Saturday, January 21, 2017

“MAP:” Threat Or Menace?

     [I wrote this brief piece a couple of years ago for the defunct “Indie Writers’ Net.” Given recent developments in independently published fiction, it seems still to be relevant -- FWP]

     Say, I’ve got an idea...

     (Yes, that’s a rough Long Island equivalent to a Southerner saying “Hey y’all, watch this.”)

     The great majority of us are no good at all at what SF writer Tom Kratman calls “pimping my own works.” It’s easy to see why: it feels too immodest, and it’s usually greeted with amused skepticism by your “audience.” Yet promotion is the most indie writers need most. Without it, our works are “born to blush unseen.”

     So why not “pimp someone else’s works” -- ?

     Has anyone here ever entered into a “mutually assured pimping” agreement? I did it for a while, not realizing that I was doing so. My “co-pimp” was Martin McPhillips, author of the incredible counterterrorism thriller Corpse In Armor. I stumbled over his book, loved it, and started praising it to everyone I know. He noticed that I was doing so, read my novel Chosen One, and started doing the same for me. We both enjoyed sharply increased sales for a significant period.

     Of course, this strategy requires that one has intelligent and sincerely complimentary things to say about other indie writers’ books. Which itself implies that one must willingly read those books and remember their best features. But if you can steel yourself to so awful a fate, you might just discover that you’ve entered the shadowed world of Mutually Assured Pimping, in which the air of menace is unending and nothing is what it seems...except the pleasure of reading nice things about your books and even nicer things in your quarterly payment reports.

     Food for thought.

Past Performances And Future Results

     The extraordinary character of the period that has just ended – from November 8, 2016 to yesterday, January 20, 2017 – is undisputed. It was a time for gloom and misery among many and for celebration and jubilance among many others. And yes, there were some for whom it was a “wait and see” time, a time to read the chicken’s entrails and attempt to prepare for what would come next. But it’s over.

     Now comes the time of “prove you meant it.”

     A certain glamor has been laid upon each new president’s first 100 days. It appears to stem from that first period in the presidential term of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which was marked by so great a flurry of decrees and developments that even the most retentive memory probably won’t recall all of them without at least a glance at Schlesinger. FDR, it should be remembered, had been accorded essentially dictatorial powers; Congress acted as a rubber stamp for his utterances, not one of which drew more than token opposition from the shrunken, badly demoralized Republican remnant on Capitol Hill.

     But 100 days is an arbitrary time interval. It won’t tell us what we most need to know about the new administration:

  • “Did he mean it?”
  • “Can he do it?”

     Those questions won’t be fully answered until January 20, 2021.


     It’s a relatively recent thing, historically, for a president to arrive in office with an agenda. I could go into the reasons for this, and someday I probably will, but for the moment it’s more important that we grasp the state of the federal government and the intentions of those who dominate it.

     Yesterday’s pomp and ceremony notwithstanding, Donald Trump and his lieutenants don’t dominate Washington...yet. That might change – I hope it will; Trump will have little chance of following through on his campaign pledges otherwise – but for the moment the much-maligned Washington Establishment retains its grip on the mechanisms of federal power.

     Constitutionally, all legislative power resides in Congress. Congress is composed of 535 elected officials, few of whom are even sympathetic to the Trump agenda. Moreover, the president has no power over them whatsoever. He cannot dictate even the smallest change to their modus operandi. And each and every one of those Representatives and Senators has some sort of stake in “the way things are.”

     The president’s “pen and phone” have little Constitutional power. Executive orders cannot guarantee enduring changes in federal operations. They have only two areas of effect: the approach to the enforcement of existing laws, and the mandated behavior of executive branch employees. Both can be overridden by successive presidents. Barack Obama is about to have that demonstrated to him.

     Given those conditions, and given the monstrously swollen federal bureaucracy, its inherent bias against dramatic changes, and its several means of resistance, the imposition upon it of the changes Trump intends will be difficult. He’ll have to be very persistent, and very tough.

     The 45th president faces a steep uphill climb. I don’t envy him.


     We discern “whether he meant it” from whether “he” persists in the face of opposition and obstacles. Given the opposition and obstacles already mentioned, the verdict will take a while to arrive. But given the two least tractable elements in any man’s existence – 1) time, and 2) other men – there’s no guarantee that circumstances might force changes upon the Trump agenda.

     Consider as a test case Trump’s declared intention to scale back our international security guarantees in favor of an “America first” policy. This would be welcome; we’ve poured out the blood of our sons and the treasure of our nation for the defense of others who’ve proved largely unwilling to expend their own resources on their own defense. That’s the sort of behavior that collapses empires. Ours is not immune to its enervation.

     But international developments, as our British cousins say, could throw a spanner into the works. For example, we have existing treaty obligations to unwind. They might not be sufficiently rolled back before new conflicts arise in which they would oblige us to participate. In this connection, it would be wise to keep an eye trained on the Baltic states and the previous non-Russian elements of the Warsaw Pact. For all his seeming desire to “make friends” with the new administration, Vladimir Putin is inherently an expansionist who seeks to recreate the pre-Yeltsin Soviet Union and its sphere of politico-economic influence. Some of the small nations Putin’s intentions embrace are NATO members.

     There’s room for a lot of trouble there.


     We determine “whether he can do it” from whether “he” does. In most of the topics upon which Trump campaigned, there’s considerable latitude for interpretation. Moreover, there’s the importance of time once again.

     Much of what Trump has sworn to do will take time. How much? After what interval would it be reasonable to say “Yes, he did it,” or “No, he failed” -- ? Unraveling our regulatory nightmare is a formidable challenge. It’s made worse by this ugly fact: Virtually everyone believes that “some regulation” is necessary and good, but there’s no agreement beyond that.

