions on the charitable one and question his motives. It makes them look bad, you see. It suggests that remediation was always possible – that they could have helped themselves, for the volunteers are persons much like themselves who merely took it upon themselves to act. It implies that they’re the irresponsible savages they appear to be – and they can’t have that.

     The solution to Baltimore, and to comparable zones of savagery in other parts of the nation, is to wash our hands of them. Wall them off! No one should be allowed in or out, lest the savagery prove infectious and propagate to other regions. The residents are willing to tolerate crime and filth, so let them keep it to themselves. An occasional overflight – not too low, Chopper Dan; the natives throw stuff – would be useful for producing instructional videos to show our young’uns about the standards and behavior of savages.

     Quoth Du Toit:

     It sounds dreadful to say it, but if the entire African continent dissolves into a seething maelstrom of disease, famine and brutality, that’s just too damn bad. We have better things to do — sometimes, you just have to say, “Can’t do anything about it.”

     Replace “African continent” with “city of Baltimore.” Repeat as necessary for other savage districts, here and elsewhere. Chill and serve cold.

     Yes, I am perfectly serious.

Nightmares of a Wine Enthusiast

     You know, no matter how aggressively you go about it, there are a lot of wines out there you’ll never taste. And that is probably for the best. Because in keeping with Sturgeon’s Law, 90% of them are crud.

     As an avid sampler of wineries and their wares, I’ve had some crud in my years. I’m not proud of it, though I sometimes wonder if having survived it entitles me to a decoration of some sort. But of course, one does not deliberately return to the crud. One notes its awfulness in the Avoidance Logs and moves on, hopefully to something better.

     Having said that, allow me to present you with what might be the funniest thing ever written on the subject of bad wine. I stumbled across it some time ago – I forget where – and inasmuch as I’m about to spend the afternoon unpacking and racking up six cases of newly delivered wines, I thought my Gentle Readers might find it a delightful (??) diversion from the excessively heavy fare I usually load this dump with.

     What follows is the entire original text of Dan Atkinson’s “Contains Sulfites.” Enjoy.

Contains Sulfites

     “I’m on the Night Train, and I’m ready to crash and burn. I never learn.” -A. Rose


     (Following the purchase of the name “Oregon Voice” from the State of Oregon, the Oregon Commentator Presents: Oregon Voice ran this parody of the real OV Wine Review, from their previous issue. This article was first published January 18, 1999.)

     The bottom shelf of the wine section is uncharted territory to the average student. Many regular and heavy drinkers of Beast Ice and Busch Lite turn up their noses at cheap wine. Why? Is there really a difference in quality between these fortified and sulfite-laden potions and the industrial suds so many of us drink?

     The difference is psychological. The implication is that to kick back with a liter of Night Train is to be a wino. No one wants to be a wino. Winos are dirty and vulgar and lacking in teeth. There’s death on their breath and evil in their eyes. Right? Maybe. Bur most of the winos I’ve met were decent people. One escorted me to an ATM at 3am, didn’t mug me, and sold me a suede jacket. A couple others down by the river one night offered my friends and me a couple hours of life-affirming insights and dirty, dirty jokes. It was the least they could do after grabbing our whiskey bottle and slobbering all over it. If winos can be decent people, then their wines could be decent, too. With that in mind, I spent a little money, drank a lot of wine, and hammered out this wine review. All of the wines are from Albertson’s; in parentheses are the quantity, price, and alcohol percentage.

     I drank the following three bottles of wine in and around Corvallis during Civil War weekend-a smelly, dirty, brutal couple of days. By the end, the back of our U-Haul was plastered with mud, I had been arrested, and the Ducks had lost twice in one game.

     My empty jug of Fairbanks “Port” (1.5 liters, $5.99, 18%) went through it with me, and it shows. The label’s shredded; the once-clear glass is spattered with mud and blood (from our proud Publisher’s shredded eyelid). This port is a study in contrasts. It opens fast, round and sweet-pixie stick, buttercup, whispers of Diet Rite. The finish, though, is a battle of green pennies and bug repellent, with lead paint darting around the edges. Fairly sulfury throughout.

     Manischewitz’s “Loganberry” (750 ml, $3.59, 10%) was a spendy concession to our Kosher readership. As the sun went down on the Friday before the game, I twisted off the top and started guzzling-I’m told I was celebrating Shabbat. Assertive and sweet-Sugar cane, overripe plums, a rumor of clover and a puppy’s warm lick. Despite a touch of cedarwood, it is one dimensional and insulting. Even so, this sugar-water proved bearable during the dirtbag small-town high school playoff game we crashed. In full monsoon conditions, the Regis Rams stomped the Monroe Dragons into the midfield bog, 38-0. I was impressed, and I hope they went all the way this year.

     Carlo Rossi’s “Vin Rosi” (1.5 l, $3.99, 9.5%) I drank on an empty gut, just like a wino. Sadly, it wasn’t strong enough to counteract the offensive lack of flavor. It had all the zest of a rhubarb pie sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool, with a mulchy aftertaste that faded fast.

     I concluded my research at home. Rounding up five bottom shelf picks, I had a formal wine tasting with fellow OC hacks Mike Atkinson and Brandon Hartley. We smelled and sipped each wine, taking notes on nose (smell), palette (taste) and finish (aftertaste). The following reviews summarize our notes and discussions.

     Boone’s Farm’s “Sun Peak Peach” (750 ml, $2.99, 5%) billed itself as an “Apple Wine Product;” thus it is to wine what Easy Cheese is to cheddar. Damn near fell off the chair when I read the alcohol percentage. Nonetheless, since so many insist on calling it “wine,” we had to sample it. It had a humid, moldy nose with notes of Yoplait, Daisy Dukes, Jojoba shampoo, and intimations of a northern Washington savannah. The palette opened yellow and sharp like a lady’s slap, but soon sank into lulling Massengill freshness. There was no discernible peach flavor. It could go well with scrambled eggs. Notable for being the only “wine” to feature nutrition facts on the label, it packed about the same buzz as a fruit salad.

     Thunderbird’s “Serve Cold” (750 ml, $2.79, 17.5%), “The American Classic,” was a complex and aggressive wine from the first sniff. “The stale farts of an aging Times Square hooker,” noted Brandon, seeking vivid metaphors for the barbaric attack, “or the odor of vomit-soaked sewer grates.” Mike found the nose urinary with a hint of Windex. To me, it was a quivering bouquet of Nyquil, rotten grapefruit, and horseradish. The odors were heavy like sun on a headache, like varnish on an open sore.

     The flavor was hauntingly scolding, like Mom’s cooking sherry. Quick and staccato, without subtlety, the flavors attacked: Vaseline, allegations of lime, Triaminic and bacon grease, a pile of bum yak on Burnside, a diesel train crashing into a baby duck, rancid Mountain Dew, a backalley dumpster’s burnt caramel apple. My God, the horror! It was like waking up in a tire fire.

     Each sip ended with a hydrogen peroxide sting that made you cringe and wonder if the next sip was worth it. When the glass was drained, the flavors cooled to a slow evil burn, like the lingering itch of jalapeno diarrhea. But at last we had a buzz.

     Richards “Triple Peach” (750ml, $2.69, 18%) was no picnic either-or was it? In my notes I have scrawled “Little Johnny at the church picnic puking Kool-Aid on your shoes.” This was the last wine we tasted with our senses fully intact. Its fat, spiny nose rose boldly into our sinuses, burgeoning into a sweet yet horrible symphony. Peaches in formaldehyde. Napalm-charred ginger in the hills around Khe Sanh. Festering fruit salad. Methane. Urine from a rat with a thing for pear juice.

     We had to quit sniffing and drink. All the sweetness of the nose vanished with a taste. Brief, delicate hints of sandlewood in the front soon too had gone, as the palette unrolled like the greasy bedroll of a backalley burnout. It was a sharp, tart, and cumbersome parade of demonic flavors and textures. Vinegar on Fruit Loops. Sweat licked from a southern belle’s humid butt-crack. Sun-baked alkali. Hail falling through smog. The crotch of a CBA player’s postgame drawers.

     The worst thing about it, it wouldn’t let go. It was a goblin, lodged in the throat, clinging to your tongue with barbed pinchers. In Mike’s notes, written large, is a single word: “BILE.”

     MD (Mad Dog) 20/20 “Banana Red” (750 ml, $2.69, 13.5%) was just what we needed. The color of grapefruit juice, it is just barely more of a wine than Boone’s, but it didn’t matter. What a relief, what a candy-ass carnival ride it was after Thunderbird and Triple Peach.

     This must be what the winos drink to relive the high points of their childhood. The nose comes on rich and festive-bubble gum, boardwalks, Banana runts. Gusts of cotton candy. But when one searches for subtlety-perhaps a rumor of Disney cartoons, maybe a funhouse undertone-it is absent. Brandon detected something sinister beneath the fun, suggesting the wine smelled “very like the liquid peppermint sedatives a pedophile pediatrician might give a toddler.”

     The apparently innocent fun continues on the palette. Sugar-free lollipops from the dentist, Christmas tree lots, Kool-Aid with a twist of Hubba Bubba. The flavors never really hit the mark, but instead seem false and shallow, like a swim in the 4-foot pool at Motel 6. “Boring,” concluded Brandon. It was the last legible word he managed that night.

     Night Train “Express” (750 ml, $2.79, 17.5) is the king of the bottom shelf, the best of the worst. It has been immortalized in song and literature, most memorably in Guns’n’Roses’ classic “Nightrain:”

     “I’m on the nighttrain Bottoms up I’m on the nighttrain Fill my cup”

     We unanimously agreed it was the best swill of the night, and I think it’s the best of the lot. By the time we got to it, though, we were legally unfit to taste. In my notes under ‘nose,’ I wrote “I can’t smell a thing! Wait-in the distance! Primrose Hill!” I don’t get it either. Brandon had degenerated to drawing cartoons. He left before finishing, and later reported waking in his own vomit. Only Mike was able to rationally pin down the nose, calling it “Essence of Presbyterian communion grape juice.”

     Like cheap brandy in a Taco Bell cup, the attack was tart enough to wring water from a stone. It soon evened out, becoming slow, smooth and long, with hints of mango, touches of sugar cane, and a stray sulfur note. A dry, bitter finish; wormwood softened by guava. Pretty damned good, we concluded as we split Brandon’s share.

     You can have a lot of fun swilling wino juice. But watch it. I was in a drunk tank in Northeast Portland last night, commiserating with some fellow Black Sabbath fans about the horrible twist of fate that had befallen us. Round about midnight, a pair of Sobriety-Impaired Native American Citizens were brought in and promptly fell on the floor. One was by the bathroom, and I damn near stepped on him. He raised his head about an inch to look at my knees.

     “Um guh kill you,” he said. That was the last straw. I was pissed. I started yelling at him about every single thing that had gone wrong with my birthday so far, including him and his putrid, snoring friend. After a couple minutes his closed his eyes and let loose a wave of loud, phlegmy laughter. On his breath, I smelled the unmistakable napalm odor of Richard’s Triple Peach mingled with vomit and death.

     I turned away, disgusted. I had been so wrong. What they say is true. Winos are filthy people. No one wants to be a wino.

     (Dan Atkinson, a junior majoring in Journalism, is Managing Editor of the Oregon Commentator)

     There, now wasn’t that…refreshing?

On Making The Best Of Things…Including Yourself

     [It’s become clear that creating an insuperable condition of distrust and hostility between the sexes is a principal objective of gender-war feminism. At one time I thought the disease had reached its peak and would thereafter recede. Given recent events, I am no longer of that opinion. The following piece first appeared at Liberty’s Torch on September 22, 2013. — FWP]

     I’m as anti-authoritarian about relations between the sexes, and the positions of the sexes in society, as I am about everything else. I accept no “thou shalts” or “thou shalt nots” from any authority but God. I insist on reasoning everything out — but with a caveat: Practical Reason, as C. S. Lewis put it, must begin with the laws of Nature and make proper use of the available evidence. More, its conclusions must be put to the test and survive their practical applications.

     Much of the strife and malaise that afflicts American society derives from the willful dismissal of those provisos by feminist activists who want to resculpt relations between the sexes according to a wholly artificial vision that conflicts sharply and irremediably with metaphysical reality — that is, with what Nature has given us.

     Those activists have put incredible effort into persuading Americans in particular:

  • That traditional family structures somehow oppress women;
  • That men who subscribe to those structures are authoritarian brutes;
  • That women can take up men’s traditional roles to their advantage;
  • That men can and should be compelled to subordinate themselves to women’s preferences;
  • That a woman who prefers a traditional marriage and marital role is a “gender traitor.”

     If you’re unacquainted with that system of thought, and have never been subjected to a haranguing from that perspective, welcome to our planet! We hope for friendly and peaceful relations with your planet, too. But I digress. The nadir of this lunacy was provided by Simone de Beauvoir:

     “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” — Interview with Simone de Beauvoir, “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma,” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p.18

     Hm. So “oppressed women” are not to choose freely what life path to adopt, because too many would choose the “wrong one?” That doesn’t sound like liberation to me; it sounds like a change of oppressors — and not from a harsh master to a gentle one.

