Friday, November 24, 2017

An Announcement (Sticky; Scroll Down for New Posts)

     From November 20 through November 24, the Kindle edition of Innocents will be free at Amazon. Yes, friends, that’s a grand total of $0.00 for enough words to separate the wholly electronic covers. Oy vey! Such a bargain! So don't miss it.

     Please notify anyone you know who:

  1. Reads;
  2. Likes speculative fiction;
  3. Would never dream of spending $2.99 on a book by an unknown, self-published writer.

     Thank you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Net Neutrality - for the Love of God, Will Someone Help Me Understand It?

I've been reading about this for some time, from both sides of the issue. Many Libertarians are heavily in favor of it, saying that it's the only way to keep government from censoring opinions.

Others point out that the concept will force internet providers to provide service to those data-hogging activities, such as video-streaming, which will mean that most of us will find that their Internet activities will slow to a crawl.

Will someone with some knowledge of this issue please point me to sites that can make a fair case for their side, without a lot of propagandizing? Post those links in the comments, please.

Another Announcement

     Hans G. Schantz’s novel A Rambling Wreck, the sequel to his acclaimed first novel The Hidden Truth, will be discounted to $0.99 starting today and ending on Wednesday, November 29. Get it while it’s cheap!

Giving Thanks, 2017

     Giving thanks for one’s blessings is a good idea. It promotes individual happiness and a sense of perspective that’s often difficult to attain while one is inundated in the national “news.” I do a lot of it, each and every day. Professor Jordan Peterson has made a version of it one of his twelve Rules for Life.

     The Thanksgiving Weekend makes an “event” out of gratitude. People ask one another “What are you grateful for this year?” They compose lists of their various blessings and post them on the Web. There’s a competitive flavor to it that distorts what would otherwise be a constructive undertaking, a reminder of the importance of gratitude to human health and happiness.

     But here we are, the day before America’s second-favorite holiday. It’s got me thinking about the blessings I’ve enjoyed that I often fail to appreciate. And I find myself remembering a less blessed time, back when I flipped bits for bucks alongside a few dozen other software weenies, and we all shared a single VAX 11-785 superminicomputer.

     You have to be a little older than the typical Web junkie to remember the era of superminis. They were impressive machines, to be sure – Digital Equipment Corporation’s VAX line was my personal favorite, and its VMS operating system remains my candidate for the best OS ever produced – but they came with certain limitations.

     During the late Eighties and early Nineties, I did my salaried work on a VAX, as did all my colleagues. At first, the storage space on that machine consisted of a single disk pack: a stack of magnetic platters bound together that was manipulated by a washing-machine-size drive. The capacity of that pack, the sole storage available to some thirty software types, was a mind-blowing 32 MegaBytes.

     Yes, Gentle Reader, you read that right: 32,000,000 bytes of storage for thirty software engineers, all of whom were expected to keep everything of immediate interest on it. Needless to say, there was a lot of contention over who needed how much disk space.

     The system administrator – not your humble Curmudgeon, back then – didn’t want to get into the crossfire. He took an approach that seemed to keep him above it all: he assigned each of us a storage quota, enforced by the OS, that we could not exceed. That quota was roughly half a MegaByte each. He reserved the rest of the pack for administrative functions and paging.

     How long has it been since you last encountered a program that would fit in half a MegaByte?

     Our problem was complex, in that the compiler for the language we used – CMS-2M, a Navy proprietary language that’s no longer of importance – produced big intermediate files. It was practically impossible to compile a source module given the disk quota. So the SysAdmin had to make provisions for “temporary overflow:” i.e., an amount of extra storage available to each user, over and above his quota, that he could exploit while he was logged on. He couldn’t save anything in the overflow space, but he could use it to run compilations and linkages. The moment he logged off, anything in the overflow region would disappear.

     The Law of Unintended Consequences struck at once. After the temporary overflow provision was enacted, no one ever logged off. Pretty soon the disk was at 99.9% capacity. VMS ceased to function properly for lack of disk space.

     The SysAdmin realized that the overflow scheme had solved one problem but had evoked a worse one. He took it down...but that forced him to disable the quota mechanism as well, since under the quotas we’d been assigned we couldn’t even compile our programs. He announced the change in policy with an in-office email, reminded us of the overarching problem, and counseled us to “play nice.”

     “Playing nice” lasted about a day. The 32 MByte space was still inadequate for the group’s needs, and each member of the group exhibited the natural tendency to prioritize his immediate needs above the long-term interests of the group. What happened next was a case study in “the tragedy of the commons.”

