Friday, February 23, 2018

Day Off

     Perhaps you suspected one of these was coming. In any case, I’m swamped, and feeling a bit under-powered as well. I expect I’ll be back tomorrow.

It wasn't a 747?

One or two wrong assumptions in this piece. A bit like: a light airplane crashes into a graveyard. The investigators recover 452 bodies and assume it must have been a much bigger plane.[1]
The comments on this article are a treat.

[1]  Comment by vernier on "Britain's prehistoric catastrophe revealed: How 90% of the neolithic population vanished in just 300 years." By David Keys The Independent, 2/22/18.

Pearls of expression.

Ground breaking research has shown that ground breaking research can be heavily influenced by the political beliefs & agendas of those who commission it, and by those who undertake it.
Comment by andrew65 on "Britain's prehistoric catastrophe revealed: How 90% of the neolithic population vanished in just 300 years." By David Keys The Independent, 2/22/18.

Good question.

Just how long does a body have to be in the ground, before the crime of Grave Robbing, become the respectable science of Archeology?
Comment by Freddie Jones on "Britain's prehistoric catastrophe revealed: How 90% of the neolithic population vanished in just 300 years." By David Keys The Independent, 2/22/18.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Quickies: When The Pustule Bursts...

     Given events like this one:

     Police in Bucks County are searching for a man who is accused of killing a pet dog.

     Hilltown Township Police say they initially responded to a call on the 1400 block of Route 113 on Feb. 3 about a man threatening members of the home, and who had possibly killed the family’s pet dog.

     When police arrived on the scene, the family members were not hurt, but a dog was found dead on the property.

     The Bucks County SPCA says the dog suffered multiple skull fractures due to blunt force trauma.

     Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Rony Arturo Garcia of the 1400 block of Route 113 in Perkasie.

     ...and this one:

     The largely abandoned former seaside resort town of Castel Volturno north of Naples has been taken over by Nigerian gangs who run drug and prostitution rings.

     The town has a total population of around 30,000 people, of which an estimated 20,000 are migrants, French news magazine L’Obs reports.

     Many of the Nigerian migrant women who walk the streets as prostitutes are underage, offering sexual favours for as little as 5 to 15 euros along the Via Domitiana by the sea.

     The rampant petty crime and violence in the city has led to journalists wanting to write about the town requiring police escorts for their own safety.

     The current Italian government, which is seeking re-election on March 4th, has signed a 21-million euro package to increase security in towns like Castel Volturno and offer integration programmes for migrants.

     ...I expect rivers of blood. Some of that blood will be from decent Americans and Europeans, but not all of it -- and the Left. and its relentless promotion of multiculturalism and open borders will bear the odium.

     The West cannot permit this importation of savages from Third World hellholes to continue without fatal consequences for the Civilization of the Enlightenment.

Mark Your Calendars

     From March 2 through March 6, my science-fiction novel Which Art In Hope, the opening volume of the Spooner Federation Saga, will be a free download at Amazon. I’m trying to reignite interest in the series, so please tell your SF-reading friends about this offer.

     I’ll repeat this announcement early on March 2. Thank you for your assistance.


     No forest of hyperlinks today. No citations of news stories about which you’ve already read or heard more than enough. This will be one of my purer tirades, the sort I emit when it all gets to be too much for me -- and in case you’re not a regular Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch, allow me to inform you: that takes one hell of a lot.

     “To weaponize” is one of the more useful neologisms of the past few decades. Its meaning is clear: one weaponizes an item by converting it from its current form, in which it could not be used to harm others, into a new form in which it would be harmful, perhaps lethal. Needless to say (though, in keeping with time-honored tradition, I’ll say it anyway), we don’t speak of “weaponizing” something that’s already a weapon: e.g., a gun, a bomb, or a tank. The item in question must be relatively harmless before the process begins, at least by the standards that apply to normal usage. Weaponization obviously dismisses those usages and standards in the hope of coming up with something deadly.

     The rise of no-prisoners / no-mercy politics has been accompanied by the weaponization of a number of things we once regarded as harmless or benign. A brief list:

  • Sex.
  • Race.
  • Food.
  • The schools.
  • The weather.
  • The children.
  • The churches.
  • The news media.
  • Charity and charities.
  • Other nominally virtuous “causes”.
  • Entertainment, including various sports and their major spectacles.

     Those are the ones that come easily to my frazzled mind at this unGodly hour of the morning. There are probably others.

     In consequence, for any of these matters to occur in casual conversation is enough to ruin that conversation. The widespread desire to avoid any sort of unpleasant confrontation will make most people change the subject at once, if not excuse oneself “on the grounds of a previous engagement.”

     It’s a commonplace that we all have opinions. (“Opinions are like assholes; everybody’s gotta have one.” – Me) However, in earlier times a difference of opinion was safer than it is today. In our hypercontentious milieu, allowing yourself to express a “disapproved” stance can cost you some cases, everything you have. Ask James Damore.

     But a society in which an ever-enlarging sphere of ordinary matters is deemed a minefield where even an angel dare not tread is one that’s in danger of losing its cohesion. What follows is never pretty.