     De Beauvoir is not alone in her inanities. There are contemporary feminists who tout the same line of nonsense. Hearken to feminist evangelist Linda Hirshman:

     Half the wealthiest, most-privileged, best-educated females in the country stay home with their babies rather than work in the market economy. When in September The New York Times featured an article exploring a piece of this story, “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” the blogosphere went ballistic, countering with anecdotes and sarcasm. Slate’s Jack Shafer accused the Times of “weasel-words” and of publishing the same story — essentially, “The Opt-Out Revolution” — every few years, and, recently, every few weeks. (A month after the flap, the Times’ only female columnist, Maureen Dowd, invoked the elite-college article in her contribution to the Times’ running soap, “What’s a Modern Girl to Do?” about how women must forgo feminism even to get laid.) The colleges article provoked such fury that the Times had to post an explanation of the then–student journalist’s methodology on its Web site.

     There’s only one problem: There is important truth in the dropout story. Even though it appeared in The New York Times.

     The census numbers for all working mothers leveled off around 1990 and have fallen modestly since 1998. In interviews, women with enough money to quit work say they are “choosing” to opt out. Their words conceal a crucial reality: the belief that women are responsible for child-rearing and homemaking was largely untouched by decades of workplace feminism. Add to this the good evidence that the upper-class workplace has become more demanding and then mix in the successful conservative cultural campaign to reinforce traditional gender roles and you’ve got a perfect recipe for feminism’s stall….

     What better sample, I thought, than the brilliantly educated and accomplished brides of the “Sunday Styles,” circa 1996? At marriage, they included a vice president of client communication, a gastroenterologist, a lawyer, an editor, and a marketing executive. In 2003 and 2004, I tracked them down and called them. I interviewed about 80 percent of the 41 women who announced their weddings over three Sundays in 1996. Around 40 years old, college graduates with careers: Who was more likely than they to be reaping feminism’s promise of opportunity? Imagine my shock when I found almost all the brides from the first Sunday at home with their children. Statistical anomaly? Nope. Same result for the next Sunday. And the one after that.

     Ninety percent of the brides I found had had babies. Of the 30 with babies, five were still working full time. Twenty-five, or 85 percent, were not working full time. Of those not working full time, 10 were working part time but often a long way from their prior career paths. And half the married women with children were not working at all.

     And there is more. In 2000, Harvard Business School professor Myra Hart surveyed the women of the classes of 1981, 1986, and 1991 and found that only 38 percent of female Harvard MBAs were working full time. A 2004 survey by the Center for Work-Life Policy of 2,443 women with a graduate degree or very prestigious bachelor’s degree revealed that 43 percent of those women with children had taken a time out, primarily for family reasons. Richard Posner, federal appeals-court judge and occasional University of Chicago adjunct professor, reports that “the [Times] article confirms — what everyone associated with such institutions [elite law schools] has long known: that a vastly higher percentage of female than of male students will drop out of the workforce to take care of their children.”

     How many anecdotes to become data? The 2000 census showed a decline in the percentage of mothers of infants working full time, part time, or seeking employment. Starting at 31 percent in 1976, the percentage had gone up almost every year to 1992, hit a high of 58.7 percent in 1998, and then began to drop — to 55.2 percent in 2000, to 54.6 percent in 2002, to 53.7 percent in 2003. Statistics just released showed further decline to 52.9 percent in 2004. Even the percentage of working mothers with children who were not infants declined between 2000 and 2003, from 62.8 percent to 59.8 percent.

     No, you’re not imagining the tone of disapproval in the above. Miss Hirshman definitely takes the Simone de Beauvoir attitude toward free choice: women who choose to be homemakers and mothers are choosing wrongly. By their free choices — by opting for traditional women’s roles rather than some alternative in the market economy — they’re helping to derail feminism. And the advance of feminism, we must remember, is what really counts, not the happiness of women or the well-being of their children.

     Hirshman considers McElroy / Sommers feminism — choice feminism — to be a wrong turning:

     Conservatives contend that the dropouts prove that feminism “failed” because it was too radical, because women didn’t want what feminism had to offer. In fact, if half or more of feminism’s heirs (85 percent of the women in my Times sample), are not working seriously, it’s because feminism wasn’t radical enough: It changed the workplace but it didn’t change men, and, more importantly, it didn’t fundamentally change how women related to men.

     This is without foundation, but let’s proceed to Hirshman’s prescription for curing this terrible malady of women opting for homemaker-motherhood over careerism:

     Women who want to have sex and children with men as well as good work in interesting jobs where they may occasionally wield real social power need guidance, and they need it early. Step one is simply to begin talking about flourishing. In so doing, feminism will be returning to its early, judgmental roots. This may anger some, but it should sound the alarm before the next generation winds up in the same situation. Next, feminists will have to start offering young women not choices and not utopian dreams but solutions they can enact on their own. Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy. It will require rules — rules like those in the widely derided book The Rules, which was never about dating but about behavior modification.

     There are three rules: Prepare yourself to qualify for good work, treat work seriously, and don’t put yourself in a position of unequal resources when you marry.

     Clearly, Hirshman doesn’t think homemaking and motherhood qualify as “good work” that deserves to be taken seriously. By “unequal resources” she must mean unequal earning power, since young marrieds almost always go to the altar with equal resources-in-hand: approximately $0.00.

     Most of the remainder of Hirshman’s article is vapid and predictable, but her conclusion re-emphasizes her priorities:

     The privileged brides of the Times — and their husbands — seem happy. Why do we care what they do? After all, most people aren’t rich and white and heterosexual, and they couldn’t quit working if they wanted to.

     We care because what they do is bad for them, is certainly bad for society, and is widely imitated, even by people who never get their weddings in the Times. This last is called the “regime effect,” and it means that even if women don’t quit their jobs for their families, they think they should and feel guilty about not doing it. That regime effect created the mystique around The Feminine Mystique, too.

     As for society, elites supply the labor for the decision-making classes — the senators, the newspaper editors, the research scientists, the entrepreneurs, the policy-makers, and the policy wonks. If the ruling class is overwhelmingly male, the rulers will make mistakes that benefit males, whether from ignorance or from indifference. Media surveys reveal that if only one member of a television show’s creative staff is female, the percentage of women on-screen goes up from 36 percent to 42 percent. A world of 84-percent male lawyers and 84-percent female assistants is a different place than one with women in positions of social authority. Think of a big American city with an 86-percent white police force. If role models don’t matter, why care about Sandra Day O’Connor? Even if the falloff from peak numbers is small, the leveling off of women in power is a loss of hope for more change. Will there never again be more than one woman on the Supreme Court?

     Worse, the behavior tarnishes every female with the knowledge that she is almost never going to be a ruler. Princeton President Shirley Tilghman described the elite colleges’ self-image perfectly when she told her freshmen last year that they would be the nation’s leaders, and she clearly did not have trophy wives in mind. Why should society spend resources educating women with only a 50-percent return rate on their stated goals? The American Conservative Union carried a column in 2004 recommending that employers stay away from such women or risk going out of business. Good psychological data show that the more women are treated with respect, the more ambition they have. And vice versa. The opt-out revolution is really a downward spiral.

     So Hirshman demands that the top spot in every woman’s decision-making process should go to whether or not her choices will position her to become a “ruler” — i.e., one who wields authority over others. Her own happiness should stand no better than second in the lists; after all, the future of feminism is at stake!

     Finally, these choices are bad for women individually. A good life for humans includes the classical standard of using one’s capacities for speech and reason in a prudent way, the liberal requirement of having enough autonomy to direct one’s own life, and the utilitarian test of doing more good than harm in the world. Measured against these time-tested standards, the expensively educated upper-class moms will be leading lesser lives.

     Authoritarianism in the raw: “You have a duty to hew to this standard as I’ve expressed it, girlie, so no backtalk! Get out there and do your best to become a ruler!”

     I don’t need to tell you how I feel about such blather, do I, Gentle Reader?

     One of the classical false dichotomies is the choice restricted to two contrasting authorities and their dictates. He who only gets to choose between masters remains a slave. No virtue inheres in submission to anyone’s authority…unless the choice of going one’s own way is open as well.

     Over the years I’ve observed the human carnival, I’ve noticed all the following:

  • The overwhelming preponderance of happy American women are married and have adopted a traditional wife / mother / homemaker style of life.
  • The strongest and least stressed marriages are those in which “traditional” male and female roles obtain.
  • The unhappiest women are found among the careerists who have completely renounced marriage and motherhood in favor of work for wages.
  • Many unhappily married women, though perhaps not a majority thereof, are unhappy specifically about having to work for wages.
  • Far too many men of a “conservative” bent take the above prescriptively: that is, as a command that the only proper place for a woman is in a traditional married woman’s role.

     It doesn’t matter that the path to happiness for most women seems to be that of marriage and traditional wifely and motherly pursuits. Indeed, it wouldn’t matter if one could “prove” that that’s the only path to female happiness. No good can come from either the de Beauvoirean / Hirshmanesque command to women to “get out there and prepare to become a ruler” or the authoritarian-paternalistic command to “stick to your home, your kids, and your kitchen.” There must be free choice.

     Some women would best relate to life, men, and society by adopting a traditional “wifestyle;” others, upon whom God has bestowed other gifts and insights, would do best to follow another path. If our experiences since the inception of the “Women’s Lib” movement are at all indicative, there are more women of the first sort than of the second, perhaps far more. That doesn’t confer authority over such decisions upon anyone.

     If freedom means anything, it means the right to pursue happiness according to your own notions and priorities, whether you have two X chromosomes or only one.

     Some women will choose “rightly” for themselves, and will become enduringly happy.
     Some women will choose “wrongly” for themselves, and will become enduringly unhappy.
     Neither group acquires the authority to dictate to other women, nor to their daughters or nieces.
     Neither does any man.
     All anyone can do for others is to provide an example — hopefully, a good example of a life well lived.

     All else is folly.

     There’s only one more point to make: about bargains and the promises they imply.

     One cannot rightfully be saddled with a responsibility against one’s will. That’s especially true as it pertains to practical matters within a marriage. However, a responsibility once accepted cannot rightfully be abrogated without making provisions for its acceptance by others — willing others. He who accepts the role of family provider is, in the usual case, stuck with it; he cannot lay it down with a clean conscience. Similarly, she who accepts the responsibilities of homemaker and mother cannot morally walk away from them without first seeing to it that someone else willingly picks them up. This is especially significant when the subject is the care and nurturance of minor children.

     These things must be agreed to before responsibilities of either sort are accepted. Some decisions, such as the decision to produce children, are irreversible.

     It’s best for a man and a woman contemplating marriage to hash all of this out beforehand. What standard of living are the spouses-to-be anticipating? Do they expect the same one, or markedly different ones? In what sort of environment will they live? Who wants children? Who’s willing to accept the responsibility for their care and upbringing? Who’s willing to settle for an apartment? Whose heart is set upon a detached house with all the responsibilities that implies? Those are the biggest topics that, if not settled willingly and amicably before marriage, can become life-destroying bones of contention afterward.

     There’s no escape from life’s major decisions. No one can make them for anyone else…nor can anyone “delegate” them to some reliable authority in full confidence of the results.

     The title of this tirade — “On Making The Best Of Things…Including Yourself” — might be a little too subtle for some readers. There are two “parts” to the “thing” that is you:

  • What you are — i.e., your nature as a human being of one or the other sex;
  • Who you are — i.e., the individuality you’ve acquired from your path through life.

     Each of these provides opportunities and constraints. Neither is absolutely binding; neither can be utterly dismissed. Along all the paths one might take through life, the quintessential asset is accurate self-knowledge, of both your “what” and your “who.” Happiness is all but impossible to obtain without it.

     To young Miss Smith, who’s pondering what course to take: the “traditional” roles of wife, mother and homemaker, or the “modern” approach of careerism and ascent through the business world. Do you know yourself? Well enough to make promises to others and be confident that you’ll keep them?

     If not, you’d better get started on it PDQ. Life is short.

Crisis: The Agar of Leviathan

     You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. – Rahm Emanuel

     Crisis-mongering has a long history:

     If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.

     With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

     [Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933]

     The underlying idea being promoted is unpalatable in its raw form: “You can’t help yourselves. I can help you. Just surrender your rights to me, and all will be well.” If it were presented that way, very few Americans would go for it. We’ve been too deeply steeped in the traditions of limited government and individual rights.

     Wait, what did I just say? If that’s so, then how has the federal government grown so large over the century past? Is it possible that when convinced that a crisis is upon us, we’re just as susceptible to the siren call of dictatorship as the people of any other land?

     Maybe so:

     “Even the iron hand of a national dictator is preferable to a paralytic stroke.” – Alf Landon, governor of Kansas and 1936 candidate for President, in a letter to newly elected president Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933

     “If this nation ever needed a Mussolini, it needs one now.” – David Reed, United States Senator of Pennsylvania, on the floor of the Senate, 1933

     Those two gentlemen were Republicans. One of them ran against FDR in 1936. Ponder that in your spare moments.

     Francis Turner at L’Ombre de l’Olivier notes – and makes absolutely plain – the most disturbing pattern ever to intrude on American political discourse:

     Step 1: Something must be done.
     Step 2: This is something.
     Step 3: Therefore we must do this.

     Let that sink in for a moment. Doesn’t every call for gun control over the past hundred years conform perfectly to it? Doesn’t the current drive to ban “assault weapons,” afloat on the blood of the victims in Parkland, Florida, conform perfectly? What does it suggest about the attitude of the gun-controllers – people-controllers, really – toward the American electorate? And what does it suggest, given that the Democrats propose the same anti-freedom strokes after each and every “crisis,” about the true, covert motives of the American Left?

     It’s time we drew the moral.

