Average

     [A short story for you today. I’ve been struggling to get my wheels back on the fiction track ever since I released The Discovery Phase, and it’s been chafing me. So after some extensive muttering to myself, I decided to return to shorter forms for a story or two, on the off-chance that it might reignite my storyteller’s engine. Here’s the first result. It’s a variation on a theme from C. S. Lewis. – FWP]

***

     Father Raymond Altomare had not seen the inside of a guidance counselor’s office since graduating from his own high school. As pastor of Our Lady of the Pines Roman Catholic parish, which serves the whole of New York’s Onteora County, he was acquainted with a great many of the personnel who staff Onteora’s schools, but until that day he’d never been asked to advise one. However, he never turned down a request for a conversation from anyone, Catholic or not. So at the appointed hour he stuffed his stole into his breast pocket, adorned his features with a pleasant smile, and presented himself at Alvin Purvis’s office at Foxwood High.

     The office resembled what he remembered of his own guidance counselor’s cubbyhole: large enough not to be deemed a closet, but not much larger. The furnishings were no surprise: sheet-steel desk, sheet-steel bookcase, sheet-steel filing cabinet. The bookcase bore tomes with titles typical of the professional advice-giver. Ray remembered reading two of them. A couple of pseudo-motivational posters adorned the walls.

     Purvis was the epitome of the mid-Twenty-First Century public-school functionary. He was undistinguished in any way: middle-aged, medium height, medium build, brown eyes, thinning brown hair touched at the temples with middle-aged gray, and a slightly rumpled, open-collared dress shirt on which Ray could just make out the ghost of a condiment spill. The surface of his desk was littered with forms of many colors. He rose, shook Ray’s hand, muttered “Thank you for coming, Father,” and was back in his seat before Ray had settled into his.

     “Forgive me, please, but you don’t look familiar,” Ray said. “Are you one of my parishioners?”

     Purvis grimaced fleetingly. “No, Father, I’m not. Not religious at all, really. I hope that won’t interfere with our conversation.”

     “It won’t, but I’m quite curious as to why you asked for my assistance. Am I the confessor to a troubled student?”

     “No, actually.” Purvis appeared momentarily uncomfortable. “Ah, a lawyer I know spoke highly of you as an advisor, and I’m having a spot of trouble with a student I can’t figure out.”

     A lawyer recommending a priest? That’s a first. Probably Sylvie Yngstrom. Al Donaldson is about as Catholic as Interstate 90. “Well then, who is this student and how can I help you with him?”

     A spike of discomfort flitted across Purvis’s features. “His name is David Johnson. Any chance you know him?”

     “His name doesn’t ring a bell.”

     “I suppose it was too much to expect.” Purvis fiddled with the papers before him. “He’s not one of our brighter lights, but he’s not a known troublemaker either. Low B to high C average, no particular talent for any of the disciplines, not athletic as far as I can tell, and not particularly popular. Or unpopular, for that matter. He’s almost perfectly average in every measurable way. And it’s my duty to guide him from here to the end of his high school experience.”

     An average student assigned to an average counselor.

     “So far,” Ray said, “I’m unclear on what makes young Mr. Johnson a problem. Surely you’ve advised other average kids by now?”

     Purvis grimaced again. “I have,” he said. “And if David were average without exception, I doubt I’d have any problem with him at all. But there is one way in which he, ah, stands out.”

     “From the way you said that,” Ray said, “I get the impression that it’s not a good way.”

     “It’s not.” Purvis looked briefly off into the corner. “I’ve been getting complaints about what happens when he’s present at a contest.”

     Ray became uneasy “What kind of contest?”

     “Any kind at all,” Purvis muttered. “Academic, athletic, artistic, you name it.”

     “What does he do?”

     “According to the proctors, nothing much. Just sits there.”

     Ray was nonplussed. “Well, then what’s the problem?”

     “Nothing happens. Nothing at all.”

     Ray peered at him. “Meaning…?”

     “The contestants and performers can’t perform. At all. None of them.”

***

     Ray had to see for himself, so with Purvis’ assistance he acquired a ticket to Foxwood’s upcoming end-of-season football game against Laurelton High. That Onteora County had only four high schools hadn’t kept the county’s education officials from forming tiny leagues in baseball, football, and basketball. Even though the competitors were few, competition was intense and fan interest was great. At least, Purvis said, it had been.

     Purvis arrived just after Ray seated himself in the bleachers. The guidance counselor perched next to him and smiled faintly. “Evening, Father. I wasn’t sure you’d make it.”

     “After what you told me last week, I had to see it with my own eyes,” Ray said. “Not that I disbelieved you. It’s just something I could never have imagined. Do you see him anywhere in the stands?”

     Purvis swept his gaze over the bleachers. “Mmm…not yet. But it might be for the best if he were to arrive some time after the game starts.”

     Ray started to ask why, thought better of it.

     As it happened, Purvis’ wish was granted. The game started out as a fierce battle between notably skilled teams. Laurelton was first to get possession. Its offense marched smartly down field until a spectacular interception granted the ball to Foxwood at its fourteen yard line. Foxwood’s quarterback led a precise eighty-six-yard campaign down field against a vigorous Laurelton defense. It culminated with a perfectly placed pass to the back corner of the endzone, a leaping catch, and the referee’s ruling that the receiver had come down in bounds and in possession.

     “These kids are pretty good,” Ray murmured.

     Purvis nodded. “A few of them have been scouted already.”

     As Foxwood’s place kicker leaped off the bench and strode onto the field for the extra-point try, a young man of no distinguishing characteristics ambled up to the bleachers. He assumed a seat near the top, a fair distance away from any other spectators, and propped his elbows on his knees.

     “He’s here,” Purvis muttered. “Watch what happens now.”

     Ray leaned forward.

     The teams lined up for the extra-point try. The holder called the signals. The center snapped the ball. It wobbled toward the holder, who had to rise from his knee to bring it in. The blockers held the line as the holder fumbled it into place for the kick, but the kicker stumbled and kicked the ball poorly. It flew directly into a blocker, who had the presence of mind to fall on it. The referee blew the whistle and decreed that the try had failed.

     Well, snaps do go bad now and then. But that wasn’t the most impressive kick I’ve ever seen.

     Purvis noted Ray’s expression. “Our kicker is first rate when David isn’t around. Just keep watching the game, Father.”

     Ray’s gaze flicked toward the young man Purvis had cited. He was doing nothing to speak of, just watching the action on the field.

     Keep an open mind.

     Though the game had started out looking near collegiate-varsity quality, from that moment forward it was a far less impressive spectacle. On both sides, the play was no better than mediocre. At times it verged on comical. Both offenses made mistake after mistake, both physical and mental. Yet neither defense seemed able to capitalize. It was as if the teams that started the game had been replaced by inexperienced ninth-graders of no particular skills. Spectators that had cheered loudly during Foxwood’s first drive and stood to applaud the touchdown pass became silent. By halftime, half of them had departed. The inept play and the departures continued through the second half. Foxwood prevailed, though it was clear that the team had no cause to brag about its performance.

     Ray and Purvis rose as the last of the other spectators trickled away toward the parking lot. David Johnson brought up the rear.

     “Did you, expect to see…what we saw?” Ray said.

     Purvis nodded. “It’s been that way whenever he’s present. Players with a solid reputation for ability and drive turn into buffoons when he’s in the stands.”

     “Have you seen the same thing at practices?”

     “Not personally,” Purvis said. “But I’ve been told about it by other staffers I trust.”

     I have to take it seriously.

     “What about musical performances?”

     “Same deal.” Purvis scowled. “My daughter is the school’s first-chair oboist. She has a genuine gift for the instrument. When David’s in the audience, she can hardly get a note out of it. I have no explanation. Do you?”

     “Not as we stand here,” Ray said. “But there’s still a possibility that it’s a huge coincidence. Would you be willing to help me with an experiment?”

     Purvis’ eyebrows rose. “Certainly, Father. What do you have in mind?”

     “The basketball season still has a few months to run, doesn’t it? Does David usually go to those games?”

     “Oh yes. Are you thinking of keeping him away from a game or two, then letting him attend them?”

     Ray nodded. “Exactly. But I don’t know the young man. You do. Can I count on you to provide the necessary obstruction?”

     “I’ll see what I can arrange.”

***

     Whatever ruse Purvis contrived to keep David Johnson away, it worked for a basketball game and a half. Ray was much impressed by Foxwood’s accurate shooting and solid defense against the Oakleigh team. One Foxwood forward racked up twenty-two points, including four three-pointers, in the first half alone. The Foxwood center was impassable in the paint; he repelled the Oakleigh forwards’ attempts to drive the baseline with exceptional skill and without fouling. Though Oakleigh fought hard, in the end Foxwood prevailed by a twenty point margin.

     The following game was against Chedwick High. The first half was an epic battle. Chedwick’s team had been mentioned as a candidate for the national high school championship tournament. Foxwood was nearly their equal, and fought tenaciously to keep the score as close as possible to level. For sixteen minutes the teams provided the best performance, in both skill and passion, that high school athletes could give.

     David Johnson ambled into the gym as halftime ticked toward its end. Once again he entered unobtrusively, took an isolated seat near the top of the bleachers, and propped his elbows on his knees.

     Now we’ll see.

     Alvin Purvis entered a minute or two later. He scrambled into the bleachers as the game resumed and perched himself next to Ray.

     “Couldn’t keep him away?” Ray murmured.

     “I tried my best, Father,” Purvis said. “But I couldn’t keep him talking to me any longer.”

     “Then when the third period ends,” Ray said, “I’ll buttonhole him and take him out of the gym.”

     Purvis looked at him in surprise. “You think you can?”

     Ray nodded. “You stay here and watch the game.”