     Perhaps what I mean by social cohesion isn’t intuitively obvious. Nevertheless, it’s the most important characteristic of any society.

     Social cohesion is the prevalence of mutual trust among members of that society. If it’s high, even strangers will assume one another trustworthy, at least in routine matters. I’ve written about this before:

     It might sound implausible to younger Americans, but half a century ago the typical American would reflexively trust the word even of a passing stranger. We trusted one another because we knew ourselves, in the small and in the large, to be honorable men. It was a knowledge forged from experience and tempered by our recognition of a common moral and ethical foundation: the Judeo-Christian code of conduct.

     We believed in the manly virtues. More, we believed that those around us believed in them, too.

     Were there thieves, con men, and chiselers among us then? Of course. But their number was far smaller than it is today. The social-legal environment didn't yet incorporate all the inducements to dishonesty and chiseling that we suffer in the year of Our Lord 2009. Perhaps more important, we didn't yet endure the perpetual hectoring about how cruel, venal, and untrustworthy we are, from institutions that wax upon men's distrust of one another.

     We trusted our merchants and business associates. We understood free enterprise to be an inherently honorable, honesty-promoting thing. We trusted our spouses, knowing that the marriage vow was taken seriously by our communities and that a departure from it would be held against the violator. We trusted lawyers to represent us honestly and capably at need, and courts to return just verdicts and sentences. We even trusted politicians, which was the beginning of unwisdom.

     I was there. I remember. So don’t bother accusing me of hallucinating a fantasy about “the good old days” in defiance of your notions. That having been said, it’s the next paragraph from that article that should focus our attention today:

     Whenever and wherever men decide that they cannot trust one another to behave honorably, to meet their obligations and honor their commitments, or to cleave to fundamental moral principles about violence, theft, fraud, filial duty, and false witness, the sequel is always the same: we recur to the State, the institution whose sole instrument is force. We accede to laws innumerable, expecting them to substitute for trustworthiness in our fellow men. They seldom have that effect, for every law, however well intentioned and carefully designed, creates a black market in the behavior it forbids: an inducement for evil men to sell their willingness to accept the risks of violating it.

     That’s the price of the loss of social cohesion.

     It’s possible you feel confident, as you see a stranger approach, that you’ll walk away from the encounter unharmed. But that’s not trust. That’s confidence in your personal resilience: your ability to weather what’s coming. Trust is the assumption that you and the stranger approaching you share a common ethic: one that protects you from him and vice-versa.

     Some examples might help. Just yesterday morning, I went to Mass at a parish other than my own. It was the first time I’d been to that parish. As I didn’t know where to find the entrance to the chapel, I approached a woman in the parking lot and asked her to guide me. She, having correctly taken me for a fellow Catholic, smiled and did so with no stress apparent. That’s trust in action: a demonstration of the sort of interaction that’s commonplace when social cohesion is high.

     Compare the above to another episode from about three years ago. I’d just parked my Mercedes in a shopping-center parking lot, gotten out of the car, and saw a stranger approaching me. My hand immediately went to my weapon. I was confident that the outcome would be endurable, but my trust in the approaching stranger was zero.

     Today it would be unwise for a visibly well-to-do American in a place where muggings are, if not common at least not unknown, to trust someone he’d never met. Yet fifty years ago I would have trusted that stranger by default. I’d have granted him the “presumption of decency” that characterizes a society with high social cohesion.

     The weaponizations of so many things have put all of us on our guard. It might not be clear to my Gentle Readers what that means for our future. Take it from me: it ain’t lookin’ good.

     I occupy a difficult position: I see things others don’t, especially patterns and threads of causation. I write about them, when I can. (When I can’t, I declare a “day off.” I spend most days off trying to calm down before I pop a brain aneurysm. Harvey’s helps.) But one who describes a problem is often looked to for a solution, and that I cannot give you.

     I don’t know how to reverse it. I don’t know how we could reacquire the amiability and trust we once shared. I don’t know how we could revive the willingness “to agree to disagree” – i.e., to treat differences of opinion (or personal practice) on subjects of widespread interest as tolerable, even potentially educational. It’s wrapped in weaponized threads that are peculiarly difficult to sever, especially as the forces that have already weaponized so much of what’s common among us labor constantly to strengthen them and add to their number.

     I said this would be one of my purer tirades. I hope I haven’t disappointed you.

Start here.

The rest just falls into place.
There is no institution left in America that can be called democratic, and thus there is no internal mechanism to prevent a descent into barbarity.
“The political role of corporate power, the corruption of the political and representative processes by the lobbying industry, the expansion of executive power at the expense of constitutional limitations, and the degradation of political dialogue promoted by the media are the basics of the system, not excrescences upon it,” the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin wrote in “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Why Do We Pray?

A nice piece from Ben Shapiro in answer to Tyson's snarky putdown on prayer.

How Differently Do Libs and Cons Think? A Poll

I'm going to link here to a poll - I'd like to check responses from a random sample (here, on Google+, and on Facebook). If you could answer a few questions, I'd appreciate it - it will be anonymous.

This was prompted by an article comparing the starkly different answers to questions about acceptable/unacceptable speech. If the response is good, I may try other polls to get some sense about how differently Americans feel about current issues.

