Monday, May 21, 2018

Diffuse Threats And The MYOB Mindset

     The recent, luridly reported school shootings have – surprise! – resulted in a flurry of proposals and counter-proposals for “school safety” in which partisans and communities of interest have exchanged more invective than ideas. The rhetorical temperature is high, as it always is when the “safety” of “children” is the issue. Any one familiar with the current state of American public discourse would simply shrug and say “You expected something different, bubeleh?”

     Me? I’m inclined to laugh at it all. I’d imagine the shade of Aaron Wildavsky is laughing, too. And yes, I know vitriolic Leftists will pour condemnations on my head for daring to be amused over this oh so “serious issue.” But then, I routinely laugh at their idiocies and self-righteous preening.

     There’s a fundamental law of nature at work here, and no one -- literally no one -- has made mention of it up to now. It’s likely that no one has noticed it.

     Geez, it’s gonna be a great Monday!


     Some years ago, writer Marc Stiegler formulated a mantra of sorts for those of us who prefer to think rather than react from our glands. He presented it in his novel David’s Sling, a rather daring fiction that explored several areas of thought and analysis largely through the lens of military procurement prior to and during a major war in Europe.

     The mantra:

You can never do only one thing.

     A great truth is expressed therein. No matter what you do or how or why you do it, there will be side effects. Moreover, the Second Law of Thermodynamics guarantees that at least one of those side effects will be undesirable. The absoluteness of this law can’t be proved mathematically, but I dare anyone to find a counterexample.

     Take the safety of children herded into a large structure with controls at all the entry points. Those controls can be made quite stringent, such that no one can get in or out, and moreover that no one can move a metallic object in or out, without being detected. Put guards at those points to monitor the operation of the detectors and respond to would-be violators, and you’ve solved the safety problem!

     Or have you?

     Straitened entry implies straitened exit. Therefore, anything that happens within the building – e.g., a fire, or a noxious gas emission – will be that much harder to get away from. Stumbling and tripping at the exit points become more likely, with the possibility of a pile-up during an evacuation. Moreover, there are many things some villain could smuggle in that a metal detector cannot detect. Some of them can do a lot more harm than a gun.

     Many a “Safety Nazi” (P. J. O’Rourke) would simply double down. Hire more guards, he would say. Have them roam the building looking for suspicious activity and potential hazards of other kinds. Give then the ability to open more egress routes at need. But that introduces a new hazard: hiring a guard who has nefarious motives. If those guards are armed, it also increases the likelihood of a mistaken use of a weapon, or an accidental discharge.

     Try it yourself. Imagine whatever “safety provisions” you like, and apply them as stringently as you please. Then look for the side effects. Be honest about them. They’ll be there – and in the usual case, they’ll introduce hazards of their own.

     There is no way to make any human activity or institution absolutely safe.


     Safety is always a relative matter: Is this arrangement safer than that one? Parachutists pack two chutes, not because that renders them absolutely safe, but because it improves the odds at an acceptable cost. Cars incorporate various safety-enhancing provisions not because that renders driving absolutely safe, but because we think they’ll reduce the probability of an accident, or the likelihood of serious injury should an accident occur. Most guns incorporate a “safety” that prevents the trigger from being pulled, not because that eliminates the possibility of an accidental discharge, but because it gives the operator a way to prevent one if he remembers to use it.

     Besides, there’s the MYOB mentality.

     I’m sure my Gentle Readers are all aware of the “If you see something, say something” campaign that was supposed to get travelers to report suspicious behavior. It’s not a wholly bad idea, but it has two side effects of importance. Both have the effect of preventing overall safety from being absolute.

     The first is the common tendency to resist invasions of privacy, especially by total strangers. If the target is minding his own business and expects others to do likewise, he could be seriously offended by even the gentlest inquiry about what’s in his duffel, backpack, or briefcase. Blows could result. So could lawsuits, especially if the gendarmerie should involve itself.

     The second is the tendency even among nervous and suspicious types to mind their own business. Let Smith see a backpack left unattended. Let him wonder about its provenance, its contents, and the intentions of the person who left it there. Will he act? If so, how swiftly and to what end? The probabilities might be higher than before September 11, 2001 that he will inform a responsible person about the pack and thus trigger appropriate measures, but they aren’t nearly 100% — and the authorities have become somewhat overconfident that private citizens monitoring one another will suffice to provide for safety against a bombing in a public place. Americans still prefer to go about their own affairs without minding others going about theirs.

     You can get safer...maybe. You can’t be absolutely safe.


     Our lives have always known hazards, and they always will. What’s relatively new is the diffuse threat: the possibility of malicious acts that could arise at any time, in any venue, and from any actor. Indeed, the threats we face today are so diffuse that I can’t imagine how they could be more so.

     When people cluster together, it creates an opportunity for the evilly minded. Shall we no longer cluster together, then? There are arguments for it in particular cases, but there are counter-arguments for it in others.

     Contemporary technology has made it possible for a villain or an accident to take many lives swiftly. What can we do about that? There’s no way to put the genie of knowledge back in its Solomon bottle. More, to do so would be to forfeit the safety-enhancing attributes of our level of technology. Yes, airliners can fall from the sky, but air travelers are measurably safer per passenger-mile than passengers on any other form of transportation, including walking.

     You can’t win absolutely. More, once you’ve reached a certain safety level, attempts to decrease the probability of harm still further will carry a ruinous cost...and will introduce hazards you hadn’t anticipated.

     You can never do only one thing.