     There are two uses of the word “regulate” in the Constitution:

  1. Article I, Section 8, clause 3: “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;”
  2. Article I, Section 8, clause 5: “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;”

     Note that those are explicit powers of Congress: legislative powers. The executive branch was given no “regulatory” authority whatsoever. Yet the overwhelmingly greater part of our regulatory burden was imposed upon us by pure executive fiat, with little if any legislative foundation for it.

     You’d think, given that particular tidbit of fact, that Congress, jealous of its position and prerogatives, would collaborate happily with the administration in the dismantling of this edifice. But things aren’t quite that straightforward. The regulatory bureaucracy does Congress several important “services:”

  • It relieves Congress of the need to write properly explicit bills;
  • It assists in the effectuation of “earmarks;”
  • It supports the de facto creation of “laws” that target particular portions of the nation;
  • It provides legislators with a “whipping boy” at whom they can point during election campaigns;
  • It allows legislators to endear themselves to their constituents through “constituent services.”

     Items 1, 2, and 3 are shameful, extra-Constitutional obscenities. They should never have been allowed, but the demotic and demagogic trends of the “broadcast media” era brought them to us anyway. Items 4 and 5 are equally artifacts of our demagogic deterioration. Yet all of them are dear to legislators who’d rather not be heard saying what they really mean or seen doing what they really intend.

     We cannot rationally expect that Congress will be sincerely supportive of Trump’s anti-regulatory intentions.


     The above might seem pessimistic. In a sense, it is; history teaches us to be pessimists about the uses of power and the men who seek it. What we want is for this time, and this nation, to be exceptions, as was the Revolutionary Era and the nation it created.

     There are no guarantees.

     As I wrote yesterday, private persons who desire success for the Trump Administration and its agenda must help it along. Without sustained pressure from the electorate upon those elements of Leviathan that are sure to resist him, the president, no matter how sincerely determined, is unlikely to succeed.

     Yes, Donald Trump won the election against formidable opposition and in defiance of all the oddsmakers’ predictions. But the outcomes of elections are determined by the voters – by us. The machinations in the corridors of power are a different story entirely.

     If we’re to have the future for which we’ve voted, we must keep the pressure on.

Vulgar thought.

I'll be unembarrassedly old-fashioned here: It is profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim "America First."
~ Bill Kristol.[1]

America First. What a ridiculous idea.

A moment of surprising candor from a cuckservative. Just what we Tea Partiers and Trumpeteers gradually began to suspect.

The American elite, whether "right" or left care nothing for the interests of this nation and have been happy to have our economy trashed and culture destroyed in the name of a fatuous "globalism" and open borders. They were willing to lie and dissemble until Trump tossed his hat in the ring.

Now it's right out there for all to see.

Modernity and prosperity have been the spawning ground for profound stupidity in every aspect of public and private life.

Notes
[1] Tweet reported at "On Entering the Trump Era." By Diana West, 1/21/17.

Paradigm shift.

Again, it was Trump who read the nation right, which is why he is taking the oath today.

The existential threat to the West no longer comes from the East, from a Russian army crashing through Poland and Germany and driving for the Elbe and Fulda Gap.

The existential threat to the West comes, instead, from the South.

The billion-plus peoples of the Maghreb, Middle East and sub-Sahara, whose numbers are exploding, are moving inexorably toward the Med, coming to occupy the empty places left by an aging and dying Europe, all of whose native-born populations steadily shrink.

American's bleeding border is what concerns Americans, not the borders of Estonia, South Korea, Kuwait or the South China Sea.[1]

I know otherwise sensible people who think that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a deception operation and that Vladimir Putin has dreams of restoring communism to Russia and completing the communist conquest of Europe. These thinkers are the modern equivalent of the Japanese soldiers who stayed on for decades in the jungles of the Philippines after WWII whose commanding officers had to be sent back in to persuade them that the war was over and they could go home.

However, a large portion of the Treason Class is not just misguided but dishonest in their supposed fear of Russia. Also, the straight out lies this class has told about Libya and Syria and their complicity in the Saudis' financing of terror around the world make clear that honesty and the interests of Western people are not important to them.

So it's just as Mr. Buchanan says. The Russian threat is illusory and the threat from the overpopulated third-world is huge.

Maddeningly, the Treason Class has pursued:

  1. selling a bogus Russian illegitimacy, revanchism, imperialism, and neo-communism and
  2. importing aggressive, hostile, supremacist, and parasitic third-worlders.
I need not say what a pleasure it was to hear Pres. Trump talk about the stupidity of having American troops defending the borders of foreign nations but not those of the United States. With luck Trump's skepticism about anti-Russian hysteria and interest in simple defense of borders indicate there's been a tectonic shift back to simple common sense.

Notes
[1] "New President, New World." By Patrick J. Buchanan, 1/20/17.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Donald Trump Is The President Of The United States Of America

     ...despite the forcefully expressed convictions of many:

     As a reminder of Ronald Reagan's observation that "It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so," I favor keeping this video available forever.

Tr[i]ump[h]alism

     I have a nasty habit: I remember disappointments. That bothers me some...but not as much as it bothers others.

     Disappointment is reality’s way of reminding us that not all our hopes will be fulfilled, that nothing is guaranteed, that “there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.” In those cases where we’ve assumed success but have reaped failure, it’s taught us that a fall from a hopeful height is more painful than any other sort.

     Today at noon, Donald J. Trump, a most improbable presidential candidate, will be inaugurated as the 45th president of these United States. That’s good; it’s something to cheer, especially in light of the alternative we faced. But it’s not the end of America’s struggle to reclaim its faded greatness; it’s the beginning.

     The hard work remains to be done. The opposition remains numerous and strong. The entrenched enemies will have something to say about it, and defeating them will not be a matter of presidential ukase.

     Excessive triumphalism today could contribute to failure tomorrow.


     Inasmuch as I doubted, early on, that Trump could gain the presidency, I have my own failures of prediction for reminders that “probable” and “improbable” are words to be used only before the relevant event. “Gee, I didn’t expect that” is a confession of imperfect vision, not a magical formula that can reshape reality to conform to your expectations. I didn’t expect any of what followed the Republican nominating process. It happened anyway.