     The third period was a farce. Both teams played as if neither had ever touched a basketball before. Dribblers stumbled, traveled, and lost control of the ball. Shooters missed by a yard. Centers fouled as they tried to block. As the last few seconds of the period ticked away, Ray rose, went to where David Johnson sat, and stood so as to block his view of the court. The teenager looked up at him with evident irritation.

     “What is it, Father?”

     “I need to speak to you privately.” Ray filled the words with urgency. “Come with me.”

     “But the game—”

     “Right now, David.” Ray took the teen firmly by the arm and pulled him upright against considerable resistance. Nevertheless, Ray marched him down the bleachers and out of the gym.

***

     As the gym door closed behind them, Johnson finally wrenched himself free of Ray’s grip and faced him squarely. “Well, what’s so important that I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the game in peace?”

     You enjoyed it, did you?

     Ray met the teen’s glare eye-to-eye. “You are.”

     “Huh?”

     “Tonight you’re the focus of an experiment,” Ray said. “Would you like to guess what sort?”

     The teen pretended bafflement. He essayed a shrug.

     “According to your guidance counselor—”

     “Mr. Purvis?”

     “The very same. When you’re present at any kind of competition, all the competitors lose all their skills. They perform like nobodies. Like the teams on the court tonight in the third period.”

     “So?” Johnson said. “Did you expect pro basketball from a bunch of kids?”

     “They played better before you arrived,” Ray countered. “Much better. Both sides. And the same thing happened at Foxwood’s football game with Laurelton.”

     Another shrug. “Maybe they got tired.” Johnson made to return to the gym. Ray grabbed and halted him. The teen’s eyes flared with fury.

     “What the hell—”

     “Never mind that,” Ray said. “Mr. Purvis stayed in there to watch what remains of the game. You’re staying here, with me. We’ll see what he has to say when it’s over.” The teen tried to shake himself loose, but Ray clamped down with his full and considerable strength. The teen winced.

     “My parents are going to hear about this,” Johnson growled. “They’re not Catholics. Neither am I.”

     “I know,” Ray said. “And I’ll be very interested in what they have to say, as well.”

     David Johnson became silent, but the heat from his gaze grew greater still. It expressed more than the teen might have intended.

***

     One side of the little pentagon that sat in the Johnsons’ living room radiated unease and more. David’s parents sat tightly together, hand in hand and hip to hip. They didn’t trouble to conceal their suspicion at the invasion of their home by a priest. Whatever they thought of their son’s guidance counselor, they kept it to themselves.

     “We’ve never heard the first thing about any trouble David’s been in,” Mrs. Johnson said. “Now you come here in the middle of the night as if we were criminals, demanding to know about our son? We should call the police on you.”

     “You can if you like,” Purvis said. “I won’t try to pretend that we’re here for David’s benefit, or because he’s in trouble with the school authorities. It’s just that he’s been present at some…unusual events. Unusual enough to draw the notice of other school personnel. And David is the only common factor among them.”

     Johnson glared at the guidance counselor with open hostility. “What kind of ‘unusual events?’”

     “May we leave that for a few minutes in the future, please?” Ray said. Purvis glanced at him curiously, but said nothing. “It might still come to nothing. We’d like to learn a little more about you and David, if that would be all right. What you do, your opinions about child-rearing, your religious beliefs—wait.” Ray held up a hand. “We’re not here to convert you or harangue you. We’d just like to see if we can get a little insight into what we’ve…observed.”

     “Which you won’t tell us,” Johnson growled.

     “Please bear with me a moment longer,” Ray said. “What do you do for a living, Mr. Johnson?”

     Johnson’s face twitched as if he found the question distasteful. “I’m a bookkeeper at Sentry Munitions.”

     “And yourself, Mrs. Johnson?” Ray said.

     “I…work in retail,” the woman forced out.

     Ray nodded. “Nothing to be ashamed of in either case,” he said. “Do you own your home?”

     “For three years now. Along with the bank,” Johnson muttered.

     “These days, that’s the case far more often than not,” Purvis contributed.

     Perfectly average, in fact.

     “You’ve done well to acquire a home in Foxwood,” Ray said. “There are neighborhoods in Oakleigh and Laurelton where it would have been much easier.”

     “It would have,” Johnson forced out, “but we didn’t want to live among…” His face twitched again, and he fell silent.

     “Yes, the environment is a little different in…the lower-priced townships,” Ray said before Purvis could speak. “But the property taxes there are a good deal less. Homeowners have to bear down a little to cover the ones here.”

     It was a perfectly normal observation, but the Johnsons bridled as if their character had somehow been impugned.

     “We do what we have to,” Johnson growled. “The older residents use the taxes to keep folks like us away. We decided we weren’t having it. They’re no better than us. We’re as good as anybody, and we’re going to live like it.” His eyes flicked toward his son, who’d been silent throughout the “We’ve told David that over and over. Practically since he was able to walk.”

     David didn’t speak nor twitch.

     “Have you had any…difficulties because of that?” Ray murmured.

     “Some of the women have been a little standoffish,” Mrs. Johnson said. “And David hasn’t made any friends in the area yet.”

     No surprise there.

     Ray looked at Purvis. “Well, I think we’ve learned what we came to learn,” he said. He rose from his seat. “Wouldn’t you agree, Al?

     Purvis’ eyes widened. “Ah, yes, Father.” He rose and faced the Johnsons. “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, thank you for your time.”

     “Hold on there,” Johnson said as he rose from his sofa. “What about these events that you were so concerned about?”

     Purvis smiled formally. “I’m sure they were just coincidences. Nothing to worry about.” He turned and with a jerk of the head urged Ray to follow him. They marched quickstep for the front door. Ray closed it immediately behind them, but not before he saw the hatred that burned in David Johnson’s eyes.

***

     “Well, Father?” Purvis said as he drove them back to the rectory. “Any conclusions?”

     “Yes, but…” Ray winced. “I don’t know if I should say what…I’m about to say.”

     Purvis grinned. “Guidance counselors are a bit like priests, you know. We don’t repeat what’s told us. Well, unless someone’s in danger. David isn’t in danger, is he?”

     “Not physically,” Ray said. “Not as far as I can tell, anyway. But it would be a good thing if he could be kept away from competitions until he finishes his schooling.”

     “Present trends continuing, that will be the June after next,” Purvis said. He turned into the rectory parking lot, set the parking brake and killed the engine. “He’s not a strong prospect for college. But from the way you said what you said, you have an opinion.”

     The stress on the word opinion was almost too light to notice.

     “I do,” Ray said. “But I don’t think you’re going to like it.”

     “Let me be the judge, please.”

     How do I tell this secular, perfectly average man that in one way, David Johnson isn’t average at all? How do I make it comprehensible in his frame of reference?

     “Do you know about demons?” Ray said.

     Purvis’ eyes narrowed. “I haven’t made a study of the myths. I know religious people believe in them, and that they intend us harm.”

     “Well…” Ray groped for words. “You observed the Johnsons as closely as I did tonight. What sense of them did you get?”

     Purvis relaxed fractionally. “Hm. Well, I’d say they’re as average as their son, for one thing.”

     “Materially? Talent-wise?”

     “Ah, yes.” Purvis frowned for a moment. “Were you hoping I would say more than that?”

     “I wasn’t sure one way or the other.” Ray steepled his hands. “Priests get a very specific kind of education, you know. Part of it is training in the detection of…evil.”

     Purvis glared at him as if he’d proposed to erect a stake and burn David Johnson at it. “Go on, Father.”

     “A great deal of evil is completely unobtrusive,” Ray said. “Banal, even. Evil doesn’t have to be showy, though sometimes it is. The mass killings, the great genocides, and the world wars got us thinking that we’d always recognize a monster in our midst. But that isn’t always the case. Evil can express itself in some of the quietest ways you can imagine.”

     “I am having,” Purvis said, “a very hard time making sense of what you’re saying. Are you about to tell me that David Johnson is possessed?

     “No, sir,” Ray said. You wouldn’t believe me if I did. “But I do believe a malevolent force is using him to express itself. Through no fault of his own.”

     Purvis’s eyes remained hard. Ray fought to remain placid of demeanor.

     “I began to see it when I pulled David out of the gym,” Ray said. “He growled at me for not letting him enjoy the game. And I think he was being truthful about that. He was enjoying what he saw on the court. He found it comforting.”

     “That makes absolutely no sense, Father,” Purvis said.

     “Does what we saw make sense?” Ray murmured. “The total collapse of gifted teenage athletes immediately upon the arrival of one nondescript, non-playing boy?”

     Purvis started to reply, checked himself.

     “Did the players return to form when I managed to drag David out of the gym?” Ray continued.

     For the first time, the guidance counselor appeared to open slightly to what Ray was saying.

     “What David saw,” Ray said, “told him that he would have played as well as any of the varsity players we watched beclown themselves. That he was as good as any of them.”

     “But—”

     “The Johnsons gave it away back there.” Ray grimaced at the memory. “They’re as good as anybody. They said so! They’ve said it to themselves for so long that they believe it to the core of their being. Remember what else they said? They pounded it into David since he came out of the cradle—so relentlessly that he needs to believe it despite the evidence of his senses. And it’s twisted him enough, created enough of a chink in his soul, that an evil entity could attach itself to him, ride along with him, and learn to work through him.

     “I think David’s aware of what’s going on. He may have been resentful of others’ superior accomplishments in this or that field for a long time before this, but now that he has that…ride-along, it’s using his resentment to act on those around him. He resents seeing anyone outperform what he knows, in his heart of hearts, is the best he could do. He wants to see others as no better than he is–at anything. That he’s as good as any of them. And his ride-along is showing him exactly that.”

     Ray sat back. Purvis’ eyes had clouded with doubt.