     Each engineer strove to set space apart for his own use by creating “slack files:” large files of no importance except that:

  • They were the “property” of the creator and could only be deleted by him or the SysAdmin;
  • They were large enough that, if deleted, the space thus freed would be adequate for the engineer’s work.

     In effect, such a file “privatized” a portion of the common storage resource. But with thirty people concurrently trying to get useful work done, the tactic was vulnerable to a countermeasure. Smith would run a program that repeatedly requested a report on the free disk space available. The moment Jones deleted his slack file to run a compilation, Smith’s program would notice and would swiftly allocate the space to his use. Such programs proliferated through the group almost immediately...and once again, it became impossible to get any work done.

     There was no way out of the box. The SysAdmin had no untried approaches to the problem. No engineer was willing to trust the others to play nice. Management refused to spring for a disk drive with a higher capacity, insisting that “you have what you need.” (To be fair, the highest capacity disk available at that time probably wouldn’t have made much difference.) Relief from the torture came only when the Navy canceled our program.

     Iterations of this problem recurred regularly for a decade and more.

     I have before me at this moment a 64 GigaByte flash ROM thumb drive: 2000 times the space on that old disk pack. It’s so small that I frequently misplace it and have to search the entire house for it. It’s not the largest of its kind; there are now thumb drives of 512 GBytes. Hard disks of 4 TeraBytes are commonplace and quite inexpensive. The explosion in storage capacity has alleviated many of the problems of yore.

     Cyclops, my beloved (albeit occasionally irritating) Dell Optiplex 580, which I bought used and have owned for more than three years, has a 2 TeraByte hard disk drive of which less than 25% is in use. I don’t expect ever to challenge its capacity.

     If American corporate developers were still in the habit of using superminis, their disk capacities would be correspondingly huge. However, the typical company uses networked PCs with large drives of their own, tied to servers with even larger shared drives.

     But why did storage capacities explode? What provided the incentive for the electronics industry to bring us these things?

     The answer lies in the most trivial, utterly unproductive things we do with our computers:

  • Music and video files;
  • Computer games;
  • Porn.

     These are the influences that have led users to demand more storage space and has made them willing to pay for it. The market took care of the rest. Anomalous users (your humble Curmudgeon being one) who use their computers for “serious stuff” have benefited from the demands of the frivolous users.

     So today, the day before Thanksgiving 2017, I find myself giving thanks for the hordes of American computer owners and users whose frivolous pastimes have propelled the storage explosion. They waved fistfuls of cash at the disk drive developers, and the developers gave them what they wanted. I am their indirect beneficiary. Maybe you are too.

     Might that make you, Gentle Reader, a wee bit more tolerant when you next catch Junior playing a computer game or viewing cat videos instead of his book report that’s overdue?

     I’ll be taking tomorrow off from the blog. I expect to be back Friday. Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless and keep you all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Random Jottings From A Bemused Writer

     Bemused. Yes, that’s it exactly. Puzzled. Mystified. Confounded, even. “Over what?” I hear you cry. Simply this: Given all the arrant nonsense that’s making the news lately, why haven’t we heard about millions of Americans being injured or killed by uncontrollable laughter?

     It’s a cover-up, I tell you. It must be!

     It’s a home truth that “the tail goes with the dog:” i.e., you must expect your actions to have their foreseeable consequences. Moreover, you must be willing to take responsibility for those consequences, at least if you’re a functioning adult allowed to leave the house without a minder.

     Yet it seems that there are categories of persons who were never taught that:

     Poor, poor Kathy Griffin. She’s currently performing in Austria, but complains that she doesn’t have any work when she gets back to the US of A. Not. One. Gig.

     She also takes a page from the Hillary Clinton playbook, which means she blames everyone else but herself. Moreover, she claims that “this wall of crap has never fallen on any woman in the history of America the way it has fallen on me.”

     You’ve got to wonder about Griffin’s sanity. She could have asked Lindsay Lohan what to expect from the course she chose. She set out, deliberately and with malice aforethought, to offend over 60 million people: we who voted Donald Trump into the Oval Office. Her own actions made her radioactive. Inasmuch as her career was television-based, and sponsors regard alienating half of their potential audience as poor marketing, what on Earth did she expect? A crown of laurels?

     I never thought much of her act, and as a sports-DVDs-and-video-games type I wouldn’t have been part of her audience anyway. Still, her plaint made me wonder whether there’s a degree of public exposure that rots the brain of the under-prepared.

     It’s good for a laugh, anyway.

     Writer Danielle Bova reminds us of something she wrote a year ago:

     It has been 3 weeks since America elected the next President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and we are still in the throes of the biggest, loudest, hysterical temper tantrum in recent memory.

     Yes, Hillary voters, I’m talking about you.