     Of course, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats didn’t expect any of it, either. Our Schadenfreude over that is understandable. But it would be painful, not to say deeply ironic, to succumb to the same sort of disappointment. Far better that we strive to understand the correlation of forces, that we might shape a battle plan that would give us reasonable prospects of real, policymaking victory.

     On our side are the elements within the GOP who are genuinely happy that Trump prevailed and are eager to help him push through the changes he’s proposed. Not all of these can be certainly identified at this early a moment in the process. Moreover, they are to some degree Republican dissidents: persons who are willing to challenge the party’s power structure and “the way things are done around here.” They will need to demonstrate combativeness and resilience that Republican officeholders have seldom displayed this century past.

     On the other side:

  • The enormous federal bureaucracy;
  • Status quo-aligned Republican officials;
  • State governments dependent on federal outlays;
  • Virtually the whole of the print and electronic media;
  • The entire Democrat Party and every one of its officeholders.

     That’s a lot of opposition. It’s demonstrated considerable power in the past. Its inertia alone would pose a formidable challenge to Trump’s program...and it will exhibit plenty of conscious, determined resistance as well.

     I’d like to believe that the odds are in Trump’s favor. Failing that, I’d like to believe that we’re evenly matched. But I’m finding it difficult to convince myself.


     Donald Trump has scored numerous successes in business. The business world is composed of voluntary interactions that feature a high degree of freedom of association. That is not the case in government.

     Standing laws, the resistance of millions of persons, and the existence of many iron triangles must be overcome for the Trump program to gain ground. Laws can be repealed, persons can be negotiated with to a degree, and iron triangles can sometimes be suborned. All of that will take cleverness, planning, and work; it won’t happen simply because we wish it.

     Consider for example the Civil Service laws that make it exceptionally difficult to discipline or fire a federal employee. You may recall that when President George W. Bush proposed the federalization of airport security under a new Transportation Security Administration, one of the biggest battles to be fought was over whether TSA employees would be Civil Service employees, and thus protected by Civil Service rules. Dubya lost that battle, despite considerable effort. Too many Congressional Republicans opposed him, albeit mostly sotto voce. It was to be expected that Capitol Hill Democrats would oppose him, of course, but the lack of support from his own party made his defeat inevitable.

     It’s possible that in comparable situations, President Trump will be able to mobilize popular pressure upon his co-partisans that would swing them, however reluctantly, to his side. We should hope so, for little else would be in the interests of the Trump program or the nation. It would be a betrayal of Trump’s commitment to downsizing the Leviathan to “buy” the support he needs with promises of earmarks or other sorts of bribes.

     That realization puts the spotlight where it belongs: on us.


     It’s never been enough simply to raise a favored candidate to office. That’s never been more the case than it is today. In our celebrations for having triumphed at the polls, we must remember that our victorious candidate, and his open allies, will need our support. They won’t have much else to work with.

     Those of us represented in Congress by Republicans must inform those officials that we expect them to support the president. Those of us represented by Democrats might do well to inform them that we’ll be watching, and that we’ll exact a price for anything they do to thwart the Trump agenda.

     Articulate persons might consider writing pro-trump letters to the editors at regional newspapers and electronic media. Such letters, especially if sent via the U.S. Mail, carry more weight than most people appreciate.

     Concerning the federal bureaucracy and those elements in state and local governments funded by federal outlays, more thought is required. Private, voluntary organizations can displace them in some cases, but not all. I hope more minds are at work on this than mine alone.

     The central thing to remember is that we who voted Trump into the Oval Office are his only reliable allies. Everyone else has a stake in the status quo. That’s why incumbency is such a difficult advantage for an “upstart” candidate to defeat: he’s not working against his nominal opponent alone.

     As of noon today, the celebrations will be essentially concluded. The hard work will only just have begun. And there will still be a chance – possibly a large one – that we’ll see it all go to hell.

     In Chess, a pawn, the least powerful piece, that reaches the eighth rank can become a Queen, the most powerful piece. But it doesn’t get there on its own. It must be pushed.
     So also with making America great again.
     The election was only the first step.
     Keep the pressure on.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why We Pray: A Midweek Rumination

     [I stumbled upon this in my Archives while searching for something else. It appears that I wrote it several years ago, but never posted it anywhere. It nicely expresses the mood I’m in this morning: i.e., utterly sick of politics and greatly relieved and refreshed by my morning prayers. There’s a moral in that that the whole country could stand to learn. -- FWP]


     “You do not ‘have’ a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” – Clive Staples Lewis

     I attend a Thursday evening prayer group, semi-regularly. The group is small and fairly constant in attendance; we know one another by name, and swap personal news just as might any group of well-acquainted Americans who’ve converged for non-emergency purposes. The degree of congeniality is quite normal for a group of Catholics who’ve come together to pray.

     One of the attendees, a fellow named Bill who’s been stricken with cancer of several varieties, told us about a cancer support group that meets at a local Catholic church. The attendees of that group aren’t all Christians. As a result, Bill said, the Christians in the group feel inhibited about speaking of their faith and its importance to their perseverance in the face of suffering and physical limitation.

     I was appalled, and said so. To my mind, one of the saddest things about our era is that Christians should feel they must censor themselves for fear of offending non-believers. This, while the adherents of Islam freely hold mass prayer meetings that block city streets at high noon, and demand that “infidels” refrain from criticizing their faith or linking it with the terrorist plague afflicting the globe!

     The others remained silent, until Bill reminded us of the exhortation of Saint Francis of Assisi:

“At all times preach the Gospels. When necessary, use words.”

     It was a much-needed reminder.


     Possibly the aspect of Christian behavior that most baffles non-Christians is our attachment to ritual prayer. Catholics, especially, rely heavily upon a small group of prayers that are unvarying in form. A non-Christian might wonder at the point of it all. What does it achieve to repeat the same formula over and over, with no evidence that God or any of His saints is listening?