The poll deals with proper responses to school violence.

Media Manipulation: A First Course

     Robert Spencer has written a fine dissection of an attempt at the manipulation of public opinion by a South Dakota newspaper. It’s too good to excerpt, so I exhort my Gentle Readers to go thence and return after having finished it. As always, I’ll wait.

     Wasn’t that informative? I’ve seldom seen it done as well. But lest we consider the subject closed, allow me to add a couple of thoughts that can aid one in separating out the biases from the reportage.

1. The Narrative.

     A journalist who seeks to shape public opinion through a nominal news piece must first decide on The Narrative to be promoted within the story. This isn’t always obvious, even to the most biased of reporters. At this time there are several narratives contending for promotion by the American Left and its handmaidens in the media. Those narratives fall into a few categories.

  • There are crisis narratives, intended to promote formless fears of forces beyond the capacity of individuals to counter without the “help” of the Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnibenevolent State. Perhaps the best example here is “global warming.”
  • There are enemy narratives, in which John Q. Public is encouraged to see some category of persons, whether inside or outside the U.S., as working in concert to do him harm. During 2017 the “Russian election interference” narrative was most prominent among that sort, though these past few days the “NRA wants to kill your kids” narrative has risen to public attention as well.
  • There are bad person narratives, intended to defame specific individuals by implying low motives on their part. The story Robert Spencer cites in the linked article is a good example.

     (This taxonomy has a mirror image of sorts: stories intended to celebrate or glorify forces, organizations, or persons dedicated to opposing the supposed villains at the foci of the stories above. But that’s a subject that deserves its own screed.)

2. What’s The Story?

     Once the journalist has selected the narrative he wants to promote, he must then choose his tactics:

  • Story selection;
  • Frame selection;
  • Data selection and presentation.

     Story selection – the journalist’s choice of organizations, persons, or events to write about – must come first, for obvious reasons. This, of course, is heavily influenced by the selected narrative.

     Positive selection bias hunts for stories that might otherwise not be reported on at all. Many years ago, a Northeastern regional paper whose editors were determined to promote the notion that anti-Semitism is a rising influence in America chose to dedicate several pages to a story about Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus exercise machines. The story returned several times to Jones’s anti-Semitic views. Happily, the story received little attention and faded out of view.

     Negative selection bias chooses to exclude or minimize reportage on events that would undercut the chosen narrative. For example, if a reporter must cover a shooting-spree story in which the perpetrator was eventually stopped by an armed civilian, he will be motivated to minimize the importance of the good guy’s firearm. He might not even mention it. Similarly, stories in which muggings and armed robberies are halted through the defensive use of a firearm receive little to no coverage.

3. Setting The Frame.

     A photographer, conscious of the limited field of view of his camera, will carefully frame the image or item he wants to photograph so that things he deems irrelevant or distracting will be minimized or omitted. The same goes for the reporter bent upon promoting a particular narrative.

     For example, a reporter determined to bias his readers against the recent tax bill might elect to focus on the benefits the bill confers upon corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Such an emphasis would serve the narrative that the Republican Party, currently in the majority in both houses of Congress, is concerned solely with serving “the donor class.” The frame would be set to omit or distract from the benefits to middle-class taxpayers, which would cross-cut that narrative.

     Similarly, coverage of a “protest” used to silence a conservative speaker would set its frame to omit or minimize the “protesters’” use of violence and vandalism. It would use terms intended to imply that if there was violence, it was minimal (or “from both sides,” regardless of the facts of the matter). Imputations by “protesters” that the silenced speaker was a promoter of bigotry or violence would be reported without comment, whereas refutations of such calumnies would be cast as self-serving and therefore dubious, or would receive no attention.

4. Selecting And Presenting The Data.

     Stories with a compendious nature – i.e., intended to cover an “issue” rather than a particular, time-and-place-delimited event – will present only data that serves the biases of the reporter and his editors. There are always ways to present “objective” data in such a fashion, our notions that “figures don’t lie” notwithstanding.

     Darrell Huff presents several examples of how this can be done in his invaluable little book How to Lie with Statistics. Here’s a good one, in which Huff describes the perversion of graphics to create a false impression of rocketing prosperity. The first graph shows an increase in aggregate American incomes, as reported to the IRS, during a year in the Thirties:

     “Now that’s clear enough,” says Huff, and it certainly is. It’s an honest pictorial representation of a 10% increase in the aggregate of national incomes. The second graph shows the same data – or does it? – but gives a far different impression:

     “That is impressive, isn’t it?” says Huff. “Anyone looking at it can just feel prosperity throbbing in the arteries of the country. It is a subtler equivalent of editing ‘National income rose ten per cent’ into ‘climbed a whopping ten per cent.’ It is vastly more effective, however, because it contains no adjectives or adverbs to spoil the illusion of objectivity. There’s nothing anyone can pin on you.”

     That’s only one of a multitude of deceptive techniques. Tendentious selection of base year is another: What was national income doing before the selected year? Was it lower than $20 billion...or higher than $22 billion? We’re not told. Were large-scale shootings more common before our present day, or less? Did they reap more lives on average, or fewer? My Gentle Readers can surely see the possibilities.