     I no longer gave a damn about three-car garages and swimming pools, nor any other status symbol or "security." There was no security in this world and only damn fools and mice thought there could be.
     Somewhere back in the jungle I had shucked off all ambition of that sort. I had been shot at too many times and had lost interest.

     [Robert A. Heinlein, Glory Road]

One-note ukulele.

President Trump has said he won't rule out military action against Maduro.
"Maduro Wins Vote Boycotted By Opposition As US Threatens Sanctions." By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge, 5/21/18.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Affrighted

     As I wrote yesterday, change is upon me. I’m going to try to reduce the amount of blathering I do about political subjects, to make room for others. It seems appropriate that that should start today, Pentecost Sunday 2018, the anniversary of the birthday of Christ’s Church. If my Gentle Readers should decide that the new balance of material is not for them, I’ll understand.


     It’s an old word, I know. Its meaning “should” be fairly “obvious.” And it describes a condition from which I suffer at predictable intervals.

     There are many kinds of fear, and many sources for each. For an old man whose final horizon is drawing steadily nearer, it’s common to fear that he’ll die before he’s “ready.” Let’s leave aside for the moment what it means to be “ready” to meet one’s Maker.

     My principal fear in these latter days is of deterioration. Aging brings that with certainty. We lose strength, endurance, agility, flexibility, and – most unfortunately – we lose mental acuity. These deteriorations can be slowed, in some cases even halted, by the right sort of effort and enough of it. But the effort becomes harder to maintain as one ages and grows wearier.

     There’s one fear about which I try not to think and of which I seldom speak, because it affects the core of my usefulness to others. It’s the fear that my abilities as a writer are diminishing.

     I’ve been cranking out op-ed drivel for more than twenty years. Occasionally the impulse seizes me to revisit older pieces: my archives from Eternity Road and The Palace of Reason. Some of those older pieces are a lot better – more sharply focused, more neatly phrased, and overall more powerful – than anything I’ve posted at Liberty’s Torch. The recognition draws a graph I dislike to face.

     But I’ve also been cranking out fiction over that interval. Now and then I get the urge to reread one of my earlier novels or stories. I don’t always resist it. I’m beginning to wonder if I should.

     Op-ed writers are plentiful. (Some would say we suffer an oversupply.) But good storytellers, despite the recent surge in fictions available to the reading public, remain pretty rare. My current sense of whatever enduring value my efforts have for others is that it resides mainly in my storytelling.

     And I’ve become afraid to continue it.


     You’ll seldom hear a writer with a substantial oeuvre speak of a fear that he’s losing his powers. At least, I can’t remember the last time I read any such thing from a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only writer who’s ever suffered from that fear.

     My most recent three novels, Love in the Time of Cinema, Statesman, and Innocents, cost me agonies to complete and further agonies to release. From cover to cover of each, I worried that I’d lost my chops – that I could no longer tell the kind and quality of story I’m known for. That fear made me sensitive to reviews and reader email. A review such as this one:

     A superior wordsmith by far than many better known authors, he has a unique ability to write believable characters with extraordinary depth. But the storytelling! My goodness. He holds a near-unique ability to mix religious themes, challenging moral situations, relationship, and some good ol' fashion butt-whoopin' all in one. This text is no exception.

     ...would lift my spirits and (temporarily) reassure me that I was still firing on all twenty-three cylinders. A review such as this one:

     Unsatisfying mil action, unrealistic romance. Marty Sue hero who ends up forced to do the thing he wants but knows he shouldn't.

     ...would leave me in a funk for days, wondering whether I had any business polluting my own record with fresh tripe. And in the nature of things the negative reviews and the negative emails weigh more heavily on the mind than the positive ones. (The average review for a work of fiction at Amazon is slightly over four stars; think about what that implies.)

     The result is an increasing reluctance to start a new story. In case you’ve wondered why the books are being spread further apart in time, now you know.


     I’m not fishing for reassurance here. I’m mostly doing something I think isn’t done often enough. I’m articulating a besetting fear of the old: the fear that one has transitioned from an asset, valued by others, to an encumbrance they’d as soon be rid of. I think more of us older folks suffer that fear than is generally admitted.

     The marvelous recent movie Act of Valor has something to say about this, as well:

     Before my father died, he said the worst thing about growing old was that other men stopped seeing you as dangerous. I've always remembered that, how being dangerous was sacred, a badge of honor.

     Being dangerous is the critical requirement of a soldier. Every occupation has a critical requirement...and every one of us must fear that a time will come when he “just can’t cut it any more.”

     If you have older relatives or friends, and you sometimes see them mired in an unexplained gloom, this could well be the reason. If you’re still in the prime of life, you will probably know that fear soon enough for yourself.

     Food for thought.

Blogging From The NerdFest


An overwhelmingly male crowd, although welcoming and encouraging to the attending women. I've made some friends (YL's), and am looking forward to seeing more of them in the future.

The YL group is women in radio. The official site is www.ylrl.org (Young Ladies Radio League). No matter what your age, all women are YLs. They're an interesting group. There was a NASA employee talking about amateurs and classrooms communicating with the ISS. Another speaker was the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) Ham of the Year. She and her daughter took their first qualifying test (Technician license) together, and Valerie continued her interest from there. One of her most recent exploits was to offer her expertise in Puerto Rico after the recent hurricane. (Valerie is the one in the Middle).


She told of how there was NO long-distance communication on the island, except for the Hams. Without their assistance, hospitals, police, and fire departments would have been helpless. They were essential for the deployment of equipment and supplies.