     The question flows from the strain of pragmatism deep in the American spirit. We value results. We tend, quite rationally, to abandon lines of endeavor that don’t deliver – and rather promptly, at that. Ours is a step-along-briskly / get-where-you’re-going sort of ethic. It makes no room for activities that yield nothing.

     Except for when it does: movies, television, casual sports, video games, leisure reading, window shopping, endless hours spent chatting at the local saloon or diddling on the World Wide Web, and so forth. We don’t stop to question those apparently pointless expenditures of time and effort. Their justification is too obvious: We enjoy them. We get some pleasure, some diversion, and some relief of care from them. What more reason do we need?

     Prayer is like that, and more. Prayer isn’t a burdensome thing, nor is it obligatory in some quantity prescribed by an external authority. We believe that God smiles upon prayer, and that He sometimes provides divine help to those who pray for some temporal boon. But more than that, prayer provides him who willingly prays with certain bounties intrinsic to the act of praying. It is a good thing in and of itself.

     We derive many of the same physiological and emotional benefits from prayer as we do from other leisure activities. It relaxes and calms us. It diverts us from dwelling on our worldly cares. It also provides a pleasure unique to prayer: the pleasure that comes from releasing our burdens into the arms of One eternally willing to carry them for us while we pray. Anyone who’s ever enjoyed a long hot bath after a strenuous, trying day has an inkling of the personal benefits of prayer.

     And there’s still more.


     A pragmatic attitude is inherently a temporal one. It partakes wholly of our nature as creatures under the veil of Time, ruled by laws of cause and effect. We envision goals and design paths toward them. In short, we follow The Algorithm:

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

     It’s a fine approach to life under the veil of Time. But Christians believe, just as C. S. Lewis said, that we are souls: eternal beings with a little temporal persistence here and now. Our bodies will eventually fail us, but our souls will not. Too complete an immersion in temporal matters, too monomaniacal a concentration on tangible results, can cause us to forget that.

     Prayer is one of the best reminders of our eternal nature. God stands outside time. We hope eventually to join Him. While we wear the flesh our closest approach to Him is through prayer.


     I wrote the above not just for the edification of non-Christians, but also because a great many Christians are prone to denying themselves the benefits of prayer when their temporal cares press too closely upon them. Truly, there’s no better time to pray, even if it must be a quick Our Father behind the steering wheel, or a Hail Mary muttered as one runs from pillar to post. Yet even a sincere Christian will occasionally be moved to question the use: Why just keep repeating this old formula? I must have done it ten thousand times since I first learned it. If God hasn’t heard me yet, why keep on?

     It’s a question the non-Christian asks even more pointedly, of course: a ritual, no matter its form or purpose, will always seem pointless to those not devoted to it. That’s our pragmatism talking again.

     What it overlooks is twofold: the benefits of prayer as described above, and the great helix of spiritual ascent prefigured by the most famous of all prophetic dreams:

     Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." [Genesis 28:10-15]

     For Christian worship is not two-dimensional, but three. It isn’t just a flat, circular repetition of rote formulas prescribed by others long dead, which we’re commanded to repeat pointlessly until our tongues fail us. It’s a journey into faith: a helical ladder on which the soul ascends, through the forms of prayer and the meditations they elicit, to an ever better understanding of God's will, and an ever greater appreciation of His love.

     May He bless and keep you all.

Pearls of expression.

One of the features of the escalating global confrontation was the increase in Russophobia, in the form of accusations leveled at Russia that it’s invading Ukraine, shooting down airliners, committing atrocities in Syria, hacking US elections, sponsoring alt-Right and Euroskeptic movements, and weaponizing giant squid.
"The Political Uses Of Russophobia." By J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, and Edwin Watson, South Front, 1/19/17.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Was Harm Hidden Or Fabricated?

     At last! Something from the Right that I can quibble with!

     First, it is also disgraceful for the New York Times to report without balance that “Prosecutors … presented no evidence that anyone was killed because of [Manning’s] leaks.” As the Times well knows, in cases involving classified information, the government frequently cannot reveal – let alone prosecute – the damage done. As a practical matter, such revelations end up disclosing more classified information and, critically, identifying other informants and countries who have covertly provided national-security assistance to the United States. That is why it is always a gimmee for apologists of the Mannings, Snowdens, and Clintons to minimize the harm they have done; it is generally impossible to provide concrete information to counter this claim absent exposing more intelligence and endangering sources for obtaining it.

     Objectively, the statements above are all factual. But is that the end of the story?

     If we allow for the possibility that a government official with power or influence over prosecutions might decide to “get” someone, Andrew McCarthy’s willingness to excuse the prosecution’s failure to provide specific evidence of harm done by the accused acquires a very dark cast.

     This is of great importance in federal prosecutions, because it is there that classification rules and security considerations apply. No doubt there are many varieties of allegations in which the attempt to cite national security as a reason for withholding evidence would provoke laughter. But there are surely enough offenses in which national-security considerations must be granted respect...and some of those allow for a wide range of sentences.

     Allow me to present an extreme case: an accusation of treason, which can carry the death penalty. The Constitution says:

     Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. [Article III< Section 3, first paragraph.]

     A government with the resources of ours has many ways to induce “two Witnesses” to testify that they observed “the same overt Act,” even if it never occurred. The defense might well demand to see confirming evidence in such a case; indeed, a competent defense lawyer would not fail to do so. But at that point up steps the Director of National Intelligence to say that no such evidence can be presented because of national security.

     What then? We have the testimony of “two Witnesses to the same overt Act,” and under the Constitution the jury is permitted to find that sufficient for a conviction. That conviction might be just...but it might not be, and there’s no way for anyone who did not witness the Act to know.

