Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Enemies, Negotiations, And The Legacy Fetish

Barack Hussein Obama appears to have grasped that he stands at the edge of a precipice. He’s pushed Congress, the courts, and the electorate about as far as they’re willing to go. The few major “achievements” of his time in the White House are all proving to be failures if not catastrophes. Were he to leave office today, he’d have nothing to point back to as a positive mark he’d left on the United States, even by his own twisted standards.

Which is why getting a deal with Iran, an enemy of the United States since 1979, is at the top of his agenda.

However, Obama has abandoned neither his premises nor his standards. He still regards his own country as “the problem” in any conflict with another nation. He still considers the approbation of the Left, and of left-leaning regimes wherever they are, as the highest possible mark of distinction. These are the considerations—the only considerations—that shape his approach to the nuclear negotiations with the mad mullahs.

Those premises and standards make him the living creature most dangerous to the peace of the world in our time.

“You can always get an agreement if you’re willing to give enough away.” – former U. S. Senator Robert Dole of Kansas

Negotiation is a well studied field with rules all its own. Those rules are few but absolute. Violating them during a serious negotiation can cost more than you can afford.

The first rule of negotiation is to know your interests and their ranking in priority order. To one who is negotiating for his own sake, this is usually perfectly clear. However, in international negotiations, matters can be quite different: the ruling regimes involved might have interests that diverge from the interests of the nations they rule. Worse yet, the negotiators designated by those regimes might have a third set of interests distinct from the other two. The potential for conflict could hardly be more obvious.

The second rule of negotiation is to know the dealbreakers: i.e., those issues on which either you or your adversary in negotiation is absolutely unwilling to concede. You cannot succeed in coming away from the table with an agreement worth having if either of you stake out a position that violates one or more of the other side’s dealbreakers.

The third rule of negotiation is to have a tenable, credible ultimate fallback agenda: i.e., what you are demonstrably ready, willing, and able to do in the event that no deal can be struck. This is particularly important in negotiations with an enemy, for example, over an armistice, a truce, or a peace treaty. If such an enemy doesn’t believe you’re prepared to invoke that fallback agenda, he can keep you at the table until you die of old age.

The current face-off between America and Iran violates all three of the above rules. The American side has acted throughout as if the most important outcome is that there be an agreement regardless of the specifics of its terms. This is plainly a dismissal of the American (and allied) interests involved. Worse, it implies that there are no dealbreakers for our side, despite repeated statements by American presidents and secretaries of state that Iran shall not be permitted to have a nuclear weapon. Worst of all, the Obama Administration has made it quite plain that there is no American fallback position. The only imaginable fallback should the talks fail (in objective terms, not Obamunist terms) would be a war of decapitation, as no sanctions regime capable of breaking the theocrats of Iran of their nuclear ambitions can be enforced by the U.S. alone, and the other nations involved are unwilling to assist in such a regime.

The behavior of Secretary of State John Kerry in Lausanne and of Obama here in America can only be interpreted as above. There is no way their doggedness in pursuing a deal with Iran, when it has become plain that Iran will not comply with the terms of any deal that impedes its progress toward nuclear arms, could be taken as genuinely in harmony with the foreclosure of that eventuality.

Despite all the above, the events that have transpired in Lausanne make plain that Obama is determined that there shall be an agreement, no matter what it specifies or how long it takes. He clearly doesn’t mean what he’s said about being resolute that Iran not acquire nuclear weapons. He and his spokesmen have implied repeatedly that war is absolutely beyond contemplation. Indeed, even a stiff sanctions regime is anathema to him. An agreement to which he can point as an achievement, as Bill Clinton pointed to the foolish agreement his administration concluded with North Korea over the very same subject, is all that matters to him.

The security of the United States would be badly imperiled by such an empty deal. The continuing existence of the state of Israel would become dubious. In no way would the Iranian theocrats be in the least inconvenienced.

I’m groping for a Last Graf. I can’t find one. Our electorate has twice put a narcissistic community organizer of immutable socialist ideals and impenetrable incompetence into the highest office in the United States. This is one of the consequences, over which our supposedly Republican-controlled Congress will probably demonstrate its recent impotence once again.

We have sown the wind. A whirlwind will follow. Film at eleven...if we’re lucky enough to survive that long.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Roundup of News and Information

I’ve been busy – REALLY busy – for the last few weeks.  Just catching up on life events (cleaning, organizing, taxes), lots to do at work (I DO still have to work), taking 2 grad classes (I needed Gifted and Talented endorsement to continue teaching the Honors classes), and a bum knee (partly torn meniscus, and partly osteoarthritis).
As a result, I’ve had little time to do much beyond hit the headlines, and skim the more popular blogs for the last month and a half.  I’m getting ready to pack up for my Easter Break – 9 days off work, with little to do but housework, taxes, and healing.  The kids at work are playing catch-up (review, completing and turning in unfinished work, and taking an online quiz), so I have a few minutes:
  • The continual shredding of the Constitution and properly-passed law by Obama’s administration has reached the truly disturbing level, including this

Point / Counterpoint

Two fascinating items from the weekend provide a most revealing glimpse into two contrasting mindsets. The first is from a state legislator from Vermont:

Vermont, if memory serves, observes the Second Amendment in all its glory: i.e., its laws recognize the right of the people to keep and bear arms. This is sometimes called “constitutional carry:” no permit is required to acquire a handgun, nor to carry it publicly. The number of Vermonters who exercise their rights to carry is unknown...as it should be.

Apparently, Miss Carlson is dissatisfied with this state of affairs. Whether Vermonters are aware of her opinions is also unknown...but they’re not likely to remain unaware for long.

The second item comes from the reliable, redoubtable University of Tennessee Professor of Law Glenn Harlan Reynolds, also known as InstaPundit:

Ignorance of the law, we are often told, is no excuse. "Every man is presumed to know the law," says a long-established legal aphorism. And if you are charged with a crime, you would be well advised to rely on some other defense than "I had no idea that was illegal."

But not everybody favors this state of affairs. While a century or two ago nearly all crime was traditional common-law crime — rape, murder, theft and other things that pretty much everyone should know are bad — nowadays we face all sorts of "regulatory crimes" in which intuitions of right and wrong play no role, but for which the penalties are high.

If you walk down the sidewalk, pick up a pretty feather, and take it home, you could be a felon — if it happens to be a bald eagle feather. Bald eagles are plentiful now, and were taken off the endangered species list years ago, but the federal law making possession of them a crime for most people is still on the books, and federal agents are even infiltrating some Native-American powwows in order to find and arrest people. (And feathers from lesser-known birds, like the red-tailed hawk are also covered). Other examples abound, from getting lost in a storm and snowmobiling on the wrong bit of federal land, to diverting storm sewer water around a building.

Please read it all.

“Not everybody favors this state of affairs,” indeed. For when the law, by its very luxuriance, cannot be known in its entirety by any person – when regulatory bodies that legislative oversight, much less Constitutional authority, are permitted to pass regulations with the force of law of which no private citizen is informed – the law has gone through a great and unacceptable transformation: it has become the private, secret property of the State.

The relevance of this situation to firearms law is especially strong, as the fifty states and the District of Columbia each have their own firearms laws and regulations, some of which are under legal challenge due to recent Supreme Court decisions. Thus, a man with carry rights (permitted or otherwise) in his home state is under obligation to determine to and through what other states he can travel armed without putting himself at hazard of legal penalty. Should he confuse the laws of one state with those of another, his mistake could tell heavily upon him and his family. Particularly firearms-hostile jurisdictions have levied harsh prison sentences and stiff fines upon Americans utterly innocent of any true wrongdoing. In some cases, the victims’ cars and other personal possessions have been confiscated.

But ignorance of the law is no excuse, right? Right?

If you read yesterday’s tirade, you should be concerned, at the very least, about the state of law and justice in these United States. Yet believe it or not, I know people who will defend the legal status quo to the point of a screaming fit. “It’s got to be that way!” Many of them confuse this situation with the “rule of law,” whether deliberately or otherwise.