     He has to overcome a lot of preconceptions to accept it. He may not manage. But there was a time when I wouldn’t have believed it either.

     “It’s hard to accept,” Purvis said. “But it’s consistent with what we’ve seen. Still, it doesn’t suggest a way to deal with it. For me, at least. I’m not in the evil-entity-fighting business.”

     “I know,” Ray said. “I am.”

     Purvis’ mouth twitched. “Getting David or his parents to accept your kind of therapy would be a hell of a trick.”

     Ray nodded. “I know that, too.”

     Purvis nodded and offered his hand. “Thank you, Father. I appreciate your input.”

     “You’re welcome.”

     He exited Purvis’ car, walked steadily to the rectory door, and closed it behind him as the guidance counselor drove away.

==<O>==

     Copyright © 2022 Francis W. Porretto. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

But Their Lives Matter!

     Don’t they? It’s been screamed at us relentlessly and reinforced with lots of “peaceful” rioting and destruction. It must be true!

     Well, possibly. But not to them:

     Metro Police said they are looking for a man who allegedly shot and seriously injured his girlfriend Friday.
     The victim told police that Friday, around 1 a.m., and began to yell at her, but she didn’t know why. She then stood up and picked up their three-month-old baby from a bassinet when her boyfriend allegedly shot her. The victim was holding the child when she was shot at.
     First responders applied a tourniquet to her leg before being transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries and reported that the baby was unharmed.
     Police are now looking for the victim’s boyfriend, 22-year-old Aury Newsom.

     The perpetrator:

     That’s the news from us at Liberty’s Torch. We report; you decide.

A Quick Thought On Government And Freedom

     ‘The Enemy, of course, has long known that the Ring is abroad, and that it is borne by a hobbit. He knows now the number of our Company that set out from Rivendell, and the kind of each of us. But he does not yet perceive our purpose clearly. He supposes that we were all going to Minas Tirith; for that is what he would himself have done in our place. And according to his wisdom it would have been a heavy stroke against his power. Indeed he is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war, seeking to cast him down and take his place. That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind.’

     You recognize the source of that citation, don’t you? Now, let’s perform what calculus teachers call “a change of variable:”

  • For “the Enemy,” substitute “the political class;”
  • For “the Ring,” substitute “the submission of the citizenry;”
  • For “Minas Tirith,” substitute “the voting booth.”

     It is time, and past time, to destroy “the Ring.” Start with yourself.

The Phrase “Just How Stupid Can a Person Get?”

…was a question, not a challenge.

The generation of Feminists that dominated the Democratic Party (and GOP Lite) have been both a major embarassment, and a potent argument for taking back Female Suffrage.

Those of us who at least ATTEMPT to use reason as a means of making decisions, and take responsibility for our bonehead mistakes, have to be banging our heads on our desks, screaming, “Dear God! Make it STOP!”

A direct quote (see above link):

I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take. As I mentioned, there have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted energy and food prices, and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly that I didn’t – at the time, didn’t fully understand. But we recognize that now the Federal Reserve is taking the steps that it needs to take. It’s up to them to decide what to do. And for our part, President Biden is focused on supplementing what the Fed does with actions we can take to lower the cost that Americans face for important expenditures they have in their budgets. Prescription drugs is one example, healthcare costs…utility bills, if Congress is willing to pass some of the proposals to boost the use of nonrenewables, I think that can serve to bring down an important cost that households face. He realizes, we all realize what an important and huge burden inflation is placing on American households.”

I highlighted the most boneheaded parts (it was a challenge to limit the hightlighting). Lady, you’re the Freakin’ Secretary of the Treasury! If you don’t know what effect supply bottlenecks would have on the economy, you should tender your resignation immediately – then, go home and drink yourself to death in isolation. Without your cushy government pension.

(I’m nice – I would let any person in that position – retiring in disgrace – to receive the share that THEY contributed to the fund – NOT any part of what the taxpayers put in).

I’m so sick of the “I’m just a little woman, don’t understand those complicated thingies like math and science and economics and law! It’s not my fault!”

We need people – male or female (them’s the only choices) – who are adults, and will take responsibility for their actions. Who will not weasel out of blame, lie/dissemble/hedge about their part in the mess, or otherwise try to evade their just punishment.

Reaction

     [This short story first appeared at Liberty’s Torch V1.0 on September 19, 2017. — FWP

***

     Harmon grimaced. “You’re asking a lot from people who just want to be left alone. Like their whole futures. Maybe even their lives.”
     I nodded. “I know. And I know that putting my own life and future on the line right next to theirs is puny reassurance and no compensation whatsoever. But it’s time, Jack. Either we act now or we can kiss what remains of the Republic good-bye.”
     I stood to stretch, and my head poked a deep dimple into the canvas roof of the tent. Our grins were reflexive. “Seriously now, can’t you afford…?”
     He chuckled. “Realism, Don. And a smidgen of egalitarianism to go with it. Most of my men are six feet or less. What you and I would greatly appreciate, they don’t need and wouldn’t be willing to pony up for. Speaking of which, what about transportation? Air travel is right out, so how—”
     I waved it aside. “Already taken care of.”
     He looked at me dubiously. “And paid for?”
     I nodded, and his eyes widened. “Don, tell me you didn’t.”
     “Okay, I didn’t. Happy now?”
     It silenced him. He sat back in his lawn chair and looked away. I let the silence run its course. He seemed to need it.
     Presently he said “The twenty-second, right?”
     “At noon. The permit covers us from eleven AM to two PM.”
     “Chartered buses?”
     “No. Motorhomes. Fifty of them.”
     “What? Is Eli in on this too?”
     “He’s providing some of the rolling stock, yes.”
     His eyes narrowed. “Some.”
     “About a third.”
     “And the rest?”
     “Don’t ask.”
     He looked aside again. “I can’t make it an order.”
     “I don’t think you have to. Two hundred would be more than sufficient. Actually, I don’t think the motorhomes could transport and house more than that.”
     “That could be a problem,” he said. “Because you’re likely to get more volunteers than that. Like, maybe all of them.”
     I nodded again. “I expect we will.”

#

     Harmon’s coordination scheme worked better than I’d expected. Despite the irregular dispersion of the RV camps we’d used as mustering points, his people converged on the Charlottesville mall at eleven forty-five exactly. Harmon personally sought out the police lieutenant on the scene, showed him the permit, and cluck-clucked perfunctorily about the thinness of the PD security screen. Four of his men set up a small dais, a lectern, and a portable amplifier. The rest adopted convincingly relaxed yet expectant postures, eyes on the dais as if expecting a long-anticipated speaker. It looked as innocent as any free-speech rally ever held.
     Our adversaries were only a few minutes behind us.
     They outnumbered us substantially. As we’d expected, every one of them was dressed and masked in black. They carried a variety of makeshift weapons: sticks, fluid-filled bottles, some rocks. I saw no guns or knives. I prayed that there were none hidden. This would be risky enough.
     At noon I mounted the dais and went to the lectern. That seemed to be the signal our adversaries had awaited. They moved toward our group with unconcealed hostility.
     The police, of course, moved back.
     I bent to the microphone and spoke a single word: “Now.”
     Almost as one, Harmon’s men turned away from me, toward their would-be silencers, and pulled their launchers from concealment.
     The launchers were the cheapest part of the scheme: ordinary-looking children’s toys that use compressed air to fire sponge balls. The “magazine” in the “stock” that could hold thirty such balls. I’d had them modified somewhat to increase their power and range, as the balls they were designed to fire were dry. The ones we’d loaded were not.
     The men had practiced with them to the point that every one of them could zero a four-inch-wide target at twenty-five yards. Within twenty seconds they’d hit half of our adversaries. Another twenty seconds and the engagement was over. All those who had come to do us harm had gone down screaming and clawing at themselves. None remained standing.
     I spoke into the microphone again. “Cease fire.”
     As one, Harmon’s men laid their launchers on the grass at their feet.
     The police, of course, moved on us at once.
#

     The district attorney was furious, mainly at his own impotence. I let him rave until it was all out of him, then set back with my hands behind my head and murmured “So what are the charges?”
     He glared at me. “It’s quite a list. I hope you’ve got a good lawyer.”
     I smiled. “I am a good lawyer. So enlighten me. What are you planning to charge us with for bringing children’s toys to a public, duly permitted rally and firing sponge balls at masked men who were charging us with weapons?”
     He bared his teeth. “When I have the police lab report on what was in those guns—”
     “You will find,” I interjected, “three perfectly legal chemicals. DMSO, caffeine, and water. Absolutely nothing else. So?”
     “It’s still assault!”
     I shrugged. “You might be able to make that stick. But we have complete video of the event from several angles. The clips have been posted to several video-sharing sites. One of them has already racked up over a million views. What do you suppose indicting us for assault would do to your prospects for re-election? Especially considering that the police effectively sided with our assailants.”
     That stopped him cold. A strange sort of cold, to be sure. His boiled-ham face said nothing good about his cardiovascular health. But he could think of nothing to say.
     I couldn’t resist one last twist of the blade. “So, Counselor, have you arrested any of the guys who were masked in public and carrying potentially lethal weapons to a peaceful, entirely legal rally? Aren’t both of those things against Charlottesville’s municipal ordinances?”
     Within two hours of being detained, we’d been released without charges.
#

     “It wasn’t cheap,” Harmon said.
     I swigged at my beer. “Tell me about it, Jack. I’ll be hearing it from Marcie for months. She had her eye on a beach house in Aruba.”
     “I still don’t get it, Don. Why?”
     I cocked an eyebrow. “Why me, or why now, or why the method?”
     “All three, but in reverse order.”
     “Why the method is pretty simple: it put the fear of God into a bunch of bastards who desperately needed it, but without killing or maiming anyone. Now they know that there’s a counterforce that’s willing to act and has a method that will get the results we want. Why now? Because if we hadn’t, the next free-speech rally was going to feature a few fatalities, and that would have been enough to persuade every damned pansy-assed city council in the country to deny all further applications for free-speech rallies. In the law we call that a heckler’s veto.”
     He grimaced. “Okay. I might not agree with the timing, but you definitely got their attention. So why you?”
     “Because someone had to do something more than just complain,” I said. “And because I’d gotten really bloody tired of waiting for someone else to step forward. And while it took me too long to do it, when I finally asked myself the key question, I realized that I had no answer.”
     Harmon’s eyebrows knitted together. He’s a smart guy, but there are some things to which he’s conceptually blind, probably because he’s never needed to ponder them.
     “What was the key question?” he murmured.
     I smiled. “Why not me?”
     His mouth dropped open. “Oh.”
     I drained my bottle and stood. “Another beer?”
     “Sure.”