5. The General Degradation Of Human Testimony

     To doubt whether a man of eminence has told the truth about his own birth, in appearance to be very deficient in candour; yet nobody can live long without knowing that falsehoods of convenience or vanity, falsehoods from which no evil immediately visible ensues, except the general degradation of human testimony, are very lightly uttered, and once uttered are sullenly supported. – Samuel Johnson, in his biography of poet William Congreve.

     Deceit begets further deceit. It always has and it always will. When the deceivers, as a class, occupy the pedestals of journalism – they whom we’re exhorted to trust as honest purveyors of objective accounts – we’re in particularly dangerous territory. A misled people can do themselves and others great harm. A people convinced that it has been misled is prone to even greater exertions. The first targets of its fury will be the deceivers themselves.

     And it won’t matter whether they “meant well.”

Fox News descends to joke status.

“Kennedy” on Fox tonight referred to the “filthy, corrupt government” of Russia. You can see why they use the slogan "Fair and balanced."

This surpasses even Ralph Peters’s reference to Putin as a “thug” and a “racist.”

Fox is fully on board with the moronic demonization of Russia. Trish Regan beats the “evil Russian are attacking our democracy and sowing dissension” theme like a rented mule. She can't get enough of Gen. Jack Keane on her regular show. He's a reliable peddler of the "expansionist Russian" nonsense.

The late infomercial marketing genius Billy “Mr. Mighty Putty” Mays was never as good as these Fox peddlers of snake oil.

Fox News-verified photo of Putin leadership style.

Hat tip: The Daily Beast.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ultra-Quickies: 'Nuff Said

...and remember, I started out as a doubter.

Advances In The Art

     As I’m rather old, I have memories of pleasurable past experiences that retain a kind of glow. In some cases the glow is not really representative of the experience in any objective sense. Rather, it derives from my tastes at that time, which were...other than they are now. This is particularly striking when it comes to the science fiction I once read and enjoyed.

     Now, I read voraciously from an early age. A very early age, actually. And it does stand to reason that a child’s tastes will be less well developed – not to say immature, though the word cannot be summarily dismissed – than those of the man he will become. All the same, reacquaintance with the affections of those early years can be seriously embarrassing, even if no one else is around to witness it.

     “What’s this about,” you ask? Simply, an encounter with some old, much loved books that have left me wondering how I could have been so easily pleased, and pondering the considerable improvements in the writing we find in genre fiction today.

     (Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis. Ovid said it, I believe it, and that settles it.)

     There was once a science fiction writer, much beloved by his readers, who wrote long series of novels that vaguely prefigured the interminable series of today, except for one thing: they ended. Apparently this writer, a widely knowledgeable man who was highly accomplished in his chosen field, was able to create the conditions for an extremely long and complex plot, and foresee how it must be resolved six or seven novels down the road. Anyway, that’s what he did in his two best known series, to which many thousands of young readers thrilled in his heyday.

     I’m not going to name that writer. I don’t want to besmirch his reputation any more than necessary to make my point. But it’s possible, if you’re near to my age and have been reading SF for a comparable length of time, that you have his name in mind already. That writer deserves credit for his strengths. He was very imaginative, and took risks in scientific and technological speculation that other SF writers of his day elected to avoid. He also dared a political speculation the possibility of which few today would be willing to entertain even for the sake of an entertainment. In short, he was no lightweight or pansy.

     However, if you were to put his writing alongside recent, widely approved examples of the genre, you would be hard pressed to rule it competent, at least by contemporary standards. By those standards he committed a number of mortal sins:

  • Uncontrolled narrative viewpoint;
  • Frequent narrative intrusions not bound to a character’s viewpoint;
  • Dialogue exchanges poorly suited to the context;
  • Quite a lot of unbelievable dialogue, as in “people don’t talk that way and never have;”
  • Wildly excessive, cloyingly florid descriptive passages;
  • Habitual use of far too many adjectives and adverbs, especially in their superlative forms;
  • Exclamation points a outrance.

     He never, ever relented from those practices. They can be found throughout his major series. And in reading his books with fresh eyes, I find myself embarrassed as much for his sake as for my younger self.

     We might think of him as science fiction’s own John Galsworthy, an early Twentieth Century English writer of great renown. Galsworthy’s best known novels are soap operas about the Forsyte clan and its offshoots. They were amazingly popular; indeed, they made him one of the most popular writers in the world. He got the Nobel Prize in Literature for them. But they’re not well written, at least by the standards of our time.

     Such is the natural condition of an infant genre.

     As a genre matures, so do the skills of its practitioners. No one could get away today with writing like that of the SF writer I left unnamed above. Even the allegiants of the “Pulp Revolution” and “Pulp Revival,” movements which are demonstrating considerable vitality, don’t allow themselves such liberties and extravagances. They hew to contemporary standards and contemporary tastes.

     This is all to the good. While it’s commendable to mine past treasures for their virtues, it’s equally important to recognize their flaws and to move beyond them. SF, fantasy, and horror writers are more proficient today, in part because their readerships are more demanding. It could not have been otherwise. Our fictional forebears wrote for smaller and younger audiences that had self-selected according to their preferences for imaginative speculation. Indeed, it’s possible that many of those younger readers were thrilled by extravagance, floridity, and narrative intrusions that embellished earlier extravagances.