It’s an unstable situation for at least two reasons.

First, there can never be sufficient enforcement nor prosecutorial nor judicial power to enforce all the laws extant in a uniform fashion. Laws that go unenforced implicitly weaken all law, and the rule of law itself as a governing concept. Their consequences include such ideas as “laws are for the little people.” When ordinary private Americans see politicians and celebrities granted special exemption from the laws – recall the David Gregory incident? – the damage is fatally compounded.

Second, once the notion has been accepted that the law, because of its volume and complexity, cannot be uniformly enforced, prosecutorial discretion becomes the sole determinant of who the victims will be and how badly they will suffer. Prosecutors become more powerful, de facto, than any other public official. Those in whose souls resides a seed of corruptibility are tempted to use that power. Some of them will succumb.

“Law has lost its soul and become jungle.” – Bertrand de Jouvenel

Juries willing to acquit in defiance of a trial judge’s instructions can only do so much to offset the malady described above. Even if every such jury were aware of its powers and all of them used them in every applicable instance, indictment and trial are themselves terrible ordeals to undergo. The accused citizen is often unable to maintain a job and an income. He’s usually bankrupted by lawyer’s fees, if nothing else. His familial relations will be affected as well. And of course, his reputation is likely to suffer regardless of the ultimate verdict.

Only the complete rejection of the existing corpus juris and its replacement by a penal law utterly dependent on the common understanding of justice – what used to distinguish between malum in se and malum prohibitum offenses – can correct the travesty that law and justice have become. But that cannot occur as long as there exist legislatures that feel free to disregard the constraints of the Constitution, prosecutors who believe themselves empowered to discriminate between accused citizens, regulators allowed to write “laws” beyond the legislated law and without oversight...or millions of Americans who think “there oughta be a law” is a respectable thing to say or think about any deed not covered by Commandments Five through Eight.

Food for thought.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

King’s “Justice”

     It’s a measure of the uselessness of American media that I had to learn about the following atrocity from an article in The New Zealand Herald:

[United Against Nuclear Iran] was founded in 2008 by a former CIA director and a group of retired diplomats to advocate against the nuclear Iran.

Its board includes former directors of foreign intelligence services including the U.K.'s MI-6, Germany's BND - and Israel's Mossad.

One of the strategies pursued by United Against is a campaign to "name and shame" entities that trade with Iran.

The organization named [Greek Shipping magnate Victor] Restis, who in turn sued United Against for falsely claiming his companies were "front men for the illicit activities of the Iranian regime."

     So far, nothing out of the ordinary, right? Ladies, hold on to your boyfriends: This is where things get really interesting. When the suit reached the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, a third player emerged:

The Department of Justice intervened in September, asserting the state secrets privilege.

That so-called privilege doesn't come from the Constitution or from statute.

It's an unwritten judicial rule that allows the Government to block discovery of information through ordinary litigation "when disclosure would be inimical to national security," as the district court described it.

What followed would be comical if it weren't so serious.

The government asserted privilege "by submitting classified declaration by the head of the department which has control over the matter."

But even the identity of that official is itself a secret that the court declined to reveal.

The Government said that "disclosing even the identity of the agency involved creates an unwarranted risk of exposing the information it seeks to protect."

The court accepted that argument.

     That’s right. Restis was denied access to the one and only legal path to restitution because Uncle Sam has secrets that might be “endangered.” What secrets? About what subjects? Collected by whom? You’re not cleared to know that.

     But we’re not quite done yet:

Having barred access to information, the court went on to dismiss the case altogether.

Even if Restis could prove his case without the excluded evidence, the court said, it was "convinced that further litigation of this action would impose an unjustifiable risk of disclosing state secrets."

That is, even if the court were to block discovery of any actual state secret, the mere fact of the lawsuit would have a tendency to endanger national security - even if the trial took place entirely in secret.

The court thus came perilously close to saying that the case should be dismissed because it might be embarrassing to the Government.

The trial judge, Edgardo Ramos, admitted that the outcome was "harsh."

As he put it, "plaintiffs not only do not get their day in court, but cannot be told why".

     Scared yet?

     Time was, we thought of the great judicial dangers to the private citizen as arising from such outrages as the Star Chamber, wherein an individual could be put at hazard of his life and freedom for “offenses” that fell under no statute, or for unspecified offenses. In the case above we have an almost perfectly opposite example: an individual is denied access to the courts because the State deems it contrary to its interests to allow it, but declines to say why.

     That happened in the United States, Gentle Reader. In my home state of New York.

     If the government can demand such a thing in a civil matter and have the demand honored by a supposedly independent court, it can do so in any matter whatsoever: civil, criminal, or petition for redress of grievances. The courts, supposedly the people’s defense not only against the predators among us but also the predators above us, have been nullified as instruments of justice. Their first obligation is to defer to the demands of the State.

     The needs of the State come first, don’t y’know.

     Why hasn’t this story appeared in an American organ? Do the barons of the Main Stream Media think it insignificant? Do they consider it perilously inflammatory? Or do they deem it not of interest to the majority of their dwindling readerships?

     I can easily imagine some publisher saying “Well, it’s a marginal defamation suit filed by a non-citizen, and the slanders hadn’t gotten around yet, and besides, this sort of government interference with the courts doesn’t happen all that often anyway, so what’s the big deal?” Minimization tactics. Keep the sheeple docile by reducing the destruction of justice to a minor matter, a triviality. The hell of it is, that’s a rationalization a lot of people would accept. “Wouldn’t happen to an American.” “Practically no one’s heard the slanders, so it’s almost as if they never happened.” “Protecting state secrets? Well, if they’re important enough, I suppose.”

     I think of this as the “hole in the leather” principle. Leather garments are altered only at great risk, because a hole in leather is forever. You can’t fix or patch such a hole. Neither can you fix or patch a gap in the legal system that allows the government to demand that a suit be dropped without saying why. Once that State privilege has been accepted—even once—it cannot be repaired.

     In the absolute monarchies, a king could get away with this...for a while. But kings are mortal and vulnerable. Charles I of England was beheaded for similar crimes. It’s a bit more difficult to behead the federal government of the United States. Granted that the notion has a lot of appeal.

There is no law. Barack Hussein Obama has demonstrated this.
There is no justice. The dismissal of Restis v. United Against Nuclear Iran has demonstrated this.
There is no redress of grievances against the State. This has been demonstrated too many times to require examples.

     Panama’s looking better all the time. I’m told the politicians there stay bought.

     Have a nice day.

     [Applause to Keith at Crusader Rabbit for the original link.]

This must be shared here as well


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Just How Good Are You?

     Time was, an American was reluctant to “talk himself up:” i.e., to boast openly to others about his abilities or achievements. These days, the reverse ethic is in force. At least, I often hear other people boasting about this or that under conditions where the “aw shucks” / toe rubbed in the sand response of earlier generations would have been regarded as near to obligatory.

     This has some distressing consequences. For one thing, it tends to alienate others who have a reasonably good opinion of themselves. For another, boasting routinely elicits boasting, and anyone with the slightest acquaintance with positive feedback knows how destructive that can be.

     No, this won’t be another sermonette on humility. The subject is on my mind for other reasons.

     Are you good at what you do? I’m pleased to hear it, but allow me to ask a question: How do you know?

     Most of us are competent, or perhaps slightly better, at what we’ve made our occupations. That’s a survival necessity. Even the most ramified division-of-labor economy requires that you be able to do something of value to others well enough to get paid for it. (Let’s agree to omit consideration of those whose survival skill is wheedling charity out of others.) But that makes competence-or-a-little-better the very definition of mediocrity.

     Let’s imagine for a moment that you were to become determined to find out exactly how good you are at your trade. What metric would apply? Can you think of an absolute standard against which to measure yourself? I can’t. Among other things, most human qualities are immensurate. They simply can’t be expressed in numbers, and as Robert A. Heinlein has told us, if it cannot be expressed in figures, it’s merely someone’s opinion.