     There has not been such a show of immaturity in at least 60 years, if not longer. I know this because my mother told me. She’s 81, and said flat out that she remembers nothing that compares to the Left’s rage at the fact that their candidate didn’t win in all the years she’s been voting.

     (Except, perhaps, when Al Gore decided he had won in 2000, and subjected the country to the spectacle of hanging chads, lawsuits, and a Supreme Court decision that ruled that he could not continue trying to find enough Florida votes to declare himself the winner.)

     *Disclaimer* – To those Hillary voters who have done what normal people do when their candidate loses, (having some time of anger, and speaking about your disappointment, and then watching the new PEOTUS and commenting on his performance): This post is not directed at you.

     This is directed at Far Left Democrats, Media, and their sycophants & twitter trolls who have decided to overthrow the fair election of Donald Trump, and/or, those who insist on nasty tactics of passive-aggressive “statements” that are really ploys to humiliate Trump & his VP in public.

     Please read it to the end; it’s a useful memory refresher.

     Yes, it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? But don’t imagine that the Left’s temper tantrum will come to an end at any moment short of Election Day 2020. Americans are enjoying themselves under the Trump Administration...and if there’s anything leftists hate with a red passion, it’s the thought of Americans pleased with life and looking forward to the coming day.

     Grievance is the pulsing heart of Leftist politics. Remember Bill Moyers’s famous statement: “The worst thing you can do to the liberals is take away their grievances.” If there’s no one they can point to while claiming that “This injustice is YOUR FAULT, America,” they can’t make a case for intruding upon our remaining freedom and expanding the State!

     Their tears do taste delicious, though, don't they?

     The tide of sexual harassment and abuse claimants is swelling toward a flood. It’s not limited to plainly assaultive behavior, either. It seems there’s no one in public life, be it politics, journalism, entertainment, or what have you, who hasn’t made an under-considered remark or gesture at some time in the past. Careers are being ended left and right. A lot of money has changed hands over such allegations, too.

     Whereupon it falls to your Curmudgeon to provide a perspective restorative.

     A great many of the claims are situated, temporally, in the Seventies and early Eighties. If there was ever a time or place more sexualized than America in those years, I have yet to learn of it. Those were the bathhouse years, for Pete’s sake! They were the hookup years, when one-night stands were au courant and waking up next to a stranger wasn’t considered all that newsworthy.

     In other words, the norms of that period were far from what they are today, in our era of AIDS, chlamydia, palimony, and lawsuits over hoary old idioms and facial expressions.

     Raising a row over behavior forty years past is a bit like an ex post facto law. Maybe we didn’t have our heads on straight back then. Or maybe we don’t have them on straight today; it doesn’t really matter. The norms were different. Creating a foofaurauw today over behavior and speech that was acceptable back then is inherently illegitimate. But this will probably fall upon deaf ears, given the glee in many partisans’ faces over the opportunity to damage important figures on the other side.

     I fully expect that the above will displease some people. I can’t be bothered to care. They can shove it up their asses with the rest of their shit.

     Yesterday began the big Innocents giveaway. And boy oh boy, have I given away a lot of copies of Innocents! (1790 copies as of this writing.) For those who have partaken of my beneficence, I have a handful of requests:

  1. If you enjoy the story, please review it at Amazon.
  2. If you really enjoy the story, why not purchase one or two of my other books? They’re not that expensive.
  3. If you really, really enjoy the story, consider telling other people you know. Word-of-mouth is the best advertising an indie writer can have.

     Thank you. And now, it’s back to my previously scheduled programming.

Monday, November 20, 2017

When One Gap Closes, Another Opens

     Sarah Hoyt’s dissection of a fatuous article about “closing the gender gap” got me thinking afresh about the irrelevance of good intentions, the law of unintended consequences, and my favorite of all the comeuppances natural law awards to meddlers: the Fortinbras Effect.

     You’ve probably never seen the phrase “Fortinbras Effect” before. I coined it some years ago. (As far as I know, I’m the only writer who uses it.) Fortinbras was the foreign warlord in Hamlet who comes onstage at the very end of the play, after all of Denmark’s royals and their heirs are dead, and decides to assert a claim to the Danish throne. Mind you, he didn’t intend that sequence of events; he was merely well positioned to capitalize on it.

     It’s often the case that a seemingly uninvolved party to some passionately disputed controversy ultimately becomes its chief beneficiary, just as Fortinbras did. England’s War of the Roses is a commonly studied case. In that conflict, the noble houses of Lancaster and York were the combatants, but the ultimate victors were the Tudors, who took the throne and held it for more than a century afterward. The houses of Lancaster and York were henceforward only marginal players in future contests over the rule of England.

