Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Snapshots of Endarkenment: The Transportation Security Administration, February 25 and March 3, 2015

Observers more knowledgable than I have written countless words on the subject of the Department of Homeland Security in general and the Transportation Security Administration in particular: the exorbitant cost (financial and otherwise), the unconstitutionality, the propriety, the parallels with totalitarianism (fascist and otherwise), the Orwellian nature of the names, the inability to stop any determined "terrorist," etc.  In the interests of brevity and time management (and the fact that anyone reading this likely knows his own and my view of the subject), I will simply relate my two latest encounters with the inefficacious blue shirts as an illustration of the hoary "frog in the pot" metaphor that is "security" theater.

     Last Wednesday, February 25, I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport for a flight to the cold coast.  An officious man stood near the entrance to the TSA "security" line controlling a leashed dog (at least he was in control of something, or appeared to be).  He was not wearing blue (blue is the new brown, to paraphrase one of this culture's more contemptible cultural products), but he had "TSA K9" printed on his garment.  I do not recall seeing a dog at a TSA "security" checkpoint (the theater of the absurd that is to security what modernism is to art and what rap & "nü metal" is to music).  The dog sniffed me (and, to the best of my recollection, everyone in my view).  (See Radley Balko's series of articles on the unreliability of police K9s for this latest scene in the latest act in the Endarkenment's ongoing theater of the absurd.)  Something else that was different (to me) was the "personality" of the blue shirt checking identification and boarding passes near the front (I'm not familiar with their argot and don't know what to call the individual).  Unlike many I encountered fairly recently (perhaps in an effort to improve the agency's public relations and to reassure whatever vestiges of pride remain in the spirit of the twenty-first century American on the street), this one was NOT particularly congenial and did not engage in the incongruous persiflage in blue I had more recently experienced.  (This is an improvement.  There is nothing about this agency or experience that is congenial--it is not Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood or even Howard Stern--and it should not be disguised as such, and, indeed, Rogers and even Stern are remnants of a better culture.)   As I neared the famous gray, imposing "porno scanner" (which is as imperious and implacable as an inanimate object can be), I took out my notebook computer and doffed my shoes, as usual.  (One of the blue shirts said something about the notebook computers.  I wasn't paying much attention, but I thought he commanded "my fellow Americans" to remove the computers from their bags, as usual.  I wish I had been paying more attention, as it became important.)  Although my memory is already somewhat hazy, I thought those in front of me in line were being herded into the porno scanner.  When it was my turn, the blue shirt directed me to the less imposing, better old-fashioned metal detector next to it.  From my perspective, it was a matter of chance whether I was subjected to the worse-than-useless scanner.  When the reification of Endarkenment was over and I donned my shoes again, I noticed that I had inadvertently left an empty bottle of vitamin water in my 20th Century Fox tote bag that went through the bag scanner.  (Yes, I drink it.  I don't care if it's an "expensive waste" or a placebo--I like the flavor, it's a value to me, and I could probably use the vitamin content.  I had intended to discard it before the expensive playacting, but I had forgotten.)  The guardian of the democracy (not republic, not anymore) that monitored the machine must have missed the bottle (unfortunately, one stole my Thomas Jefferson cigarette lighter years ago, the irony apparently lost on that particular charge of public education).  Whatever else has changed, I know that beverage bottles are still contraband at "airport security" (where is George Carlin when you need him?)

     After arriving at my destination, I discussed the matter with a long-time friend and fellow "libertarian" (who has managed to keep much of his mind intact despite apparently majoring in English in college in the late 1990s).  He said that he had seen the dogs recently (including in Los Angeles), and that the blues informed him that the purpose of the canine was to obviate the doffing of shoes and the separation of computers from bags.  Since I generally avoid talking in general (and I usually cannot understand the mumbled and/or inarticulate discourse of the "officers"), I have not asked for clarification (and I'm too busy to peruse the Internet for it).