     That throws us back to relative measures: “how good you are” as a ranking against others who do the same thing. How would you go about determining that?

     That’s not quite as tough a nut to crack, at least when the sample space and the skill in question are closely defined. But there’s still a lot of fuzz on it. It’s inherently imprecise. It’s driven by a variable set of performances. It’s dependent on the opinions of some evaluator who might have considerations in mind that another evaluator would dismiss.

     The subject should make a thoughtful man uncomfortable about having it brought up in his presence. All the same, there are times when there’s no way to avoid it—and the verdicts issued at such times can have a large impact upon one’s life and mental health.

     I’m about to retire from my lifelong trade. I’ve made decent money at it, and I’ve had a good time doing so. I expect to miss it at least somewhat when I down tools for the last time. What I won’t miss is the annual demand that I justify my continuing employment.

     A lot of employers, perhaps most of them, put their employees through that wringer. It’s usually called something more benign, such as a performance appraisal. The very cruelest version compels the employee to evaluate himself, a double-bind if ever there was one. It practically forces him to boast about what he’s done over the evaluation interval, at least if he’s hoping for a merit raise atop the perpetuation of his job.

     I hate it. I’ve always hated it—and I’m one of the lucky ones who, except for one case in which my employer collapsed, has never had to worry about continuing to draw a salary. So in recent years I’ve rebelled against it. No, not by refusing to fill out the forms or attend the review. I chose another approach. For each question on the form that asked me to assess myself in some particular way, I inserted the following sentence:

I should not be the one to answer this. Talk to my customers.

     The first two times I did that, it earned me the proverbial hairy eyeball from my supervisor. He would ask, usually in tones that implied severe negative consequences for non-cooperation, why I thought I could get away with it. I gritted my mental teeth, smiled pleasantly, and replied thus:

I could tell you anything at all. Without input from my customers you would have no alternative but to accept it. Have you talked to them? If so, what did they say? If not, why not? Are you afraid of what you’d hear? I’m not.

     After the second iteration of that “procedure,” word got around. Don’t challenge him. He’ll make you feel like an incompetent idiot, and he’ll do it with a smile. Inasmuch as most persons in a supervisory position don’t enjoy feeling incompetent or idiotic, I got no more grief about it after that.

     The unspoken implication of my rejoinder was, of course, that the evaluation is the supervisor’s duty. That implies a responsibility to collect as much relevant data as he can. But most supervisors dislike that responsibility just as much as they dislike feeling incompetent. There’s a good reason: they’re the same thing.

     I’d love to see the boasting plague ended now and forever. It reeks of a “measuring contest.” It calls to mind an image of two Neanderthals roaring at one another over an open fire while brandishing their favorite antelope femurs. The return of proper outward modesty might even be accompanied by a renewed inward willingness to reflect upon one’s essential smallness. that would conduce to a number of other benefits, both individual and social.

     Socrates is reputed to have said “Only one thing do I know, and that is that I know nothing.” It might be apocryphal; many statements attributed to the great departed can’t be verified. But it’s true even so. The greatest savants of the ages were aware that however much they knew, however much they had achieved, was minuscule compared to the immensity of reality—of Truth. It wasn’t until many centuries later that Kurt Godel proved that this is unavoidable, but the wisest among us have known it even so.

     Unfortunately, we won’t enjoy such a retrenchment toward modesty while the incentives to boast remain as strong as they are. There are legal structures behind those incentives. So I won’t be holding my breath. I will, however, enjoy having been released from their grip.

     Braggadocio is at the heart of many a social malady. Among those worst afflicted by it, it often leads to violence. All the same, it’s a symptom of a deeper lack, usually the lack of a worthy hero one can admire and strive to emulate.

     Think about the behavior of celebrities. Of entertainers. Of contemporary sports figures. Of politicians, as painful as that may be. In the absence of better heroes—men of achievement who were raised to glory by others, but who remained modest and quiet even while being celebrated—young men will emulate that sort of behavior. The consequences are in plain sight.

     This is one of the influences most responsible for making the world what it is. It’s a great part of the reason why I write fiction. One recent story was propelled by that and nothing else.

     Just a morsel of food for thought on an unexpectedly snowy Saturday.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Black mob violence.

They didn’t count on the Old White Dude with a bat.
"The Old Man and the Sea of Black Mob Violence." By Colin Flaherty, American Thinker, 3/26/15.

H/t: Crusader Rabbit: "Wake up, Whitey. You're at war."

The Cowing

“The State is based on threat.” – Robert Anton Wilson
“I was never molested by any person but those who represented the State.” – Henry David Thoreau

Every government demands immediate, unresisting obedience from every one of its subjects at every instant of every day. No, not every government gets such total submission, and not all of them expect it at all times, but they all demand it...and they have their ways of working toward it.

In the majority of cases, the key element of the government’s strategy is fear:

  • Fear of the government’s agents;
  • Fear of the opinions of other subjects;
  • Fear of those from whom the government claims to “protect” us.

All three of those varieties of fear are being deployed here in the Land of the Formerly Free.

Concerning fear of the agents of the State, John Whitehead provides an example from the words of a generally decent man:

Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. [Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham]

Needless to say, the government is happy to have Reverend Graham’s assistance in cowing the public. Here’s a little self-exculpation for police wrongdoing from a Los Angeles cop:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

...While most citizens are courteous and law abiding, the subset of people we generally interact with everyday are not the genteel types. You don’t know what is in my mind when I stop you. Did I just get a radio call of a shooting moments ago? Am I looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive? For you, this might be a “simple” traffic stop, for me each traffic stop is a potentially dangerous encounter. Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns. Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is.

Interpret that however you will.

Prosecutors’ offices are masters of the fine art of untraceable slander: spreading accusations about a targeted citizen that causes his neighbors and friends to view him unfavorably. Thus the second technique for cowing us comes into play: The willingness to believe an accusation from an “official” source.

Consider the number of recent cases of false accusations of rape. Rape is a particularly horrible crime; back when we were more civilized, it was punishable by death. Surely it’s an accusation no one should take – or make – lightly.

That doesn’t mean such an accusation, once made, should be immediately and uncritically believed:

In March 2006, Crystal Gail Mangum, an African-American student at North Carolina Central University[1][2] who worked as a stripper,[3] dancer and escort, falsely accused three white students, members of the Duke Blue Devils men's lacrosse team, of raping her at a party held at the house of two of the team's captains in Durham, North Carolina, on March 13, 2006. Many people involved in, or commenting on the case, including prosecutor Michael "Mike" Nifong, either called the alleged assault a hate crime or suggested it might be one.[4][5][6][7]

In response to the allegations Duke University suspended the lacrosse team for two games on March 28, 2006. On April 5, 2006, Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was forced to resign under threat by athletic director Joe Alleva and Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the remainder of the 2006 season. On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players – Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans – were victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."[8] The initial prosecutor, Durham County, North Carolina District Attorney Michael Nifong, labeled a "rogue prosecutor" by Cooper, withdrew from the case in January 2007 after the North Carolina state Bar filed ethics charges against him. In June 2007, Nifong was disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation", making him the first prosecutor in North Carolina disbarred for trial conduct. Nifong served one day in jail for lying about sharing DNA tests (criminal contempt); the lab director said it was a misunderstanding and Nifong claimed it was due to weak memory.[9] Mangum faced no charges for her false accusations as Cooper declined to prosecute her.[10]

Cooper pointed to several inconsistencies in Mangum's accounts of the evening and Seligmann and Finnerty's alibi evidence, in the findings report's summary. The Durham Police Department came under fire for violating their own policies by allowing Nifong to act as the de facto head of the investigation; giving a suspect-only photo identification procedure to Mangum; pursuing the case despite vast discrepancies in notes taken by Investigator Benjamin Himan and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb; and distributing a poster presuming the guilt of the suspects shortly after the allegations.[11] The ex-players are seeking unspecified damages and new criminal justice reform laws in a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the City of Durham.[11] The case sparked varied responses from the media, faculty groups, students, the community, and others.