About 1/3 of the attendees are wearing hats, mostly showing their call sign. I've ordered one, although. It may not be ready till nearly the end of the convention. Fortunately, I brought a Field Day hat, which I'll be using to control my high-humidity hair.

The weather is overcast, and periodically showering the fairgrounds. Fortunately, I'm not concerned about how I look.

I've selected my sessions for today. I'm satisfied with the choices, although, as always, there is at least one conflict with two desired sessions meeting at the same time. Part of my eventual picks took into consideration the location - I'm not up to an extended walk today.

Hein is presenting on what makes a good speaker system. If a speaker moves, it tells you that the speaker is not tuned to the cabinet. It is out of phase.

Dr. Fletcher and Dr. Munson - investigated how people hear. Their work drove development of equalizers.
The equalizer is a filter - the frequency that it's set at is critical.
Parametric equalization - 2-3K is the sweet spot for the human ear.

The Heil speaker and equalizer will be available soon, for around $450.

I just left a fascinating session on UHF/VHF/Microwave. I can see it would be worth it to spend some time in that portion of the spectrum. I won't put it at the top of my list, as my first goal is to become proficient with my new radio.

I wandered around in between sessions, mostly doing people-watching.


As you can see, it's a diverse group.

I'm in the DX Forum now. I will have to be leaving early to pick up my hat.

I kind of overdid on spending. I bought two books I'd wanted for some time, on the weak modes and on building portable antennas. There is an interesting plan for a simple line extended out of a window, using a tent pole to provide a horizontal component.


On the other hand, I resisted buying a lot of gadgets. I'll get a picture of myself in my new HamHat in a few hours (scratch that - on Monday, after I recover). Amazingly, I was too busy to get on my radio while I was here.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Re-Privatization

     “Opinions are like assholes: Everybody’s gotta have one.” – Porretto’s Principle of Personal Assertion

     I feel a change coming on. I’ve been ranting and raving and generally bellyaching about politics and government, here and at other sites, for more than twenty years. Yet I’ve accomplished nothing except to alert a few kindred spirits to the existence of a cranky old bastard who sees things approximately as they do. Those two decades of effort have wearied me in several ways. My will to continue is lower than it’s ever been.

     I think I know why my efforts, and the efforts of innumerable other thinkers and writers, have produced so little progress. And if you have the patience for just one more tirade, I’ll attempt to explain.


     “The personal is political.” – Leftist mantra.

     Once in a great while I get my fangs into something with broad explanatory power. It might not unify gravity with the other three fundamental forces, but it seizes my imagination, and my desire to explore it thoroughly, even so. The recent one that strikes me as being of the most value is the one I explored in this piece:

     I’ve long held the belief that any man who’s willing to assert the absolute truth of even one statement must eventually accept that every well-formed statement – i.e., a statement that either posits a fact or a causal mechanism -- is either absolutely true or absolutely false, men’s contrary opinions notwithstanding. The concept behind that assertion is, of course, that there is such a thing as absolute truth – objective reality itself – which makes my notion quasi-tautological. For all that, note how few persons are willing to contradict the anti-objectivity propagandists of our time. That latter sort is permitted to gambol about screaming that “There are no absolutes!” virtually without contradiction – not even a murmur of “Including that one?”

     This is not an utterly new and fresh observation by any means. Bishop George Berkeley and Dr. Samuel Johnson had it out over the existence of absolute truth nearly three centuries ago. As it was Johnson’s foot that recoiled, his position remains the more persuasive.

     Consider in this context the oft-repeated tale of a first-grade class that was asked how to determine the sex of a kitten:

     Years ago I supervised the Indian seminaries. On a visit to a school at Albuquerque, the principal told me of an incident that happened in a first grade class.
     During a lesson, a kitten wandered into the room and distracted the youngsters. It was brought to the front of the room so all could see it.
     One youngster asked: “Is it a boy kitty or a girl kitty?”
     The teacher, unprepared for that discussion, said, “It doesn’t matter; it’s just a kitten.”
     But the children persisted, and one little boy said, “I know how we can tell if it is a boy kitty or a girl kitty.”
     The teacher, cornered, said, “All right, you tell us how we can tell if it is a boy kitty or a girl kitty.”
     The boy answered, “We can vote on it!”

     This episode, if it’s factual, occurred several decades ago. Yet it pertains with a terrible power to the major sociopolitical problem of our time. That problem is summarized in the quote at the head of this segment.


     “Skinwalker is a Native American concept, the gist of which is a person who can turn themselves into an animal by wearing the skin of that animal. The tradition is most developed among the Navajo and is part of the Witchery Way, along with another branch known as the Frenzy Way that was used by a witch to influence the minds and emotions of others.
     “Why?” a girl in the front row asked.
     “Excuse me?” Pitcairn asked.
     “Why would they call it the Frenzy Way when it only influenced an emotion or two?” she clarified.
     “Have you ever seen video footage of a mob or riot?” he asked.
     She nodded.
     “Heard of the Salem Witch trials?” he asked.
     Again she nodded.
     “And you still wonder how much power there is in influencing emotions and thoughts? My dear, the entire marketing and advertising industry is dedicated to influencing emotions and thoughts, not to mention a little branch of human endeavor called politics.

     [John Conroe, Brutal Asset]

     Politics has become the biggest sector of human involvement and maneuvering in American life. Today it affects everything. There is no area of life in which government, and therefore politics, does not intrude.