     I’ve done this before, but now is a good time to repeat it: I cannot recommend Professor Robert Higgs’s superb book Crisis and Leviathan highly enough. The amount of information and insight Higgs compresses into a reasonably compact treatment, written for the intelligent layman, is simply stunning. To the best of my knowledge, no other scholar has approached the thesis Higgs advances – i.e., that the general perception of a crisis creates the best possible grounds for the expansion of State power – in an organized fashion. Yet once presented with Higgs’s lucidity, it becomes, if you’ll pardon the choice of terms, too obvious to be overlooked afterward.

     Crises as promoted by politicians and their handmaidens are seldom real. That is, they seldom threaten as greatly or as widely as the promoters would have you believe. But with the media as assistants, they can often convince enough persons to believe…and the media loves nothing better than a crisis. Crises sell column-inches and air time. Indeed, they’re even better for circulation than sex crimes.

     Some years ago, a phrase appeared in our political lexicon that achieved considerable resonance: compassion fatigue. Americans, we were told, had grown tired from being harangued about feeling sorry for every group the Left chose to promote as “oppressed” or “underprivileged.” That might have been the case, but it didn’t cause an appreciable reduction in Americans’ charitable action, and none at all in the size, extent, and expense of the welfare state. Though I hoped otherwise, no reductions in government-modulated welfarism occurred.

     Perhaps it’s time to start promoting the concept of crisis fatigue: the reaction to being overburdened with shouts that “something must be done.” It has a sound psychological basis: a man overloaded with fear ceases to act on his fears; he becomes enervate. Further attempts to flog him with the lash of crisis have no effect…at least, none that would repay the effort. Might it be possible to elicit a degree of crisis fatigue deliberately, by a shift in rhetoric? If the effort were successful, might we provoke, at long last, Arthur Herzog’s recommended remedy for political overreach: the mass yawn?

     Food for thought.

On Being White

     I’ve been warned. I’ve been reminded. I’ve been catechized about the unwisdom of giving in to fury. It’s not good for me. If it’s good for you, know that I envy you, because there’s a lot to be angry about these days.

     The foofaurauw over the National Football League’s decision to “support the players” in their “protests” against the national anthem and flag of the United States rather than to enforce the league’s rules about proper conduct during the anthem has caused a significant number of previously faithful football fans to tune out. I expect that number to grow still further, especially in light of the mealy-mouthed statements from head coaches, marquee players, and Commissioner Roger Goodell. It will ultimately, if not soon enough for any decent American’s tastes, crash the league financially.

     Yet the disease is spreading:

     Gregg Popovich is the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. That team is composed largely of American Negroes, like every other National Basketball Association team and a great many college teams, too. There isn’t one NBA player whose salary is less than the high six figures. There isn’t one who couldn’t augment his income by public appearances and the sale of autographed items, as many do. But supposedly they and theirs are “oppressed” by having to earn their incomes on a basketball court. Now their head coach tells us that we don’t know what it means to be born white.

     As a public service to Popovich, and to anyone else who might be uncertain about what it means to be white – especially, what it means to be a white American – I shall explain.

     To be born white in the U.S.A. is to inherit a six-digit share of a $20 trillion debt you had no part in borrowing or spending. Your parents, should you be lucky enough to have any, might look upon you as a blessing, but they must also accept the immense burdens and hazards that will accompany your upbringing and maturation: on average, about $1 million for you and each of your siblings until age twenty-one.

     From the instant of your birth, you’re a number in a system designed to tax and control you. Government busybodies will use you as an excuse to intrude into your family’s most intimate operations. Neighborhood busybodies supposedly determined to “keep you safe” will help them. “Educators” with little interest in actual education will propagandize you about a wide variety of “issues.” This will be in support of your share of white guilt: your responsibility for crimes committed by others long dead and not even remotely related to you. Yet those “educators” will deny you answers to many of your questions. You’ll have to look elsewhere for honest information about history and economics. That condition will last all the way through college, should you be inclined toward a “higher” education. Dare to mention in class that before the Civil War there were both white and black slaveholders and white and black slaves, or that the institution of slavery is still rampant among nonwhites in Africa and the Middle East, and you’ll be mobbed or worse.

     Should you reach your maturity determined to be a decent and productive citizen, you’ll be penalized for the color of your skin. White people aren’t entitled to anything, you see; only blacks are entitled. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission isn’t concerned with whether you can get work, only with whether your black competitor can. In any head to head contest with a black employment applicant, your qualifications will weigh less heavily in your favor than the color of his skin will weigh in his. A company determined to hire you rather than him will need to watch its “employment statistics” closely, lest it give the EEOC an excuse to impose “supervision” on it.

     But you’re white, which means no excuses for anything. You’ll find work, and you’ll labor diligently at it. And on paycheck day, the list of deductions from your supposed salary will remind you of just what the State thinks of you: a resource to be mulcted, in large measure for the support of nonwhite idlers and their bastards. Seven out of every ten black babies born today are illegitimate – born out of wedlock. Child support from the father? Not unless the father is an NBA power forward. But to note that fact in public would put you at extreme hazard.

     Still, you’ll soldier on. You’re white; it’s expected of you. As the bumper stickers say, millions on welfare depend on you, so you can’t be allowed to slack off. It would be a crime against society and a betrayal of your “white privilege:” the privilege of being blamed for others’ sins while simultaneously having to pay for them.

     Where will you live? In a city, where the young blacks play the “knockout game” and usually get away with it? In a suburb, where mobs of black teens terrorize schools, parks, and shopping malls? Where the “authorities” will harangue you mercilessly about permits, property taxes, the height of your fence, and your unworthiness to have a handgun? Or in the country, where there’s little work even for a white farmhand, the alternative labor supply – illegal aliens from south of the border – being so copious and so cheap? Decisions, decisions…

     You’ll manage. If there’s anything inherently noble about the white American, it’s that he manages. He keeps trying, no matter how heavy the burdens or how bleak the outlook. But the insults, both overt and covert, will keep coming lifelong. They’re particularly dense in mass entertainments, which appear consciously designed to disparage every last one of the values you hold. Hey, they have to offend someone — giving offense is the style in comedy today, don’t y’know – and you’re the safest candidate. Especially if you’re a white male Christian…or, may God protect you, a Catholic.

     Perhaps you’ll contrive to retire, somehow. That’s becoming quite a feat. At any rate, fewer of us manage it with each passing year. But the insults won’t stop even there. For daring to vote for conservative candidates who at least talk a good game, you’ll be denounced as a racist. To go to a rally for such a candidate, much less to volunteer to work for one, is an act of unusual courage. Well organized groups will target you, expose your most private information, possibly trash your house or attack your loved ones. No, you still can’t have a handgun. Handguns are for criminals only; it’s the law.

     And of course, when you quit this vale of tears, whatever you’ve managed to scrape together for your inheritors will be truncated by the State. (Our motto: “The needs of the State come first.”) However, your share of the white American’s burden will be passed to them with interest.

     That’s the barest skeleton of your “white privilege.” Think of it as a Christmas tree hung with many “ornaments,” some heavier than others. Every day still more are hung on it…and you. The tree is bowing under the weight. There’s no way to know when it will snap.

     Yes, I’m angry. A lot of whites are. Should this disrespect for us and for the symbols of the country we built – the only things black slaves built were tar paper shacks and the fortunes of a few plantation owners! – spread to baseball or hockey, we might decide to crash the entire overpaid institution of professional sports; the NFL and NBA are already on notice. That might be only the opening stages of a thoroughgoing “readjustment” of national attitudes and institutions.

     Go ahead and call me a racist. Go ahead! We both know you want to! See how much I care?

Elites And Contempt

     Today’s stimulus for thought comes from this nicely pointed op-ed from William McGurn:

     In the last week or so a flurry of articles have appeared arguing for toning down the looking-down. In the New Republic Michael Tomasky writes under the heading “Elitism Is Liberalism’s Biggest Problem.” Over at the New York Times , Joan C. Williams weighs in with “The Dumb Politics of Elite Condescension.” Slate goes with a Q&A on “advice on how to talk to the white working class without insulting them.” Stanley Greenberg at the American Prospect writes on “The Democrats’ ‘Working-Class Problem,’ ” and Kevin Drum at Mother Jones asks for “Less Liberal Contempt, Please.”

     None of these pieces are directed at Trump Nation. To the contrary, they are pitched to progressives still having a hard time coming to grips with The Donald’s victory last November. Much of what these authors write is sensible. But it can also be hilarious, particularly when the effort to explain ordinary Americans to progressive elites reads like a Margaret Mead entry on the exotic habits of the Samoans.

     McGurn recognizes the intractability of the fault addressed by the commentators he links:

     But the larger progressive dilemma here is that contempt is baked into the identity politics that defines today’s Democratic Party.

     McGurn leaves the key insight for the reader to infer, but it’s not really that hard to reach.

     So the question becomes: Is there a future for a party or other political body whose principal appeal to prospective members and supporters is its insistence upon its members’ superior wisdom and virtue?


     For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. – Thomas Jefferson

     Those who attempt to level never equalize. In all societies some description must be uppermost. The levellers, therefore, only change and pervert the natural order of things; they load the edifice of society by setting up in the air what the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground. – Edmund Burke

     “[W]hat democracy needs most of all is a party that will separate the good that is in it theoretically from the evils that beset it practically, and then try to erect that good into a workable system. What it needs beyond everything is a party of liberty. It produces, true enough, occasional libertarians, just as despotism produces occasional regicides, but it treats them in the same drum-head way. It will never have a party of them until it invents and installs a genuine aristocracy, to breed them and secure them.” – Henry Louis Mencken

     Everyone has his own notions about what characteristics justify a claim of personal superiority. Lately, the focus has been on political alignments. It hasn’t always been that way. Nor has it always been the aim of perceptive and intelligent men to exalt themselves over others:

     Do you feel that you are superior to the Japanese? The truth is that the Japanese consider themselves far superior to you. A conservative Japanese, for example, is infuriated at the sight of a white man dancing with a Japanese lady.
     Do you consider yourself superior to the Hindus in India? That is your privilege; but a million Hindus feel so infinitely superior to you that they wouldn’t befoul themselves by condescending to touch food that your heathen shadow had fallen across and contaminated.
     Do you feel you are superior to the Eskimos? Again, that is your privilege; but would you really like to know what the Eskimo thinks of you? Well, there are a few native hobos among the Eskimos, worthless bums who refuse to work. The Eskimos call them “white men,” that being their utmost term of contempt….
     The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely. – Dale Carnegie

     “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

     “Only one thing do I know, and that is that I know nothing.” – Socrates

     Contrast those three quotes with the ones at the beginning of this segment. Find the key divergence in assumptions. It won’t take you long.

     The Left’s divergence is political: Adopt our political stances, they proclaim, and we will certify you as superior to those who do not. As there are many who need to feel superior to others, this has a certain appeal. Its problem is the same as that of coalition politics: it cannot maintain an enduring majority. That, of course, doesn’t quench the need to feel superior among those who flock toward its banner.


     As I wrote just yesterday, the Democrats and the activist Left have gone “all in” on their campaign against the Trump Administration, the Republican Party, and the many millions of Americans who remain attached to the conception of America as a free and prosperous commonwealth that looks out for its people and itself above all other considerations. Either their strategists sense an opportunity that won’t come again, or they’ve grown too desperate to wait any longer. In either case, they’ve committed themselves past the political point of no return. If their gamble fails, they’ll spend many decades in the political wilderness. The Democrat Party, in particular might need to “die and be reborn.”

     Yet there will always be persons who must feel superior to others. Their actual virtues and capabilities won’t be the foundation of that conviction; far too few persons actually are so much better than others at anything that matters to base a claim of superiority on what they can do. The irony swells when we note the strong correlation between Democrat / Leftist political affiliation and lack of ability and standards.

     All the same, those persons will find one another again. “Birds of a feather flock together.” They always have and they always will. When the need to feel superior to others is all that sets them apart from other oxygen wastrels, we may rest assured that it will be their bond. The natural repugnance decent, modest persons feel toward the self-exalting will usually hold them at bay. Men of good will want neither to become commissars nor to be ruled by them – and as counter-intuitive as it may sometimes seem, the great majority of Americans are men of good will.

“Bring Back Our Country!”

     First, a blast from the past: a piece I posted at the old Palace Of Reason about fifteen years ago:

     Ever seen Federico Fellini’s movie Amarcord (I Remember)? It’s not the muddled mess so many of his other films were. It’s a memoir of his childhood in a small Italian town, during the years before World War II. It’s simple in focus and execution, beautifully written, and acted, directed, and filmed with an artless grace that raises it to the pinnacle of the film-maker’s art.

     The Italians have a word for it: sprezzatura. The art that conceals art.

     Why Fellini made this movie, I can’t say. I can say that, having seen it recently for the first time in thirty years, it’s prompted me to do a little remembering of my own.

     I did most of my growing-up in Orangeburg, a small town in Rockland County, New York, in the Fifties and early Sixties. It was a place most modern children would disbelieve in, unconditionally.

     The doors had locks: snap locks that you could force with a credit card. However, this was before credit cards, and the locks didn’t get that much use anyway, because who on Earth would intrude into someone else’s home uninvited?

     A home with a television in it wasn’t a rich man’s home, but two televisions marked a household as well-to-do, and perhaps a little more materially indulgent than was really good for a family with minor children. A color television was an object of wonder. I’ve never forgotten the thrill of seeing Bonanza in color for the first time.

     Yards were kept neat and clean. Maintaining them was regarded as a civic duty. One homeowner let his lawn go unmowed for three weeks, and thereby earned a visit from a group of his neighbors, who wanted to know what had happened that he couldn’t keep up with his responsibilities.