     This is only one of the many painful problems with a regime that’s empowered to keep secrets from the public at its own discretion. That some “matters of State” must be kept secret for the “common defense and general welfare of the United States” remains an arguable point. It becomes more arguable when one contemplates judicial proceedings such as that imagined here.

Too Easy

     It’s become too easy to write these pieces, day after day.

     You might find that to be an unusual complaint. Not having polled others who write sociopolitical opinion for the Web, I wouldn’t know. However, it’s at the core of my dissatisfactions. It robs what I’ve been doing these past twenty years of its point.

     The conflicts are too many and too stark. The cleavages are too absolute. The behavior of the openly involved parties is too cartoonish. The talents of a Jonathan Swift would be wasted on them. Hell, they don’t challenge my far more modest talents terribly much.

     The country needs a break. Yes, I need one too, though knowing my own proclivities I doubt I’ll take one. The need of the United States of America is far greater.

     But it doesn’t look as if we’re about to get one.


     Have you seen the latest revelations from Project Veritas?

     I do hope you watched that with attention, all the way to the end. I have no idea how many Leftist vermin are engaged in the plans revealed above. One would be too many, and it appears that considerably more than one want to participate. Perhaps having been exposed by Project Veritas will put a damper on their assaultive, destructive plans. That would be for the best, but the underlying mindset is what matters most.

     More than four years ago, I wrote that America is in a state of civil war. It was an “undeclared” war back then; conditions are different today. The PV videos show us a group plotting to prevent a political transition by shutting down a city and physically assaulting those who differ with it. If that doesn’t constitute an admission of outright warfare, I can’t imagine what would qualify.

     War journalism is the easiest sort to write. (Not to collect, mind you.) The battles occur right before your eyes; all you need to do is recount the events. Unless there is a great moral reawakening among those who wish us harm, that’s the sort we of the Internet Commentariat will be writing for some time.

     It’s not a cheery prospect.


     I don’t travel much, these days. I got my fill of it long ago. The last time I got on an airplane was seventeen years ago. I don’t expect to board one in the foreseeable future. As a conduit for the events and sentiments of distant places, the Internet suffices for now.

     These past few years that conduit has reported mostly anger and fear. The fears are politically, economically, and socially determined; the anger is general. Such are the wages of the war in progress: a war that until recently was being fought by one side while the other strove to ignore its existence.

     It’s a difficult war to name. At first blush it seems to have the character of George Alec Effingers’s short story “All The Last Wars At Once.” I tend to see it in a different light:

     Mark's waking life was now divided between periods by the Sleeper's bedside and periods in the room with the spotted ceiling. The training in objectivity which took place in the latter cannot be described; the details would be unprintable and had, indeed, a "kind of nursery fatuity about them which is best ignored. There indeed lay the horror-to perform petty obscenities which a silly child might have thought funny under the unchangingly serious inspection of Frost, with a stop watch and a note-book and all the ritual of experiment. And day by day, as the process went on, that idea of the Straight or the Normal which had occurred to him during his first visit to this room, grew stronger and more solid in his mind till it became a kind of mountain. He had never before known what an Idea meant. [C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength]

     I don’t think any exertion of mine could make it clearer.


     I don’t want to be at war. Most people I know would say the same. Even professional soldiers don’t look forward to war, despite the boredom of the peacetime barracks. Most fight because they must, because it’s been forced upon them; very few fight because they enjoy it.

     But here we are. Covert war is being displaced by open war, war that kills and destroys. The Constitutional procedures and social traditions of two centuries and more are being shoved aside. It was not we of the Straight and Normal side who sought to do so.

     The Left wants war. It wants it because it knows that we don’t want it – and because no other course could possibly restore its ascendancy.

     If you came here looking for jubilance or reassurance, my apologies. In light of the most recent events and reports, my triumphal mood of a few days ago has darkened. We’re going to be forced to fight.

     Have a nice day. Hope to see you on the other side.

Canadian police chase.

Thanks to Wanda Sheratt, commenter at Liberty's Torch on another video of great Canadian humor.

Establishment Republican Manifesto.

Reformed Trombonist replies to no mo uro:
> Doesn't mean he shouldn't try, just because the task at hand is difficult.

I can see you never mastered the Establishment Republican Manifesto...

Never fight; you might lose.

"DisruptJ20 Dramatically Scales Back Plans to Sabotage Inauguration After Project Veritas Sting." By Debra Heine, PJ Media, 1/17/17.

Mistakes was made.

The [U.S. government report on its bombing on September 17, 2016] then is saying the bloody Deir ez-Zor bombing was not the result of one error, but the result of a very long string of unexplained errors piled on top of each other. At so many steps along the way the planned strike could be recognized as being destined to hit Syrian soldiers but every time a freak mistake interceded.[1]
Mr. Hill makes no mention of what signals intelligence revealed about this Syrian Arab Army (SAA) position, occupied for some six months before the "Coalition" attack on it.

Let's focus on that.

It beggars the imagination that there was no SIGINT collection activity in Syria or that its requirements would not have included targeting all the areas in and around Deir ez-Zor.

On the contrary, SIGINT operations had to have been underway and, as the night follows day, they revealed that radio transmissions out of and into the site targeted were SAA comms. There would have been no reason for the SAA to have been under radio silence and whether or not their transmissions were encrypted they would have been on frequencies and using equipment known to be used by the SAA. It would have been child's play to identify whose radios those were at that site, particularly as the unit's traffic would have been answered by headquarters units located in Syrian government-controlled territory AND adjacent Syrian units in the immediate area.

By way of comparison, the Russians and Syrians maintained a SIGINT facility near al-Hara which "was responsible for recording and decrypting radio communications from every rebel group operating inside Syria."[2] Note the use of the language "decrypting," "every," "rebel," and "inside Syria."