     We can see a similar effect arising from social engineers’ attempts to goose women out of their homes and into the workplace.

     First and foremost: an economy in which women can and will leave their homes to work for wages is necessarily an advanced economy. It must be at least at the verge of the transition from the Industrial to the Informational orientation. Otherwise, the physical punishment and bodily hazards of paying work would deter large-scale female participation. There are spot-exceptions, of course; the garment industry of the Nineteenth Century in both England and the U.S. is an example. However, as a rule women will not willingly leave their homes to work for wages when the economy emphasizes physical strength, physical endurance, and risks to life and limb.

     Thus, we will not see large-scale female paid labor in a purely Industrial milieu. Counterexamples would be self-correcting, as women who left home to participate in industry would be far less likely to reproduce. But when the transition to an Information economy begins – i.e., once there is a substantial “office” sector — the dynamics change. In such an economy, women can labor for wages without being at a physical disadvantage, and without great risk of injury or death. Whether the incentives to do so will be sufficient to persuade any great number of women to do so is a separate question.

     I’m not a telepath, nor do I play one on the World Wide Web. That having been said, I’m inclined to assume that the intentions of the postwar “women’s liberationists” in encouraging women to consider paid labor as a plausible alternative to homemaking were benign. America’s economy during World War II made considerable use of women while so large a fraction of our manhood was overseas. While some of the consequences of that phenomenon were benign, the explosive rise in birth rates after the war suggests that it had created a “pent-up demand” among American women for some non-economic goods: babies, motherhood, and a return to homemaking rather than the continuation of paid labor.

     It took two decades before more than a trickle of American women returned to paid work. While some might have been responding to another postwar phenomenon – the destigmatization of divorce and the consequent rise in divorce rates – others were propelled by another surging force in the American economy: the increase in the cost of living, driven by accelerating taxation and inflation. With the Seventies and President Nixon’s closure of the “gold window” to foreign holders of dollars, inflation broke free of its final restraints. The purchasing power of each earner plummeted inversely.

     Employers were understandably indisposed to increase wages as rapidly as inflation was eroding the dollar. If families were to maintain or improve their financial statuses, there was only one possible response: wives had to go to work. This accelerated the increase in prices beyond even what inflation was producing. More dollars chasing the same quantity of goods and services always does.

     There are other influences that deserve study: the sexual revolution and the Pill; the rise of the electronics and computer industries; the promotion of “college for everyone;” the two oil embargoes; the steady demise of family businesses and the ongoing corporatization of the workforce; and so forth. However, inflation and taxation are sufficient to account for much of the pressure that propelled women out of their homes, in a great many cases against their will, to work for wages. Compared to those forces, the intentions of the “women’s liberationists” were of no consequence.

     The Law of Unintended Consequences is as immune to repeal as the laws of physics. While some women experienced “net happiness gains” from pursuing wage labor rather than marriage, motherhood, and domesticity, there were others for whom it proved a bad bargain. The latter category didn’t always recognize the loss until too late in life to correct for it.

     When a family loses some fraction of the participation of its bedrock elements – i.e., the husband and wife – it will necessarily experience a degradation of some of its functions. Such a degradation can’t always be remedied by throwing money at it. This is particularly, painfully evident in the deterioration of actual parenting: the nurturance, education, and moral guidance parents have traditionally provided to their children.

     Child-rearing and guidance, like Nature herself, abhors a vacuum. Those who leaped to fill it proved to be hostile to the family itself.

     Persons with an unholy agenda rushed into the breach. Before women rushed into the workplace, the “educational industry” barely deserved that name. Most grammar and high school teachers were young women, usually unmarried. They had no “aides.” The administration of a school comprised a principal, perhaps a vice-principal, and a secretary in a back office. The classroom was reserved entirely for academic subjects, with perhaps two or three periods of “gym” per student per week.

     The mushrooming of “educationists” correlated almost perfectly with women’s pursuit of wage labor. Parents, feeling themselves hard pressed by economic necessities, were seduced into approving of greatly expanded, largely non-academic agendas for the schools. The schools became flush with money. Education became a target for persons with social, political, or other axes to grind. Ironically, a great many of those proselytizers were women.

     In his novel The Hidden Truth, Hans G. Schantz has delineated some of the more odious consequences:

     “The second reason [for women to be seduced into the wage economy] is to get children out of the potentially antisocial environment of the home and into educational settings where we can be sure they’ll get the right values and learn the right lessons to be happy and productive members of society. Working mothers need to send their children to daycare and after-school care where we can be sure they get exposed to the right lessons, or at least not to bad ideas....