     Children of all ages wandered the neighborhood without fear. Parents were confident that their neighbors, and their neighbors’ older children, would look out for the young that hadn’t yet come into their full senses. A driver that honked at a child who was a little slow to cross the street risked being shucked out of his automotive armor and disciplined in public.

     I remember one universally beloved little girl, named Janie, whose innocent enthusiasm for life was the delight of our block. I once caught Janie toddling across my back yard, looking for my younger sister Donna, bursting with eagerness to tell Donna something that had just occurred to her. She’d hopped out of her bathtub and scampered across her back yard and into our own to do so. She was wearing what one usually wears in the bath. Archimedes might have blushed; Janie didn’t.

     It was an overwhelmingly Catholic community. There were five Masses each Sunday morning, and all of them were attended to capacity and beyond. The parish priests were regarded as higher authorities than any elected functionary. When our pastor was elevated to Monsignor, we young ones were stunned that the town didn’t hold a parade.

     Most of the children attended the parish’s grammar school, St. Catherine of Alexandria. Despite St. Catherine’s huge class sizes — classes of fifty were the norm — standards were high, and the pressure to get in never slackened. The local public grammar school was regarded as a refuge for the children of lazy parents, who didn’t care how their kids were taught; it had many unoccupied desks. Competition among the latter-grade students at St. Catherine’s was intense; we all wanted to go to the local Catholic high school, Albertus Magnus, and we knew there weren’t places enough for all of us.

     The big excitement in my life was school. I didn’t understand kids who hated school. It was a place I almost couldn’t stand to leave at the end of the day. I wasn’t alone in that.

     The town’s “bad apples” swore, smoked behind the local convenience store, and flung spitballs in class when they thought they weren’t being watched. The rest of us were told they were bad apples. We weren’t told they were misunderstood or had self-esteem problems. When detected, they were corrected, in no uncertain terms. Their parents came in for even more opprobrium than they did.

     There were unpleasant episodes, of course. A family not far from us had domestic troubles. She slapped him one night, and he responded by shoving her through a screen door, which occasioned a visit to the local hospital for her, a visit from an impromptu decency committee for him, and departure from town for the two of them, soon afterward.

     Then there was The Divorce. It shocked the entire community. The idea that parents wouldn’t find ways to bridge their differences and keep their home together for their kids wasn’t just unthinkable; it was an insult to the whole concept of marriage and family. It bespoke a lack of self-discipline and incomprehensible priorities.

     I suppose I should mention that the parents that divorced were mine.

     The highest honor any child could aspire to was to be picked for the chorus that went to Rockland State Hospital to entertain during the Christmas holidays. Success in Little League was a distant second.

     In those years, Orangeburg’s residents were working-class white and Hispanic families. I don’t remember any blacks. I don’t know what to make of that. Draw what conclusions you will.

     I was considered a little odd, because I had no interest in learning how to shoot.

     I remember the milk truck, the bakery truck, the dry cleaner’s truck, the sharpener truck, and the Charles Chips truck, all of which came to our door, and all of whose drivers were treated like old friends. In some cases, they were old friends.

     I remember cap guns, and games of Cowboys and Indians, and huge snowball fights conducted with an innocent ferocity by pugilists from eight to eighty.

     I remember thinking that the Palisades Interstate Parkway must surely be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and that heaven itself could hardly exceed the delights of Palisades Amusement Park.

     I remember my father, down on his luck and himself after my mother left him, spending much too much time in a local gin mill. I remember him cashing check after check at that saloon, and the owner, who knew those checks would bounce right over the Moon, accepting them anyway, putting them into his cash register and never saying a word. That saloon owner eventually got every penny my father owed him. I wonder if he’d known that he would.

     I remember adults who had standards they weren’t afraid to enforce without needing to invoke the authority of the law. I remember lawyers who tried to counsel their prospective clients not to sue. I remember journalists who could be trusted.

     I remember loving America wholeheartedly and with no reservations. We were the good guys. I remember fearing nothing and no one, certainly not the government. I remember being confident that the world could only get better, now that the good guys were in charge.

     I remember coming home after five years in college and two years in Hell, and looking at my town, and knowing it had changed out from under me, that I no longer belonged to it, nor it to me. And I went away, and did not return.

     And I, who have set these things down, have wept many bitter tears for my country and what she has forsaken. I am of the last generation that remembers our days of strength and virtue, and my years are growing long. I and my contemporaries are entering the twilight of life. When our memories fade, there will be nothing but the cold and the dark.

     But for now, I remember.

     That was the America I remember from my youth: the Fifties through about 1964. Take a moment to recover from it, if you like. It always takes me a while.

     The political season in which we’re currently immersed features two visibly opposed camps: one ascendant, one despondent. Yet despite the differences between them politically and the contrast between them effectually, they have an important commonality: both are the consequences of a desire to bring something back. Moreover, both camps think of what they want to bring back as “our country.”

     The ascendant camp looks at present-day America and sees a nation near to terminal ruin. What it wants to bring back bears many similarities to the remembrance I resuscitated above: an America in which Americans – particularly white Christians – could feel safe, valued, and free.

     There’s precious little safety for anyone, these days. Precious little freedom, too. Have an early-Saturday-morning irony on me, if you will: my remembrance is of a time shortly before proprietary communities, gated and secured enclaves which promulgate their own regulations and enforce them upon their residents, began to proliferate. Those who move to such communities know they’re sacrificing still more of their freedom. They do so for the incremental improvement in safety, particularly for their children, that those communities seem to offer.

     Of course, by the lights of today’s Main Stream Media and its editorial voices, a white Christian American is responsible – personally – for essentially all the troubles of the world. Lower than pond scum. Practically a Nazi. He has no right to his opinions; indeed, he should be punished for them. He must be made to cringe before his betters and humbly beg pardon for his sins. He should be grateful that they don’t relieve him of his life after they’ve stripped him of his rights and property.

     But I mustn’t get off course. The despondent camp wants to bring something back, too: the America when the Left dominated all mass communications. The era when its pronouncements went unchallenged because there was no medium through which to challenge them.

     Have a few links:

  1. Cillizza and Other Journos Whine
  2. Virginia Schools Ban “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn”
  3. The Left’s Doomed Effort To Coerce The Right
  4. The Empire Strikes Back: The MSM’s 3-Point Plan to Recapture The Narrative

     And of course, we have the pogroms in progress against conservative sentiments on Facebook and Twitter, and the innumerable corporations being pressured – in many cases successfully – to refrain from advertising at sites that have a right-of-center editorial posture.

     The temper of the Left, particularly among the members of its media annex, is plain: they believe that to return to power, they must recapture their earlier dominance of mass communications. In this, the Left is almost certainly correct. It’s a thread that runs through more than just their whining. And as you can see from the links above, they clearly mean to do it.

     Link #4 provides a few details:

     First, a blatant attempt to pathologize dissent–especially the Alt Right. Soon after the election, the Leftist Think Progress blog announced that the Alt Right should only be called “white nationalist” or “white supremacist”. [Think Progress will no longer describe racists as “alt-right”, November 22, 2016] The AP dutifully echoed this pronouncement days later, warning journalists not to use the term and instead to stick to pejoratives. [AP issues guidelines for using the term ‘alt-right,’ by Brent Griffiths, Politico, November 28, 2016]…

     Secondly, a meme has been invented about so-called “Fake News,” which will be used to shut down dissident media outlets….

     Thirdly, the Trump victory is clearly leading to increased attempts at outright repression. Or, as VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow told the NPI conference: “What we are going to see in the next few years is an intensified Reign Of Terror.”

     This is a must-read article. It provides a wealth of supportive links, and deep insight into the adversary’s objectives, via the technique I’ve repeatedly prescribed.

     From the above, we can see quite plainly the shape of the America the Left wants to bring back. That America, one needn’t be as old as I to remember.

     President George W. Bush once created a furor by telling a gaggle of reporters that they shouldn’t assume he got the news from them. He was characteristically gentle about it, even more so than in the justly famous whack across the chops he gave David Gregory:

     ”I wonder why it is you think there are such strong sentiments in Europe against you and against this administration?” Mr. Gregory asked Mr. Bush in English, ”Why, particularly, there’s a view that you and your administration are trying to impose America’s will on the rest of the world, particularly when it comes to the Middle East and where the war on terrorism goes next?” Turning to Mr. Chirac, Mr. Gregory broke into French and asked him to comment on the same question.
     Perhaps Mr. Bush thought the French question was directed at him, or perhaps he thought Mr. Gregory was showing off. Whatever the case, Mr. Bush, his voice dripping with sarcasm, said ”Very good, the guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he’s intercontinental.” (Mr. Gregory offered to go on in French, but that only made things worse.)
     ”I’m impressed — que bueno,” said Mr. Bush, using the Spanish phrase for ”how wonderful.” He added: ”Now I’m literate in two languages.”

     It was a moment to savor…yet it pales in comparison to the demolition job President-elect Donald Trump has been doing on the pretensions of the Main Stream Media. And it’s imperative that Trump continue his campaign, unto those media’s total destruction.

     The Left’s three most potent weapons are the entertainment industry, the educational institutions, and the so-called news media. If these can be neutralized, and a sufficiency of alternatives can be provided, the incoming Trump Administration will have a much better chance of carrying through on its agenda. But make no mistake: the Left will defend its bastions with total ferocity, while doing everything it can to delegitimize the alternatives the Internet, talk radio, and low-cost cablecasting have made possible.

     Two visions of America are locked in mortal combat. One at most can prevail. Indeed, it’s possible neither will survive, given the possibility of a fragmentation of the Republic. What would follow might include a mass movement of population between “red” and “blue” regions, akin to the mass exodus of Bengalis into India after the political upheavals of 1970 and 1971.

     Each vision is founded on a conception of a past America. Both are largely accurate. (That says nothing about either one’s desirability.) And both have millions of allegiants. What those allegiants are willing to do – and to sacrifice – to have the America they yearn to restore will determine the sort of future America we and our descendants will enjoy or endure.

The Game Plan

     Is what follows a realistic summary of a major part of the strategy of our political elite, or merely a conspiratorialist’s fantasy?

     “The women’s rights movement had three goals. First, it got women into the workplace where their labor could be taxed….So, with more women entering the workforce the supply of labor increases and wages are depressed….

     “Now couples need to have two careers to support a typical modern lifestyle. We can’t tax the labor in a home-cooked meal. We can tax the labor in takeout food, or the higher cost of a microwave dinner. The economic potential of both halves of the adult population now largely flows into the government where it can serve noble ends instead of petty private interests….

     “The second reason is to get children out of the potentially antisocial environment of the home and into educational settings where we can be sure they’ll get the right values and learn the right lessons to be happy and productive members of society. Working mothers need to send their children to daycare and after-school care where we can be sure they get exposed to the right lessons, or at least not to bad ideas….

     “They are going to assign homework to their students: enough homework to guarantee that even elementary school students are spending all their spare time doing homework. Their poor parents, eager to see that Junior stays up with the rest of the class, will be spending all their time helping their kids get incrementally more proficient on the tests we have designed. They’ll be too busy doing homework to pick up on any antisocial messages at home….

     “Children will be too busy to learn independence at home, too busy to do chores, to learn how to take care of themselves, to be responsible for their own cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Their parents will have to cater to their little darlings’ every need, and their little darlings will be utterly dependent on their parents. When the kids grow up, they will be used to having someone else take care of them. They will shift that spirit of dependence from their parents to their university professors, and ultimately to their government. The next generation will be psychologically prepared to accept a government that would be intrusive even by today’s relaxed standards – a government that will tell them exactly how to behave and what to think. Not a Big Brother government, but a Mommy-State….

     “Eventually, we may even outlaw homeschooling as antisocial, like our more progressive cousins in Germany already do. Everyone must known their place in society and work together for social good, not private profit….

     “The Earth can’t accommodate many more people at a reasonable standard of living. We’re running out of resources. We have to manage and control our population. That’s the real motive behind the women’s movement. Once a women’s studies program convinces a gal she’s a victim of patriarchal oppression, how likely is it she’s going to overcome her indoctrination to be able to bond long enough with a guy to have a big family? If she does get careless with a guy, she’ll probably just have an abortion….

     “All those Career-Oriented Gals are too busy seeking social approval and status at the office to be out starting families and raising kids. They’re encouraged to have fun, be free spirits., and experiment with any man who catches their fancy….And by the time all those COGs are in their thirties and ready to try to settle down and have kids, they’re past their prime. Their fertility peaks in their twenties. It’s all downhill from there….

     “In another generation, we’ll have implemented our own version of China’s One-Child-Per-Couple policy without the nasty forced abortions and other hard repressive policies which people hate. What’s more, there’ll be fewer couples because so many young people will just be hedonistically screwing each other instead of settling down and making families. Makes me wish I were young again, like you, to take full advantage of it. The net effect is we’ll enter the great contraction and begin shrinking our population to more controllable levels….

     “It’s profoundly ironic. A strong, independent woman is now one who meekly obeys the media’s and society’s clamor to be a career girl and sleep around with whatever stud catches her fancy or with other girls for that matter. A woman with the courage to defy that social pressure and devote herself from a young age to building a home and raising a family is an aberration, a weirdo, a traitor to her sex. There aren’t many women with the balls to stand up against that kind of social pressure. It’s not in their nature.”

     The above excerpt from Hans G. Schantz’s The Hidden Truth struck me so powerfully that I feel a moral obligation to pass it along. Ponder it, please.