Are we to believe that the U.S. has no such capability in Syria and had no interest in radio traffic out of and into the site it struck? This willful ignorance, this supposed ignorance, of the U.S. forces is not believable. That targeted unit sat there for some six months and the U.S. gleaned no information as to its identity from radio traffic, let alone from (a) other photographic evidence and (b) the logical role that unit played in Syrian defenses rather than ISIS defenses? Really? It really struck analysts and commanders as being part of the ISIS dispositions?

In point of fact, the U.S. has a SIGINT capability that is astonishing. We used it in Iraq to devastating effect and anyone who says the exact communication network of ISIS around Deir ez-Zor wasn't also later known in detail to U.S. forces operating in Syria[3] is a liar.

And this has implications respecting what we most assuredly know about ISIS and al-Qaida communications everywhere in Syria and, hence, about the dispositions and movements of those swine, and about the clearly pretend war that the U.S. has "waged" against its ISIS and al-Qaida allies in this dirty war. Read the Shane Harris article cited in the notes below and then tell me that ISIS and al-Qaida units cannot and could not be hounded to death by highly targeted "Coalition" military operations. Yet, inexplicably, mysteriously, ISIS lives on and on and on. It's just so hard to find them.

Alternative explanation: The U.S. is lying about not knowing the unit it struck on September 17, 2016 was a unit of the SAA. There was no mistake involved. The U.S. commander intended to attack a Syrian government position.

Notes
[1] "Its Own Report Data Indicates Pentagon's Slaughter of 100 Syrian Troops in Deir ez-Zor Was Deliberate." By Adam Hill, Russia Insider, 12/8/16.
[2] "Captured Russian spy facility reveals the extent of Russian aid to the Assad regime." By Oryxspioenkop, Oryx Blog, 10/6/14.
[3] "How the NSA Became a Killing Machine." By Shane Harris, The Daily Beast, 11/9/14. Money quote: "This was the most sophisticated global tracking system ever devised, and it worked with lethal efficiency."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Gun Free Zones: A Sermonette

     This just came my way on Gab.ai:

     I can’t help but think there’s “too much truth” there for the typical anti-gunner to fathom.

International Political Meddlers

     A scorpion, desirous of crossing a river, approached a frog and requested the favor of transport. The frog was dubious. “If you were to sting me, I would die.” The scorpion assured the frog that it had no such intention. Besides, the scorpion said, it could not swim and would drown if it were to harm its benefactor. Thus persuaded, the frog allowed the scorpion to mount its back, and their traversal of the river commenced.
     When they were at the midpoint of the river, the scorpion drove its stinger into the frog’s back, injecting a lethal amount of venom into it. As the frog’s life faded, it cried out, “Why did you do that? Now we’ll both die!” The other replied, “I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”

     [Origin and originator unknown.]

     Just this morning, an Australian lady I follow on Gab.ai posted this:

     For some reason, it seems that many Australians seem to think that they have a say when it comes to American politics There have been multiple protests against Trump over the last few months here.

     It pricked a memory, which I decided to post:

     In 2004 a gaggle of British writers (including David Cornwall a.k.a. "John Le Carre") tried to promote the notion that everyone in the world has a right to vote in American elections, "because America affects everything everywhere." Few people remember that.

     That election, you may recall, was Bush II vs. Kerry. It was decided by a single state: Ohio. The Britons arguing for international participation in our elections were, of course, on Kerry’s side and against a second term for Dubya. Had they gotten their wish, perhaps Kerry would have won. His politics were more compatible with European social-democratic notions than those of George W. Bush.

     It casts a strange light on the current foofaurauw over supposed Russian “interference” in our most recent election.


     It’s common knowledge, or should be, that the last time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood for re-election, the Obama Administration sent personnel and funds to Israel to aid Netanyahu’s opponent. What’s not common knowledge is how often the major powers of the world do similar things. If this should become more widely known as a consequence of November 8, 2016, it can only be for the best.

     Governments are both one another’s allies and one another’s competitors. When the government of Brux sees a chance to “improve relations” with the government of Wazznia by attempting to influence Wazznian elections, it’s more likely than not to do so. Of course, the “improvement” sought might not strike the citizens of Wazznia as such. Indeed, the desired “improvement” might not be to the taste of the citizens of Brux, either. That’s in the nature of government-to-government relations.

     The key to the mystery is a distasteful realization:

Every government on Earth is in business for itself above all else.


     "Government's a dubious glory...You pay for your power and wealth by balancing on the sharp edge of the blade. That great amorphous thing out there -- the people -- has turned and swallowed many governments. They can do it in the flash of an angry uprising. The way you prevent that is by giving good government, not perfect government -- but good. Otherwise, sooner or later, your turn comes." [Frank Herbert, The Godmakers ]

     There’s no comprehending the behavior of governments or the persons who rise to power in them without first confronting that simple truth.

  • Governments as institutions seek to perpetuate themselves.
  • Those who run governments seek to perpetuate (and if possible increase) their power.
  • Those subject to governments are sheep to be shorn: no more, no less.

     Governments face two threats: revolution and conquest. Governors face those plus (in some countries) the possibility of being replaced. Even in supposed democracies, the first consideration any politician addresses when confronted by some question is how the alternatives would bear on his future. Even in supposedly divided governments, the opposing parties will cooperate and collaborate to perpetuate or reinforce the status quo. By now Americans should have had ample evidence of that.

     Whenever one government attempts to sway an election (or any other method of determining access to power) in another nation, its masters have one of those considerations in mind. If any question remains, it would be the specific nature of the consideration: military, economic, sociological, demographic, or other.


     Just yesterday, a fellow I was interviewing for a job I have in mind mentioned offhand his belief that I’m an anarchist. I suppose much of what I’ve said and written will support that belief. But at the bedrock level, I’m a believer in and advocate of individual freedom. That is: in any particular place, time, and demo-sociological context, whatever form of social organization will best support the maximum degree of individual freedom for the persons involved is what I would favor.