     “They are going to assign homework to their students: enough homework to guarantee that even elementary school students are spending all their spare time doing homework. Their poor parents, eager to see that Junior stays up with the rest of the class, will be spending all their time helping their kids get incrementally more proficient on the tests we have designed. They’ll be too busy doing homework to pick up on any antisocial messages at home....

     “Children will be too busy to learn independence at home, too busy to do chores, to learn how to take care of themselves, to be responsible for their own cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Their parents will have to cater to their little darlings’ every need, and their little darlings will be utterly dependent on their parents. When the kids grow up, they will be used to having someone else take care of them. They will shift that spirit of dependence from their parents to their university professors, and ultimately to their government. The next generation will be psychologically prepared to accept a government that would be intrusive even by today’s relaxed standards – a government that will tell them exactly how to behave and what to think. Not a Big Brother government, but a Mommy-State.

     Good intentions had proved impotent.

     In Shakespeare’s Hamlet Fortinbras is presented as a morally neutral, perhaps even benevolent figure. He’s not in Denmark to cause trouble. When at the close of the play he decides to take its throne, it’s not out of rapacity, or at least not necessarily so. But the sort of third party that usually capitalizes on a wound to an important institution is decidedly not a good guy.

     Let’s look at some of the second-order effects of women in the workplace and who has “done a corner” in them:

  1. Women working alongside men has exacerbated the natural tensions between the sexes, creating rich fodder for militant feminists.
  2. Governments have, as Hans G. Schantz notes above, reaped great increases in tax revenue.
  3. “Educators” whose principal concern is the expansion of their own wealth, power, and prestige have deeply colonized state and local governments.
  4. Persons with sexual, political, and other family-hostile agendas have established a firm foothold in the schools.
  5. Perhaps worst of all: As participation in the Information economy demands a certain level of intellect and education, the women unable to take part in it have largely been the poorly educated and the intellectually substandard: the very communities worst afflicted by the rising cost of living, and worst infested by identity-politics hucksters.

     One could hardly look objectively at those forces and call them good for women, families, or the nation.

     One last irony before I close: an economy advanced enough to make it possible and mildly attractive for women to consider wage labor as an alternative to marriage and homemaking is necessarily a rich economy. The one-breadwinner arrangement will be adequate for the great majority of families. Its people, absent excessive predation by the State, will be prosperous and secure. That is hardly the condition of America today. Our prosperity is a phantasm, propped up by debt and unsustainable entitlement programs. Our jobs are anything but secure, though there has been a degree of turnaround in the past year. And the State, in all its manifestations, remains omnipresent, and ever more voracious for our earnings, our freedoms, and our lives.

     Given all that, I’d hesitate to call “closing the gender gap” as it’s routinely imagined a good thing. I’d argue that we’d have been far better off had we managed to perpetuate the familial and social conditions prevalent in America in the Fifties and early Sixties. Unfortunately our ruling class, had other ideas.

     Thoughts, Gentle Readers?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Writers, Beware!

     Just a quick emission, this time of greatest interest to other writers who read Liberty’s Torch. The explosion of independent writers who publish and market their own tales has been matched by a rise in scams aimed at such writers. The majority of scamsters wait for you to go to them...but there’s one that’s rather active that comes to you.

     Representatives of that scam have now called me three times. I seldom answer my phone during the day, so on each occasion the caller has left a message. Yesterday I exercised my Google-Fu on their callback phone number and found this description:

     A few weeks ago, I began hearing from writers who'd been solicited, out of the blue, by a company called LitFire Publishing. In some cases by phone, in others by email, a LitFire "consultant" claimed to have received or seen information about the writers' books (or even to have read them), and wanted to offer a wonderful marketing opportunity--for, of course, a four-figure fee.

     Here's how LitFire describes itself and its services (also see the screenshot at the bottom of this post):

     Founded in 2008, LitFire allows authors to skip the hassles of traditional publishing. The company started out as a publisher of digital books. With hundreds of published titles and more than 50 publishing partners, we have learned how to succeed and soar in the eBook market. In 2014, LitFire expanded its horizon by offering self-publishing. Today, we offer all the services you would expect from a traditional publishing house – from editorial to design to promotion. Our goal is to help independent authors and self-publishers bring their book production and marketing goals to fruition.

     In other words, LitFire is one of those outfits that offers publishing packages, but makes much of its profit from hawking adjunct services such as marketing.

     Don’t be fooled, indie colleagues. This outfit will not help you to sell your books. It wants your money; that’s all. So if someone calls to inquire about one of your books and leaves a message on your machine asking that you call 1-800-511-9787 (usually extension 8125 or 8135), ignore the come-on. Delete the message without returning the call.