     The reason is the great skill at manipulating human emotion which those who strive for power have acquired. If you can elevate the emotions of a substantial group over some “issue,” you can politicize that issue: i.e., you can make it seem like a proper subject for governmental action. And of course, in our “democracy” – yes, those are “sneer quotes” – that implies decision-making governed by electoral processes, whether directly or indirectly.

     Do you doubt this? Consider only one example, because it underpins everything else: the cherished right to freedom of expression. No right is more clearly expressed by the Bill of Rights. Yet today that right is under sustained attack by persons who demand that an “exception” be made for “hate speech” – and who demand the sole and absolute authority to decree what constitutes “hate speech.” Could there ever be a clearer linkage of politics to emotional appeals?

     You’d think the Left’s campaign to achieve that end would be laughed aside on the grounds of Constitutional law, three hundred years of Anglo-American tradition, and simple logic. If our power to express our opinions and convictions is politicized, then nothing remains outside the political orbit. A country once nearly wholly free would become a country wholly enslaved, a rightless chattel at the mercy of the whims of the Omnipotent State. Yet that is the abyss at whose edge we stand.


     “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton
     When Ben Franklin was carried from the constitutional convention in September of 1787, he was stopped in the street by a woman who said, “Mr. Franklin, what have you wrought?” Franklin said, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” – Lawrence Lessig

     Emotional manipulation is the means, but the politicization of everything is the end. Needless to say, the Left’s aim is to become and remain the master. Yet even if the Right were to prevail and to exterminate the Left utterly, the consequences would be just as bad.

     When we in the Right allow a subject to become political, we collaborate in our own destruction. Granted that there are some subjects which are inherently political: our military and how it’s employed, international relations, the defense of acknowledged rights by the courts. But all else is at least potentially private.

     The proper role of the American patriot in this Year of Our Lord 2018 is to preserve and re-expand the private sphere. When we depart from that role – i.e., when we engage in politics over a subject that can be made a matter for private decisions and actions – we fail of our duty.

     The Constitution of the United States was written to define and delimit the public sphere. Most of our state-level charters were made in accordance with the same ideals. Indeed, the word republic, which was once understood to be the quintessentially American term for our polity, derives from the Latin phrase rei publicae: “public matters.” If there are properly public matters, any of the Founders would have told us, there are therefore properly private matters as well – and keeping the two separate is the critical activity of men determined to remain free.


     “And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

     I’ve come to feel that the “Mishnory road” essays, which are grouped here, plus this older piece that addresses the commonalities and divergences between “orthodox” conservatism and ideological libertarianism, are the most salient of my contributions to American political discourse. Everything else I’ve ever written is a consequence of the thoughts expressed in those pieces.

     That recognition has me pondering whether to continue on with these interminable, often repetitive op-eds. If the appropriate logic for dealing with a specific “issue” can be found in something I’ve already written, why go on to write further about it? Why surrender implicitly to the Left’s endless temptation to treat every subject, great or small, as something to view through a political lens?

     Politics can be fascinating...much in the same way as torture, which it’s coming ever more to resemble. But one does not immerse oneself in a horrifying subject without sustaining personal harm.

     I harbor no illusions about my vulnerability...or my mortality. Advancing age presses those subjects upon one’s mind. So I hope you’ll bear with me as I make a number of adjustments to the sort of material I post here at Liberty’s Torch. While I appreciate the value my regular Gentle Readers place upon these screeds...candidly, often without understanding why...I hope you’ll appreciate the sense of urgency under which I labor.

     The most private of all things is one’s own life and what one chooses to do with it. Let’s resist the temptation to drown our lives in politics.

     “Keep thine eye fixed upon the doughnut, lest thou pass unaware through the hole.” – The Curmudgeon’s Carbohydrate Aphorism

Friday, May 18, 2018

I'm in NERD-Vana!

I'n in Xenia, OH, just finishing breakfast, and preparing to spend the next 2-1/2 days at the Dayton Area Ham Radio Convention. It's the biggest in the US, and something I've been looking forward to for months.

I'm still wearing the 'boot'. I won't hear back about the results of the MRI until later today, at best. Still, my husband and I agreed that I should be OK, if tired and achy, after a couple of days spent wandering the convention center. I'm looking forward to it all, and plan to come home with some wire and things to build my first antenna.

Geek Out!

The Grand Unification Curse

     There have been several large-scale, powerful, and highly observable trends in fiction this past half-century. Paradoxically, the most conspicuous ones have been in the speculative genres: fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I say “paradoxically” because those genres are commonly conceived of as where a writer goes to do something offbeat and innovative.

     The channels into which spec-fic writers mainly funnel themselves are well known:

  • Fantasy has divided into two paths:
    • Traditional (also called medieval or “high” fantasy)
    • Contemporary (also called urban fantasy)
  • Science fiction has also divided itself in two:
    • Technologically oriented (also called hard SF)
    • Sociologically oriented (also called soft SF)
  • Horror’s divisions are much the same:
    • Traditional: i.e., it employs the traditional monsters: vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghouls.
    • Non-traditional: i.e., it employs contemporary motifs such as serial killers.

     There are sub-subvarieties within the subvarieties – e.g., vampire as good guy vs. vampire as bad guy, or zombie horror vs. zombie humor – but those too are “deeply grooved,” such that little discernible deviation occurs within them.

     This seems to me to be a marketing phenomenon. When one particular channel attracts a large following, whether due to a breakthrough novel or a hot new writer, other writers flock toward it in the hope of “getting in on the action.” It might be amplified by the great difficulty of actual innovation, but that’s a subject for another time and another screed.