Nor are prosecutors the only ones who exploit the power of a charge of rape:

Tawana Glenda Brawley (born 1972) is an African-American woman from Wappingers Falls, New York, who gained notoriety in 1987–88 for falsely accusing six white men of having raped her. The charges received widespread national attention because of her age (15), the persons accused (including police officers and a prosecuting attorney), and the shocking state in which Brawley was found after the alleged rape (in a trash bag, with racial slurs written on her body and covered in feces). Brawley's accusations were given widespread media attention in part from the involvement of her advisers, including the Reverend Al Sharpton and attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason.[1]

After hearing evidence, a grand jury concluded in October 1988 that Brawley had not been the victim of a forcible sexual assault and that she herself may have created the appearance of such an attack.[2] The New York prosecutor whom Brawley had accused as one of her alleged assailants successfully sued Brawley and her three advisers for defamation.[3]

That case made the odious Al Sharpton a national celebrity of the order (and variety) of Jesse Jackson.

If we can be induced to fear others, particularly those nearest to us, the more credulous among us will be more likely to look to the government for “protection.” The government is quite amenable to such developments. In fact, it strives to help them along:

Crime stats published by the FBI and relied upon by the media distort the gun violence and leave the public with the impression "mass shooting" incidents are a much bigger threat than they really are, according to a criminologist and Second Amendment scholar.

The bureau's annual reports tabulating and classifying a wide range of crime throughout the nation have been historically free of politics, but John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, said the latest statistics contain numbers that are misleading at best and deliberately fudged at worst. Lott believes the numbers may have been presented to overstate for political purposes the true risk of being a victim of random gun crimes.

“The FBI put out a clearly incorrect set of numbers on public shootings shortly before the November election last year,” said Lott, a frequent opinion writer for FoxNews.com and author of "More Guns, Less Crime." “I have been reading FBI reports for 30 years and I have never seen anything like this. It is one thing for the Bureau of Justice Statistics or the National Institute of Justice to put out politically biased studies, but there has always been a Chinese wall separating the FBI raw data collection from political pressures.”

About half of the population of the United States owns one or more firearms. The government is laboring mightily to make the other half suspicious of us. Fraudulent statistics that can be blared out by anti-gun-rights media organs make a major contribution to the government’s efforts. One need only look at the hysteria the state of Connecticut engendered after the Newtown massacre, or the comparable aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, to grasp the utility to the government of having our neighbors fear us.

One final thought before I close for today. The government’s efforts at cowing us have intensified greatly in the last few years. The reason might seem counter-intuitive: it’s a response to the upsurge in political activism by Americans unhappy with the direction the country has taken and determined to reverse its course. The government and its hangers-on could have adopted an attitude of conciliation, which will strike many a Gentle Reader as the more sensible approach. However, those in its driver’s seat find such an approach unpalatable, as it would imply a willingness to admit to errors and to make concessions, at least on conditions: an attitude any power-worshipper would deem anathema.

But if the government must struggle to make us fear, by implication we have little objective reason to fear. Indeed, we might be in far less danger – from anyone or anything – than we’ve long supposed. It suggests that our response to the government’s efforts should be to redouble our own.

“Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Interesting Question

Here's the summary for Hillary Clinton's custody of State Department official records:
  • She used her personal server to store official Department email.  She never used a government email account; in fact, never was issued a dot-gov address.
  • That server, while physically secure (according to her), has not been determined to be secure from hacking.   She has, so far, refused to turn over her server for inspection by disinterested 3rd-parties.
  • She APPARENTLY did not sign the OF-109, which certifies

I've put up a good number lately

This being pretty much a collection of links, all "deep thought" stuff. I don't know how many here go to my site to read my stuff. Hopefully everybody reads everybody else's stuff. I know I need to go elsewhere more. .

The fact remains that we are the voice of the people, not restrained by "pc" by and large.

Stand strong, and keep fighting.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Talking trash.

No one wants to be a member of a party of traitors or of a government of traitors. Clinton and Obama didn’t accidentally stumble into their policies. They were guided by a deep rotten belief that the United States was always wrong and that the enemy, no matter how evil, had a legitimate grievance.

They can’t admit to this treasonous idea, even though they repeat it constantly in various forms, so their only defense is to claim that their treason is patriotism and that anyone who disagrees is a traitor.

"Obama's Treason is the New Patriotism." By Daniel Greenfield, Sultan Knish, 3/16/15.

Colin Powell – backstabber.

Powell’s accusation [that there is a “dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the Republican Party on race”] is ridiculous on its face. Part of the Republican Party’s problem today is that the party’s leadership, if that’s the right word, is even quicker to grovel on matters of race than Democrats are, almost always at the expense of the Americans who might actually consider voting for them. The quickest way to reduce a typical Republican pol to a quivering jelly is to whisper “racist” in his ear.

Powell’s ongoing ingratitude illustrates another aspect of the pointlessness of Republican “outreach” to most minorities. Not only does the pandering alienate possible supporters, but the pandered-to, even when as lavishly preferred and honored as Powell has been, are almost never grateful. In Powell’s case, the pandered-to diversity paladin is not only ungrateful, he’s a back-stabber to boot.

"Calling Out Colin Powell." By Henry McCulloch, The Thinking Housewife, 3/19/15.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Off The Mishnory Road: Absolutes

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 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?”

Note how this applies to argument. This significant episode related by Mike Adams:

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

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

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

Columnist Maggie Gallagher once wrote that if there is no such thing as objective, absolute truth, then all our statements to one another are merely instruments of manipulation, attempts to use one another, or to avoid being used. Apply that insight to Mike Adams’s encounter related above, and ponder the implications.

A couple of recent political polls have presented the reader with an intriguing question: “Among the following issues in current political discourse, which would be your ‘hill to die on?’” To select any of the subsequent choices – or an issue not listed – would imply that the reader holds that position as “a matter of principle,” not to be compromised at any price. But given how few persons grasp the meaning of principle, we might prefer a clearer statement: “My position on this issue is absolutely right; therefore, I cannot be persuaded to retreat from it.”

In that connection, have a favorite quote from Herbert Spencer:

I asked one of the members of Parliament whether a majority of the House could legitimize murder. He said no. I asked him whether it could sanctify robbery. He thought not. But I could not make him see that if murder and robbery are intrinsically wrong, and not to be made right by the decisions of statesmen, then similarly all actions must be either right or wrong, apart from the authority of the law; and that if the right and wrong of the law are not in harmony with this intrinsic right and wrong, the law itself is criminal.

...and a snippet from 1984:

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote:
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

If Spencer and Orwell were correct, then our adversaries’ entire campaign consists of the assertion that two plus two can be made not to make four by political decree. Ponder the implications of that.

There is an underlying objective reality. All the froth and gas about the irremediable uncertainty of human knowledge is merely an attempt to confuse the issue: to substitute human limitations for that metaphysical postulate. While we can never achieve absolute precision in our knowledge of reality, we can approach it asymptotically. The Principle of Correspondence, the very heart of theoretical physics, expresses that postulate as well as it can be expressed.

Consider also the Aristotelian approach to definition: the assignment of objects to categories on the basis of their shared properties. No other approach to definition makes abstraction, and therefore reasoning, possible – and it rests immovably upon the assumption that an object’s properties are objectively real rather than mere matters of opinion.

It is possible that objective reality has a dynamic aspect – i.e., that some or all of the laws of nature change over time, albeit very slowly. Indeed, modern cosmology is founded on that conjecture. However, whatever reality is at a given instant is what it is. Quoth Star in Robert A. Heinlein’s Glory Road:

"May it please milord hero, the world is not what we wish it to be. It is what it is. No, I have over-assumed. Perhaps it is indeed what we wish it to be. Either way, it is what it is. Le voila! Behold it, self-demonstrating. Das Ding an Sich. Bite it. It is. Ai-je raison? Do I speak truly?"