     But we grew up. We heeded God’s commend to “be fruitful and multiply.” In the process we bequeathed portions of our reading tastes to our children. But as the audience for speculative fiction grew, and the writer’s prospects for becoming established in one of those genres expanded, it became more demanding. After all, there were other things an adult could some cases, that he had to read. His tastes became more discriminating. In the everlasting nature of things it was inevitable that he would discriminate.

     And the writers of old who had delighted us with their less disciplined but highly imaginative works were slowly but inexorably left behind.

     We hope to get better as we age. We hope general conditions will get better as time passes. In a free society, this is usually the case. But as with all other things, there is a price.

     The price is the recognition that one’s childhood loves weren’t up to the standards of today. When one elects to revisit those loves, the reverie will be mixed with considerable embarrassment: “How could I ever have thought this was great storytelling?”

     Well, perhaps that’s a bit unfair. It certainly pleased our younger selves. That’s what it was intended to do; therefore, it was a success. And perhaps the right perspective on those early genre delights, for those of us acquainted with more disciplined and refined writing, is simply to say, “That’s the way it was.” (Alternately, “Ah! Those halcyon days of yore!” If you want to confuse those who have no idea what you’re talking about, anyway.)

     (Cross-posted at my fiction site.)

Pearls of expression.

Even though, after more than a year of constant, saturated media coverage on the so-called Russiagate story there is an embarrassing paucity of any supporting evidence. More reliable observers like Princeton Professor Stephen Cohen have cogently argued that the real story is US “Intelgate”, not the media sensationalized “Russiagate”.

"Deep State and the FBI – Federal Blackmail Investigation." By Finian Cunningham, Strategic Culture Foundation, 2/20/18.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Dam is Leaking...

...the persons responsible for building it are frantically patching and slapping on duct tape.

To no avail. The Awful Truth hidden behind the dam - that Obama's DOJ CONSPIRED to commit CRIMES against Republicans/Conservative - is leaking out.

Look. I'm not a lawyer. But, even I can see that this all CAN'T be legal.

Follow the Gateway Pundit link to get Cernovich's Twitter account - he's got a LOT of information about this (or, use this link).

I think they may have found the Smoking Gun.

Actual gun not used to avoid "Triggering" people.

BTW, that old Sen. Ted Stevens "bribery" case? It's beginning to look as though that was a put-up job, too. Failure to disclose evidence that might help a defendant's case - that's what is called exculpatory evidence - is not only unethical, it's a CRIME. A prosecutor can lose his law license - and probably SHOULD - if he is guilty of hiding such evidence.

Ultra-Quickies: Scandalize ‘Em!

     Do you remember the “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE” campaign? It might still be going on in a few places, but I’ve heard nothing about it for a few weeks now. Well, the general theme has been picked up and adapted by, shall we say, another interest group?

     Make sure your local feminist harridans get an eyeful!

This is a Frightening Thought

I'd not thought of this, but it does make some sense (from the comments).
Predicted along with flying cars (still waiting!), mars colonies, and single pill dietary needs was the "super learning" drug. Take a pill and you only need to be told something once to retain it forever. 

We didn't stop to think the corollary to "super learning" was "instantly convinced" of anything you are told.
 I'm out of town on an extended stay in Cleveland - will be back by Thursday, if not sooner. I'm also avoiding my revisions. Right now, I'm just doing a lot of thinking - not all that much writing things down. I've done that before, right before diving into work. I can't force it, right now.


     Forgive me, Gentle Reader. It was a strenuous weekend, and my current tail-dragging condition will not support the production of a typical essay. So have a few tidbits from the recent past.

1. How It’s Done Dept.

     The true test of a writer’s skill is his ability to unearth a timeless truth in a novel setting. Today’s expositor is Andrew Klavan:

     I don't care about super hero movies. They tell me they represent an American mythology, but it's a childish mythology: heroics without tragedy — and there are no heroics without tragedy.

     And they’re just the first two sentences of a wholly remarkable piece.

2. Behind The Glib Phrases And Oily Assurances.

     Never, ever believe a gun-controller who says that “we don’t intend to take your guns:”

     In an appearance on NBC’s Sunday Today early that morning, moderator Chuck Todd lambasted Republicans for being the reason gun control efforts were making no progress since they were in control of the House, Senate, and the Presidency. Todd ratcheted up his anti-gun stance during Meet the Press by promoting radical calls to abolish the right to bears by repealing the Second Amendment. And he did it by highlighting the writings of Bret Stephens, a never-Trumper turned liberal.

     “Isn’t the difficulty here legislatively, the constitution,” Todd lamented to his largely liberal panel. “Which is Bret Stephens' point in The New York Times, he’s calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.”

     The one and only reason to repeal the Second Amendment is to facilitate federal laws mandating the registration of every firearm owned by any American citizen, other than a designated exception category of “grandfathered” firearms owners. And of course those designated exception categories will all be employed by the State or one of its mandarins.