     For my return flight yesterday in Philadelphia (the cradle and grave of liberty, to borrow from Tamara Keel, who was referring to Boston), there was no dog (though there were other subhumans, however temporary their status).  The older couple in front of me (likely considered "senior citizens") were told to keep their shoes on.  But the younger people around me were doffing them.  ("Terrorism" apparently retires eventually.)  I was subjected to the inefficacious scanner this time.  Despite the fact that is was my understanding that the scanner obviated the need for a "pat down," they forced me to endure that as well (after blue asked me if I was wearing a belt, which I wasn't).  (With the intention of streamlining this unAmerican process, which obviously failed yesterday, I eschew the belt, which necessitates tighter, skinnier jeans.  I probably looked as much like a typical Angeleno "metrosexual" emo eunuch as it is possible for me to look.  Perhaps I looked almost as fatuous as the blues, but I doubt it.  And it is slightly amusing to hear a twenty-first century, inarticulate, slang-infused young person with a Philadelphia accent pronounce the word "buttocks."  As Jimmy Buffet once wrote and sang, "If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane.")  Afterwards, I was "instructed" to the side for some kind of chemical test with another blue.  (These were noticeably less congenial and solicitous than my previous few experiences.)  Since I knew I had no choice (and I know how unreasonable this agency, and the culture that tolerates it, is), I did not protest much.  But I thought I had to say something after both of my hands were subjected to some kind of chemical test.  (When I did not relax the first hand immediately, Blue said, "You can relax your hand now."  How kind of her, but I knew I "could."  I decide when to relax my hand, and, since there was no reason to relax yet, I didn't.)  Although I am not much of an oral communicator under any circumstances (and I understand the nature and implied violence of the situation), I could no longer leave the area without saying something.  I asked why the special attention was necessary.  It was difficult for me to understand the response, especially under the circumstances and considering the interlocutor's voice.  To the best of my ability to interpret the response (and recall it), she said that all subjected to "pat downs" must now receive mandatory chemical tests (I didn't retain the name of the chemical).

     Much more can be (and has been) observed about this agency, the broader cultural context, and the  false-at-best ideological fundamentals that underpin all of it, but, unlike the blues, some people have honest, productive, efficacious work to do.

The inadvertent contraband (or are exceptions made for empty bottles?)