Either that truism is true beyond the possibility of refutation, or there’s no point in saying anything at all.

One point of these “Off The Mishnory Road” pieces is to deflect current conversation from politics, a realm in which “everybody’s got a right to an opinion,” to the bedrock upon which all argument must be based, political argument most emphatically included. Given that, this essay should be considered the prerequisite to all the others. It’s rather a pity that that didn’t occur to me up front, but here we are.

In effect, I want us to be equipped to make the following statement to a political opponent:

“Regardless of how passionately attached we are to our respective positions, we can’t evade this: one of us is right and the other is wrong. We have to have some criteria to determine which is which, if our politics is to be beneficial rather than harmful. What criteria should we use? In other words, what evidence would persuade you to reconsider your position, and what evidence would persuade me to reconsider mine?”

Evidence – facts – data from objective reality – is the only means by which any position can be verified or falsified. He who is not prepared to accept the possibility that data might exist that contradict his position has elevated it to an article of faith...and you know it’s useless to argue matters of faith.

More anon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The greatest threat to European man and their primary mode of attack.

Listen up all those attacking Peter Hitchens and attempting to portray Putin and Russia as one the major threats to Europeans and the security and territory of its majority historical populations that we face today

. . . [It] is not Putin or Russia that [have] been busy the last 50 years waging a relentless mean, wicked, evil cynical and pathological campaign of racial double standards, and cultural and demographic vandalism and terrorism [against] all of its own majority populations in North America, Australia and Europe.

The morally diseased ruling elite in the West, in finance, [government], media, the civil sector and academia appear fully committed to transforming the West into an Africanised, Muslimised, Mexified, [Asianised,] third world[,] crime ridden, [impoverished,] multi-tribalised slum, together with the ever more draconian speech crime laws and [an] oppressive authoritarian police state required to demonise, intimidate, hoodwink, persecute, prosecute, and cattle prod any uppity Whites who attempt to stray beyond the Orwellian [fence] lines of their ideological Stalinist gulag by protesting our own demographic ethnic cleansing[.]

The Western elite represent the greatest threat to the future and biological survival of European man in recorded history. They are the only thing which has ever put a question mark over the biological survival of European man

This modern day[,] sociopathic[,] criminal syndicate of geeks, crooks, [lackeys], career spivs, [demagogues], fanatical hacks, sophists and cringing conformists are intent on interpreting their crimes as proof of their moral supremacy.

And they've duped you. All they have to do is say the words, "racist[,]" "fascist[,]" "Hitler" and like Pavolivian reflex dogs that are trained to salivate at the sound of a bell ringing, you mindlessly obey and attack your own flesh and blood[.]

You are so naive and gullible, that you haven't [figured] out that the reason they have spent all of their time accusing their opponents of being "fascists" is [because] they know that's all it takes to dupe you into thinking[:]

"Oh, in that case this means they must be the exact opposite[.]" [He probably means, "Oh, in that case they surely must be fascists." BB]

Grow up, man up, stop being such a useful idiot and apologetic whimp for your culture, nation, [civilization] and race. Grow a spine and stop being manipulated by snake oil peddlers and petrified of being [called] a "racist[.]"

For them you are just livestock[,] tax cattle and cannon fodder.

Comment by Dan O'Connor on "It’s Nato that’s empire-building, not Putin." By Peter Hitchens, The Spectator, 3/7/15.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Off The Mishnory Road: The Stoic Virtues And Masculinity

Before we launch into today’s tirade, please read Dystopic’s latest opus at The Declination. The snippet that inspired me is at the very beginning:

There is a certain irony in the fact that Progressives, with their White privilege narrative, are too deeply rooted in European history to notice that other cultures are fundamentally unlike them. So when China tells them that human rights are a thing, and they are working on the problem, the Left blindly believes them. They do not understand the nature of Asian culture and persist in seeing it from a Western perspective.
The alpha male of the world order, the US, is neither willing nor capable of defending the steering system. It has ceased being the indispensable nation. The streak of idealism has disappeared, forcing the US to fall back on raw power despite the talk about soft power. Moral authority has slipped away, no longer available to support and substantiate US policies and interventions. [From this piece -- FWP]

Terminology is important here. The author carefully made use of the term “alpha male,” a code word on the Left that signals a universal derision. Your official Two-minutes Hate is now required. For them, this is a seminal moment. In their minds, the great Evil, the sinister demon, the focus of all their efforts, is finally beginning to topple from its golden throne. They have exposed the war mongering beast.

“Alpha male” a pejorative Yes, indeed it is...on the Left. Did you think the anti-masculinity stance of the gender-war feminists was irrelevant to the greater whole? Quite the opposite: it’s at the heart of the Leftist philosophy, insofar as they have one.

Masculinity in this context has nothing to do with sex. It’s entirely about the virtues traditionally associated with the well-bred, well-reared Western man.In the classical era, masculinity was deemed inseparable from the Stoic Virtues:

Borrowing from the Cynics, the foundation of Stoic ethics is that good lies in the state of the soul itself; in wisdom and self-control. Stoic ethics stressed the rule: "Follow where reason leads." One must therefore strive to be free of the passions, bearing in mind that the ancient meaning of 'passion' was "anguish" or "suffering",[20] that is, "passively" reacting to external events—somewhat different from the modern use of the word. A distinction was made between pathos (plural pathe) which is normally translated as passion, propathos or instinctive reaction (e.g., turning pale and trembling when confronted by physical danger) and eupathos, which is the mark of the Stoic sage (sophos). The eupatheia are feelings that result from correct judgment in the same way as passions result from incorrect judgment.

The idea was to be free of suffering through apatheia or peace of mind (literally, 'without passion'),[21] where peace of mind was understood in the ancient sense—being objective or having "clear judgment" and the maintenance of equanimity in the face of life's highs and lows.

For the Stoics, 'reason' meant not only using logic, but also understanding the processes of nature—the logos, or universal reason, inherent in all things. Living according to reason and virtue, they held, is to live in harmony with the divine order of the universe, in recognition of the common reason and essential value of all people. The four cardinal virtues of the Stoic philosophy are wisdom (Sophia), courage (Andreia), justice (Dikaiosyne), and temperance (Sophrosyne), a classification derived from the teachings of Plato.

Following Socrates, the Stoics held that unhappiness and evil are the results of human ignorance of the reason in nature. If someone is unkind, it is because they are unaware of their own universal reason, which leads to the conclusion of kindness. The solution to evil and unhappiness then, is the practice of Stoic philosophy—to examine one's own judgments and behavior and determine where they diverge from the universal reason of nature.

If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of the “cardinal” virtues, there it is. Wisdom (alternately, prudence), courage (alternately, fortitude), justice, and temperance are just as essential to the well-bred, well-reared man today as they were to the classical Greeks.

In this connection, ponder this compact expression of Aristotle’s approach to happiness:

  1. Happiness – that which we seek as an end in itself and for no other reason – is the consequence of a life well lived.
  2. To live well requires the cultivation and consistent practice of the Stoic virtues.
  3. We acquire the virtues by practicing them – i.e., by acting virtuously in advance of internalizing them.
  4. Therefore, happiness – what we all seek – depends upon the practice of the Stoic virtues.

Gentle Reader, it could not be made any simpler.

If you accept the above, it would follow that masculinity as the Stoics understood it is essential to happiness. (That the Stoics were less concerned with the feminine virtues need not trouble us here.) If a society’s men are adequately masculine – i.e., if they cultivate and practice the Stoic virtues – that society will have a good chance of being a happy one. Inversely, if a society’s men are notably unmasculine, that society will be mired in misery. It’s probably at the edge of destruction.

A happy society need not consist entirely of unvaryingly happy men. Every man will know setbacks, disappointments, and suffering at various times in his life. But a happy enveloping society will incorporate the attitudes, institutions, and mechanisms by which he can survive, persevere, and ultimately prevail over his troubles, with or without assistance. Note also that the assistance of others in one’s times of troubles is far more likely in a society that celebrates the Stoic virtues.