Demographics and the Medicalization of Human Existence

     “When man believed that happiness was dependent upon God, he killed for religious reasons. When he believed that happiness was dependent upon the form of government, he killed for political reasons….After dreams that were too long, true nightmares…we arrived at the present period of history. Man woke up, discovered that which we always knew, that happiness is dependent upon health, and began to kill for therapeutic reasons….It is medicine that has come to replace both religion and politics in our time.” – Adolfo Bioy Casares

     Quite a percentage of the most upsetting stories of the past few years have had a medical character. The execution by torture of Terri Schiavo, the government-decreed starvation of Leslie Burke, and Amy Richards’s murder of two of her three unborn triplets come to mind at once. The medical sector of society seems to have infiltrated parts of our media, and our consciousness, we once reserved for serial killers and horror writers.

     We needn’t stop there, of course. Just murmur “embryonic stem cell research” to yourself in a dimly lit room, and watch the shadows surge menacingly around you. Or perhaps “assisted suicide,” the “choice” whose proponents become more militant with each passing year. If you haven’t yet crept quivering under your desk, consider the “Groningen Protocol,” which multitudes of European and American physicians have enthusiastically endorsed. It would seem that the most venerated of the “helping professions” has grown bored with helping people to live, and has taken on a sideline of a quite different sort.

     Why are physicians helping to stoke the engines of death, and why are we allowing them to do so?

     If you haven’t asked yourself that question yet, check your pulse: you may have died and not noticed. Of course, in that case the subject would seem a deal less relevant, but your Curmudgeon will proceed nevertheless.


     Immediately after World War II, the massed armies of the combatants pretty much dropped their guns where they stood and flocked home to procreate. In the United States, the population surge this produced is well known as the Baby Boom, and its individual members as Boomers. Though the phrase is American, the other nations that were heavily involved in the war all experienced similar demographic spikes, as fighting men all over the world remembered that there was an activity they greatly preferred to taking orders and dodging bullets.

     For at least forty years, the worldwide Baby Boom has been the demographic fact of greatest significance to the nations it affected. It’s pulled politics, economics, technology and culture into its wake; the desires of so great and concentrated a mass could hardly do otherwise. But its influence on the attitudes and practices of the medical field, and the interplay of medical with political trends, have been less well analyzed than they deserve.

     The influence of the vast Baby Boom market on the commercial sector has been plain to see. Whatever Boomers wanted, or were imagined to want, industry strained to produce. By and large, that hasn’t been a bad thing. But today, with the Boomer cohort trudging toward late middle age and peering forward at seniority, what Boomers want is quite different from what we wanted twenty years ago.

     Basically, we want to be young again. Functionally young, not calendrically. We want to look young, feel young, enjoy the pleasures and opportunities of youth, and — here’s the kicker — evade the burdens and responsibilities of age. Of course, many an oldster before the Boom has wished for his youth back, for the above reasons and others. But never before in recorded history has a demographic cohort this large wished for that benison this ardently, and been as pandered to as ours is being.

     When we were young, we were treated like royalty. We were catered to as children, given few or no responsibilities and whatever pleasures or diversions we wished. We were made into the center of the universe as teenagers and young adults, told that our half-assed opinions mattered despite our callowness and ignorance, and flattered by legions of politicians and media barons. As we moved into middle age, we were handed the reins of government and industry without a fight, and largely without having to prove our mettle. Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be a Boomer was very heaven.

     It was a natural consequence of the postwar years. The wars had reaped tens of millions of lives; disease had ravaged tens of millions more. Our parents, weary with conflict and destruction, looked to us to improve on their record…in a sense, to save the world not only for them but from them. Wishful thinking? Yes, of course…yet on what grounds could a youngster of our day assert that he’d have been immune to the temptation? Since the Industrial Revolution, no generation had been tested as severely as the parents of the Baby Boom. It might be dozens of centuries before men face such trials again.

     But understanding it is insufficient to avert its consequences. Boomers are a youth-fixated people. As we move ever deeper into the latter halves of our lives, our desire to avert the consequences of that transition becomes ever more powerful. We devote increasing amounts of time, money, and effort to preserving the things of youth. We’ll even take the form if we can’t have the content; witness the explosive growth of the cosmetic surgery industry.

     The implications for the medical field, including the critical field of medical research, would seem to be clear. Some of them, at least:

  • We want to look and feel young.
  • We want to be treated the way we were when we were calendrically young.
  • We don’t want to become infirm.
  • We certainly don’t want to die.

     Science fiction author Larry Niven, in a series of stories in his “Known Space” canon, narrated some of the more horrifying sociopolitical consequences of a youth-fixated / death-averse world. If the vote could be used to stay young and hale, he reasoned, it would be. Therefore, given the chance, citizens would vote for the death penalty for every imaginable offense, and mandate that the sentence be carried out in an operating room. The condemned would be transformed into transplant resources, to help keep the law-abiding folks alive and well.

     We’re not at that point yet, but we’re getting closer. Embryonic stem-cell research is not morally distant from Niven’s premise. A few nations have considered passing mandatory organ donation laws. A few folks have even suggested that executing a condemned man and throwing away his body is simply wrong, when his organs could help to compensate for the harm he’d done in life.

     If such nightmares poke their snouts into the light of day, it will be because Boomers have demanded them.

     But Niven’s speculation is far from the end of the subject. Young persons, healthy and vigorous, seldom need health care, and therefore seldom need to pay for it. The older they get, the larger this burden becomes financially. Medicare and Medicaid, along with the pervasive practice of paying for any and every kind of medical service through insurance, have greatly accelerated those costs, per office visit, per lab test, per treatment, and per capita.

     A Boomer today not only faces medical bills far greater than his parents did at his age, but the treatments and services he buys are much more desirable to him: less painful, more likely to work without undesirable side effects, and more oriented toward maintaining him in a condition of fitness and vigor. To his parents, medicine and its practitioners were a recourse in times of great need, invoked only to cope with serious conditions and life-threatening injuries. To him, “health care” is the Fountain of Youth.

     If you’ve never understood how a nation with so many horrifying examples of the failures of socialized medicine before its eyes could nevertheless flirt with allowing Washington to nationalize the health care industry, perhaps you understand it now.


     The above certainly has explanatory power for much of the medicalization of human existence. But there’s another, darker facet to Boomer culture that remains to be critically examined: how Boomers’ desire to remain young and hale feeds the engines of death.

     That’s really part of the “positive” side of the equation: the part that hopes that by sacrificing the most defenseless proto-humans of all, we might contrive to extend our own health and vitality. To grasp the negative side of things, we must study financial factors more deeply.

     A dollar spent on X is unavailable to be spent on Y; this is the monetary corollary to the Principle of Scarcity on which all of economics is based. He who projects that his own bills will be rising sharply, for whatever reason, will certainly feel a desire to minimize the expenditures others “force” upon him. If he foresees great increases in those involuntary expenditures upon others, that would force him to reduce his expenditures upon his personal needs and desires, he will be greatly distressed. He might toy with “doing something about it.”

     Thus, we enter the realm of euthanasia.

     A mere three generations ago, the suggestion that Gramps be “put to sleep” for any reason, much less to free his kids of the bills for his maintenance, would have been greeted with an outrage that transcended horror. Today it’s an active topic of discussion. Several states have submitted to the demands of such groups as the Hemlock Society by enacting “assisted suicide” laws. From time to time, public figures have made comments about the “duty” of the old to “get out of the way” of the young. “Ethicist” Peter Singer, a hero to many for his arguments in favor of retroactive abortion, argues that below a certain “quality of life,” a creature no longer possesses a right to life, and can be put involuntarily to death for utilitarian reasons — an assertion that reaches every point on the spectrum of age. The doctors who authored the Groningen Protocol have employed this argument, too.

     Boomers grant the discussibility of euthanasia for the lowest of all reasons: it would save us money. We’d no longer have to worry about how to foot the bills for Gramps, or for the spouse with terminal multiple sclerosis, or for the child with severe cerebral palsy or Down’s Syndrome. Beyond the money, it would save us having to labor over those wretches, or endure their complaints and their lack of gratitude. Away with them! If the State won’t take them off our hands, maybe God will! More time and money for us, that’s the ticket!

     Of course, we hedge our selfishness and cowardice with the nicest of stringencies. There must be consultations and deliberations. Family, physicians, psychiatrists, bureaucrats — everyone must have a say. There must be nothing that could possibly be done for the sufferer to elevate his “quality of life” near to that of an actual person. And of course, when we inevitably decide upon the inevitable Quietus, it must be painless — not for the sake of the guest of honor, but as a balm for our own consciences.

     And the “medical community,” power and wealth in prospect, rushes to comply. Hippocratic Oath be damned; that might have been good enough for the pagan Greeks, but we’re beyond all that now. We’re civilized.

     Are we?



     As a rule Boomers are not good about bearing pain or helplessness. Of course, that’s one of the drivers of the New Medicine; never before have there been so many different analgesics and therapies for pain, and so many artifices to help a disabled person cope with the challenges of life. But ultimately, all these things must fail; no one’s body can be kept sound forever. He who is unlucky enough to outlive his health and strength must either accept increasing discomfort and the loss of his abilities, or die.

     Because we’ve known so little pain and disability, a good many of us want to make certain that we’ll have “assistance” toward the Final Exit when the time comes. It’s a form of cowardice that earlier generations resisted far better than we…but then, a member of the pre-Boomer generations bore more pain in his first ten years of life than a typical Boomer will know lifelong.

     Few Boomers who call vociferously for “assisted suicide” laws pause to think about the pressures our progeny might put upon us to “use” those laws…possibly well before the thought ever enters our heads.


     The medicalization of our existence is being driven by our existence itself: our privileged position in space, time, and circumstance as the least burdened, most pampered people ever to slide behind the wheel of a Lexus. Life is good; we want to keep it that way, especially those of us from the have-it-all Boomer generation who’ve hardly known privation or suffering. If the promises become lurid enough, we might well succumb to the lure of bureacratized doctors as unreviewable arbiters of life and death — and don’t kid yourself; socialized medicine, for which “universal health care” is a mere circumlocution, means exactly that.

     Think, and pray.

Sapir-Whorf In The Saddle

     If you’re unfamiliar with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, it’s time to get acquainted with it:

     Linguistic relativity, sometimes called the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis or Whorfianism, is a hypothesis in linguistics and cognitive science that holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition. The strong version claims that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories. The weak version claims that linguistic categories and usage influence thought and decisions.

     The hypothesis evolved from work by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. The hypothesis has influenced disciplines beyond linguistics, including philosophy, neurobiology, anthropology, psychology and sociology. The hypothesis’ origin, definition and applicability have been controversial since first outlined. It has come in and out of favor and remains contested as research continues across these domains.

     An early allusion to this thesis, albeit not by any of the above names, appears in 1984:

     “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

     At this time, one of the Left’s major tactics for attaining its sociopolitical goals is based on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis:

     A professional education consultant and teacher trainer argued at the White Privilege Conference (WPC) in Philadelphia that great teachers must also be liberal activists, and described in detail her goal for destroying the “white supremacist” nature of modern education.

     Heather Hackman operates Hackman Consulting Group and was formerly a professor of multicultural education at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University, where she taught future teachers. On Friday, Hackman was given a platform at WPC to deliver a workshop with the lengthy title “No Freedom Unless We Call Out the Wizard Behind The Curtain: Critically Addressing the Corrosive Effects of Whiteness in Teacher Education and Professional Development.” The long title masked a simple thesis on Hackman’s part: Modern education is hopelessly tainted by white supremacy and the “white imperial gaze,” and the solution is to train prospective teachers in college to be activists as well as pedagogues.

     In fact, Hackman argued teachers shouldn’t even bother teaching if they aren’t committed to promoting social justice in school.

     Isn’t the connection clear? By associating the behaviors required to learn what is being taught with ugly concepts – “white supremacism,” “the white imperial gaze,” and so forth – Miss Hackman hopes to render actual examination of minorities’ relative lack of scholastic accomplishment impossible. A bit like Orwell’s Newspeak, in which serious discussion of the rights Thomas Jefferson enumerated in the Declaration of Independence is impossible because it’s been labeled crimethink.

     Sapir-Whorf linguistic tactics are important for another reason as well: if the perversion of language is directed toward rendering particular concepts immoral, it sanctifies the use of violence to suppress those who would dare to speak of them, much less act on them. And as we have seen in recent years, leftists are growing ever more ready to use violence to prevent the discussion of concepts unfriendly to their aims.

     There is, however, a fly in the ointment: Reality is not shaped by the terms we use to describe or discuss it. No matter what anyone says about it, it remains what it is. Only attitudes can be molded linguistically – and only the attitudes of the stupid, ignorant, or easily led.

     The prevailing attitude on the Left, regardless of whether we speak of the stratgists, the activists, or the unthinking sheep, is one of moral superiority toward the rest of us. Thomas Sowell has called this “an assumption of differential rectitude.” Its circularity should immediately be apparent: “We are morally superior because we are left-liberals; we are left-liberals because we are morally superior.” They have no other argument for their self-flattering stance.

     That stance is impossible to separate from Leftist linguistic practices. It was first necessary to define certain attitudes as inherently virtuous, entirely apart from their conformance or nonconformance with reality. That made it possible to condemn anyone who holds such attitudes. That automatically ennobles those who condemn and work against them.

     In a tangentially related essay, Andrew Klavan makes an interesting observation:

     In a veiled reference to Trump at a recent lunch on Capitol Hill, President Obama declared he was “dismayed” at the “vulgar and divisive rhetoric” being heard on the campaign trail. “In America, there is no law that says we have to be nice to each other, or courteous, or treat each other with respect,” the president said. “But there are norms. There are customs.”