==<O>==

Copyright © 2017 Francis W. Porretto. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

***

     I seldom write fiction in the first person, but the story above has me wondering. Why not you and I, Gentle Reader? Hmm? By the way, please also read Wes Rhinier’s column of today. He has a point. Most of us wave it aside, but should we?

Priorities

     Millions of people have been asking a single question: How could all those police in Uvalde simply stand around while children were being slaughtered? The answer is both simple and horrifying. It’s in the title of this piece. And it reflects something we all ought to be aware of for the rest of our lives…if not for the rest of time.

     I’ve objected repeatedly to calling political officials “leaders.” They lead nothing. They occupy sinecures in cushy places, occasionally vote on a paper or sign one, and orate about whatever will keep them there. If this is “leadership,” I’m Amelia Earhart. (NB: For those in some doubt, I’m not Amelia Earhart.) The same applies to the many REMFs[1] who send our young men into combat. The majority of them are careerists with no agenda other than attaining their next promotion. Moreover, they know it.

     John Ringo did a nice turn on such “leaders” in his novel A Deeper Blue:

     Colonel Freeman Olds had spent most of his career in staff positions. He was, in fact, very close to a perfect staff officer. He was meticulous in the extreme and could juggle multiple tasks quite effectively. He was also a workaholic, putting in eighteen to twenty hours a day pretty much consistently.
     However, one of the reasons that Olds had had, in his opinion, far too few commands was hidden in his generally excellent reviews. It was not so much that negative terms were included as certain positive ones were missing. He had hardly noticed but phrases like “capable of critical decision making under pressure” were notably absent. That’s because what many of his reviewers had realized was that he, well, wasn’t. He could make recommendations and create multiple scenarios, but to get him to make a hard decision—one that could negatively affect his career if he was wrong—he had to be cornered like a rat in a trap.
     He had been just as meticulous and risk avoidant in building his career. He had carefully gotten all the merit badges, worked the buddy system, gotten all the right positions at all the right times. His time as a battalion commander had, admittedly, been less than perfect but that was understandable. The battalion he took over had been terribly poorly managed and undisciplined in the extreme. It could hardly be his fault that it had failed the annual Army Readiness and Testing Evaluation Program. He had managed to argue that to various people who, despite the unit being decertified for combat operations after two previous trips to the sandbox, had kept him from being relieved and forcibly retired.

     The upper echelons of our armed forces are riddled with such “leaders.” Moreover, this is not a brand new condition. It might be the single worst consequence of maintaining a “standing army.” Those “leaders’” indifference toward their proper responsibilities has been on display many times. It happened a lot during that strange, unwarlike War we called Vietnam.

     Read this brief tale. Then – especially if you have adolescent children – reflect on what the agendas of the “leaders” who said “That is not our mission today” must have been. And think carefully about whether you would want your children to be “led” by such men. For such men are angling to “lead” us into another war, one that could result in the incineration of our nation. And if you find yourself asking “Good God, why?” please refer to the title of this piece.

[1]: For those unfamiliar with the acronym, it stands for “Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers,” a collective designation for high-ranking officers who “lead” from offices far from the shooting.

Wellness Update

I added Nyquil (a generic version) to the mix, and Zicam, and – WOW! I slept like a log. When I woke a few minutes ago, I was clear, not coughing, and feeling almost human. Kudos to the companies that make it, the meds really work like it says.

What woke me was not my C-symptoms, but aches and pains from my joint issues. I took care of that (If you’ve some wear-and-tear arthritis, my doctor recommended Arthritis Strength Tylenol. One dose often gets me back on my feet the next day, with no further problems.)

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, just passing along what OTC meds helped me through this.

So, that’s my suggestion if you DO get COVID:

  • See your doctor/urgent care. Get the test. I assume you’ve had symptoms before heading there, so a false positive is not a concern.
  • If they see wheezing/serious congestion, you likely need further care. Get it.
  • Stop at the drug store or go on Amazon and get an O2 sensor – like this. If you’re asthmatic, get a peak flow meter. Get both today, before you have need, you will never regret having it. Why is that important? Those are two of the things they will be checking when you go to an emergency room. They use them because how you FEEL often has very little relation to how serious the problem is. You can be in real trouble, and feel OK (not great, but not in danger, either). Most Medicare Advantage plans have an allowance for OTC, and these are two of the items you might be able to get with that allowance.
  • If your O2 is good, you’re not struggling to breathe, and you aren’t in need of an ambulance trip, take action. Load up on OTCs. Treat this like a very bad cold. You should see a good response in 24 hours.
  • Let local people know about your condition. Ask them to call you and text you for updates on your condition. You need backup to make sure that you don’t slip into problems without oversight.
  • Keep a record of those O2 and peak flow measurements, and if you need to follow up with your doctor, have them with you. That will make that visit more useful. And, they are great for a virtual visit, as they expand the ability of the doctor to assess just how you are doing. And, of course, a virtual visit keeps you from spreading it, and others from making you sick with other things.

Covid Positive

I tested today, and it confirmed what I had suspected. My son called this morning, asking how I was feeling (I had told him I was sick, and he suggested NyQuil and Mucinex, along with plenty of water. He had been battling Covid the previous week).
I teased him that he was just afraid he was going to have to tell his dad, “I killed mommy!” We share that dark sense of humor.
I’m okay. Weak, and congested, and a long way from well. But, better.

I got my test at CVS Minute Clinic. Very nice staff, professional and competent. And the nurse practitioner helped me get the free at-home testing kits. Almost all insurance companies will pay for them, whether 4, 6, or 8 test kits. Depends on the plan.

Writing will likely be brief and sporadic. I’m not up to prolonged effort just yet.

Tuesday Terpsichore

     A brief assortment today, as I have a lot of chores to address and must head out to them pretty much at once. Be comforted; at least I’m not regaling you with all the details.

***

1. Uvalde, Texas.

     The atrocity of May 24, which resulted in so many dead children, has resonated across the land – not because America has never before suffered a similar event, but because for the second time in such circumstances, a large number of police arrived at the scene while the murderer was still taking lives…and did nothing. According to reports, the situation commander even tried to prevent the Border Patrol cop who killed the murderer from entering the school building. This has prompted enough outrage from decent Americans that we might think it reasonable to expect corrective action in the immediate future.

     Don’t bet the rent money on it. Natalie Argyle presents the case:

     …American society has spent the last 2 years of COVID willing to sacrifice children in the name of the supposed “greater good.” Protecting teachers from a 99%+ survivable virus at the expense of the educational, psychological, social, and physical fitness of children. Forcing unnecessary experimental vaccines on children who have almost 0% chance of dying from the virus. Masking healthy children for hours a day, every day, despite the science showing it to be unnecessary and ineffective. For 2 years, adults have been willing to sacrifice their children’s wellbeing in order to provide security for adults, when in times past, adults would give up everything to provide security for children instead. And apparently Uvalde maintained this new children-last precedent.

     In addition to this tragic reality about our current society, where adults are no longer willing to sacrifice for the good of children, I wonder if the abysmal police response was impacted by 2 years of concerted efforts to vilify the police. Were those officers hesitant to put themselves in danger and risk being called a racist when the public found out they shot a person with brown skin?

     I added the emphasis.

     It’s a devastating point, one that’s fully supported by the evidence of the years immediately behind us. The Left has made capital out of the deaths of demonstrably villainous black thugs at the hands of white policemen. They have nothing to say about the enormous rate of black-on-black homicides, which gives their game away in toto. A cop who wants to keep drawing his salary must be conscious of the legal as well as the ballistic hazards to him in any such encounter.

     In a country that allows unwilling mothers-to-be to kill their children right at the moment of birth – often at the behest of their fathers, at that – how plausible is it that a white situation commander would unhesitatingly send his men into the breach, armed and ready to kill, when there’s a chance that the perpetrator has a drop of melanin in him?

***

2. Developments In Weights And Measures.

     I was tickled by Silicon Graybeard’s entry of a couple of days back:

     From Accuweather:

ASTEROID THE SIZE OF 350 GIRAFFES TO FLY PAST EARTH THIS WEEK

I’m so out of touch that I’ve never even seen anything measured in numbers of giraffes. What does “the size of 350 giraffes” size mean? If you had 350 giraffes milling around in a field, feeding, fighting, fleeing and doing whatever else giraffes do, 350 would only be the height of the tallest one and the width or length of 250 giraffes would depend on how close to each other they stand. Unless you had them stand on each other’s backs, which would work until the ones on the bottoms started collapsing from broken limbs. It would work better if you had them stand shoulder to shoulder, then the width of 350 giraffes would depend on how wide they are. To use the term from electronics, is that 350 giraffes in series [or] parallel?

     It got me laughing, but also thinking. You know, only one First World country uses a standard of units that’s “off the [currently] beaten track:” the most advanced nation in history, the United States. While other nations have happily gone metric, we cling to the old British Imperial system out of colonial perversity (and an appreciation for what works in day-to-day life). But really, if we want to be known as innovators, why not develop a completely zoological system of units with which to confound the world?