     First registration, with serious penalties for unauthorized acquisitions and transfers. Confiscation would follow shortly thereafter. The ultimate consequence would be a tyranny undreamed of by any living American. Doubt this at your peril.

3. A Test Of The Democrats’ Motives.

     Rush Limbaugh remains one of the most incisive commentators and thinkers on the Right. Here’s a recent example of Rush as his best:

     Nationally-syndicated radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was a guest on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, who asked him about how he would deal with DACA and illegal immigration.

     Limbaugh said he would agree to permanent citizenship for illegal immigrants under one very important condition … they would not be eligible to vote for 15 to 25 years.

     Never mind that this would require a Constitutional amendment. The Democrats’ caterwaulings against the “unfairness” of it would lay bare their insincerity and faux compassion, making plain their true reason for wanting to keep illegal aliens streaming into the country.

     Note also that the Democrats’ opposition to a border wall is currently founded on cost-benefit: i.e., they claim that it would cost a fortune and it wouldn’t stem the tide. This makes two subjects on which the Democrats suddenly become cost-conscious. The other, of course, is the military.

4. The Endless Inventiveness Of The Warmistas.

     The invaluable Joanne Nova brings us the latest ignore-the-data self-exculpation from the promoters of man-caused global warming:

     … “according to a scientific study published this month, the Southeast’s colder winter weather is part of an isolated trend, linked to a more wavy pattern in the jet stream that crosses North America. That dipping jet stream allows arctic air to plunge into the Southeast. Scientists call this colder weather a “hole” in overall global warming, or a “warming hole.”

     “What we are looking at is an anomaly,” said Jonathan M. Winter, an assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth College and the principle investigator in the study. “The Southeast is the exception to the rule.”

     Joanne provides the required snark:

     Coming soon, new discoveries will show that the Little Ice Age was not cold, just part of an isolated trend that happened all over the world.

     If neither of us were married and we weren’t half a world apart...!

5. The Past Speaks To Us, Did We But Listen.

     Longtime friend and colleague David De Gerolamo provides a historically relevant quotation:

     If Professor Reynolds will allow: Heh. Indeed.

6. Hungary’s Viktor Orban Leads The Way.

     ...and the way forward is Christianity:

     BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's prime minister says that "Christianity is Europe's last hope" and that politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris favoring migration have "opened the way to the decline of Christian culture and the advance of Islam."

     Viktor Orban said Sunday during his 20th annual state of the nation speech that his government will oppose efforts by the United Nations or the European Union to make migration acceptable to the world.

     He conjured the image of a Western Europe overtaken by Muslims, saying that "born Germans are being forced back from most large German cities, as migrants always occupy big cities first."

     Orban claimed that Islam would soon "knock on Central Europe's door" from the west as well as the south.

     Leaders of insight and courage are arising just as we need them. May they be enough!

7. I Can’t Not Mention This.

     Mike Hendrix has been unbelievably generous in promoting my fiction:

     [I]f any of you haven’t already, get on over to Francis’ place and buy his books. I promise you you won’t regret it, and your appetite will be duly whetted for the sequel to Innocents as an added bonus. Having made a go at writing a novel myself a few years back—and failing miserably at it, too—I can only tip my hat in humble admiration to a guy like Francis, who manages to produce such extraordinary work again and again (I was gonna append something like “seemingly effortlessly” at the last there, but I know better than that).

     Thankfully, the fruits of Poretto’s toil in the gardens of lit’rachure are easily available to us lesser lights in this the Age of the Innarnuts, and at a bargain price. He also has a variety of (mostly) shorter novels available here, along with one on his thoughts about the nuts and bolts of writing, all for the astonishingly low, low price of…FREE. Do yourself a favor and go get yourself some. You’ll be supporting one of the good guys, with the added benefit of helping a worthwhile alternative to a world of creative endeavor dominated by lugubrious dreck salted heavily with liberal proselytizing to flourish.

     The man has a talent for making me blush. Thank you, Mike, most sincerely.

     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. I hope to catch a few badly needed Zs between now and tomorrow’s tirade. See you then.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Articles Of Faith: A Slightly Skewed Sunday Rumination

     Well, here we are in the season of Lent: the time of anticipation and preparation for the commemoration of the Passion of Our Lord and the celebration of His Resurrection and Ascension. It’s the most portentous of all the portions of the liturgical calendar, and it receives concomitant seriousness from Christians worldwide. The Church counsels us to pray, to fast, to do penance, and to perform works of charity as steps toward a greater, purer love of God and our fellow men. Some Christians actually do all that. The rest go through the motions.

     I’ve begun to wonder about some of my fellow Catholics, though. They don’t appear to have gotten the point. Some of them seem more devoted to a secular faith than to the Gospels of Jesus Christ. Moreover, that secular credo has some pretty ugly tenets.

     I must repeat a point I’ve made before about the partition of human knowledge, convictions, and beliefs. That partition is vital to discriminating among propositions, to assessing them for reliability, and to deciding which ones will command your allegiance.

  • Propositions that can be proved or disproved: Mathematics.
  • Propositions that can be disproved but not proved: Science.
  • Propositions that can neither be proved nor disproved: Faith.