     Are there? When I hear this sort of thing from Obama and his fellow leftists, what I wonder is: Have they not listened to themselves for the past 50 years? Do they really have no idea how vicious, how low, how cruel, and how dishonest their attacks on the Right have been?

     No, they haven’t; and, no, they don’t. The Democrat-monopolized media, which explodes with rage at any minor unmannerliness on the right, falls so silent at the Left’s almost ceaseless acrimony that leftists are never forced to confront what despicable little Trumps they often are. [Emphasis added by FWP.]

     The emphasized evaluation is correct 95% of the time or more. It takes more self-awareness than most left-liberals can muster to reflect on the contradiction between their behavior and their “assumption of differential rectitude.” Moreover, were they compelled to confront the facts – i.e., that their practice is the opposite of what they preach – they would thrust it all away as dangerous, not to be entertained lest it taint the purity of their Cause.

     I’m moved to recount an episode from 2005, after the Christmas Tsunami devastated many Pacific populations:

     Today, during an afternoon conference that wrapped up my project of the last 18 months, one of my Euro colleagues tossed this little smart-comment out to no one in particular:
     “See, this is why George Bush is so dumb, there’s a disaster in the world and he sends an Aircraft Carrier…
     After which he and many of my Euro colleagues laughed out loud, and then they looked at me. I wasn’t laughing, and neither was my Hindi friend sitting next to me, who has lost family in the disaster.
     I’m afraid I was “unprofessional”, I let it loose -“Hmmm, let’s see, what would be the ideal ship to send to a disaster? Now what kind of ship would we want? Something with its own inexhaustible power supply? Something that can produce 900,000 gallons of fresh water a day from sea water?”
     “Something with its own airfield? So that after producing the fresh water, it could help distribute it? Something with 4 hospitals and lots of open space for emergency supplies? Something with a global communications facility to make the coordination of disaster relief in the region easier? Well ‘Franz’, we peasants in America call that kind of ship an ‘Aircraft Carrier’.”
     “We have 12 of them. How many do you have? Oh that’s right, NONE. Lucky for you and the rest of the world, we are the kind of people who share. Even with people we don’t like.”
     “In fact, if memory serves, once upon a time we peasants spent a ton of money and lives rescuing people who we had once tried to kill and who tried to kill us. Do you know who those people were? That’s right Franz, Europeans.”
     “There is a French Aircraft carrier? Where is it? Oh.. Right where it belongs! In France of course! Oh, why should the French Navy dirty their uniforms helping people on the other side of the globe. How Simplesse… The day an American has to move a European out of the way to help in some part of the world it will be a great day in the world, you sniggering little snob…”
     The room fell silent. My Hindi friend then said quietly to the Euros:
     “Can you let your hatred of George Bush end for just one minute? There are people dying! And what are your countries doing? Amazon.com has helped more than France has. You all have a role to play in the world, why can’t you see that? Thank God for the US Navy, they don’t have to come and help, but they are. They helped you once and you should all thank God they did. They didn’t have to, and no one but them would have done so. I’m ashamed of you all…”
     He left the room, shaking and in tears. The frustration of being on the other side of the globe, unable to do anything to assist and faced with people who could not set aside their asininity long enough to reach out and help was too much for him to bear. I just shook my head and left. The Euros stood speechless. Later in the break room, one of the laughing Euros caught me and extended his hand in an apology. I asked him where he was from, he said “a town outside of Berlin”. He is a young man, in his early 20’s. I asked him if he knew of a man named Gail Halverson. He said no. I said “that’s a shame” and walked away to find my Hindi friend.

     The first-person narrator of the above encounter “reared up on his hind legs” and poured unassailable facts upon those who had demeaned President Bush and the American response to the tsunami. The reaction from the left-leaning Europeans was virtually nonexistent. They couldn’t deal with the reality. They didn’t dare to confront the facts laid out so plainly because the consequences would be fatal to their “assumption of differential rectitude.” So they kept silent, with one honorable exception, and waited for the man who had threatened their worldview to go away.

     When Sapir and Whorf desert him, the typical left-liberal is entirely without weapons or arms. He must stand naked before reality – and reality, as history declaims most eloquently, has not been a friend to the Left.

     The Klavan essay is significant not merely for its stark delineation of Leftist rhetorical hypocrisy, but for the appropriate sort of response – the sort offered to his European colleagues by the narrator of the episode above:

     …the Left has felt blithely justified in sneering at opposing opinions it deems racist, sexist, or otherwise hateful. But it just doesn’t work. The eyes see what they see; the heart knows what it knows. Bottle up the human experience in silence, and it will ultimately break forth in rage. Thus, the result of these last 50 years of ceaseless left-wing incivility has been not a rainbow-striped paradise of social justice, but the utter collapse of our civic dialogue as the Right now responds with vulgar cruelty of its own. “Those to whom evil is done,” as the poet Auden wrote, “do evil in return.”

     You might say to me, as my mother used to say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” But I say to you, as I used to say to my mother, “They started it.”

     Klavan’s mother’s statement has a particle of justice…but to give true and vocal coloration to the combined viciousness and sanctimony of the Left is not unjust. It’s merely something we’ve found unpleasant and so have tried to avoid…up to now. Now, however, is when the disciples of Sapir and Whorf – whether they’re consciously or unconsciously so – must get what’s coming to them.

Cause People

     [I’ve received numerous requests to repost this old chestnut, which first appeared at the Palace Of Reason on June 29, 2003 — FWP]

     Cause People can be very difficult. Trying. Often hazardous to your health. But they’re getting a progressively larger fraction of the media’s attention, so it’s well to be up on their characteristics and migration patterns.

     If you’re blessedly unacquainted with this subspecies of homo sapiens terrestrialis, and would like to explore, uh, what you’ve been missing, here’s the official Palace Of Reason Cause People Anthropological Summary And Spotter’s Field Guide. Have fun.

     1. Habitat

     Cause People are mostly found along the coasts, in the large population centers. They wear uniform-like clothing, talk in typeset phrases, and evaluate everything according to how it relates to their favored Cause. Certain institutions cater exclusively to Cause People, though the nature of those institutions has changed over time. Once it was coffee shops; today it appears to be specialty bookstores. If you locate one of these watering holes, you can reap a large number of sightings in a very short time.

     2. General Characteristics And Life Cycle

     At the center of the adult Cause Person’s biocycle is, of course, the Cause. The Cause need not be any particular idea or belief. All that matters is that it have first priority in the mind of the Cause Person, to the near-total exclusion of all other considerations.

     Political affiliation provides several Causes. Special interests and fixations on various kinds of perceived threats provide many others. The typical Cause Person selects from a wide assortment of Causes early in his adulthood, attaches himself to it, and afterward nurses from it as the source of all right and justice.

     After forming the attachment, the Cause Person acquires his characteristic mode of expression. Affiliation with a Cause is normally expressed with a limited vocabulary. Therefore, the elements of that vocabulary will appear in the Cause Person’s speech with very high frequency. Take note! Continual repetition of a small group of words or phrases can be a tip-off that you’ve spotted a variety of Cause Person of which you weren’t previously aware. It’s well to carry a pocket notebook for such occasions as these.

     3. Mating Patterns

     Cause People tend to be endogamous. There have been cases of out-breeding, but these are rare. Particularly attractive female Cause People can engender great consternation among males not of their sect, for which reason the temptation to “fraternize” must be stoutly resisted.

     Though endogamous, Cause People do not “breed true.” Possibly because of the difficulty of inculcating their specialized vocabulary in the young, their offspring usually come to regard Mom and Dad as nuts. However, this opinion is normally repressed until Junior has his own car.

     4. Tips For The Field Observer.

     If you decide to “go for the gold” — investigate a gathering of Cause People at close range — you must adopt the appropriate camouflage. As you might expect, this will include your dress, your accessories, and your verbal behavior. Some quick tips:

  • Do not approach “world peace” Cause People while carrying a badge or a gun, or wearing a Nuke The Moon T-shirt.
  • Do not approach “drug legalization” Cause People in a suit, or while carrying a briefcase or a martini.
  • Do not approach “pro abortion” Cause People while wearing a crucifix.
  • Do not approach “slavery reparations” Cause People while wearing white skin.
  • Do not approach “Bush Is Hitler” or “free Palestine” Cause People at all.

     Your verbal behavior, including body language, must strive to match that of the Cause People around you. This is critical. Cause People in large numbers can be dangerous, to your sanity if nothing else. Upon detecting an outsider in their midst, they converge on him — first retracting their most attractive females to a protected zone — and strive to attach him to their Cause. Their frequency of success varies, but there have been some disturbing reports. Some years ago, an investigator from Nebraska, a typical non-Cause middle American, attended a party among “social justice” Cause People in Southern California’s famous Malibu preserve. He gave himself away rather early in the affair — his blond crew-cut might have done it — and was promptly swarmed under by tract-bearing specimens repeating “peace,” “oppression,” “genocide,” “historical crimes” and “equality” at a rate that swamped the installed monitors. He was recently found in a Hare Krishna compound, making beaded curtains for sale at Los Angeles International Airport.

     5. Excursion And Reattachment.

     The attachment to a Cause, though long-lasting, is not certain to be permanent. A Cause Person can detach from his Cause under the right pressures. The nature of those pressures depends on the Cause Person’s particular situation. Sexual starvation and economic privation are common reasons for detachment.

     However, the yearning for a Cause can reassert itself after an interval of detachment. Therefore, marriage between Cause People and non-Cause people can provide interesting surprises to the latter party. The apostate Cause Person seldom returns to his earlier Cause; that would be too much like admitting to fallibility. But there are many Causes in the world, all of which cry for one’s allegiance. The apostate Cause Person may find himself emotionally naked until he’s reattached himself to one of them. A regular paycheck and frequent sex can help to attenuate the cravings, but these are not guaranteed preventatives. A word to the wise.

     6. Gratuitous Bad Pun

     Since no Curmudgeonly emission would be complete without at least one bad pun, regard the following exhortation, seen on a lapel button in Manhattan by a Palace associate.


     This slogan was printed over the silhouette of a condom. Don’t say your Curmudgeon didn’t warn you.

What Are “National Defense” And “National Security?”

     In the midst of the Sturm und Drang over current budget negotiations – is it really a “negotiation” when one side refuses to come to the table at all? – it struck me that a great part of the supposed national consensus about national defense and that other great shibboleth of the power brokers, national security, could stand some scrutiny. Both those conceptions shape our ideas about what our military establishment is for, how large it should be, how it should be structured, and what arrangements must prevail within our alliances and with our adversaries. The consensus was stable at one time, or at least it appeared to be. That stability, whether apparent or real, is absent today.


     During the first decades after the end of World War II – i.e., the period most commentators routinely call “postwar,” even though we’ve had a few other wars since then – there was an appearance of consensus about:

  • What and whom we should worry about;
  • Why those worries were important;
  • What we should do about them.

     The “bipolar world” seemed terribly clear in those years. The stasis in post-Yalta Europe, the standoff on the Korean peninsula, and the grudging acquiescence by the USSR to American hegemony over the Western Hemisphere and the Atlantic Ocean all contributed to a tableau of two nuclear-armed superstates, each poised to leap at the first sign of aggressive intent from the other, that had carved the globe into “spheres of influence” they would nominally respect. The picture had its fuzzy spots, but on the whole the public accepted it, which greased the tracks for the interests that strove, often quite successfully, to profit from it.

     Emblematic of the “bipolar world” was the stare-down we call the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviets attempted to breach the informal boundary that separated “their” sphere from “ours.” “We” acted in “defense” of “our” “national security.” It was supposedly a victory for American diplomacy and American power. But the story, though the details are today public, has never been fully appreciated by the majority of Americans.

     In point of fact, the Khrushchev-led Politburo was frightened by American nuclear arms stationed at forward bases in Middle Europe and Turkey. The Jupiter-C intermediate range missiles in Turkey were of special concern to them. Their attempt to emplace similar missiles in Cuba was a kind of balancing measure. Moreover, it succeeded: the Kennedy Administration removed the Jupiter-Cs from Turkey soon after the Soviet missiles had been removed from Cuba. Whether that was an explicit part of the agreements that ended the standoff remains unknown to all but few who were inside the process.

     The details didn’t really matter to the electorate. What mattered to the popular perception of the “bipolar world” was the image of American warships embargoing Cuba against further Soviet ships, and the apparent Soviet withdrawal of their attempt to breach “our hemisphere.” It reinforced the general conception of the “bipolar world,” and the “two scorpions in a bottle” mutual-suicide nature of any ultimate confrontation between us.


     The Vietnam conflict put harsh punctuation to the “bipolar world.” American involvement in that conflict was presented to the public as the defense of an ally – South Vietnam – against a Soviet-backed Communist insurgency. At first the importance of Communist China to the war was understated, as China had not yet become a major factor in reportage and opinion writing about international affairs.

     Once again, certain details about the genesis of our involvement in southeast Asia were either understated or completely concealed. The importance of the 1954 debacle at Dien Bien Phu, in which American air and logistical support was first seriously involved in Vietnam, is generally not appreciated. That battle was the one on which all subsequent American involvement was predicated, though only two Americans perished there and all other American losses were of materiel only.

     But why was there any American involvement there at all?

     Smith: In your book you seem to suggest that our Government came to the aid of the French in Indochina not because we approved of what they were doing but because we needed their support for our policies in regard to NATO and Germany. Is that a fair conclusion?