  • Height: The giraffe.
  • Mass: The elephant (Indian variety).
  • Time: The wink of a cat’s eye (“She can make a cherry pie / Quick as a cat can wink her eye”).

     Now, many would object that those units are unsuitable for fine measurement. But why be constipated about it? Noah got along very well with nothing but the cubit, didn’t he? Besides, there’s always room for additional units to deal with items of different scales. How about the flea for really light masses, or the dachshund for short things? Of course, determining the scale factors might occasion a bit of controversy, but never fear: science shall march ever on!

***

3. Power-Mongers Gonna Power-Mong.

     The desire to believe in the goodness and “regular-guyness” of our politicians, especially our presidents, can easily lead us astray:

     The George W. Bush Presidential Library turned over 500 out of 6,000 pages of the documents, known as “presidential emergency action documents” (PEADs), which “shed troub­ling new light on the powers that modern pres­id­ents claim they possess in moments of crisis,” according to the Brennan Center, which obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

PEADs were created during the cold war, when the chance of a Soviet nuclear strike was at its peak. Early drafts reportedly rested on broad interpretations of executive powers. According to official reports from the 1960s, various PEADs authorized the president to enact measures such as suspending habeas corpus, to detain “dangerous persons” within the country, to censor news media, and to prevent international travel.

In light if 9/11, one Bush administration official viewed updating the PEADs an “urgent and compel­ling secur­ity effort, espe­cially in light of ongo­ing threats.”

     I wanted to believe that George W. Bush – “Dubya;” Bush II; Bush the Younger; whatever you like – was a break from the typical power-seeker that’s occupied the White House so often. I wanted to believe that he saw himself as a public servant rather than the public’s master. But if he gave his assent to orders such as the ones described in the article, it casts a shadow over his image, at least for me.

     You might ask why, given that those orders pertain to “emergency” conditions. I would reply: Who defines what constitutes as an emergency, when it begins, or when it ends? Robert Higgs and others have warned us about this dynamic in power-seeking. Besides, such “emergency powers” have exhibited the ability to migrate into non-emergency conditions.

     Think for a moment about the routine use of “emergency powers” to disarm private citizens after a natural disaster, or to fix the prices of goods. Such measures have made things worse wherever and whenever they’ve been applied. Then think about the ever-expanding definition of an “emergency”…and think COVID-19, monkeypox, and whatever new bacillus or virus might be around the corner. Does an 8.5% annual inflation rate constitute an “emergency?” What about the disappearance of baby formula? Who would decide – and who would decide when the “emergency” has ended?

     Got the idea?

***

4. “Christofascism.”

     I suppose this had to be expected:

     Aren’t you excited? The far-left has been hard at work trying to come up with a new way to demonize conservatives and anyone else who disagrees with their politics. Perhaps terms like “racist,” “homophobic,” and “sexist” have become too hackneyed even for progressives. Now, they just might be ready to introduce a new favorite smear, the way Steve Jobs used to present Apple’s latest iPhone.

     So what’s the new word, you ask?

     Here’s your answer: Christofascist.

     That’s right, folks. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a conservative/libertarian type, so this article is to let you know that to progressives, you are a Christofascist seeking to assert your religious morals on the rest of the nation — whether they like it or not.

     Leftists have begun using this word far more often lately. It started near the beginning of May. Now, progressives on social media are throwing around the word like candy spilling from a beaten pinata.

     The whole piece is worth reading, as it provides an example of the pattern the Left follows in developing a rhetorical tactic. For my part, the most significant thing is the focus on the leaked draft of Samuel Alito’s opinion that would / will overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. They can’t call us fascists (of whatever derivation) for wanting to lower taxes, reduce regulations, or liberalize gun laws; those are too plainly measures in support of individual freedom. But thou shalt not mess with the right to kill a child, right up to the moment of birth! He who dares to do so threatens the Left’s highest sacrament.

     Yes, it’s evil and moronic. Yes, it ignores history, both of Christianity and of the treatment of abortion. But that’s what you get from the Left. Their strategists and tacticians aren’t concerned with anything but rallying the troops – and apparently they believe that the abortion issue is their best hope for galvanizing their moribund movement.

     This points to a promising avenue for attack – not for them but for us. It reveals their hatred of the great majority of Americans. And hatred of that sort is a blowtorch that can be turned against its wielder.

***

     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. It’s time for me to confront…stuff. Back tomorrow, I hope. Enjoy your Tuesday.

The Weather Channel on “climate change.” Beatin’ it like a rented mule.

H/t: Don Imus for the rented mule quip.

They never ever quit:

5/31/22 — “Cutting Carbon Dioxide Emissions Alone Won’t Keep Warming in Check, Says Study.”

“Carbon dioxide emissions are commonly thought to be what’s driving climate change and while they are the most widespread there are other pollutants doing just as much damage.”

5/31/22 — “Places Getting Dusty: Little-Known Potential Impact of Climate Change.”

“There another impact of climate change you might not have thought about. It could get . . . more dusty.”

5/30/22 — “Mideast Has Experienced Dust Storms Nearly Every Week Since March (PHOTOS).”

“Experts say the high amount of dust storms this year are due to drought, rapid desertification and climate change, the AP reported.” Experts cover their bets.

5/29/22 — “Apocalyptic Orange Skies Blanket Middle East.”

“Experts blame climate change . . . .”

5/28/22 — “Boulder, Flagstaff Asking Other Communities to Help Strip CO2 From the Air.”

Cast out the demons.

More of a sense of urgency needed. April United Nations report: “. . . [W]arns that sweeping and immediate action is needed to keep global warming from reaching disastrous, irreversible levels.” CO2 generated by human activity is the most prevalent of the greenhouse gases responsible for warming the earth.”

5/28/22 — “Parts of California Sinking Amid Drought.”

“And it will likely become more common as climate change leads to more intense drought in the West.”

5/27/22 — “World Broke Four Major Climate Records in 2021.”

Climate “changes” . . . . “The U.N. said immediate decarbonization is the only path forward to limit even worse climate impact.”

5/25/22 — “Scientists Sound Alarm About Rising Levels of Warming Gases.”

“A key measure of climate change presents a disturbing picture, as greenhouse gases are trapping almost 50% more heat in the atmosphere than 30 years ago.” I’m more alarmed about rising levels of climate change hysteria. 50% more heat being “trapped” in the atmosphere in 2021 than in 1990??

CO2 and methane levels rising and “human activites are what’s causing it, particularly the use of fossil fuels.” = Droughts, heat waves, stronger hurricanes, and rising sea levels. “Experts say the next decade will be critical. Time to get serious about all that can be done to turn back climate crisis from electric cars to green building practices and [wait for it] new government efforts.”

5/25/22 — “Climate Change is Stealing Your Sleep .”

“[W]e’re sleeping less as temperatures warm.”

5/23/22 — “Dozens Killed, Thousands Displaced in India and Bangladesh Flooding.”

“Extreme weather events are becoming more common due to climate change.”

5/22/22 — “Dangerous Tick Is on the Move.”

“Scientists say that the northerward tick expansion is climate change-related.”

5/19/22 — “Utah Studying Idea of Pipeline from Ocean to Replenish Great Salt Lake.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Opponents [of the pipeline] want more to be done to help preserve the lake for the long term especially when it comes to global warming and climate change which scientists say is driving drought throughout the Southwest.”

5/19/22 — “Stopping Fossil Fuel Use Would Save 50,000 Lives Annually.”

It will surprise you to know that it will also “help temper climate change.”

5/19/22 — “How Kitty Litter Could Help Curb Climate Change.”

I know exactly what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Is this guy shining me on?”

5/19/22 — “More Bad News for Great Barrier Reef.”

Mass bleaching is a reaction to stress, including heat. “Scientists say higher ocean temperatures connected to global warming are making it more common.”

5/18/22 — “Transition to Renewable Energy Causing Power Shortages.”

“Sustained, widespread outages have been happening more and more in the U.S. over the last 20 years. As climate change leads to more severe weather power grids will need to be updated to prevent shortfalls.”

5/18/22 — “50-50 Chance of Hitting Critical Temp Threshold in 5 Years, Scientists Warn.”

“Ominous temperature threshold in sight.”

5/17/22 — “Harrowing Record: Global CO2 Levels Highest in History.”

Unnerving April world record 420 ppm of CO2. CO2 has been increasing due to human activity, like burning fossil fuels. Greenhouse gas emissions like CO2 are pushing the world even closer to the “1.5 deg. C global warming threshold.” Bad moon rising once that threshold is crossed.

5/16/22 — “Iraq Has Experienced at Least 8 Dust Storms Since April (PHOTOS).”

“Experts say the high amount of dust storms this year are due to drought, rapid desertification and climate change, the AP reported.”

5/14/22 — “Extreme Rainfall in South Africa Was Made Worse By Climate Change, Experts Say.”

5/12/22 — “Mansions Burn in Southern California Wildfire (PHOTOS).” By Nicole Bonaccorso.

“Officials said that southern California’s climate change-fueled megadrought helped the fire spread quickly.”

5/12/22 — “Study: Less Air Pollution Could Mean More Hurricanes.”

“[Hurricane scientists] found that storms are affected not only by global warming but also by particle pollution from cars and factories.

5/10/22 — “The World’s Oceans Are Losing Their ‘Memory’.”

“Scientists say oceans are losing their “memory,” a metaphor to describe how ocean patterns are getting less consistent as a result of climate change.”

5/10/22 — “Illegal Construction Has Left Puerto Rico More Vulnerable to Climate Change.” By Nicole Bonaccorso.

5/9/22 — “Study Points to Decline in Bird Populations Worldwide.”