     Science, the most important of the categories above in the secular context, deals solely in propositions that can be disproved by the results of adequately designed, honestly performed experiments. It doesn’t matter whether a proposition – Let’s call it X, to save a few keystrokes – is about natural or supernatural things. To qualify as a scientific thesis, it must be possible:

  1. To use X to predict some result arising from a relevant, well defined context;
  2. To design an experiment that will test that prediction;
  3. If the result does not arise from the experimental context, X must be rejected as disproved.

     Most scientific theses can be tested many ways, with many different experimental designs. All such experiments can and should be performed...until one of them fails to deliver the predicted result. At that point, X must be rejected as disproved.

     Mind you, endless experiments that deliver the predicted results do not “prove” X. There’s always the possibility that more sophisticated experiments, possibly founded on improved measurement technologies, would fail to produce the predicted result. Thus, a scientific proposition like X can never be proved, though we may gain confidence in it over time. However, if X cannot be disproved, it is not science.

     To pledge oneself to a proposition that can neither be proved nor disproved is to acquire an article of faith.

     I’ve had a few unpleasant encounters with persons whose articles of faith include some very contentious propositions:

  • That Donald J. Trump is an evil man;
  • That he stole the presidency from Hillary Clinton;
  • That his policies are intended to harm America and Americans;
  • That he’s secretly an agent of a foreign power, specifically Putin’s Russia;

     In no case has any of those persons been able to produce evidence for his contentions. They have opinions, nothing more. To put it gently, none of them are interested in using their faith to predict what President Trump will do or what effects his policy preferences, if enacted by Congress, will have. Their beliefs are absolute; dare to disagree with them and they become contemptuous to the extent of condemning the dissident.

     As I have little interest in attacking anyone’s religion, I normally refrain from engaging them when they start to spout off. But I admit I’ve been tempted to ask, gently and most mellifluously, “When did you cease to be a Christian and embrace this new faith?”

     Our faith tells us to leave such judgments to God. Christ said so Himself:

     Judge not, that you may not be judged, For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. [Matthew 7:1-5]

     But let’s grant the holder of this new faith some provisional respect. Let’s imagine that he can predict Trump’s behavior and the consequences that would flow from it, and that his prediction proves to be correct. It wouldn’t “prove” that President Trump is evil, an electoral thief, or a secret Russian agent. After all, he could have meant well, done the best he knew, and merely been wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time a president has erred.

     One of the absolute requirements of anyone who claims to deal in knowledge is humility: humility before the data, to be sure, but also and always humility about one’s own fallibility. There’s always more than one possible explanation for a given event. Newton and Einstein made mistakes, too.

     I could cite many articles of faith people have embraced for reasons that have nothing to do with the available evidence. I’ve written about many of them here. I doubt it’s necessary to enumerate the occasions. But I keep coming back to the willingness, shared by so many Americans, to believe something for which there’s no evidence, simply because they want to believe it...and perhaps because it makes them feel superior to someone else.

     I get a huge giggle out of persons who style themselves “rationalists” but attack me for my Christian faith and Catholic allegiance. Can they produce evidence that the Gospels are fictional – that the events in them did not take place? They cannot. All they can do is sneer at them as “implausible.” Neither can they point to any statement by the Redeemer to which they could take exception on moral or ethical grounds. But it’s plain that feeling superior to me and other Christian believers is an important element of their self-images, so I refrain from embarrassing them.

     I’ve begun to wonder if the emotional demands of those who condemn without knowledge are of the same kind. I’ve also wondered, in the case of the imperiously judgmental Christians I’ve encountered, if they give any thought to Christ’s exhortation to forgiveness: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

     Our Lenten preparations might be well augmented by making time to think about forgiveness: of those who have harmed us, certainly, but also of those we have judged, whether on the weight of evidence or out of personal pique. Christ Himself forgave His executioners as He suffered on the cross. Ought we not to allow the same to those we disapprove from a distance?

     May God bless and keep you all.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The NRA is NOT the Enemy - Except in Progressive Minds

We often hear of the obscene amount of money that the NRA pumps into elections to force legislators to support its point of view on guns. Not so.
Between 1998 and 2017, the NRA spent $200 million on all political activities.  Ladies and gentlemen, that is 19 years, 20 years.  In 20 years, the NRA spent $200 million.  In 2016, alone, unions spent $1.7 billion on policy.  The NRA is not a major donor, and they are not running around with politicians in their back pockets.  The NRA is one of the largest special interest groups that has millions and millions of real American citizens as its members.  Not members of Congress.  Not the Senate. Not the House.
 Those unions, BTW, are using money FORCIBLY TAKEN from its members - who often are NOT given a choice about joining. So, how come we don't hear about the unions buying politicians?

They Have Sown The Wind

     There are days when the stupidity of so many strikes me as profound beyond comprehension.