     Mr. Acheson: Entirely fair. The French blackmailed us. At every meeting when we asked them for greater effort in Europe they brought up Indochina and later North Africa. One discovers in dealing with the French that they expect their allies to accept their point of view without question on every issue. They asked for our aid for Indochina but refused to tell me what they hoped to accomplish or how. Perhaps they didn’t know. They were obsessed with the idea of what you have you hold. But they had no idea how to hold it. I spent I don’t know how many hours talking with the French about the necessity of getting local support for what they were trying to do. We told them about our success in training Koreans. We offered to send Americans from Korea to help train the Vietnamese. But the French refused. They wanted nothing to detract from French control. We urged them to allow more and more scope to the political activities of the Vietnamese. They did not take our advice. I thought it was possible to do something constructive with Bao Dai — not much, but something.

     [1969 Interview of former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, presented in full here.]

     Had it not been that the Eisenhower State Department felt it critical to solidify French participation in NATO – ultimately, this proved a disappointment – the U.S. would not have participated at Dien Bien Phu at all, and thus would have been extremely unlikely to involve itself thereafter. And even though the cracks in the “bipolar world” were becoming large enough for anyone alert to the international news to appreciate, the public perception of a united Western European front against the Iron Curtain was what the political class deemed supremely important.


     The left-liberal takeover of the federal government in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the fall of South Vietnam to the North’s invading army, and the overall Carter malaise characterized what historian Paul Johnson has called “America’s suicide attempt.” The inclination among Americans generally to disengage from global conflicts lasted until it was shaken by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of Iran’s Shah Reza Pahlavi, and the infamous Iranian “hostage crisis.” The combination was a great part of the propulsion for the ascent of Ronald Wilson Reagan to the presidency.

     In short, we’d had a taste of being a second-class power, one that other powers could insult and injure without undue penalty, and we didn’t like it. Reagan told us things could, should, and must be otherwise – and he followed through. Yet essential to his vision and instrumental to his methods was the perpetuation of a largely “bipolar world:” one in which the American-Soviet contretemps loomed above all others. Though there was some room in the Reaganite vision for other, lesser enemies and conflicts, those others were either subordinated to the standoff against the Soviets or treated as minor sideshows, where a mere flexure of our military muscles would gain the day.

     While the famous Reagan military buildup didn’t approach the level to which the U.S. had militarized for World War II, it did convey a sense of a superpower reborn, or at least revived, such that the Soviets had better “look out.” Reagan’s October 1986 showdown against Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik was as emblematic of that era as the Cuban Missile Crisis was to the Fifties and Sixties. Gorbachev was terrified of two things: American economic might, which was steadily being transformed into renewed military preeminence, and the Strategic Defense Initiative, which Gorbachev feared would reduce the Soviet Union to Third World status. Reagan’s refusal to give on either of those things perfectly expressed his “we win and they lose” approach to the Cold War. As the saying goes, “you can’t knock success:” it did result in the fall of the Soviet Union and its replacement by a (temporarily) more benign Confederation of Independent States.

     It also reinstated the popular conception of the “bipolar world.” When the Soviet Union collapsed, that was replaced by the unipolar, or “hyperpower” world of the Nineties and Naughties, in which the U.S. stood as the supreme martial entity, supposedly capable of policing the entire globe.

     It is unclear whether most Americans believed that the U.S. should accept that role, or should act as if it had been somehow conferred upon us. It’s at least as unclear whether most Americans would agree to it today.


     While the George W. Bush Administration’s Middle Eastern democracy initiatives were well intentioned, they were foredoomed by the cultural matrix into which they were introduced. That became apparent (to me, at least) when the supervising American authority agreed that Islam as a principal source of guidance to Iraqi law would be written into the new Iraqi constitution. After that, no progress was possible, and no progress was made. The subsequent failure of Iraq to coalesce around a stable post-Ba’athite political order was what made possible the rise of Barack Hussein Obama, with all that has entailed.

     The Obama era has been one of undisguised American retreat from global influence. The U.S. is no longer a power whose interests or desires other powers must include in their decision making. It isn’t solely about Obamunist diplomatic weakness or unwillingness to threaten the use of force. The enervation of our military and the popular distaste for new international engagements play at least as great a part.

     What has come about is not a mere readjustment of our will or ambitions to unfortunate budgetary realities. It also involves a reconception, both among the political elite and among Americans generally, of the world order and our place in it. It makes a sharp contrast to George H. W. Bush’s dreams of a “new world order.”


     I intend the above material, much of which will be prior knowledge to an intelligent Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch, to act as a backdrop to the prevalent conceptions of national defense and national security. I contend that our retreat from assertiveness in our international engagements is coupled to a shift in those conceptions. The question I cannot answer is whether that shift occurred because of natural changes in attitude and opinions among lay Americans, or because it was engineered by the political elite and its courtier press.

     For a great part of the postwar years (see above), national defense took its conceptual shape from the overwhelming concentration of our attention upon the Soviet Union. Similarly, the maintenance of our national security was expressed in information-classification rules, in export law, in the treatment of non-citizens who might choose to work in defense-related industries, and in the structure and operations of our intelligence services.

     The Russian Bear commanded our attention. Its potential and its moves governed both our initiatives and our responses.

     With the fall of the Soviet Union came a considerable cry in the U.S. for substantial demilitarization. We did reduce the size and scope of our armed forces, especially our nuclear deterrent forces. Yet the number of missions upon which those forces – other than our nuclear weapons, of course – were dispatched did not lessen. Indeed, it increased to a point where our enormous blue-water Navy was stretched dangerously thin; it seemed to need to be everywhere at once. In part that was a consequence of the use of Naval forces as humanitarian aid to regions that had experienced natural calamities, but in some measure it was for the deterrence of potential hostilities among lesser powers, and in part a return to the “gunboat diplomacy” that characterized Navy activity in the Caribbean and South America in the Nineteenth Century, where American warships would visit ports in other nations to remind those nations that America held a “big stick,” far bigger than anyone else’s, and that it would be well not to provoke us into swinging it.

     The concept of national defense became fuzzier than it had been in seventy years. National security had begun to slide into the “that was back then” category; our vigilance over our secrets and the enforcement of the laws and regulations ostensibly passed to protect them slackened considerably. Despite the renewal of Russian imperialism and territorial aggression, the rise of several nuclear powers inimical to American interests, and the weakening of protections over Americans’ possessions and interests abroad, that’s the state of affairs today.


     I have an ambivalent relationship with national defense and a great deal of difficulty with “national security.” To take the second matter first, I dispute whether Americans’ security – i.e., our protections against invasion, infringement of our rights, attacks on our material well-being, and general latitude of action both here and abroad – is truly advanced by the laws and regulations promulgated in the name of “national security.” It’s an expensive business whose return on investment is dubious. Nevertheless, our political elite persists in paying lip service to the concept even as high-profile violators of the security rules proliferate and are found in ever higher positions.

     Concerning national defense, I dispute that either our political class or Americans generally would agree on what we’re supposed to be defending ourselves from. The chaos at our southern border is an invasion by another name; it hardly matters that the invaders generally arrive unarmed, for the damage they do to our society doesn’t require weaponry.

     Concerning infringement of our rights, the 88,000 governments of these United States are doing a superlative job of reducing us to totalitarian subjection. We get no protection from them from our Army, Navy, or Air Force. Indeed, I’ve speculated that should our men at arms come to our defense, the mode will be convulsive in the extreme.

     Similarly, the attacks on our prosperity emanate principally from Washington, whose mandarins are unwilling to acknowledge the laws of economic reality. Their recent abuse of the dollar alone has been sufficient to reduce its purchasing power by about 40% — that is, about as much as FDR’s famous dollar redefinition, from $20.67 per Troy ounce to $35.00. The many federal incursions upon freedom of production, commerce, labor, and contract pile atop that degradation of our national unit of account.

     Finally, Americans’ latitude of action has been severely curtailed via law and regulation. The iconic example can be found at the “security screening stations” of any of our airports. Those same stations and procedures have been proposed for water, train, and bus travel. Their application to passenger automobiles, while it seems absurd, is not beyond possibility.

     In light of the above, I would venture to say that there is no American “national defense” as lay Americans would understand it. Whether our armed forces are defensively useful for other persons in other venues I leave to the contemplation of the reader.


     In a recent screed, Fred Reed includes the following:

     I will assign the Five-Sided Wind Tunnel [i.e., the Pentagon] a new mission, namely the defense of the United States. If this novelty encounters resistance, I will require all general officers to report to work in tutus and toe shoes until they see the wisdom of my idea. Of course, these days many would probably like it.

     No doubt Fred wants to see the U.S. defended…but what specific missions would he include in that envelope? Would “the defense of the United States” include the protection of Americans abroad? Would it include the defense of Americans’ properties abroad? How about the defense of the provisions of trade agreements, formally arrived at and agreed upon, between the United States and other nations? Those get violated more often than most of us are aware.

     Would Fred endorse Jimmy Carter’s decision not to declare the 1979 takeover of our embassy in Tehran, openly endorsed by the Khomeini regime, an act of war? What about Congress’s decision not to aid South Vietnam, our ally (and in some ways our creation), when the North attacked in 1975? Then there’s NATO. Would Fred agree that inasmuch as we signed the North Atlantic Charter and have never abrogated it, we are required to react to an attack upon any of the European signatories as an attack upon the U.S.? Or would he unilaterally nullify that treaty?

     All those possibilities pertain to current conceptions of national defense. Indeed, there are others, though they might not be majority viewpoints.

     It becomes ever clearer that any discussion of national defense must begin with a single, sharp question to which a clear answer is mandatory:

What Do You Mean By That?

If This Goes On

     An early Robert A. Heinlein novella with the above title described an American theocracy that was eventually brought down in a violent revolution. I have no idea whether the young Heinlein was subject to influences that might have predisposed him to believe that such a future was probable. However, the Afterword to his collection Revolt in 2100, in which that novella appeared, suggests that he did think it plausible at least.

     No, that future didn’t arrive. Instead, the United States has turned in the opposite direction: secular and hedonistic. But Heinlein wasn’t the only writer to explore the idea of an American theocracy. Michael Flynn, whose work has often been compared with Heinlein’s, sketched such a future in his The Nanotech Chronicles. If he was guided by presentiments like Heinlein’s, he gave no indication of it.

     As usual, I’m sort of skirting my point here, so I’ll put it right out in the open:

Many trends are merely mental artifacts.

     One can “assemble” such a “trend” by choosing what to look at and what to ignore, which your detractors will call “cherry-picking” the news. However, the counterpoised effect is just as important:

Many who deny a trend simply refuse to see it.

     And inasmuch as some trends are pretty BLEEP!ing scary, the urge to take refuge in I-don’t-see-it denial can be very strong.

     The previous 250 words are prefatory. I see a trend in motion. It’s beginning to look to me like an avalanche. And I don’t like what it portends. But I’ll allow that I could be wrong; it’s the absolute requirement of intellectual honesty. In fact, I want to be wrong. So in reading what follows, please, Gentle Reader, do your best to:

  • Refrain from an emotional response;
  • Focus on the available data;
  • If you don’t see it, tell me so and why.

     We begin.