Monday, February 23, 2015

Almost Everybody Is Patricia Arquette

For the record: I love Patricia Arquette.  Not only is she an efficacious thespian, but she comes across as a sincere, earnest, and benevolent individual.
     I am glad that she "won" the Best Supporting Actress Oscar® last night (and regret that Boyhood was otherwise snubbed), and it is symbolically appropriate as well as just that she "won" it (if topping a poll in which a majority of voters are press agents and public relations people could be a victory or a determinant of the "best" of anything).  (I did not see all of the nominated performances in her category, but I think my opinion on the justice of her "victory," to the extent that justice could apply, will stand.)  In her acceptance speech, she represented everything right and wrong about much of her culture (the narrower culture of show business and the broader culture of America) in the twenty-first century, and she embarrassed herself to the few remaining observers who are knowledgable and sagacious.
     Her acknowledgment of Richard Linklater as Boyhood's "director" (he also created, or at least co-created, her character and wrote the dialogue she spoke in the film) is a relatively minor point in this culture's neglect of writers in general and Hollywood's neglect of screenwriters in particular.  [Linklater "lost" the Best Director and Best Original Screenplay awards to the director and writers, respectively, of the unfortunately-subtitled Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and Boyhood, which Linklater also co-produced, "lost" the Best Picture award to Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).  Regardless of what the voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the majority of whom are agents, publicists, and PR people, believe, the inconsistent Linklater is the greatest active writer/director--which isn't saying much.]
     Arquette's serious mistake was to announce to the world her ignorance of politics and economics.
     I have never met Patricia Arquette, but I observed her from a distance of a few feet after an advance screening of Boyhood last summer.  She graciously and generously spent time signing autographs and warmly conversing with admirers.  It was difficult for anyone (even me) to miss her genuine generosity and warmth.  Unlike some of those who share her ideas (in and out of the entertainment industry), it is almost impossible to doubt her sincerity and compassion on any subject about which she speaks (and even more so in the context of a brief award acceptance speech).
     But she seriously supported "wage equality" and "equal rights for women," and she made it evident that she was referring to America.
     Robert Tracinski waggishly Tweeted that he would love to have "wage equality" with Patricia Arquette.  Although he may be unaware that she worked for very little pay on the "indie" film Boyhood, he certainly has a point in general (and this award will certainly increase her future income).
     Of course, she would likely argue that she was not referring to herself (and that she gladly took a severe pay cut for Boyhood anyway).  She still deserves criticism, for a number of reasons.  She may not be running for office or demanding power, but she commands a certain amount of attention and respect--and anyone advocating false, misleading, or destructive ideas should be criticized.  (There is a famous saying about a famous road, its destination, and the material with which it is paved.)
     Like almost everyone, Arquette is ignorant of economics.  Instead of "falling prices," progressives are obsessed with nominal (not real) wages and "wage equality" (not to mention equality in general).  (If empathic progressives and other altruists were to examine prices and living costs, they might be horrified at the extent to which their policies have raised all of the above, hurting "the poor" the most, who are least able to afford the taxes and fees passed onto them.  L. Neil Smith has calculated that statism increases the cost of living at least ten times.  Compassionate progressives may be especially empathic to those productive members of the economy who earn six figures per year but not seven, as they are taxed heavily but they, unlike most Academy Award®-winning thespians, are not so rich that their lifestyles are essentially unaffected.)  Leaving aside the moral propriety of paying everyone equally no matter the value and magnitude of their work, most economists (even today) have demonstrated the benefits to every individual in every income level when producers are free to earn and invest gargantuan amounts of wealth.  It has been amply demonstrated that jobs, products, and services result from free (and relatively free) capital investment.  (As always, contra Plato and almost everyone else since his time, the moral and the practical are in harmony.)  Ignorance of economics has serious consequences (in a culture if not always in an individual), and spouting about economics to a large audience when one is ignorant of it is a mistake (though a comparatively venial one in this case).
     However, thanks to the influence of progressive educators (the other, related, "progressives") and other fellow travelers, almost everyone is ignorant of economics, and that particular pronouncement of Arquette's (while unfortunate) was hardly shocking.
     I'd like to know exactly what she meant by "equal rights for women"--in the context of America in the twenty-first century (which she unequivocally meant).
     Fifty-plus years after The Feminine Mystique, if there is an "unequal" sex in what is left of America, that sex is not males.
     Contrary to some lies, damned lies, and statistics, several disinterested studies indicate that when apples are compared to apples (i.e., childless women who work the same amount of hours as men in the same field), there is no "pay gap" (or none that favors men, anyway).  (Several "memes" are already circulating the Internet with details about the spurious "pay gap.")