Decline is a symptom of habitat loss, pollution, and climate change.

5/6/22 — “Utah’s Great Salt Lake Expected to Hit Record Low Levels Again This Year (PHOTOS).” By Nicole Bonaccorso.

“The lake has been drying due to many factors, mainly water diversion, drought and climate change.”

Edited 6/3/22 to remove two duplicates.

Previous lists of Weather Channel hysteria:

5/5/22 — “The “we’re all going to die” narrative. Version 87.01.” 22 videos.

4/12/22 — “Another load of Weather Channel climate change hysteria.” 16 videos.

2/14/22 — “Yet more Weather Channel hysteria, campers.” 21 videos.

12/4/21 — “Stuffing us like a goose.” 15 videos.

12/1/21 — “More Weather Channel climate hysteria.” 10 videos.

11/11/21 — “Six days of Weather Channel climate hysteria.” 8 videos.

For some perspective, see also “From ice age to global warming – the climate doom-mongers’ swift about-turn.” By Ivor Williams, The Conservative Woman, 4/26/22. It’s well worth reading even if you’re not a conservative woman.

And Prince William gets it about messaging:

Prince William Praises TV Writers For Inserting Climate-Change ‘Programming’ Into Shows.” ZeroHedge, 5/10/22. Isn’t he “the good one”?

Why I Write Love Stories

     Yes, I’ve been asked that question…mostly by people who dislike love stories and exhort me to concentrate on other themes.

     I call them “romances,” because that’s the name of the genre. However, they don’t bear a lot of resemblance to typical contemporary romances. The attraction comes early, as does the commitment. There isn’t a lot of “on-screen” sex. The meat of the tale is about two people growing closer, bonding to one another, and achieving the state Robert A. Heinlein described in Stranger in a Strange Land: the condition in which the happiness of one’s beloved is essential to one’s own.

     Romantic love is a marvelous experience. I’ve had it twice, and I can’t think of anything wholly secular that compares to it. A lot of people yearn to have it. Some never do. It’s on the minds of quite a large fraction of teenagers and young adults, built into them by the forces of evolution and reinforced by a pop culture that seems unable to speak of anything else.

     But romantic love can also fail. Young love is especially vulnerable. It comes with no guarantee. A great many stories and songs have been written about it – perhaps as many as have been penned about the onset of love. Here’s one of my favorite songs to that effect, from the halcyon days of AM radio:

     And here’s another, perhaps the best-loved song of its era:

     How much more pathos could you pack into a three-minute song? I can’t imagine it.

     Love is important. Love, not sex. Not being seen with the head cheerleader on your arm. Not having a “trophy wife” to parade before one’s peers. And definitely not “getting your rocks off.” But today the emphasis has shifted critically, and not for the better.

     Love should be understood as something independent of sex. Few persons manage to separate them, which testifies to the steady penetration of our relations by aggressive, often predatory impulses. Sex is wonderful. I’ll never denigrate it. But love – real love, of the sort Heinlein described – should always take priority.

     Go ahead; ignore me. Everyone knows I’m an old softy. But I had to say this.

***

     Here follows a snippet from In Vino. It describes a meeting – a regular, twice-weekly get-together of interested persons with a parish priest to discuss topics in Catholic Christianity – in which the pastor himself, Father Ray Altomare, seeks an explanation for why the group is so routinely joyous:

     “A white wine this evening, Matt?” Rachel said.
     The vintner smiled as he pulled the cork from the bottle. “A Riesling.”
     “Hilaire Belloc, call your office,” Ray quipped.
     “But a really good Riesling,” Lundin said as he commenced to fill glasses. “The best I’ve ever made. Much better than the sugar water most other New York vineyards sell.” He filled the priests’ glasses last, seated himself next to Domenico Monti, and hoisted his glass. “Salud.”
     The rest echoed the sentiment, and they sipped. Eyebrows rose at once.
     “Well!” Rowenna said. “I know where I’m getting our Riesling from now on.”
     “Second the motion,” Holly said.
     “Passed by acclamation,” Larry added. “Great stuff, Matt. But how does your boss feel about your giving away so much first-class wine? Does he know about it?”
     “Oh, he knows,” Lundin said. The vintner’s demeanor and body language were that of a man completely at his ease. “He gave me a hard time about it at first, but I persuaded him to think of it as a promotional move. Part of the reason our products have been selling so well lately. I said if he felt really strongly about it, he could take the cost out of my salary. He shrugged and let it go.”
     “You know, Matt,” Rachel said, “this completely inverts the usual order of things. Normally it’s the older vintages that are more highly prized. The ones that have had time to age, develop depth, and gain a reputation. But here you are selling brand new wine, practically straight out of the vats, that beats the older stuff hollow.”
     Lundin grinned and shrugged. “Well, a winemaker’s gotta do—”
     “What a winemaker’s gotta do,” Larry finished.
     The others chuckled. Ray furtively surveyed the faces around the table.
     These meetings are the best thing to happen to this parish since I arrived here. Even Domenico seems lighthearted and relaxed. I’d love to extend this, or at least the spirit of it, to the rest of the flock…but I suppose I should think about what makes it such a good thing first. It’s not just the free wine and cheese, for sure.
     We can talk about justice some other evening.

     “Why does this work so well?” he said. It grabbed the others’ attention as swiftly and definitely as a fire alarm.
     “What do you mean, Father?” Rowenna said.
     Monti eyed Ray dubiously.
     Ray grinned and swept a hand around the table. “Look at us. We’ve been convening every Monday and Thursday evening, with very few exceptions, for a whole year—to discuss Catholic theology and ethics. Ultra-serious subjects, the sort that people associate with old men in cassocks poring over even older books and arguing about the meanings of words in languages nobody speaks any more. But I’ve been having a blast, and from the looks of the rest of you I’m not the only one. So why?”
     He panned the faces of the group. All appeared flustered by the question, but for one.
     “Can you tell us, Fountain?”
     The others immediately turned toward the young futa.
     She nodded. “There is love here.”
     A profound silence descended upon the gathering.
     Yes, of course.
     “Would anyone care to offer another opinion?” Ray murmured after a few seconds.
     “No…” Holly said. “That’s it.”
     “Agreed,” Rachel said.
     “On the button,” Rowenna said.
     “Hey!” Lundin said. “What about the wine?”
     The gathering laughed joyously.

     That little group – six laymen and two priests – had bonded through love of a completely asexual variety. The Greeks called it αγάπη. It gave the group a power of concentration and penetration they hadn’t previously possessed. (You’ll need to read the novel to learn the rest.)

     When Frank Herbert addressed love in his great novel The Dragon in the Sea, he was curiously inarticulate:

     “How’s Joe?” Sparrow spoke without turning.
     Saw my reflection in the dive-board glass, thought Ramsey. Nothing escapes him.
     “He’s going to be all right,” said Ramsey. “His vein-counter shows negative absorption. He may lose a little hair, be nauseated for a while undoubtedly.”
     “We ought to set him into Charleston,” said Sparrow. “The vein-counter doesn’t tell you what’s happening in the bone marrow. Not until it’s too late.”
     “All the signs are good,” said Ramsey. “Calcium leaching out and being replaced by non-hot. Sulphate’s negative. He’s going to be okay.”
     “Sure, Johnny. It’s just that I’ve sailed with him for a long time. I’d hate to lose him.”
     “He knows it, Skipper.”
     Sparrow turned, smiled, a strangely plaintive gesture. “I guess he does at that.”
     And Ramsey thought: You can’t tell a man you love him — not if you’re a man. That’s a problem, too. We don’t have the right word — the one that leaves out sex.

     But you can. You can tell a woman, too. It may take a modicum of courage, but it can be done. And we need to do it—first to feel it, of course. But we need to do it, as well.

     Today is Memorial Day, when we remember and honor our war dead. Many of those men died, not for “their country,” nor for any abstract cause such as freedom or justice, but for their buddies: fellow soldiers who had taken a bullet and were lying on a battlefield, vulnerable to further damage, in desperate need of retrieval and medical help. Never imagine that anything less than love – “the brotherhood of fighting men,” to steal a phrase from Gordon Dickson – could move a man to court his own death for the sake of a comrade in arms.

     Love may not be the answer to all the troubles of Mankind. But we could use a lot more of it. It would be a huge error to discount it.

     Have a nice evening.

A Vignette About Government Subsidies

     There are a whole lot of people, organizations, and industries fighting for a place at government’s feed-trough. In the main, governments are happy to have them there, for a simple reason:

Money Is More Addictive than Heroin.

     That addiction can be used to control the behavior of nominally independent actors and organizations. Charles Murray, in his early book In Pursuit Of Happiness and Good Government, presented a hypothetical example of a process that’s all too real and all too common. In his example, a Generous Outside Agency that’s been sending a “subsidy” to a school uses the subsidy to impose its ideas – in this case, ideas about how to develop better teachers – on that school. As we open the curtains on this scene, the GOA has been subsidizing the school for four years already:

     The GOA set up an advisory office to develop ideas for how they might become better teachers. These ideas were so enchanting to the planners at the GOA that they decided to encourage schools to adopt them.
     So during the fifth year, the GOA began to offer “incentives” to the hundred parents to implement the programs that the GOA had determined to be the Best Way to educate children. And if some of the guidelines were not agreeable to the hundred parents, the parents were of course free to ignore them. The GOA didn’t have any power to force the hundred parents to do things its way. All the GOA would do was . . . withdraw the subsidy—which, by that time, the hundred parents found an intolerable prospect. After all, they could never run a school without financial assistance from the GOA.

     A lot of people are baffled by this. What do you mean, you can’t operate without the subsidy? There’s an insidious dynamic involved. It’s alien to the mind of the typical private citizen. It starts with the availability of “outside” money: that is, outside the funding channels controlled by the operation being funded. In this case, the operation is a school, the usual funding for which comes from parental tuition payments.