     The recorded history of the world has known several anarchisms. Pre-Roman Empire Sumer. Medieval Ireland and Iceland. In a de facto sense, the frontier American West of the Nineteenth Century. While they lasted, they were pretty good at keeping their “citizens” free and unencumbered. Yet none of them lasted, because at some point their “citizens” either chose a government or were subjected to one and failed to resist it effectively.

     Were the anarchisms that preceded those points preferable to what followed? Why not consult those who allowed governments to displace their previous arrangements? Don’t their historically recorded decisions and actions answer us pretty clearly? But contrariwise, don’t the decision and actions of their ancestors, who threw off the States over them in an openly expressed preference for anarchism, give the opposite answer?

     I wrote in the Foreword to Freedom’s Fury:

     I’m horrified by politics and all its fruits. I consider the use of coercive force against innocent men the greatest of all the evils we know. But I try, most sincerely, to be realistic about the world around us. In that world, peopled by men such as ourselves, anarchism—the complete abjuration and avoidance of the State—is unstable. In time, it will always give way to politics. Hammer it to the earth as many times as you may, you will never succeed in killing it permanently. The State will rise again.
     However, as we’ve learned to our sorrow these past few centuries, the State is unstable, too. It always deteriorates and falls, though not always swiftly. What follows it varies from place to place and era to era.

     While there are States, they will meddle with one another.
     Sometimes the meddling will go unnoticed.
     Sometimes it will only elicit comment.
     Sometimes there will be reprisals.
     Sometimes, there will be war.

     It is in the nature of these inherently savage beasts.

Bill Clinton on illegal immigration.

Clearly, a hater.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Patterns And Models

     Among the advantages one accrues as the years pass is the acceptance of and surrender to change. Things change, and we must be prepared to adjust. It appears to be the one constant in all of temporal existence.

     And now, as I look back on that paragraph, I feel a smile rising. Of course things change! What would be the point of time if they didn’t? But it’s incumbent upon us to decide on the direction and magnitude of our adjustments.

     In some cases, and for some persons, the proper adjustment is to fight.


     Among the changes uppermost in my thoughts today is a particular kind of homogenization that’s been urged upon us, all unawares, by the major media. When I was a lad, there were many acceptable ways to...be a lad. Here are a few:

  • The boy boy: Horsed around with the other neighborhood boys; stinted on schoolwork in favor of play and miscellaneous boy-type mischief; generally aspired to adulthood and its mysterious pleasures forbidden to the underage.
  • The bookish boy: Spent a lot of time reading, exploring the sciences and the realms of imagination. Dreamed of becoming a scientist, or perhaps an astronaut.
  • The sports boy: Obsessed with his skills and accomplishments at his preferred sport. Put a lot of time and effort into getting better at it, in hope of making it his adult career.
  • The artsy boy: Pursued one of the arts: singing, playing, dancing, painting, sculpting, what have you.
  • The church boy: delved deeply into his religious faith, its origins and its tenets. Perhaps aimed at becoming a priest or a minister.

     I remember these well, because at one point or another in my maturation I was each one. I remember equally clearly how boys in each category tended to look down on all the others. But most important of all is that each category was accorded a certain legitimacy, as an “accepted course” of boyhood.

     Yes, parental influences played their part. Many a father tried to coax (or coerce) his sons out of their preferences. Some succeeded, though whether that was for the best was always open to question. The point is that none of the categories was regarded as so aberrant that it had to be expunged. Parents who were displeased with their sons’ category would mostly tell themselves that “he’ll grow out of it.” Sometimes we did.

     With the rise of the mass media, especially television with its imagistic powers, certain categories acquired a stigmatic overlay, a sort of subliminal “don’t be like this” with which boys of the generations subsequent to mine had to cope. Some withstood those influences and matured to become healthy men; those that didn’t had a rough time of it. The stresses might help to explain some of the social pathologies we endure today.


     The most important aspect of the legitimization of those diverse courses toward juvenile masculinity was that no matter which of them little Johnny occupied, he was not alone. He would have confreres, other boys in his chosen category who saw things roughly the same way and who accepted him as “one of us.” Acceptance by a group of the like-minded is critical to one’s sense of security, as Abraham Maslow has told us. Few “lone wolves” turn out well.

     Boys of our time are subtly urged by the media to “be like this,” where “this” is a pattern displayed by a promoted model: one of the characters in the entertainment being pushed upon them. Those patterns sometimes change, though in recent years they’ve exhibited a certain consistency. The power of the influence exerted will depend on the appeal, achievements, and general notoriety of the model. That will be the case even when the model is obviously neurotic, psychotic, or defective of character.

     This might seem unclear until mated to a compelling example. Consider in this regard a popular situation comedy: The Big Bang Theory. The several deficiencies of the major protagonist, Sheldon, are both pronounced and consistent. The message being conveyed is plain: “This is what science nerds are like.” To some boys, that will be an effective discouragement against choosing that category (bookish boy). To others, it will say “if you intend to be a science nerd, you must go the whole way and be like this.

     Neither set of pressures is good for those it presses.


     This is on my mind because of a phenomenon that might seem at first to be unrelated: transgenderism. Now as it happens, I have an acquaintance who decided some years ago that despite the Y chromosome in each and every cell of his body, he is nevertheless a woman. He’s gone most of the way in that direction. And he is a mentally sick, almost completely nonfunctional individual.

     This is not to say that all decisions to “transition” (a word that will eventually lose every other meaning it once possessed) are insane, nor that every individual who does so will turn out badly. Here’s a case that appears to be successful, although the transition is not yet complete. However, the typical individual who aims in that direction might be a victim of categorization-stereotype pressures. Indeed, I think it more likely than not to be the case.

     Imagine a boy who finds himself drawn to the arts and completely indifferent to “boy boy” or “sports boy” inclinations. Imagine that his father is something like Robert Duvall’s character in The Great Santini, or Colonel Fitts in American Beauty. Intensify those pressures with relentless entertainment media portrayals of artistically inclined young men as fops at best, homosexuals at worst. Simmer for eighteen years, stir, and serve.