     However, there’s another trend that unites all these pathways. It strikes me as a dangerous one, for reasons that will shortly become apparent: the trend toward coercing one’s works into a grand unification around a single “future history” or “alternate history.”

     I don’t know who was first to promulgate the notion of a “future history.” I first encountered the idea in Robert A. Heinlein’s early stories, including the ones in The Past Through Tomorrow, Orphans Of The Sky, and Methuselah’s Children. It is notable that while Heinlein continued to develop the characters and themes in those early stories, he also explored several other threads of development that had no relation to them. Nevertheless, he was among the earliest writers to adopt the future history approach to science fiction.

     Big ideas tend to be attractors. The notion of a consistent grand-unified history proved to be one such. These days, a great many speculative-fiction writers go to great difficulty to fit everything they write into that kind of vision. As with the spec-fic subvarieties enumerated earlier, this has had a depressing effect on actual imagination.

     I’m not trying to be critical here; I’ve felt the impulse myself. Indeed, I’ve been encouraged in that direction by my readers. But I’ve tentatively decided that it’s a pull I should resist...and perhaps that others should resist for the same reasons.

     Among other things, an active imagination dislikes to be bounded or blindered. If you’re fortunate enough to possess such an imagination, you know the delight that comes from having it surprise you with an idea you’d never previously entertained. But when it presents you with such an idea, straining to force it into a previously determined paradigm is at best a dubious use of the gift.

     This came to mind this morning when my very own backbrain awarded me a fresh idea for an SF story. After I’d marveled over the uniqueness of it for a few minutes, I sat down to write it out so I wouldn’t forget it...and as I was writing it out, I started to ponder how I could fit it into the established “future history” of my Spooner Federation series.

     A subconscious alarm bell went off at that point, and thank God for it.

     Genuinely fresh ideas deserve to be treated as fresh ideas: not as suffixes to older, already-exploited ideas, however popular they might have been. It’s not because they’re “rare.” As Isaac Asimov has told us, ideas are all around us; all a writer needs to do is observe his own surroundings with an open and receptive mind, and he’ll have more story ideas than we can exploit in a normal lifetime.

     This is a plea of two kinds. I’ve wearied of never-ending series founded on a single set of characters in a consistent setting. I’ve formed the habit of automatically turning aside from any fiction offering that purports to be a volume in a series. But beyond that, I’ve encountered a number of ideas that deserved to be treated with more respect by their originators: ideas that would have been excellent foundations for stand-alone stories, but which the originator forced, Procrustes-like, to fit into a “future history” or “alternate history” structure for which they were not suited.

     The “grand-unified history” series has its attractions. Among others, if such a series starts out well, the reader may reasonably assume that further readable and entertaining stories will be available to him, soon if not immediately. But lately that’s gotten to be a less reliable assumption. Many of us are hungry for freshness, for intriguing departures from what we’ve already read. The “grand-unified history” series doesn’t promise that; indeed, it’s an unbelievable promise in the nature of the thing.

     I could go on, but that fresh SF idea I mentioned a few paragraphs ago is beckoning to me. I simply have to see what I can do with it. Later, Gentle Readers. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Quickies: A Memory

     After seeing Sarah Hoyt’s latest Facebook post, I was inexplicably yet irresistibly reminded of a whimsy of years past. It was a time in which we saw many “parody” magazines and newspapers that were formatted to look like their "real"-media targets but carried...strange contents. I have no doubt there are still a few like that, though the depths of absurdity to which the media titans of old have sunk have largely rendered the pastime unnecessary.

     At that time, inspired by the occupation of my lovely wife, who was at that time a foreclosure agent for a regional bank (“I throw widows and orphans into the gutter, preferably one that’s full of snow,” she liked to say), I came up with a “parody” publication of my own:

AMERICAN HARDASS:
The Magazine for the Professionally Unpleasant.

     After having some fun with the concept for a while, it occurred to me that a *real* publication of that sort might actually find a market. Surely it would be a hit with process servers, collection agents, repo men, dental hygienists, directors of human resources departments, IRS, EPA, and OSHA employees, proctologists, and the subspecies of government scientists that specialize in making chemical and biological weapons nastier. (I looked into whether to market it to TV wrestling villains, and discovered to my considerable surprise that most of them were mild-mannered family men when off-camera.) The idea seemed rich with possibilities.

     A buddy was equally taken by the notion, and we went some distance toward reifying it, but ran out of gas when it began to take a serious toll on our wallets. Yet thirty years later, every now and then the concept rises afresh in the musty reaches of my subconscious, and I find myself wondering...

     Don’t mind me, Gentle Reader. These little fugues come sporadically and without warning. I am getting old, you know.

The Next Attack

     As he so often does, Dystopic / Thales / Ar-Pharazon the Golden has fingered an important gambit in the war over American principles:

     Once upon a time, it was quite rare to see Leftism naked; laid bare for all to see.... Today, however, the mask slips a little further. The title lays it out, though we must fisk this mess too: You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to.

     Let the weight of this statement sink in. For the unspoken, but obvious, corollary is that since you do not have a right to belief, you can be compelled by force to exchange your belief for that of another. And who is to do the forcing? That’s the eternal question.

     Please read it all.

     Shocked? Don’t be. It’s the logical next step in the Left’s lexical campaign to destroy the meaning of the most important word in American politics: rights.

     The nature of a right is an old favorite subject of mine. A “right” isn’t just some arbitrary thing or condition someone has demanded. It must arise from human nature itself: the requirements built into our species for survival and flourishing. And of course, since a right must differ from a permission, its existence cannot depend upon someone else’s approval or cooperation. That limits the possible domain of rights to defensive claims: rights not to be attacked or otherwise aggressed against.