     If you return the call, the person on the other end will say flattering things about your book’s sales potential – in their hands, of course – and will try to lead you into speaking of what you’ve done to market it. The voice will be pleasant; the pitch for their services will be subtle and seductive. Never will be heard a discouraging word. But the end of the pitch will involve you sending them a check for a large amount of money, certainly far too large for most of us scribblers to throw off the back of a lettuce truck.

     Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. This is never more important than when you’re confronted by someone who wants to trade you a bunch of unenforceable promises for a bunch of your hard-earned money. Verbum sat sapienti.

Echoes of the Past Haunt Us

The Civil War divisions are still with us. The battle has moved from control of Black people - the South is less divisive than any other part of the country, and has shared power more equally than most of the nation.

No, the essence of the fight - who will control the national treasury?

I write about the fight here.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

American political pathology – Part 2,593.

As instances of our political pathology go this is about a 2.2 on the Richter Scale. The rest of the article from which this excerpt is taken is more detailed and more damning. Other instances are as numberless as the grains of sand on Jeffrey Epstein's island.

Suffice it to say that American politics, Western politics really, are awash in bilge water that even a spirit cook wouldn't think of adding to her concoction. Yes, folks, it's the Russians who are the authors of our ills. We, who have aided and abetted the bowie knife murder of Gaddafi and the death of over 400,000 Syrian civilians for reasons that are top secret, are blameless. Yes, we are. We're devoted to humanity and we are fearless questers after something. I'll get back to on the latter point:
Of course, much of this anti-Russian hysteria comes from the year-long fury about the shocking election of Donald Trump. From the first moments of stunned disbelief over Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the narrative was put in motion to blame Trump’s victory not on Clinton and her wretched campaign but on Russia. That also was viewed as a possible way of reversing the election’s outcome and removing Trump from office.

The major U.S. news media quite openly moved to the forefront of the Resistance. The Washington Post adopted the melodramatic and hypocritical slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as it unleashed its journalists to trumpet the narrative of some disloyal Americans spreading Russian propaganda. Darkness presumably was a fine place to stick people who questioned the Resistance’s Russia-gate narrative.[1]

[1] "America’s Righteous Russia-gate Censorship." By Robert Parry, Russia Insider, 11/18/17.

Social Vectors, Part 3: Outrage

     “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. That's bad manners!” – Napoleon Bonaparte

     In his landmark work The Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell notes that if one spectator at a baseball game stands up, it will enable him to see better (as a certified Short Person, I can confirm this) but that does not mean that if everyone stands up, they will all be able to see better. More directly, there are some tactics that work well in microcosm but don’t “scale up.” This is a particularly important maxim when engaged in the study of political economy.

     It seems to me that it’s equally important in the study of political combat.

     A neologism of relatively recent vintage, the “policy wonk,” refers to a politically engaged person, whether or not in high office or government employ, who has made himself an expert in some realm of public policy. While investigating the origin of wonk, a monosyllable far better suited to onomatopoeia about a digestive-tract noise than to a person of recognized expertise, I found this:

     wonk n 1: an insignificant student who is ridiculed as being affected or boringly studious [syn: swot, grind, nerd, wonk, dweeb]

     Worth a chuckle, isn’t it? Especially in light of the great significance “policy wonks” attained during the political discourse of the Eighties and Nineties. Yet it has considerable import for the political dynamics of our time.

     “Affected or boringly studious.” Not an inspiring picture, is it? It certainly doesn’t conjure up the image of a dynamic leader figure, a Man on Horseback. No, it’s more about desks in dimly lit rooms, hunched over by slightly built young men in glasses, all of them laboring over spreadsheets, footnotes, and speeches to be given to other “policy wonks” at chicken dinners hosted by obscure think tanks.

     The promotion of the “policy wonk” was never about political persuasion, though. It was about inspiring confidence in the supposedly more charismatic politicians the “policy wonks” worked for. “He has the support of the Cato Institute!” “Oh? Well, my guy is backed by the Heritage Foundation!” “Pfui! My candidate is endorsed by the Brookings Institution!” And so on.

     It didn’t work very well. The reasons aren’t far to seek. The general public isn’t really interested in policy technicata, especially when, as former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon put it in A Time For Truth, their prescriptions are aimed merely at making the carriage of State move a little less creakily. As a rule, the mass of voters will gravitate toward one of three attractants. In ascending order of political potency, those are:

  1. Principles,
  2. Promises,
  3. Good Looks.

     And yes, I’m quite serious. John F. Kennedy, a man of approximately no personal achievements, won the presidency largely because he was better looking than boring old Richard M. Nixon. Their debates were the first of their kind to be nationally televised. As Russell Baker noted in his commentary on the subject, while Nixon presented the better arguments, people don’t listen to television; they watch it. (JFK then entangled us in Vietnam and very nearly triggered a world war over the Cuban Missile Crisis, but those are subjects for another screed.)