     Get the picture?


     Very little of one’s personality or character remain to be formed after puberty. It’s pretty much all there, and pretty much set for life. Today’s boys' lives are overfilled with stereotypes, particularly categorization stereotypes, that can warp them permanently.

     Our boys need counterexamples to those stereotypes: healthy, accomplished adult men in each of the categories who undermine the stereotypes by diverging radically from them. Such counterexamples exist. They don’t get nearly as much exposure as we need them to get.

     In our time, parenting is a frustrating and difficult job. The entertainment media make it far harder than it once was, and not merely by its commercial enticements. Once again I find myself compelled to write a five-word sentence two of whose words are on my Anathema List:

     The moral should be obvious.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Late-Arriving Wisdom: A Sunday Rumination

     “Ve get too soon old und too late schmart.” – Originator unknown

     I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been exchanging thoughts with a colleague in this madness, another survivor from the founding days of opinion-blogging. Our exchange has mostly been about religious matters, but in his most recent missive he included something that jarred me:

     “Too bad it takes so long for us to realize that our parents were basically right about every danged thing, ain’t it? Well, some of us, anyway.”

     My impulse upon reading that was to double-check the sender tag. It’s essentially what I’ve been muttering to myself for several years.

     Far too many members of the Baby Boom generation owe our parents a heartfelt apology for having been such arrogant idiots...to say nothing of a huge debt of gratitude that they put up with us nonetheless. It’s among the greatest of tragedies that the harm one has done, especially harm done to himself, only becomes clear as he nears the end of his life.


     “Keep the old so long as it is good, and take the new as soon as it is better.” – from a Salada tea bag tag

     There is wisdom to be gleaned from tradition. Not all traditions, mind you; some are associated with “ways” that arose from the necessities of times long past. A favorite story illustrates that nicely.

     Mary Smith was preparing a roast for the evening. As she had done for many years, before she put the roast into her roasting pan, she sliced half an inch off of each end and put the slices aside. Her ten year old daughter Jane, who was watching her, asked “Why did you do that?”

     “I always do it,” Mary replied.

     “But why?” Jane said.

     “Well,” Mary said, “your grandma always did it.”

     “But why?” Jane persisted.

     Mary was about to remonstrate with her daughter, when it occurred to her that there was “an easier way.” “Let’s call Grandma and ask her. I’m sure she can explain it better than I can.”

     And so Mary called her mother, put the phone on speaker, and said, “Mom, Jane noticed that I slice off the ends of the roast before I put it in the pan, and asked why. I thought you might be the best person to explain it to her.”

     Upon which the reply came at once: “I used to do that because my roasting pan was so small. I have no idea why you do it.”

     It should follow that not everything our forebears did is something to be emulated today.


There exists…a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I do not see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer, “If you do not see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it…”

Some person had a good reason for thinking (the gate or fence) would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable.

     [G. K. Chesterton, The Thing]

     Human laws, customs, folkways, and institutions must be judged against the intentions of those who originated and maintained them. What were they trying to accomplish or prevent? Were they successful? If so, at what cost? Might there have been a better way? Might developments since then have obsoleted their aims?

     Sometimes the thing being judged by such questions migrates from intention to intention. For example, at one time people kept cats as a defense of sorts against rodents and other vermin. With only a few exceptions, today’s Americans don’t worry too much about rats in the root cellar. However, we still keep cats, for their beauty and the companionship they bestow upon us.

     The moral here is that things are done for a reason, and if the reason be “reasonable” – i.e., if the end in view is a worthy one and the means chosen for it is moral, effective, and adequately efficient – then the thing is itself worthy and not to be lightly discarded.

     In some cases, the original motivation will ultimately change, as it was with cats. In others, an underlying premise will be found dubious, yet the practice will persist because it serves a need the originators didn’t foresee. The central need is to know what you’re doing – or refraining from doing – and why.


     “Most people are willing to give up their preconceptions, once they’ve had them tattooed on their heads with a blunt instrument.” – Keith Laumer

     A lot of the above probably strikes my Gentle Readers as “too obvious to need saying.” Time was, I would have agreed with them. Not today. We’re in the middle of a nationwide lesson in why our parents and grandparents were not buttheads.

     Some of the things our parents and grandparents tried to tell us, including a few against which recent generations have staged wholesale revolts, are more important than ever:

  • All things have a price.
  • Don’t go where you’re not wanted: know who “your people” are and remain loyal to them.
  • All other things being equal, keep silent: you’ll learn more that way.
  • Tolerance is not approval and must not be taken for such.
  • You’re less likely to “get away with it” than you think.
  • Many a pauper was once a millionaire.
  • Give thanks for your blessings.

     There are others, of course, but as I look out over the vast sea of disgruntlement that constitutes our present age, the ones above strike me as the most imperative, the lessons so many of us rejected as youngsters that we desperately need to acknowledge.


     But this is a Sunday rumination, isn’t it? So I must have some aspect of the life of the spirit in mind, right? Well, as it happens, I do. It’s only this:

     God does not police Man. He has laid down the laws of nature, most important among them the laws of our human nature. Those laws are largely self-enforcing. It is the immutability and universality of those laws that impels the thoughtful man toward religious faith.

     But the religiously inquiring man must know what he’s about. All theology, no matter how interesting or inspiring, rests upon unverifiable, unfalsifiable premises. A successful religion must help its communicants to live right. A religion that insists that its communicants embrace misery or endure squalor will not long survive. Religions that survive and flourish are those which most effectively assist their communicants in living right: healthily, prosperously, and peacefully.

     The evidence is in: the grand champion of religions, the one that most effectively and economically conduces to “a life well lived,” is Christianity. Our parents and grandparents knew that, too. Many of us ignored them. Perhaps they put too much emphasis on what to do and too little on why to do it.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Cat watching horror movie.

H/t: Pundita.

Delicious wit.

Hilarious commentary by Jennifer Jones.