I argued in the previous essay that Leftists are hostile to the concepts of fun and play. That follows from their “The personal is the political” attitude toward all of human affairs. Fun and play are inherently personal experiences. They cannot be collectivized; they can only be sought by individuals, each to his own. Thus, the Left resents those quintessential manifestations of happiness: if you’re having fun, you’re insufficiently engaged in a Left-approved Cause.

I begin to sense that everything that conduces to happiness will countervail Leftist thought and goals. Nor am I surprised by that.

To sum up: the Stoic conception of masculinity is a better approach to the concept than the simplistic contemporary idea of the masculine as purely aggressive. The famous maxim from John Bernard Books in The Shootist:

I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.

...captures Stoic masculinity better than any equally concise formulation, both in what it asserts and what it omits. There’s a reason for the enduring popularity of Western adventures such as that one; their heroes inspire us to think of what we could be.

To recover what we have lost, traditional Western masculinity, depending upon the Stoic virtues and their implications, must be conserved and perpetuated. To conserve it, we must defend it; to perpetuate it, we must celebrate it and the examples of it, and pass it on to our successor generations. The passivity and acceptance of subjugation characteristic of most Eastern cultures, which the Left would have us emulate, cannot stand against it.

More anon.

Our own worst enemy.

To be frank, the West does not even need foreign enemies to help it collapse. Just think of Rousseau’s definition of a perfect society as one in which a man remains as free as he was before he entered it. Under these terms, how can the West have worse enemies than its own citizens? . . .

. . . The West is compassionate to the point of stupidity, for sure, but out of some momentary identification with some haphazard others and not out of any charity whatsoever. Absolute individualism is the real plague of the West.

Pogo, the cartoon possum, was right. Remember "We have met the enemy and he is us"? Liberals have loved that witticism because to them it was a shorthand way of ridiculing any rightist who thought not surrendering to communism or the liberal/progressive agenda (but I repeat myself) was an excellent foreign and domestic policy.

As the LibProgs like to think: The enemy = Us! Them! Rubes, simpletons, and knuckledragging racists who inexplicably object to being colonized by Asians, Mexicans and Muslims.

No tendency or unavoidable consequence of liberalism or progressivism is acknowledged. The slaughter and hideous oppression of the 20th-century -- and 1,400 years of Islamic imperialism and slavery -- go unacknowledged as the leftist embrace of benevolent absolutism tightens and tightens.

No. It's the (neo-)Nazis, the far right (Nazis), the radical right (Nazis), and the "nationalists" (Nazis) who are the danger.

In reality, citizens who cannot bear any restriction on their freedom of action and willingly prey on the productive few will will not recognize any restriction imposed by even benign institutions founded on time-tested laws, custom, and religion. They see nothing to be defended in the kill joy state, offer no service, and demand unearned forced exactions from their betters.

If you wonder why leftist Americans do not object to the 30-50M invasion of America, this is your answer.

[1] "Suicide of the West (Revisited)." By Prof. Claude Polin, Chronicles, 1/1/14 (subscription only).

Not a union, not a democracy, and not a republic.

So the fateful war [War Between the States] was fought, and union was proclaimed to have been restored. A scurrilous claim: It is symbolic that the South could be reinstated as a member of the Union only after a team of Northern generals had razed it. . . .

Although the Constitution of 1787 was not subjected to a complete overhaul, it was dealt a blow that was actually lethal, though not immediately: It took some time for the passengers on the Titanic to realize their ship was sinking. What can be the everlasting value, the enduring legitimacy of an agreement that is not free anymore but enforced by sheer violence upon some of its partners, who had rejected it upon the unassailable grounds that its original terms had been ignored? . . .

The use of violence to impose the Constitution having set a precedent, a spirit of reverence for the use of force and a propensity to condone the power it conferred progressively contaminated a country henceforth dominated by the heirs of Sherman et al. . . . [T]he new spirit blossomed and spread throughout its new empire, claiming as its manifest destiny a right to conquer land, master nature, acquire riches, and, in a word, become as mighty as possible.[1]

So . . . it's not a union at all. And hasn't been since 1861. As the author indicates, the Northern version of the Constitution was jammed down the throats of the South. After the war, South Carolina got a Constitution written by northerners imposed on it.

Now it's the globalists, anti-white views of the Treason Class that are jammed down everyone's throat. Including the throats of Russians, Serbs, Syrians, and Libyans.

[1] "1865: The True American Revolution." By Prof. Claude Polin, Chronicles, 3/2/15.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Feminist theater.

I linked to this video in a recent post on my own blog but it deserves to be highlighted. I suppose good money was used to produce this atrocity. The question is, "Why?"

Off The Mishnory Road: Fun And Games

I’ve subjected my Gentle Readers to three “Politically Insoluble” essays. The themes in those essays have kept me going back to the core concept behind them all:

“They say here ‘all roads lead to Mishnory.’ To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.” [Ursula LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness]

If we’re going to get “off the Mishnory road” – i.e., if we’re to stop looking to political processes for the restoration of freedom – we must do so deliberately, fully conscious of what we intend.

I gave a few examples of what I have in mind in the last of those three essays. They addressed problems that are normally left in the political sphere as if that sphere did not exist. Were the approaches perfect? Assuredly not. But the driving force – turning away from political processes in the vain hope of solutions from those processes – is the important thing.

One of the keys to an improved future is the conservation of what remains good and worthy today. Once again: don’t think ‘politics’ as you read this. Think rather of what you, the Twenty-First Century’s Robinson Crusoe, would carry away from the slowly submerging wreck of contemporary American civilization before the chance is lost.

For today, I’d like to focus on the critical distinction between the psychologies of Right and Left. It’s one that the media have attempted to efface:

  1. Leftists regard all of life as fodder for political processes and State intervention. No subjects, no activities, and no attitudes are regarded as intrinsically private.
  2. Rightists believe in a private sphere in which politics and the State have no place. (Some Rightists disbelieve in any sphere for State action, but that’s a separate subject.)

In this connection, ponder well this essay on the Sturm und Drang besetting the video gaming community. Take particular note of the following highly revealing snippet:

[W]hile watching a video about GamerGate, I clicked on a link to an archive of one of the original articles, “A Guide To Ending Gamers” by Devin Wilson at Gamasutra....

I was scrolling down through the article’s list of strategies for eliminating gamers, trying to keep an open mind, and actually thinking there were one or two somewhat valid points. Then I got to item #11:

We stop upholding “fun” as the universal, ultimate criterion for a game’s relevance. It’s a meaningless ideal at best and a poisonous priority at worst. Fun is a neurological trick. Plenty of categorically unhealthy things are “fun”. Let’s try for something more. Many of the alternatives will have similarly fuzzy definitions, but let’s aspire to qualities like “edifying”, “healing”, “pro-social”, or even “enlightening”. I encourage you to decide upon your own alternatives to “fun” in games (while avoiding terms like “cool” and “awesome” and any other word that simply caters to existing, unexamined biases).

That paragraph represents everything that is wrong with social justice thinking in less than 100 words.

Indeed it does...but be sure to isolate the central concept rather than merely turning away in disgust:

The Left abhors fun because it’s inherently apolitical.

It’s worth a moment or two of your time to reflect on why that is so.

Fun – that which we strive to attain through the “play impulse” – is one of the keys to a successful life. C. S. Lewis noted its importance in The Screwtape Letters:

I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What that real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven—a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.

Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

We play – i.e., we engage in activities that have no deliberate gain in view – specifically because it’s fun. It comes naturally to us to do so, especially when in the company of those we love. One of the great quantitative differences between America and other nations is the fraction of our resources we have available for play. It could justly be said that Americans are the world’s foremost players – no pejorative intended.

Americans are so fun-oriented that we devote whole industries to it, most emphatically including the video gaming industry. We even seek to make our work lives fun, to the extent that might be possible. My favorite source of business advice, Robert C. Townsend, put it this way:

If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if it’s not excellent it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing here?