Two Doors

     The day had worn him down. His prior case, the fifty-seventh since he’d reached his desk that morning, had just been dragged weeping from the office, but he could not rest. He was behind his quota. The ships were already behind their sailing schedules. He had to plow onward.
     He pressed the button on his phone console that signaled to the pen outside that he was ready for his next case. The green indicator light over his office door went dark and the yellow one lit. Barely a minute had passed when the door opened and two husky guards brought him number fifty-eight. As they closed the door behind them, the yellow light above it was extinguished and the red one lit.
     This one was female. She looked aged beyond her natural count of years, though the stress of the upheavals could do that to anyone.
     The guards sat her none too gently in the restraint chair, secured her shackles to the chair’s hard points, and laid her paperwork on his desk before stepping back to line his office doorway. He reviewed the short description of her status and noted the contents of the check box. He’d seen it checked fifty-three times that day. This made fifty-four.
     She’ll have two options. No others.
     He steeled himself and faced her squarely. She seemed unable to meet his gaze.
     “Have you been informed about what happens here…” He glanced at her form again. Her given name was one of the trendy sort that he found too challenging to pronounce. “…Miss Jones?”
     She shook her head, but remained mute.
     “I’m your routing officer. You and I have the responsibility for determining the next stage of your life. I’m constrained by the law, but you will have a choice, though your choices are rather limited. The person who limited them was you.”
     He picked up the form and waved it at her. “Do you know what this paper says about you?”
     She sniffed and shook her head.
     “Were you given a chance to read it?”
     “Can’t read,” she said.
     “Then I’ll read it to you. ‘Miss Jones is 34 years old and a single mother of two sons. Son Tyrell was killed at age 18 during a police raid of a crack den. Son James was serving a life sentence for a gang-related murder when the Sterilization Orders came down. He was 16 at the time of his execution. Miss Jones has never been self-supporting. She tests positive for cocaine, syphilis, and hepatitis B.’”
     He looked directly into her eyes. “Do you deny any of that?”
     She would not answer.
     “Miss Jones, if I go by what’s on this paper, your future will not be a happy one. And I have to go by it unless you can convince me that what it says is not true.”
     “Can’t,” she said at last. “It’s right. Never got married. Got by on the welfare. My boys was bad asses. Baddest in the hood.” Her eyes rose to meet his at long last. They flashed in challenge. “Ain’t gonna cry over it. Any of it.”
     She thinks she’s hard. Maybe she is. She should hope so.
     “Miss Jones, if all this is true, then under the Separation Edicts, there are only two places you can go when you leave this room.” He rose and pointed toward his eastward window. Her gaze followed his gesture and lit on the giant ship that stood waiting in the harbor.
     “That,” he said, “is an exile ship. It’s one of your choices. If you choose it, it will take you to another continent, a place where you’ll be set free to live out your life as best you can. There are no whites there, no courts or prisons, and no welfare, either. And very little that you’d recognize from your life here in America.”
     She looked out at the giant vessel, plainly uncomprehending. Before the upheaval it had been a cargo carrier. On every trip it had ferried two hundred thousand tons of cargo in steel containers, each one filled with some item the residents of other lands valued, across the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean. Its holds had been refitted as row upon row of barred cells. Its next journey would convey ten thousand exiles to their new homeland. They would next see sunlight, if they saw it at all, when they debarked on the west coast of Africa, in the land that had once been called Liberia.
     Most of those exiles had been personally guilty of nothing. They’d merely abetted a race war. Some had promoted hatred of whites. Others, by their promiscuity and negligent parenting, had produced generation upon generation of parasites and violent predators. Still others had done nothing but subsist on the handouts of a too-generous society, indolently declining to add to its riches.
     Twenty-three of them had declined to board the ship.
     Far too many of them.
     “Are you willing to board that ship, Miss Jones?”
     She glowered at him sullenly. “Ain’t gettin’ on no ship.”
     “I see. Well, you do have another choice, but I can’t recommend it.” He nodded toward the door to the right of his desk. “It goes through that door.” He started to describe what took place on the other side of the door, stopped himself.
     It might be better if she didn’t know.
     “Would you like me to tell you about that second choice, Miss Jones?”
     She sneered and looked away. “Ain’t gettin’ on no ship.”
     “I need an answer, Miss Jones. Will you board, yes or no?”
     She shook her head.
     I suppose that’s good enough.
     He nodded to the guards. They released her shackles from the restraint chair and stepped back.
     “Then whenever you’re ready, just step through that door and close it behind you. You’ll be given instructions about what to do next.”
     She gave him one more contemptuous sneer and shuffled to the second door. The three men watched in silence as she stepped through it. As she closed it behind her, the green phase indicator above it went dark and the yellow one lit. A moment later the yellow gave way to red. The red light glowed for perhaps a minute before going out.
     “Sir?” one of the guards said. “Why didn’t you tell her?”
     He grimaced. “I thought it might be kinder this way.”
     The guard frowned. “Maybe.” He glanced out at the exile ship. “It sure as hell ain’t gonna be kind for them.” They stepped out the door through which they had entered.
     He lowered his face into his hands.
     I volunteered. I understood the necessity. I still do. But it’s harder than anything I’ve ever done.
     Colonel John MacKenzie had led troops into battle. His battalion had been the first into Monrovia, and had led its pacification. He’d killed men who’d been trying their best to kill him. He’d weathered it all and had come home to a wife who loved him unreservedly despite it all…who refused to let him doubt himself.
     The men I killed were armed. They went to war knowing the risks. Miss Jones wasn’t armed with anything worse than her attitude.
     He felt his tears rising again and sternly shoved them down.
     Those are for the men I led who died in honorable combat. Not for the Miss Joneses of the world. They brought this upon themselves even if they were too dull to know it.
     He pressed the button that would bring him number fifty-nine.


     MacKenzie reached his billet barely able to draw a breath. Estelle awaited him at the front door, as always. His condition was plain to her. She wrapped her arms around him and pressed him to her before he could step over the lintel.
     “I love you,” he muttered against her shoulder. Despite his efforts, a single deep sob escaped him.
     She stroked his hair and said nothing.
     Presently he said. “Mark Thorsten killed himself.”
     “I know,” she said. “I spent most of the day with Pam.” A pause. “She wasn’t surprised. She said…she said she saw it coming. John, will she be all right?”
     He looked at her in puzzlement. “Was she all right when you left her?”
     She frowned. “You know what I mean.”
     He grimaced. “I don’t know, Eppie. I hope so. If I hear anything to the contrary, I’ll…I don’t know. This is a first.”
     She nodded. “For all of us. How many today?”
     “A hundred twenty-six.”
     “How many…” Her voice caught briefly. “…for the other door?”
     “Forty-seven.” He shuddered. “I stopped telling them, Eppie. After the first twenty-three I just…stopped. I figured it would be kinder that way.”
     Her expression was as understanding and accepting as always. She nodded.
     “Would you like to, to get out for the evening?” he said. “We could go to—”
     She shook her head. “I’d rather stay home with you. Just in case Pam…you know.”
     “Yes,” he said. “I know.”
     He took her hand, marveling afresh at the contrast between the lightness of her palm and the smooth jet of the opposite side. He brought that palm to his lips and kissed it tenderly.
     What a marvel. She knows what’s happening, and accepts it. She knows what I’ve been assigned to do, and accepts it. She doesn’t know why I and the others were chosen for this duty, yet she accepts it. She does know that except for having married me, she would be in that pen, awaiting her own disposition…and accepts it.
     “You’re my lifeline,” he said. “My tether to sanity in an insane time. Without you, I might do what Mark did.”
     She smiled sadly. “I know. It’s why you were chosen.”
     He peered at her. “Huh?”
     “Hadn’t you thought about it?” she said. “The Army has plenty of colonels. Some of them would enjoy doing what you do.” She stroked the sides of his face. “I’m the guarantee that you won’t…because you can’t.”
     “You do know,” he said wonderingly.
     “I always did, John. General Lapierre told me. Let’s have some dinner.”
     She took his hand and led him to their kitchen.

     Think it won’t happen, Gentle Reader? Think it can’t happen?

     I must disagree. It’s drawing nearer all the time. The indicators have never shone more garishly:

  • Trayvon Martin.
  • “Bryce Williams.”
  • Ferguson, Missouri.
  • Baltimore, Maryland.
  • The “knockout game.”
  • The New Black Panthers.
  • Black illegitimacy at 69%.
  • ”Flash mobs” of black teens.
  • Black racialists openly inciting violence against whites.
  • The many outbreaks of black-on-white violence chronicled by Colin Flaherty.
  • And the rising tide of sentiment among normally peaceable whites that we have had enough.

     If it happens, it will be horrible beyond measure. I don’t want it to happen. I fear it greatly. More people will die than have died in all of America’s wars together. But neither my fears nor anyone else’s will prevent it. Only a massive outbreak of good sense among American Negroes, most especially the willingness and determination to discipline their own and accept the verdicts of the judicial system when that discipline fails, can stave off the racial cleansing of the United States: the Separation Edicts and Sterilization Orders of the little story above.

     “Bryce Williams” described himself as a “powder keg.” His focus was wrong; it’s America that’s the powder keg. His murders seem to me to bring the match very close to the fuse. We can’t have much time or many chances left to avert the explosion.

     If I’m wrong, tell me I’m wrong…but tell me why. Convince me.

     And pray.

The Most Awful Day

[This piece first appeared at Eternity Road on August 6, 2005. Today being the 101st — yes, the 101st — anniversary of the day I deem “most awful” in post-Industrial Revolution history, and a number of geopolitical trends having bent in the direction of large-scale replays thereof, I felt it appropriate to repost it. — FWP]

On August 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, it’s your Curmudgeon’s habit to reflect on the terrible decisions that led to that event, and to ponder whether any of them might have been made differently if their makers had had foreknowledge of the things that we of this time have experienced. He’s done so before, and will probably do so again.

But not today.

Quite a number of commentators have characterized August 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay killed Hiroshima and 130,000 of its mostly civilian residents, as the most awful day in the history of the world: the day humanity exhibited both its ability and its willingness to annihilate itself in toto. It was an awful day, to be sure, but not for that reason. As of that day, we did not have the power to destroy ourselves that completely. Nor do we have it yet today, the dire mutterings of darker souls notwithstanding.

It was an awful day because, in the opinion of President Truman and his key advisors, the atomic bombing of a Japanese city was the least bad of the available tactical choices. Every other means by which they might force the Japanese to surrender had a higher total casualty figure attached. One, the amphibious invasion of the Japanese Home Islands by American troops, had been estimated to produce a million American deaths, to say nothing of how many Japanese would have died in the fighting.

There’s no way to revisit that crucial moment in history and supply those decision makers with the foreknowledge of the next sixty years. Even if one could, there’s no way to know whether it would have made a difference: in the decision they reached, or in the relative quality of the six decades since then. All one can say with certainty is that it was an awful day indeed, one we would certainly have averted if a less awful alternative had presented itself.

But what, then, was the most awful day? If Hiroshima doesn’t take the trophy, what human atrocity could?

Opinions will vary, of course. Some will go by casualty figures; others by broader and more inclusive metrics. Some will argue that calamities other than wars ought to be included in our considerations; others will reply that Nature is indifferent to human concerns, and that only Man’s inhumanities to Man should qualify for condemnation.

Your Curmudgeon’s angle on the matter is, as you might expect, an unusual one.

The Biblical story of Genesis, which your Curmudgeon considers allegorical rather than a literal narration of Creation and the Fall of Man, speaks plainly yet powerfully of the deed of Cain: the archetypal murder propelled by that deadliest of sins, envy. Note that, by the Biblical account, the Fall was an accomplished fact. Man had already been exiled from Eden. Many an analyst would say that Cain’s deed was therefore inevitable; once separated from Divine guidance, someone had to be the first to spill human blood. The use of Cain, the allegorical first child of a woman’s loins, as the protagonist in the story merely emphasizes the immediacy of the peril in which Man had placed himself by the Fall.

That approach to the event has considerable substance. Once Man had been removed from the realm of the eternal and unchanging, all possible changes, both for good and for evil, impinged upon him. Murder was only the most dramatic.

Shall we look forward in time, then? He who considers the number of deaths to be the most important measure would look to the genocides of the century past, or to the deaths of millions in our mass wars. These were genuinely horrible, doubt it not. But to your Curmudgeon, comparing the heights of mounds of flesh tends to miss the point.

The history of Man’s political and moral development records many fits and starts. Some of these are shrouded behind thick veils of time, such that we of 2005 cannot be certain how many persons, or which nations, were affected by them. But we can be reasonably certain about the Enlightenment and the moral revolution it ignited, for it remains with us today. Indeed, as our contest with the savageries of Islam should illustrate, Enlightenment concepts of rights and justice remain the most powerful and critical moral propositions known to our race.

The wars of pre-Enlightenment Europe were as savage as anything of any other time, our own included. Armed men regularly targeted and slew the unarmed when it suited them to do so. What differed was the technology available. To deal death, one had to employ personal skill and exert muscle power, which limited the amount of carnage a single man or a single army could wreak. But there can be little doubt that, had the weapons of now been available to the warriors of then, they would have used them without scruple. The moral level of the time was too low to expect otherwise.

With Enlightenment moral philosophy and the associated political concepts came a great change in warfare: the conviction that the destruction of war ought to be limited solely to those who elected to participate. As those concepts permeated the nations of the West, many of the ancient practices of war — enslavement, rapine, looting, the slaughter of non-combatants, the use of non-conbatants as cover or “human shields” — were put under the cloak of the forbidden, to be scorned by decent warriors and punished by them as they were discovered.

The West saw two centuries of steady improvement in the moral constraints on warfare. Battles came to be ever more regular, ever better confined to a designated, delimited field of conflict. Many battles were actually scheduled; meeting places and times were agreed upon beforehand between the contending forces. Statesmen and thinkers looked forward to a time when death itself might be banished from the battlefield, as an obsolete practice irrelevant to true contests of strength and virtue between the governments of civilized lands.

Until one terrible day in August.

A government with evil intentions had sent two million men marching on a mission of conquest. Its liege lord and top military planners were angry at the stubbornness of a minor power, neutral by treaty, that refused those armies free passage through its lands. The conquest-minded state decided on a strategy of intimidation. An aircraft long kept in reserve was sent aloft on a mission of terror, the first since Hume, Smith, and Locke put their stamp on the moral renaissance of the world.

The aircraft was a Zeppelin, designated the “L-Z” by the commanders of the armies of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm II. Its weapons were gravity bombs, thirteen in number. Its target was the Belgian city of Liege, where the Kaiser’s troops had met unexpected resistance to their Schlieffen Plan thrust against France. Its harvest was nine civilian lives: the first civilians deliberately killed by authorized military action in the Twentieth Century.

The date was August 6, 1914.

That, to your Curmudgeon’s way of thinking, was the most awful day. The day a major Western power, nominally committed to individual rights, the rule of law, and the norms of civilized warfare, threw all of that aside in hope of imposing its will on the government of another land. The day the line between combatants and civilians was erased.

That line has not yet been redrawn. Perhaps it never will be.

No material advantage can compensate for the sacrifice of a principle. An inflexible, inviolable principle is a safeguard against villainy, a shield behind which ordinary man untouched by the irrationalities and passions of others can conduct peaceable lives in whatever degree of comfort they can contrive. But once a principle has been violated, it protects no one. Often the first violator is ultimately saddest of all over its loss.

We stand ninety-one years down the river of time from that most awful day. America, braced by its unmatched military power and technology, has regained its grasp on the principles of civilized warfare, but the forces we face have no interest in the notion. It would be a high irony if, having clambered so painfully from the pit of Hell Mankind excavated with the mass slaughters of the century past, we should once again unlearn all virtue under the tutelage of our Islamic foes. It would be an irony to defeat all others if the lesson should eventuate in their complete effacement from the Earth.

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