     In that light, how can anyone attack the right to believe what you like? There is no way to compel anyone to believe any particular thing. Indeed, there’s no way for Smith to determine with certainty what Jones does believe. Therefore the right to believe what you like is innate, even more so than the right to life. It literally cannot be infringed.

     (Might that change some day? I suppose I must allow the possibility that some bright boy with too much time on his hands might develop a technological way of reading a living human mind. However, we live in the present, and for the present there is no such technology.)

     But the assault isn’t actually on the “right to believe.” It’s on the concept of rights itself.

     The Left has already made important inroads in this sector. Their many claims of assertive “rights” — for example, the “right” to a job, or to a particular level of income, or to “decent” housing – have already clouded political discourse to the point that the original understanding of rights has been lost by all but a few. Far too many politicos have conceded such claims, whether from weariness or from the scent of a political advantage. Far too little has been done to clarify the matter, in part, no doubt, because of Leftists’ viciousness toward those who would call them what they are: whiners, liars, thieves, and would-be tyrants.

     Note how tightly the assertion that there is "no right to believe" couples to the Left's campaign to suppress the use of various other words and phrases. That campaign has already induced far too many good and decent persons to engage in self-censorship merely to avoid being shouted down as “racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” or what-have-you. You cannot cite many-times-reproduced statistical differences between the sexes, or among the races, without incurring the fury of condemnation. Indeed, a college professor recently suffered such an attack when he dared to observe that on average, men are taller than women – a factual and noncontroversial observation if ever there was one. It’s why I make regular use of words the Left has attempted to suppress. (Yes, I do so in public, and with a smile.)

     The danger is real and severe. Belief is a specimen of thought. Thought requires symbols -- words -- for its operations. Deprived of the necessary symbols, thought ceases to be possible, which makes an imposed orthodoxy impossible to resist. The “right to believe” might be even more self-evident than the rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” but the power to think through what one has seen, heard, and learned, and to reason one’s way to one’s own conclusions, depends entirely upon having the lexical tools that power requires.

     In his devastating 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell observed that:

     [I]t is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

     Orwell went considerably further in his subsequent analysis. He put the most piercing of his conclusions into the mouth of Syme, the Newspeak linguist who would eventually become an “unperson:”

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

     “By 2050 — earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like ”freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

     [George Orwell, 1984]

     Orwell, ever alert to irony, gave the following thought to antihero Winston Smith:

     One of these days, thought Winston with sudden deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized. He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people. One day he will disappear. It is written in his face.

     Food for thought – hard, serious thought.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Counterattack!

     I know that most of my Gentle Readers have little or no interest in fantasy and science fiction fandom, or in the gatherings such fans frequently organize and attend. Even so, those events have become big news for reasons other than the sort of geekery and nerdoia that usually prevails at them.

     Three occurrences have most recently made the news:

     In each case, the exclusion or disinvitation was triggered by some “social-justice warrior” slandering the writer in question. And of course, all three of those writers are in the Right: somewhere on the conservative-to-libertarian portion of the political spectrum.

     There’s simply no question what’s going on here. Neither is there much of a question about what event organizers should do about it:

     Here's the scenario. You're running an event, and on TWITter or Fecesbook, someone calls out a guest and states, "I wouldn't feel safe with this person at the con!"

     You must immediately ban this person from the convention.

     No, not the guest. The person making the public scene....

     "I wouldn't feel safe with this person at the con!"
     "We're sorry you feel that way. Here's a full refund. We hope to see you at a future event."

     Then stop responding. You'll only give attention to an attention whore.

     The essence of what writer Michael Z. Williamson has suggested in the above is so eminently logical that there’s no conceivable argument against it. Which means that the real question is: Why don’t event organizers respond that way?

     Heh, heh, heh!


     I’ve written on other occasions that the foremost strategic aim of the Left is to atomize the Right: i.e., to leave us with the conviction that each of us is permanently separated from the rest of us. The besieging of event organizers in the hope of excluding conservatives and libertarians, especially prominent ones with substantial followings, is a clear indication of that aim. The organizers’ reaction is premised on the expectation that the SJWs would cause trouble if they were not propitiated, whether at the event or afterward. It’s an example of what Mark Steyn cited in America Alone:

     If it were just terrorists bombing buildings and public transit, it would be easier; even the feeblest Eurowimp jurisdiction is obliged to act when the street is piled with corpses. But there's an old technique well understood by the smarter bullies. If you want to break a man, don't attack him head on, don't brutalize him; pain and torture can awaken a stubborn resistance in all but the weakest. But just make him slightly uncomfortable, disrupt his life at the margin, and he'll look for the easiest path to re-normalization. There are fellows rampaging through the streets because of some cartoons? Why, surely the most painless solution would be if we all agreed not to publish such cartoons.

     The SJW harassment of event organizers exploits this dynamic to the hilt. Featuring conservative writer X would provoke the SJWs into a calumny campaign against me and my event? I suppose I shouldn’t have X as a guest speaker, then. Far better not to prod them.

     But the tactic is vulnerable to a smashing counterattack, based on Williamson’s riposte. An event announcement might read approximately thus:

     GumbyCon’s rules of decorum forbid deliberate disruptions, harassment of other attendees, and of course any kind of violence. Those rules will be strictly enforced. Therefore, anyone who attempts to exclude an attendee a priori – for example, by writing to protest that “I wouldn’t feel safe with him at the convention” – will himself be excluded and barred from future events held by this organization. No admissions fees, once paid, will be refunded.