(Granted that not much can be done for coal mining or grave digging. But note how such jobs are the ones most swiftly put to automated techniques.)

The entire point of video gaming is fun, delivered through virtualized adventures in which a gamer can face all sorts of challenges and trials without actually risking life, limb, or loot. The gamer can imagine himself to be an intrepid explorer, a mighty warrior, a brilliant detective, a pioneering spaceman, or whatever. For a few hours he can experience challenges and take risks that his mundane life doesn’t offer. Afterward, he can pop out the DVD, turn off the console, and return to that mundane existence nicely refreshed.

But while we’re having fun, we’re not focused on some Cause. We’re not straining under some heavy load of moral obligation. We’re not engaged in some humorless, self-righteous attempt to remake others according to our priorities and preferences. To whatever extent we ever indulge such considerations, the play impulse shoves all of them to the back of the stove.

Fun and the Left are mortal enemies.

The following tangent should give any thinking American pause for thought:

"There is no room for play in Islam. Islam is deadly serious...about everything." [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]

Islam, like Leftist politics, attempts to absorb all of life into a single, all-encompassing set of prescriptions and proscriptions. Both mindsets demand that nothing be allowed to exist independent of their dictates. Their hostility toward fun is probably the best indictment one could lay against either. Note also that though many, perhaps most Leftists denigrate and deride Christianity, the very same folks never have a word to say against Islam. Cowardice? Perhaps. But the sub rosa recognition among Leftists that Islam is “the enemy of my enemy” should not be overlooked.

Play – the quest for fun — is a bastion of freedom. It’s inherently invulnerable to the attacks of the “social justice warriors.” They know it, which is why they’re so anxious to anathematize it.

The “social justice warriors” would simply love to take over the gaming industries and put them to use in their preferred directions. However, it’s impossible by the very nature of gaming. As they awaken to this immutable aspect of gaming, they will shift to an all-out assault on gaming. If they cannot conquer it, they must destroy it.

Developments such as “GamerGate” point in that direction. They also point to the best countermeasure available to us: laughter.

Laugh at the “social justice warriors.” Exclude them from your gatherings. Ostracize them so completely that they have no one to rant and rave to but one another. Conserve and propagate the fun in gaming. Make it profitable to produce highly involving, fun-filled games utterly devoid of any political, economic, or sociological message. Then play them, independently or in groups, and hold them out to the unaware as among the under-appreciated fruits of freedom and capitalism. Just because they hate fun doesn’t mean we have to put down our toys.

I’ll leave it to others to draw the parallel between gaming and the independent-writers movement.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

An Idea That Might Prove...Fertile

I’ve decided that today will be put mainly to fiction, but I’ve hatched an idea that I find so fascinating that I thought I might expose it here for general reflection and commentary.

The nation has gone “recycling crazy,” with mandatory programs for the recycling of bottles, cans, and newspaper in nearly every town in America (despite the provable fact that such programs are totally unnecessary). The underlying ideas are that dump space is precious and must be conserved, and that if we fail to recycle certain things, we’ll run out of the materials they’re made from. The first of those propositions is hard to argue with, but the second one is easily refuted. However, the recycling concept isn’t inherently bad, when the economics of the matter are suitable (Cf. Thomas T. Thomas, First Citizen).

Very few writers ever apply basic economic principles to political power.

Political power is a variety of interpersonal relationship; it’s power wielded by some men over others. Note the implied requirement: to have power, there must be “others” over whom one can wield it. That makes those “others” – the rulers’ subjects – a scarce resource over which competing groups of rulers will contend.

This has more import than one might suppose at first blush. For example, among the topics of contention during the peace talks after World War I was the question of how to redraw the map of Europe so that the losing nations would lose rather than gain population. The totalitarian states of our time all practice strict border control to deter their subjects from even thinking of escape. During the Nineteenth Century, the western land frontier was a considerable impediment to the statist designs of eastern American politicians. To be a ruler, one must have people to rule.

Traditional concepts of war involve, in a simplistic sense, the clash of the armed forces of two warring nations. In such a view, the civil societies of those nations are important principally as economic engines to power their armies. Which army prevails will determine which government can impose its will on the other. But this is a short-term view of warfare, which according to Clausewitz is merely the continuation of politics by violent means.

In truth, nations don’t fight wars; governments do. The reason for every war ever fought, and for every war that ever will be, is that one or both of the combatant governments wants more power, or wants to retain what power it has.

Add that observation to this one: a government’s actual power is directly proportional to the number of its subjects.

What are they really fighting over?

Among the truly important books of recent years, I place Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It high on the list. Steyn’s focus on demography, with particular emphasis on the decline in birth rates in First World nations, was a revelation to many persons who had no idea that any such trend was in progress. Yet that trend stands behind a huge percentage of recent political decisions, including the most pernicious of them: the ones that have largely surrendered Europe to invading hordes of savages from Islamic hellholes.

Steyn is not the first writer to notice that the First World is “underproducing people.” Ben Wattenberg noticed our decelerating willingness to breed in the late Eighties. When he tried to draw public attention to it, he was shrugged aside. At that time, the demographic fluxes that produced the current European calamity were just getting into gear; few foresaw the crisis they would eventually produce.

The correlation between prosperity and fertility is strong and negative. As people become wealthy, they sharply reduce their childbearing. Today the only First World nation with a “replacement level” birth rate is the United States; the native populations of all the other First World nations are steadily dwindling, with some below the “point of no return” level that guarantees their eventual extinction. To the typical Westerner, this is a non-problem. No progeny to give the nation a new generation? So what? We’re doing fine right here in the present; now shut up so we can enjoy Real Housewives of Dubuque. As I’ve written before, it’s tough to get people to concern themselves about descendants they simply don’t intend to have.

But to one whose drive is getting, increasing, and keeping power – i.e., a ruler or an aspiring ruler – it’s the biggest problem he can imagine.

Here’s a possible future for you: a future in which every nation is at war with every other nation over the one thing that matters to any and every government.

The “use it or lose it” principle has finally reared its head in the most significant way: the human race is slowly losing the ability to reproduce. Birth rates are declining and censuses are dwindling all over the world. Former economic powerhouses have gone into steep, personnel-bound declines. Even Third World nations with traditionally high birth rates are no longer able to replace their populations through reproduction. Yet the international competition continues, whether overtly or covertly. Rulers simply must rule.

Artificial intelligence has proved to be a phantasm. Robots are useless for everything but fully repetitive, programmable tasks. Anything requiring reasoning ability must be “manned,” rather than “roboted.” In consequence, when someone outside the law is captured, his personality is electrochemically destroyed and replaced with a stored personality from a dead citizen of great value.

Alloplastic medicine has evolved to the heights, such that any part of the body other than nerve tissue can be replaced by an artificial organ. Thus, lifespans have skyrocketed...but the extension of bodily life has its limits, for the brain cannot be kept from wearing down, entering a period of terminal weariness, and shutting itself off permanently.

Farming is in crisis. It’s a task at which robots have proved ineffective. Food stocks can only be maintained by men and man-guided machines (e.g., harvesters, plows, etc.). Automation is applicable only to purely rote tasks and only in good weather.

Under such conditions, each government’s aims would necessarily be:

  • To retain and conserve its own population;
  • To encourage reproduction as far as medically possible;
  • To seduce or kidnap the citizens of other nations and add them to its own populace.

Citizens who prove to be unusually fertile are also highly valued. However, they are restricted in nearly every way, as the nation cannot afford to risk them or allow them to risk themselves.

National borders are tightly controlled. Even the oceans are demarcated, and no citizen of country X ever ventures onto the waters without being electronically constrained to stay within X’s “national” waters.

Weapons of mass destruction would be regarded as Doomsday Devices. Even nations committed to total war against one another would quail at the thought of their use. A form of the “Tuareg truce” (cf. Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War) protects those in the all-important agricultural field...except that efforts to kidnap and forcibly expatriate such persons are licit and ongoing.