     Makes you wonder why anyone went to the polls in November 2016, doesn’t it? But only for a moment. While neither candidate was stunningly telegenic, one had a powerful message – Make America Great Again! — while the other had a whiny voice and a sense of entitlement. America made its choice between them on the basis of Attractant #2.

     The Era of the Policy Wonk was clearly behind us.

     “There are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown; and those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they’re jackals with sharp teeth and I'm their tiger; there's a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves.” – spoken by Henry VIII in Robert Bolt’s screenplay for A Man For All Seasons

     The amount of insight in the quote above is simply staggering. Why do people choose to follow a leader? The principle of legitimacy was the Duke of Norfolk’s reason: Henry was the anointed king of England by its laws of primogeniture. Thomas Cromwell was merely politically ambitions and saw attachment to Henry’s aims as his best chance of ascension. The great mass of English commoners was drawn, if at all, to Henry’s seeming dynamism.

     That casts a revealing light on the contemporary uses of outrage and protests.

     Contrast today’s outrage-vendors with the policy wonks. Which group is more attractive to the great mass of Americans? You, Gentle Reader, might be inclined to spurn them both; I would do so as well. But you, Gentle Reader, are not representative of the great mass. Nor is the great mass uniform in what it looks for in a politician, a promulgator, or a Cause.

     To be blunt, a great many persons, dimly aware of their irrelevance to anything beyond themselves, are most attracted by the appearance of commitment, energy, and sincerity in a spokesman.

     The Establishment Right was confounded by this vector. They put forward a gaggle of present and former officeholders who had much more in common with the policy wonks than with the American electorate. Only one of the candidates seemed to possess significant energy – and he was anathema to the mossbacked strategists and kingmakers of the GOP. Nevertheless, Republican voters chose him, and he went on to defeat the Left’s anointed one in the most surprising presidential election since 1860.

     The Left has drawn the moral; the Establishment Right has not.

     In the above, I haven’t spoken specifically of any of the outrage-powered (or outrage-simulating) “movements” that infest our city streets. There’s no need. The point is the energy and commitment they appear to possess. A substantial number of Americans find it attractive. What they claim to be fighting for is largely irrelevant to their appeal. Fortunately given the ugliness of their purported causes, this has affected only a small minority. The tactic doesn’t “scale up” to the national level, because the various “movements” are tribal and particularist and therefore inherently anti-American.

     The vector is the important thing. The Left is exploring the utility of that vector. Except for the populist current behind Donald Trump, the Right is not. The emissions of Establishmentarian commentators testify eloquently to the inertia of their thinking. Granted that they’re also partly motivated by spite and an abiding dislike of the outsider who showed them up. Too bad for them.

     In closing, have an analysis of how the outrage-powered “anti-white” forces can be confounded by their own orientation, and a taste of what truly elicits the ire of its allegiants, shamelessly stolen from Ninety Miles From Tyranny:

     Lovely, aren’t they?

     I think this should bring the “Social Vectors” series to a conclusion. Gentle Readers are invited to suggest other related sociocultural currents and phenomena, but for the moment I expect to turn to other concerns, mainly fictional ones. Expect posting to be light for the weekend.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A True and Wearying Thing

I came across this in a link - I'm sorry, I don't remember the original linker. The key phrase does ring true:

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Another truth that needs to be spoken: Twitter and other social media sites are vicious, catty, intensely FEMALE bullying spaces - and, you don't have to participate.

Really, I mean it. You not only won't disintegrate if you get off the overly dramatic, Mean-Girl, We ALL hate you and Want You to DIE, Bitchy site, your life will be considerably improved.

If you want to know the highlights (or lowlights) of Twitter, it will eventually hit the headlines. Trump's Tweets, alone, usually foment sufficient outrage that avoiding knowing about them is the tricky part.

And, then, there's THIS. Don't fail to read it down to the last sentence.

Social Vectors, Part 2: Plantations

     Owing to the connection to slavery, post-Civil War attempts by plantation owners to keep their former slaves laboring right where they were, and the Democrat Party’s emphasis on identity politics, the metaphor of “keeping ‘em on the plantation” has acquired great contemporary resonance. A recent Breitbart article points at the chagrin of one set of identity-group hucksters over the defectors from their plantation:

     The Guardian called the rise of free-thinking, LGBT conservatives “troubling” in an article on Thursday.