     In defiance of all rationality, the administration of the school will swiftly come to regard the subsidy as a permanent budgetary feature, and will orient its spending decisions around the permanence of that money. Hands will reach for the money at once, as much as they can grab. Why not? It’s there to be spent, isn’t it? And so the funds will be spent to the last penny, and those paid from it will figure their future payments on the basis of the funds that included the subsidy. It takes a very short time for the subsidy to become politically irreplaceable.

     Politically irreplaceable. That phrase should be carved in letters ten feet high. It subsumes a wealth of perversity about the operation of “public” institutions. Everyone wants the benefit, such as it is – and often it’s either illusory, or something wholly other than is represented to the public. Nobody wants to pay for it – and if a “generous outside agency” such as the federal government is willing to foot part of the bill, few will be the voices raised in opposition.

     If you can’t imagine how the subjection of ordinary people, Americans much like yourselves, could be achieved in this fashion, read this brief piece and come back after you’ve thought it over.

     [Applause to Dave Blount at Moonbattery for the link.]

Hostility and betrayal at every turn.

Europeans could have cheaper energy, both for heating and driving, but their leaders won’t allow that. They decided that energy prices will be high, very high; so you’ll feel every degree of Centigrade/Fahrenheit in your pocket. Putin stated the Europeans miscalculated when they decided to abandon traditional fuels. Perhaps he said so out of kindness, because there is not the slightest doubt: the European and North American leaders knew that ‘clean’ fuels are much more expensive and much less reliable, and still they chose it [them].[1]

I am here to tell you it’s a bizarre experience living in a civilization where virtually all of the elites and governments instituted among men despise that particular civilization and their fellow men unless, that is, those men are minorities and denizens of the third-world. Yes. You think your government gives a flying frangipani about you, your ancestors, your progeny, or the welfare of our nation?

Dude . . . . Please.

Notes
[1] “Things Go Awry.” By Israel Shamir, The Unz Review, 10/11/21 (emphasis added).

Virtue And Its Nature

     The contemporary aversion to philosophy – and to most philosophers, come to think of it – has the same emotional foundation as the contemporary aversion to poetry. Sarah Hoyt once wrote that the decline of civilization begins with open-mic poetry nights. She had an excellent point. It would apply with equal force to open-mic philosophy nights, if there are such things. (God be thanked if there aren’t.)

     But as Ayn Rand suggested in Atlas Shrugged, and later expanded on in her nonfiction writings, there are worthwhile philosophies, both wholesome and sound. (Yea verily, there are even ones for which we needn’t learn Latin or Greek.) They’re distinguishable from their worthless competitors in several ways, perhaps the most important of which is this: they accept the absolute character of virtue.

     Virtue is the antithesis of relativism. It is not a set of values or preferences. The word cannot have a sensible meaning without referring to absolutes. Thus, a relativist philosophy, which denies the existence of absolutes, cannot grapple sensibly with what virtue is and is not. The majority of contemporary philosophy-grinders evade the question “What are the virtues?” entirely.

     Roger Kimball has posted an essay on one of today’s worthwhile philosophers: Alasdair MacIntyre, and his book After Virtue: A Study In Moral Theory. The essay itself is excellent, but the book is the point. Kimball leads the reader through MacIntyre’s steadily evolving worldview. He started out as a doctrinaire Marxist, but observation, thought, and study led him to Aristotle, thence to St. Augustine of Hippo, and finally to St. Thomas Aquinas, to become a Catholic – largely through his pondering of the nature of virtue. A snippet from Kimball’s essay:

     Previously best known for his combative, Marxist-inspired ruminations on liberalism, ideology, and religion, MacIntyre now said goodbye to all that—well, goodbye at least to his old militancy—and came to the “drastic” conclusion that Marxism was every bit as bankrupt as liberal individualism. One no longer found him arguing, as he did in Marxism and Christianity (revised edition, 1968), that Marxism is “the historical successor of Christianity” and the only philosophy “we have for reestablishing hope as a social virtue.” By the time he wrote After Virtue, MacIntyre had decided that Marxism and liberalism both embodied “the ethos of the distinctively modern and modernizing world, and nothing less than a rejection of a large part of that ethos will provide us with a rationally and morally defensible standpoint from which to judge and to act.”

     MacIntyre’s intellectual-moral journey puts me in mind of another great intellect, Soren Kierkegaard, who passed through fascinations with metaphysics, epistemology, and esthetics, finally to focus on Christianity and its moral-ethical code. The parallels between their paths to the understanding of virtue suggest that great minds really do think alike. We of today would be well advised not to be quick to dismiss the thought of those who have gone before us. Few of us are as bright as they…or, for that matter, as we think we are.

     Interestingly, American Greatness bills Kimball’s essay as “political philosophy,” though I can find no political assertions in it. Read it and decide for yourself.

     I’ve acquired a copy of MacIntyre’s book and will be studying it in the days to come. Expect occasional mention – perhaps even frequent mention – of the thoughts it stimulates, in these pages.

Prepping

     Just now…for some time, really…a number of my colleagues in this madness we call blogging have focused a great part of their efforts on preparing for the collapse of American society. They’ve been gathering the supplies and weapons they believe will be needed for the day when what remains of civil order disappears and the institutions and arrangements upon which most Americans have relied for survival go with it. They anticipate a time of chaos, during which predation and slaughter will run rampant. From such a time, only the most determined and best prepared to survive will emerge.

     He who sincerely foresees such a time and bends his energies toward readying himself and his loved ones for it was once called a survivalist. Today he’s more likely to be known as a prepper. Indeed, the neologism has been widely adopted as a label by preppers themselves. Those who resent them for their attitude and labors apply other, unflattering monikers.

     But prepping is merely the application of one’s time, resources, and labor to what one expects to endure. In that sense, every man who’s ever lived is a prepper. There’s no reason for anyone to take umbrage at another whose foresight differs from his own. We’re all preparing, at every moment of our lives. It’s just that some of us are preparing for something other than the thundering herd.

     But there’s one eventuality for which few of us give much thought to preparing, even though it’s an absolute certainty from which there can be no escape. Lately, my thoughts have gone to that conclusion ever more frequently.

***

     I heard the following tale some years ago. It strikes me as appropriate to repeat it today.

     A man was feeling unwell, unusually so, and went to see his doctor. The doctor agreed that the man’s run-down condition and general malaise merited a close look, and ran him through a battery of tests.

     The results of the tests were grave: the man was terminally ill. He had only a few months to live. When the doctor told him of his condition, he was immediately stricken with a great fear. “Doctor,” he said, “I’m afraid to die. What happens when we die? What lies beyond death?”

     The doctor, an unusually humble man, whispered “I don’t know!” He reached out to take his patient in his arms when there came a commotion from his waiting room. The two men looked toward the door as it burst open and the doctor’s pet dog, a large Newfoundland, swarmed in, jumped into his arms, and smothered him with dog-kisses. When the siege had lifted somewhat, the doctor turned to his moribund patient and smiled.

     “Here is our answer,” the doctor said. “My dog has never before chosen to go exploring, but he chose this day to leap over our fence. And what did he do then but to come here, to my office. What did he know of what lay beyond that door? Nothing, except that his master is here, and that was enough.”

     The doctor tousled his Newf’s head affectionately. “So it is with us,” he said. “We know nothing of death, and nothing of what lies beyond it…except that the Master is there. And that is enough.”

     There’s a wealth of food for thought in that vignette. Death is a great mystery, perhaps the greatest any man can confront. Its inevitability is terrifying in and of itself. A great part of medical science is devoted to putting it off for as long as possible…as is a great part of all our preparations during our lifetimes, regardless of our temporal expectations.

     Among the comforts of faith is the suggestion that death is not the true end of our existences – that we are destined for a life beyond this one. Yet there are persons who sneer at faith as “a crutch for the weak.” Many of these denigrate faith in favor of some other recourse. I doubt that I need to enumerate them, their arguments, or their prescriptions for you.

     But just a little while ago, it occurred to me that among my loved ones there are several who neither think about the ends of their lives and what might follow, nor have any need to do so.

***

     The following comes from That Hideous Strength:

     Mr. Bultitude’s mind was as furry and as unhuman in shape as his body. He did not remember, as a man in his situation would have remembered, the provincial zoo from which he had escaped during a fire, not his first snarling and terrified arrival at the Manor, not the slow stages whereby he had learned to love and trust its inhabitants. He did not know that he loved and trusted them now. He did not know that they were people, nor that he was a bear. Indeed, he did not know that he existed at all: everything that is represented by the words I and Me and Thou was absent from his mind. When Mrs. Maggs gave him a tin of golden syrup, as she did every Sunday morning, he did not recognize either a giver or a recipient. Goodness occurred and he tasted it. And that was all. Hence his loves might, if you wished, be all described as cupboard loves: food and warmth, hands that caressed, voices that reassured, were their objects. But if by a cupboard love you meant something cold or calculating you would be quite misunderstanding the real quality of the beast’s sensations. He was no more like a human egoist than he was like a human altruist. There was no prose in his life. The appetencies which a human mind might disdain as cupboard loves were for him quivering and ecstatic aspirations which absorbed his whole being, infinite yearnings, stabbed with the threat of tragedy and shot through with the color of Paradise. One of our race, if plunged back for a moment in the warm, trembling, iridescent pool of that pre-Adamite consciousness, would have emerged believing that he had grasped the absolute: for the states below reason and the states above it have, by their common contrast to the life we know, a certain superficial resemblance. Sometimes there returns to us from infancy the memory of a nameless delight or terror, unattached to any delightful or dreadful thing, a potent adjective floating in a nounless void, a pure quality. At such moments we have experience of the shallows of that pool. But fathoms deeper than any memory can take us, right down in the central warmth and dimness, the bear lived all its life.