Even in times of “peace,” every government is quietly at war with every other over the one thing that’s ever mattered to a ruler: subjects to rule. Barring a wholly unexpected resurgence of human fertility, it’s a war that will go on until Kingdom Come.

Scared yet? The above vision might strike you as unlikely –for many years we’ve been hectored about “too many people for the poor overburdened Earth to sustain” – but given demographic trends, it strikes me as more likely than a true overpopulation crisis. Indeed, it might be the likeliest of all futures, especially given the nature of power-lust and the moral-ethical vacuum in the mind of the typical ruler.

But I did say it was just an idea for a story, didn’t I? It’s just that the more I think about it, the more it seems as if it might come true...indeed, that it might be coming true right now, as you read this, before our very eyes.

Think it’s time to go jump the wife?

By the way: Happy Pi Day!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Politically Insoluble Part 3: Directions

The previous two essays have outlined why political engagement alone will prove insufficient to reverse (perhaps even to decelerate) the totalitarianization of these United States. Indeed, there’s a possibility that political engagement is part of the problem rather than a component of any solution. But that’s ground we’ve already covered; if you accept the thesis, the obvious next question is “Then what?”

I’ll allow that there are many ways forward that appear potentially constructive at least. For my money, the one that’s most promising is a campaign of localized apolitical privatization.

What I mean by that might not be immediately clear, so let’s have a go at an example or two.

Smith lives in a neighborhood that’s being marred by a slowly increasing frequency of crimes against property. He ponders applying to the relevant police precinct for additional surveillance, perhaps a regular roving patrol, but realizes that, as his locale is neither as prosperous as some nor as badly off as others, he’d have a hard time making the case that the police ought to devote more of their resources to it.

What about political action? Some residential areas have used partisan influence to cause protective resources to be redirected in their favor. It could work – Smith’s neighborhood is largely inclined in the direction of the currently dominant party – but it would run the risk of being temporary, as political solutions always are. Smith files the thought away while he looks for another approach.

Smith suddenly remembers an article he read, a couple of years back, about a neighborhood in another state that formed a gun club specifically for its residents. That neighborhood had seen a dramatic decrease in local crime, as predators are naturally wary of law-abiding citizens with firearms. There was a cost – property suitable for a firing range had to be purchased, and someone had to be paid to administer the club – but the result seemed positive all the same. “What if such a club were coupled to a Neighborhood Watch program?” he muses.

Smith appeals to his neighbors for their thoughts. The bifurcated approach to deterring crime appeals to the majority of them. There’s some difficulty working out the details at first, but ultimately the necessary funds and scheduling requirements work themselves out. Presently the neighborhood has an armed guard, composed of the persons best inclined toward taking the problem seriously: its own residents. Crime decreases. Property values go up. Perhaps best of all, neighbors become better acquainted with one another: more neighborly.

Smith, delighted with the success of the anti-crime efforts, turns his attention to another problem of note: the inadequacy of the local public schools. Property taxes increase each year, always on the representation that the schools can’t do a decent job without more money. Yet the complaints against the schools increase even more swiftly, with special focus on the displacement of academic substance by politically correct indoctrination. The administrators turn aside every suggestion for improvement by crying poverty.

Smith is aware that there are a couple of homeschooling families not far away. He resolves to visit them, to describe his neighborhood’s problem, and to ask their advice.

The homeschoolers prove more than happy to share their knowledge and experience. They readily admit that homeschooling isn’t for everyone – that some children don’t learn well in such an environment and need more regimentation than a parent with multiple responsibilities can provide – but that a variation on familial homeschooling might prove suitable, if it can be “scaled up” to neighborhood size.

Smith looks up some retirees. A couple of technologists, a doctor, and a former public-school teacher agree to take part in an ad hoc private grammar school, admission restricted to children of the residents of the neighborhood, if there’s adequate compensation for their time and sufficient interest from the locale. Once a group of students has been assembled, each of the retirees agrees to put an hour a day, five days per week into operating a class in the finished basement of a suitable private residence. As the children are of varying ages, the challenge resembles that of the one-room schoolhouses of old, but without interference from the smothering hand of the educratic bureaucracy, the task proves manageable.

Without the interference of the unions and the massive superstructure of the government-run schools to impede them, the retirees prove equal to the task. The students actually learn. More, since their “school day” is only four hours long, they feel less stifled by the routine and have more time for their own pursuits. Interest grows in the arrangement among formerly skeptical parents.

Things are seriously looking up for Smith’s neighborhood. However, there remain some irritating problems. One such, potholes in the streets, rises to the top of the list.

Smith visits a local driveway-paving company for advice. The proprietors are happy to talk about their business, which tends to be seasonal, occasioning certain difficulties in cash flow management. When Smith raises the pothole problem, they disparage the efforts of the town highway department, which appears uninterested in providing long-lasting repairs, and assert that they could do a better job if trusted with it.

Smith’s next stops are at the homes of residents on a badly potholed street. He asks them, “Would you be willing to pay for good-quality repairs?” When enough of them have agreed, he arranges a meeting with the driveway-paving business. A deal is eventually struck that defines the scope of the job, the price per pothole, and the degree of responsiveness expected of the company. The pavers are happy to discount their services for the sake of an “off-season” income where there was none before. Even so, it’s not cheap, but by dividing the cost among themselves, the residents find it bearable and worthwhile.

Smith’s own street is a particular problem, as only he is willing to bear any share of the cost for repairs. He decides to hold onto the idea until enough of his immediate neighbors find the potholes as annoying as he.

Not everything is well. Local politicians and bureaucrats are not pleased. Smith’s neighborhood is making them look bad. They can’t abide the constant comparisons between “Smithville” and surrounding locales that continue to depend upon “official” institutions. Yet the incentives public employees face prove too strong to overcome; they know their jobs are safe, and that they’ll get paid regardless of how slowly or shoddily they perform. Wasn’t the effective lack of accountability a big part of the reason they agreed to work for a government?

So the politicians and school board members strike back in the way they know best, the way that’s proved most effective in the past: at the residents’ wallets. Taxes and fees escalate sharply. The police and town officials attempt to intrude into Smithville’s private arrangements, demanding payoffs before they’ll go away. Smithville’s residents begin to question the wisdom of Smith’s work.

So Smith calls in the press: reporters from the local weekly, the regional daily, and the local cable-television channel. All of them find the contrast between Smithville and surrounding demesnes striking and suggestive. As are reporters everywhere, they’re particularly interested in the politicos’ attempts to bludgeon Smithville’s residents back into conformance with government control. Nothing excites a reporter’s enthusiasm for a story like a whiff of corruption. Coverage of the contest becomes intense...and the residents of Smithville find themselves regarded as heroic champions of “the little guy.”

There’s no way of knowing how things will eventuate, but Smithville has an asset the politicians can’t match: the degree to which they’ve come together in a common cause for their own local interests. Whether the hand of government is heavy enough to offset that advantage is unclear.

The above are examples of what I mean by localized apolitical privatization:

  • They operate at a neighborhood level and resist being enlarged beyond that;
  • They eschew the involvement of government in local concerns;
  • They assume private responsibility for problems currently deemed as being in the government’s sphere.

Are they perfect? No. Are they absolutely proof against governmental counter-action? Of course not. But in emphasizing community involvement and private responsibility, they bear the characteristics any approach to getting off the Mishnory road must exhibit.

Freedom requires the exclusion of government from one’s affairs. You cannot employ or sanction coercion if you want to be free; the two are opposites in every way. Indeed, it might even be a mistake to oppose government, for that requires you to shift your focus from what you want to what you don’t – and there will always be opponents who’ll strain to keep your focus there. That’s no way to get off the Mishnory road.

Finally, watch out for Smith. Successes of the sort described above could go to his head; he could be persuaded that he’s become a large enough cheese to deserve public office. His public hanging would be a most unfortunate outcome.

I await your thoughts.