     Andrew Klavan, whose talent for opinion-editorial eclipses even his considerable gifts as a novelist, has written a brilliant, angry article that addresses the cultural prerequisites for the sort of violence and destructive deviances that beset America today. A brief snippet to whet your appetites:

     It was after a school shooting near Spokane last September that Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich addressed a clutch of reporters:
     When I was in high school, every one of those rigs in the high school parking lot had a gun in the gun rack. Why? We went hunting on the way home. None of those guns ever walked into a school, none of those guns ever shot anybody... Did the gun change or did you as a society change? I'll give you odds it was you as a society. Because you started glorifying cultures of violence. You glorified the gang culture, you glorified games that actually gave you points for raping and killing people. The gun didn't change, we changed.

     It seems clear to me the sheriff was speaking about rap music with its hateful, violent and misogynistic lyrics, and video games like Grand Theft Auto, where you can have sex with a prostitute then strangle her or pull an innocent person out of a car, beat him, then steal his vehicle.

     Please, please read the whole thing. You’ll thank me.

     Many persons’ conceptions of peace and order are hazy. Worse, they’re qualified by preferences they dare not express aloud. “Peace and order are all very well,” they might say, “but you must reckon with the nature of Man. If there is to be violence, what will suffice to extinguish it except even greater violence? And order is always maintained by the threat of violence. thus to maintain the peace and order you seek, you must empower men of violence as its guardians: professional thugs, tasked with intimidating the rest of us. How can the asymmetry in power be rationalized – or controlled?” Then comes the invocation of Juvenal: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

     It’s legitimate to ask how we might keep the enforcers of peace and order within their prescribed bounds. The question has no provably correct answer. But it’s quite another thing to dismiss the concept of enforcement, simply because the question hasn’t yet been definitively answered. And yes, you’re hearing this from an inveterate theorist and explorer of anarchism.

     I must express a fundamental insight which, sad to say, many advocates of anarchism have refused to acknowledge, so that no one can henceforward claim that I would deny it:

Wherever and whenever men use force or intimidation to bring about a preferred state of affairs, in that place and time there is a governing authority: in other words, a State.

     Lysander Spooner alluded to it in one of his better known statements:

     The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

     The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

     Yes, Spooner expressed a moral distinction in favor of the highwayman:

     The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

     However, that fails to erase the deep commonality between an armed robber and a State in action. Both enforce their preferences at gunpoint – and so it shall always be, as long as men object strenuously enough to any particular category of behavior among their fellows.

     There are categories of behavior to which there exists a strenuous, near-unanimous opposition: what Milton Friedman called “an essential consensus.” Murder. Rape. Assault. Robbery. Fraud. Trespass. Several varieties of abuse of the helpless and the defenseless. But near-unanimous is not unanimous; otherwise, there would be no need – or demand – for laws and their enforcement.

     There are other categories of behavior that excite widespread revulsion, but of a qualitatively different sort: Adultery. Homosexuality. Prostitution and frequenting prostitutes. Rampant intoxication and the drugs that cause it. However, that revulsion is not wide enough to suppress those things by force. For one thing, there are many who object that they harm only those who consent to them. For another, the number of practitioners is large enough that many who are revulsed are closely related to one or more, and would shield them from the law. This has become especially plain as regards drug abuse.

     The countermeasure to those sins is social disapprobation of varying degrees. At one extreme, the transgressor is completely ostracized; at the other, he might suffer only a dubious reputation, limiting his opportunities socially and occupationally. There are gradations between those two poles. Though it might seem insufficient to a virulent opponent of some particular behavior, there are many cases in which a forcible “cure” would be worse than the “disease.” In some instances, the attempt to repress by force of law would actually amplify the problem. In others, the use of law and force would abrade the protections of fundamental rights. A society that recognizes such failings must make disapprobation of the appropriate intensity serve the need. It must not trouble itself about its inability to expunge all turpitude completely, so long as public peace and order are adequately maintained.

     Western society has forgotten most of the above. In the matter of degeneracies and depravities that are insusceptible to legal enforcement, the amnesia is near to total.

     Time was, we all knew the rules. Some didn't like them, but they understood that some rules are necessary to maintain a semblance of peace and order. More, they understood that there would be consequences for violating them. As they disliked the consequences even more than the rules, they remained within them, overtly at least.

     For a time, public peace and order were maintained. Though many committed covert violations of the rules, even the violators taught the rules to their progeny and prescribed conformance to them. To some, this constituted “hypocrisy.” Others, aware that “the flesh is weak,” deemed it unavoidable.

     But the rules were not allowed to remain in force. Neither were their supporters sufficiently eloquent or energized in their defense.

     First the consequences were softened. Sometimes that which had been outlawed became tolerated, at least de facto. In cases where a behavior was legal but shunned, the violator’s deed was shrugged aside. “Everyone does it.” “No big deal.” “He’s living with it; why can’t we?” As both the penalties and the stigmata for being caught in violation of the rules faded, more and more persons indulged themselves more and more openly. They discovered the peculiar pleasures and rewards of “rebellion.” Public peace and order began to fail.

     Presently, parents found that they could no longer impress the importance of respecting the rules on their children. Of course not! The kids’ classroom instructors undermined their parents every day of the school year. More, popular entertainment depicted the rules being violated openly and merrily wherever they looked. How could something so open and popular be “wrong?”

     The idea that there were rules, or that there should be rules, faded and was gone. So was every concept of public order, appropriateness, and common decency.

     We should have known better. We probably did.