     Mention of ubiquitous, continuously recording security cameras at all points and stages of the event might also be advisable. Indeed, the threat that such recordings could thereafter make their way onto YouTube or Vimeo would mess with a lot of heads.

     But of course, this requires a certain stoic acceptance of the cost increment. It also demands a modicum of courage on the part of event organizers, a species not known for conspicuous displays of backbone.


     It’s most significant that the Amanda Green article about Larry Correia’s disinvitation from the Origins Gamers Convention is titled “It’s Time to Fight Back.” Yes, it most certainly is. But fighting back means more than merely repelling an assault. It requires the will to counterattack, to make the attacker pay a huge, disproportionate price for his insult. To this point, we in the Right have hardly even defended ourselves, much less mounted the sort of counterattacks that would have been appropriate.

     It takes more than the willingness to write baleful blog posts. And yes, I’m aware that that’s what this is. I’ve written it because it’s all that I, a lifelong recluse, can do. I can only hope that event organizers – perhaps those for DragonCon and similar gatherings – will hear the clarion.

     As has been said many times, no one ever won a war by standing strictly on defense...and you may rest assured, a war is in progress. It’s a war for the culture, for the soul of America and its promise of freedom. At the moment, only our enemies are fighting it. Draw the moral.

The anti-American left and us deplorables.

Trump has his eye on the contemporary Left’s extremism, but this is not so much the statist Left that the libertarians oppose, nor the values-and-autonomy Left resisted by the religious Right, but the anti-American Left. This Left plunged its knife into our politics in the 1960s and has been twisting it ever since.

The Old Left had opposed American capitalism, the Progressives had condemned American plutocracy, but not until the ’50s and ’60s did a significant faction of the Left begin to blame the American masses, not the elite, for the country’s sins. The people became the problem. They were racist, materialist, imperialist, sexist, and sexually inhibited, according to the original catalogue of sins; later the phobias were discovered—homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and so forth. Together these comprise pretty much the irredeemable sins Hillary had in mind when she condemned Trump’s voters as deplorable.

I think part of Trump’s apparent lack of a strategic plan is due to the fact that he does not realize that there is such a thing as the anti-American left. He understands that bad decisions have been made on immigration and trade but that this was due to negligence, not pure malevolence and destructive, revolutionary purpose. It is hard for decent people to understand that they are up against pure evil. But that is what we face. What the left has in store for the world is nothing less than the destruction of Western civilization.[1]

Notes
[1] "Thinking about Trump." By Charles R. Kesler, Claremont Review of Books, 5/7/18 (emphasis added).

Origin of the “Indispensable Nation” lunacy.

More pointedly, the Indispensable Nation meme originates not in the universal condition of mankind and the nation-states into which it has been partioned, but in the one-time, flukish and historically aberrant circumstances of the 20th century that gave raise to giant totalitarian states in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, and the resulting mass murder and oppressions which resulted there from.

But as we will outline in greater detail in Part 2, Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany were not coded into the DNA of humanity—a horror always waiting to happen.

To the contrary, they were effectively born and bred in April 1917 when the US entered what was then called the Great War. And it did so for absolutely no reason of homeland security or any principle consistent with the legitimate foreign policy of the American Republic.

So you can put the blame for this monumental error squarely on Thomas Woodrow Wilson——-a megalomaniacal madman who was the very worst President in American history; and who took America into war for the worst possible reason—a vainglorious desire to have a big seat at the post-war peace table in order to remake the world as God had inspired him to redeem it.

* * * *

It [Wilson’s intervention] led to a peace of vengeful victors, triumphant nationalists and avaricious imperialists—-when the war would have otherwise ended in a bedraggled peace of mutually exhausted bankrupts and discredited war parties on both sides. [1]

This is one of Mr. Stockman’s best articles and there’s much more in it than the excerpt above.

Notes
[1] "Why The Empire Never Sleeps: The Indispensable Nation Folly." By David Stockman, ZeroHedge, 5/15/18 (formatting removed).

Cultural Ties

I've been writing on Right As Usual about culture, and how it, in its various forms, is far more important than politics.

The thing that MADDENS Leftists/Progressives/Woke Folks is that Trump doesn't even pretend to care about their cultural signaling. He just doesn't care.

So, he indulges his tastes:

  • Gold-covered everything
  • Good-looking women who like to dress fashionably
  • His name emblazoned on buildings and other projects
  • Distinctive hair and skin color
  • Bombastic language
  • An in-your-face way of interacting with employees and opponents
The Exquisite Elite © are reducing to sputtering incoherently, screaming "racist", "adulterer", and other such time-honored tools of their caste.

Alas. He simply does not care. It's as though the Rodney Dangerfield crass persona had come to life.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Day Off

     My beloved wife often speaks of her “Crazy Tuesdays,” because on Tuesdays she visits a client who hasn’t seen her since the previous Thursday, and somehow things always go haywire – fiscally, not religiously – for them over the weekend. Well, today it’s my turn for a Crazy Tuesday – mostly home-maintenance and mechanical stuff – in recognition of which please allow me a day off from the blog. I hope to be back tomorrow. Until then, be well.

More Work for the Federal Government...

...that is, if the employees could stop spending all their time trying to impeach Trump.

An investigation is needed, with 3 results preferred:

  • Save the federal government money by shutting down these frauds
  • Give the parents 2 choices - leave, after paying restitution (with their file tagged - NEVER return, even temporarily), or go to prison
  • Shut down funding international terrorism/Islamicist activities (same thing)
If undertaken SOON, it might also tilt MN away from Blue before the next election.