     Yet another passage that offers a wealth of food for thought! That lack of “everything that is represented by the words I and Me and Thou” is a projection, as a circular shadow is a projection of a sphere held up to the light, of the inarticulable yearning with which we are all gifted…or afflicted. For Mr. Bultitude’s state, which C. S. Lewis calls “the state below reason,” differs from ours principally in this: we humans recognize ourselves as selves, separate from the rest of Creation: distinguished from all the rest by our sentience and our independent consciousnesses. Reason is our tool for dealing with the rest: compensation, if you will, for our separateness.

     How many gurus have made themselves famous (and not a few of them wealthy as Croesus) with some version of the message that “We are all one” — ? Yet while we live, we are not one; we are independent wholes, conscious of that fact and equally conscious that at some undetermined moment in the future our separateness will cease. The yearning to become one with all things inheres in us ineradicably. It’s the price we pay for having individual souls.

     Part of our love for our pets arises from our unexpressed envy of that selfless quality. They give themselves to us without a thought to the contrary, in a projection of the infinitely greater love of God for each of the souls He has created. I cannot doubt that many a man has yearned, at some point in his life, to be as un-self-aware as his dog, or as Mr. Bultitude in the passage cited above.

     But that state is denied to us…while we live.

***

     The ultimate implication of the gift of faith is that we are destined to become one: one with each other and with the Creator of all people and things: united and yet each of us still aware that we originated otherwise. It’s what makes the prospect of death endurable. Who could face the end of his existence in absolute certainty without going at least slightly mad? Such madness might manifest in a number of ways, with extreme hedonism and extreme asceticism being two of the poles. But it is exactly such abandonment to despair that is the greatest of all hazards to existence. It robs life of something every man requires to live on: meaning.

     I could go on in this vein, but I think the point has been made. We should be preparing for many things. It’s our blessing and our burden to be able to do so. But let’s not forget to prepare for that eventuality to which all of us are destined. On that day, whenever it may come, each of us will become one with our Maker…or be cast into the darkness where all preparations come to naught.

     Happy (?) Memorial Day weekend. May God bless and keep you all.

My Head Hurts

No, not booze. I’ve not been able to indulge in almost 3 years, due to incapatibilities with my meds.

But, I have a hellacious head cold. EVERYTHING hurts.

Now, it is possible that I have the C-word. My son tested positive, with symptoms. So, no get-togethers this weekend.

Doesn’t matter much. The regime of care is much the same:

  • Copious fluids
  • Decongestants
  • Rest

My nose has been running for days. Today, I woke up and could barely raise my head off the pillow. So, doggo is NOT getting his normal walks – just putting him outside on a dog run. Too sick to manage that much time vertical

Day Off

     I have unpleasant things to do that will probably leave me foaming at the mouth, so I won’t be posting an essay today. But if you haven’t yet, read about this outrage at one of America’s most prestigious universities. Then ask yourself “What would Fran say about this?” That should fill the blank spot in your day rather nicely. Till tomorrow!

Bizarre!

     Yesterday’s tirade about the mass slaying in Uvalde included an embedded video from Tucker Carlson Tonight. But this morning, I find that that video has been replaced by a video from some odd German chick. When I went to YouTube to find the Carlson show, it was nowhere to be found. All that was left was an eight-second clip of Carlson saying “good evening and welcome.”

     I’ve gone to Rumble and found the original video. Here it is:

     But what happened to the copy at YouTube? Does anyone have an explanation?

Whither Police And Policing?

     Now that videos of the atrocity in Uvalde, Texas this past Wednesday are emerging and contradicting the statements of Texas’ police commanders, Texas’ governor, and the mainstream media, this question must be asked.

     The Right has been nearly unanimous in its support of the police and its condemnation of the various “defund the police” movements these past few years. How do most conservatives feel about the police this morning? If you’re not yet up to speed, Tucker Carlson will brief you:

     It boggles the mind that the police authorities should have been so free with outright falsehoods when it was virtually certain that contrary testimony and videos of the event would emerge. It doesn’t speak well of their trustworthiness. (It certainly doesn’t speak well of their intelligence.) Yet after the carnage had ended, voluminous “pro-Blue” statements were swift to be issued and repeated by the major media. Governor Greg Abbott got right on board with them too. Now all of that has been refuted by incontrovertible witness testimony and video evidence.

     Meanwhile, Washington is using the atrocity as a reason to impose even more restrictions on private gun ownership. I didn’t need further proof that “politician” is synonymous de facto with “scumbag.” Did you, Gentle Reader? Yet there they are, right out in front of God and everybody. As William S. Burroughs famously observed, in the aftermath of a shooting, the authorities always hustle to take the guns away from everyone who didn’t do it.

     High-ranking police officials are egging them on.

     In historical terms, public police are a relatively recent phenomenon. It’s illuminating to read up on the history of public policing, both in Britain and here. We of the Anglosphere owe the concept to Sir Robert Peel. You might be surprised by what you find. In particular, back then they were not popular with the common folk.

     Whether public police are a desirable thing is an open question that deserves to be openly discussed. Certainly, public police who do nothing as children are mowed down by a rampaging gunman are not a desirable thing. Yet that’s the sort that converged on Robb Elementary School. Not only did they hang back as Salvador Ramos slaughtered defenseless children and teachers, they did their level best to prevent anyone else from entering the building to deal with Ramos. Ultimately, Ramos was stopped – shot and killed – not by the police but by a Border Patrol officer.

     We hear constantly about how the police are underpaid. That’s a plaint you’ll hear from anyone who draws his salary from a government – regardless of its veracity. Yet police departments bristle with equipment, including items originally deployed to military units. Police are allowed to retire after twenty years. Police benefits and pensions are on a par with the arrangements for any public employee. And police routinely lord it over civilians in any encounters between us, often to the extent of issuing orders backed by the threat of force that are demonstrably outside their proper authority.

     We also hear that We the People have no need for firearms, that the police will respond to any threats better than a badgeless citizen. Until recently, that was a left-wing political mantra…but we’re beginning to hear it from supposed conservatives as well.

     Incidents such as Uvalde, Texas and Parkland, Florida are souring a great many people on the police. The saying has become commonplace that a policeman’s highest priority is preserving his own life. Whether or not it’s correctable, the trend appears to be real – and that is not good for the police or the communities they’re hired and dispatched to serve.

What I Will And What I Won’t

     [As I’m in a fey mood (“Again?” I hear you mutter), and have had to delete a rather large number of unacceptable comments recently, I thought I’d repost this piece from Liberty’s Torch V1.0, which appeared there on April 3, 2016 – FWP]

***

     “Anonymous,” that lovable rogue we all know so well, has commented on a recent post here to the effect that it’s “complete BS” and that I’m ignorant of history. As you might expect, I deleted his comment. He followed it with another to the effect that I’m a “FRAUD.” I deleted that one, too.

     “Anonymous,” if you’re still visiting my humble abode, I refer you to my comment-moderation policy, which appears in the box that enables comments:

     Comments are moderated. I am entirely arbitrary about what I allow to appear here. Toss me a bomb and I might just toss it back with interest. You have been warned.

     My Co-Contributors and I get absolutely nothing for what we write that appears here. I have no tolerance whatsoever for insults, whether to myself or to any of them.

     This is a site by and for intelligent, knowledgeable persons who show respect for one another’s intelligence and knowledge. However, any of us can be wrong. For my part, I look forward to being proved wrong, as it heralds an opportunity to learn something. But I draw the line at insults.

     Frankly, I’ve always been of two minds about permitting comments by “Anonymous,” as along with being a garrulous blowhard and a coward of neither insight nor erudition, he has the worst manners of anyone active on the Web. Occasions such as the one mentioned here cause me to reconsider allowing him to pester me. For the moment I’m resisting the urge to ban him completely, but things could change.

     Here is a non-exhaustive list of comments I will delete:

  1. Insults to any Liberty’s Torch contributor or their loved ones.
  2. Solicitations to criminal conduct.
  3. Unsubstantiated accusations of criminal or contemptible conduct by anyone.
  4. Denigrations of Christianity.
  5. Denigrations of the United States of America, its Constitution, or its military.
  6. Anti-Semitic rants.
  7. Advertising.
  8. Requests for contributions to any cause of any sort.
  9. “Click-bait,” however decorated or disguised.
  10. Inducements to any of the seven capital sins.

     Those who feel a need to submit such comments should keep that list handy. Use it as a labor-saving device. Rather than exhaust your precious fingers typing out a comment that will never see the light of day, consult the list, select the item that best categorizes your comment, and just send the number. You’ll get your juvenile catharsis; I’ll be spared unnecessary time and effort, and we’ll all be happy.

     Some prospective commenters will find this method of venting too terse for their tastes. In that light, I’ll make a small concession to specificity. Along with the category number:

  1. Indicate which Contributor you wish to insult: “1, Fran.”
  2. Indicate the category of crime: “2, arson.”
  3. As with #2 above: “3, pedophilia.”
  4. Indicate which branch of Christianity: “4, Seventh-Day Adventists.”
  5. Indicate the general tenor of your denigration: “5, mindless baby-killing robots.”
  6. Indicate whether your hatred is focused or generic, e.g.: “6, Israel” or “6, Norman Podhoretz.”
  7. Indicate product category: “7, self-help.”
  8. Indicate cause category: “8, homes for brain-damaged welders.”
  9. Include name of website: “9, PrepubescentFilipinoGirlsInThongsAndStilettos.com”
  10. Indicate which capital sin: “10, lust.” (Images not allowed.)

     Life, after all, is short. Don’t tempt me to dream about shortening yours.

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