     The article, written by Arwa Mahdawi, criticized popular LGBT conservatives, including former OUT Magazine employee Chadwick Moore, who was fired after coming out as a conservative, and the Log Cabin Republicans, attempting to paint right-wing LGBT men and women as an “influential group of gay, white, and financially well-off men,” made up of Nazis, white nationalists, and misogynists....

     “Some people might argue that the increase in rightwing LGBTQ people represents a move away from identity politics. Ultimately, however, it’s just a move back to the oldest form of identity politics,” she continued. “One in which the protection of whiteness and wealth trumps everything. But as some gay Trump supporters might be starting to realize, the right aren’t your friends, and eventually they’ll come for you.”...

     In February, LGBT writer Skylar Baker-Jordan also attacked gay conservatives in an article for the Independent, where he claimed he would refuse to accept gay people who “come out” as supporters of President Trump, while in June, Slate likened LGBT conservatives to “villains.”

     The hysteria is real and palpable. Just as with the emergence of strong black and female conservative figures – surely you’ve heard the phrases “race traitor” and “gender traitor?” — the plantation overseers fear a steady crumbling of their identity groups. The solidity of those groups is what makes the overseers valuable to the Democrats. It gives them negotiating power they fear to lose.

     However, the use of ostracism and condemnation to arrest those “traitors” and bring them back to the planation appears to be failing the Left. It’s worth a few CPU cycles to investigate why.

     The desire to be thought well of is universal. We all want others to see us as worthy of respect. That’s completely independent of race, sex, and sexual orientation. But what makes a person appear worthy to others can be affected by social, cultural, and political factors.

     In yesterday’s piece, I poked at some of the vectors that are helping to propel male-to-female transgenderism. Those vectors have certain motifs in common with the ones gradually drawing individuals out of the racial, sexual, and sex-orientation plantations of the Left and toward a more independent frame of mind.

     In general, Smith will desire the good opinion of those who have Smith’s good opinion. If Smith thinks well of Jones but not of Davis, he will seek Jones’s approval but be relatively indifferent to Davis’s. Among the characteristics most commonly thought praiseworthy is independence of mind: the willingness to look at some controversy with no particular concern for what others think. When that trait is made perceptible, as is the case with black, female, and LGBT conservatives, the independent-minded individual becomes an accretion nucleus, around whom others of less intellectual courage will collect.

     It might seem that such independence is not ideologically directed – e.g., that if the great majority of LGBT persons were politically conservative, a “maverick” liberal would be an accretion nucleus for his views. Perhaps, if the logical and evidentiary bases of liberalism and conservatism were equally sound, it might prove to be so. But it isn’t that way today, in large part because the Left has attempted to wall off its identity-group plantations against ideological divergence.

     When the border guards’ guns point inward, at their fellow subjects, it’s clear to those subjects that the guards’ function is not to defend them – that there are things the subjects are not allowed to learn.

     Courage is inherently admirable. Intellectual courage married to the will to speak one’s mind is admired in direct proportion to the forces amassed against the speaker.

     The irony is staggering. The identity-group plantation overseers would have more luck at retaining their intellectual serfs’ allegiance if, rather than denouncing the escapees as villains, they were to smile winningly, concede each person’s right to his own opinions, and argue persuasively for their preferred positions. However, fear can make one do stupid things, especially when one’s money, power, and prestige are at stake.

     The stupidity reaches Brobdingnagian dimensions when the overseers hurl invective at persons of such integrity and eminence as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Christina Hoff Sommers, Suzanne Venker, Tammy Bruce, Chadwick Moore, and Blaire White.

     Let it be frankly admitted that many in the black, female, and LGBT cohorts sincerely hold left-liberal convictions that are little or not at all affected by the convictions of others. That having been said, identity-group politics is suffering a steady loss of allegiants. That has the Left in a panic. Coalition politics is the heart of its strategy; it has no other.

     To us in the Right, it’s a strong prescription for intellectual honesty and moral courage. It mandates that we eschew all tactics founded on the divide et impera approach of the Left, for our own sake. But let’s not be too vocally triumphant about it. After all, there’s Napoleon’s exhortation to consider: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. That's bad manners!” And we in the Right are all about good manners, aren’t we?

Destroying America one immigrant at a time.

In the past 40 years, upward of 50 million culturally backward, dirt-poor immigrants arrived in America, and state after state has gone blue, but we're always told states are flipping to the Democrats for some reason -- any reason! -- other than immigration.[1]
But speak of the blessing of "diversity" and, voila!, no more problem.

[1] "Yes, Virginia, immigration is turning the country blue." By Ann Coulter, 11/15/17.