Win-Win.

Chechnya insights and new perspectives.

I can’t begin to interpret the gathering you see and the words you hear in this video. Russians fought a very hard war in Chechnya and it was not one that I followed. Commenter DSCdaP wrote an excellent comment on another video which sheds some light on the subject. It reads in part:
Chechniya used to be a haven for terrorists... after the US smuggled the usual brand of Wahhabi scum into it. A very disorganised Russia barely managed to defeat them for good once Putin came to power. With the help of the current leader Ramzan Kadyrov's father, who switched sides from being a rebel to joining forces with the Russian government to defeat the Wahhabi scum. Also, Chechniya is in fact part of the Russian state, it is an autonomous republic which enjoys a great deal of independence from Moscow, but it is still part of Russia, not its own country. Even though Moscow laid waste to Chechniya because they were so disorganised and ineffective back then, Putin these days enjoys enormous popularity not just with the leadership of Chechniya but with the people as well. Ramzan Kadyrov asked 10000 elite Chechen soldiers to volunteer as Putins personal guard, not to protect the president of Russia mind you, but Putin personally, even if he leaves office, that's how popular Putin is. Putin doesn't acknowledge them to this day, because a personal army would give him way too much power, but 10000 of some of the toughest soldiers of the entire planet, not just Russia, volunteered to be his personal army... let that sink in.[1]
Here's the video:

Those 10,000 troops and police look like some well-trained, professional troops and President Kadyrov is unlike just about any other world leader. The Wikipedia entry for him is very interesting to say the least. Not your Jeffersonian democrat but a man who rose to the top in a rough environment indeed.

Consider all this a glimpse of very different kinds of men with a distinctly different idea of Islam, one with little tolerance for Salfists or adherents to ISIS. It’s a snapshot of a different kind of Muslim and draw your own conclusions. At a minimum, I suspect you will agree that the Muslim of Chechnya is a different breed of cat from those in the Middle East who seem more committed to savagery and stupidity. The interesting aspect of this video is that such loyalty to Russia, not a Muslim entity, is so firm. What was it that Vladimir Putin did to earn it is a question I’ll keep in mind when reading more about this.

The comments on the video are interesting too. The usual low life on YouTube are there but there expressions of affection and respect for the Chehens from Orthodox Christians and one statement by a Christian that they have lived peacefully with Chechens with no problems. I’ll reserve judgment on that latter point. Certainly it contrasts starkly with the general ethnic cleansing of Christians in the Middle East (except in Syria).

As a coda to this, Solzhenitsyn’s discussion of the Chechens in the third volume of his The Gulag Archipelago was fascinating. Chechens in the Soviet GULAG were not messed with by the guards because the Chechens made it a point of exacting revenge for any slight or injury visited on one of their number. They stuck together ferociously which I see as a benefit of being part of a real culture. In defense of American culture I have to say I saw similar reaction on the part of American troops in Nam. In an instant they were ready to go to the rescue of other Americans who had been on board a chopper forced to crash land nearby. They would have done anything to get to those guys and help them, which fortunately proved unnecessary.

While writing this I ran across an earlier post of mine with a video of a Muslim who similarly challenges our perceptions of Muslim thought. Here’s the interview with that gent so no need to click on the link:

This is just extraordinary. If there is any major strength of Islam and Arab culture is most certainly is not self-awareness. He certainly nails the essential failings of Arab Muslim culture but the group think and clinging to useless concepts are just as much defects of our own. We seem possessed of an insufferable arrogance, obsessed as we are by our military strength, our “exceptionalism,” and our apparent divine right to determine how everyone else in the world is supposed to live. Our "Assad the Butcher" fixation is pathetic and a lie.

And this is not to mention our own flight from truth and reason. The propaganda that sluices through American society now is 50 feet deep so we are as deluded and prideful as any salafists. President Trump gets a few things right but neither he nor our political class exert themselves to examine basic principles or have the inclination. Our "sacred" Constitution is nothing more to our political class than a dirty rag. We are a sad, deluded culture where safe spaces, crying boxes, and absurd ideas about the relations between the sexes – and sexual “identity” – are embraced with great energy. We do not pay attention to Solshenitsyn’s injunction to “live not by lies.” "Health care" is right there in the Constitution and America can bypass the U.N. Charter when it's convenient.

I won’t tie a bow on any of this. Suffice it to say that there are some other realities, allegiances, perceptions, and thinking that are out there in the world and I think some of them are more hard-edged, realistic, and honest than what delusions we concern ourselves with. Sensible and formidable people are out there. Read Kadyrov’s Wikipedia entry and ask yourself if this gentleman is likely to tolerate some human foolish enough to step into Chechnya uninvited. We, however, are scared of our own shadow on the border and fold up and slink away if some mothertrucking foreigner or leftist troll screams that we “hate immigrants.” Quote unquote.

A long period of grace is coming to an end for the Western world, controlled as it is by midgets and traitors. The post-WWII paradigm of America as the guardian and lode star for the world is beginning to fade. What the Black Swan event(s) will be is unknown but some hard lessons are about to be taught by some hard people and some harsh realities.

Notes
[1] "International Journalist Tells The Truth About Syria." The Jimmy Dore Show, 1/3/18. This is another one of Mr. Dore’s excellent commentaries/interviews on Syria and world affairs. This fellow is sharp as a tack and I recommend his videos to you. So is his guest, Rania Khalek.