     Even if there were a "pay gap," women have arguably never been better in this country.  (Leaving aside the fact that individuals of both sexes are, in countless ways, less free and worse off with every passing year of unreason, altruism, and statism, comparatively, women have made quantum leaps forward since Betty Friedan published her estimable book.)  I understand that Arquette was probably primarily (or exclusively) referring to nominal (as opposed to real) wages when she invoked "equal rights for women"--but some of her fellow travelers act as if the twenty-first century United States is almost as hidebound in this regard as the America of previous centuries.
     Abortion has been legal in the entire country since the 1970s (though there is an unfortunate de facto ban in South Dakota, it is not exceptionally difficult for a woman to drive to another state to obtain one).
     While I cannot confirm it, I once heard that "affirmative action" benefits white women more than any other demographic group.
     Despite the fact that women perpetrate domestic violence about as often as men, men are overwhelmingly arrested for it.
     Women are less likely to be arrested than men in general (particularly during traffic stops).
     Women sentenced for convictions of the same crimes as men (ceteris paribus) are sentenced to 65% of the sentence length of men.
     In a custody battle, a woman has to practically light up a crack pipe in divorce court to jeopardize the likelihood of her winning custody.
     The homeless population is still overwhelmingly male.
     Men constitute at least 75% of suicides, a grater percentage of homicide victims, and even greater percentage than that of non-fatal gunshot wound victims.
     Rape is a horrific and evil act, but reported rapes started falling over twenty years ago (and started plummeting shortly after that).  Radley Balko pointed out that, due to the decline in the stigma of being a female rape victim, it is reasonable to conclude that a larger percentage of actual rapes (at least outside of jail, prison, and the military) are being reported than ever before.  Due to the over-criminalization of everything and the rise of the punitive state (and the underreported phenomenon of military rape, which is not an exclusively male-on-female phenomenon, as Kirby Dick's The Invisible War demonstrated), it is not unreasonable to conclude that males may now constitute close to half of all rape victims if one counts jails, prisons, and the military.
     That is not an exhaustive list.
     Some of the above phenomena are positive signs (and others are neither positive nor "negative").  However, an honest, objective individual would be hard-pressed to find an area of life in twenty-first century "America" where women are significantly (or even insignificantly) persecuted or victimized, institutionally.  One would have a much easier time making a case for the institutional persecution of men.  The areas of the world where women are routinely institutionally persecuted are dominated by Islam, but multiculturalists and other leftists are reluctant to "judge" those people while they inveigh against oppressive, misogynist West.  (Ironically, as Mark Steyn frequently points out, the emirs of what he calls Headhackistan do not distinguish between Patricia Arquette and himself--they are both infidels to them.)
     I have no doubt that Patricia Arquette and most (not all) advocates of "wage equality" and "equal rights for women" (usually: even more unequal privileges enforced by government) have the best of intentions and are certainly not misandrist.  (The fact that misogyny is a household word while misandry is seldom heard, while the latter is at least as common as the former these days, is another curious fact, the implications of which should be notable.)  All of the above are symptoms of the fundamental problem: the Endarkenment's counter-revolution against the Age of Reason and the rise of Hegelian and Marxist "dialectical reason" (with a concomitant class-and sex-consciousness supplanting individualism in human affairs).
     The problem is that good intentions, unlike Patricia Arquette's acting, are inefficacious (and can be  destructive).  I am singling her out because I adore her and her work--and she is the spitting image of those she thinks she is helping (lovely, and competent, people whose minds, in all areas except the one at which they excel, have been destroyed by an obscurantist and irrational culture).
     Contra the religionists and the nihilists, who all believe in forms of "original sin" and/or human depravity, people are amazing and heroic--even when they are confused and parrot preposterous and unintentionally hilarious tripe.  This is a culture of kind, gracious, accomplished people--committing suicide because they have ceded philosophy (the fundamental driver of individual humans and human civilization) to a small minority who really are destructive, and they have been disarmed from even beginning to acquire the ability to understand that they have.
     With respect to Patricia Arquette, on behalf of the victims (female and otherwise) of the policies she advocates (particularly the women who are forced to pay, directly and indirectly, for this welfare state, and the women whose lives are disrupted and whose hearts are broken by a "justice" system that often persecutes the men they love), I wish she'd spend more time thinking and learning before opening her mouth and embarrassing herself and her few erudite fans.
   


Monday, January 19, 2015

Injustice Everywhere

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963



Today, millions of individuals celebrate the observance of the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.  The United States Government established, and continues to observe, a federal holiday on the third Monday of every January to observe his birthday.
There is an irony implicit in those facts (as in so many others, these days).  King and his family (not to mention all who are wise enough to value justice and know its general importance) were victims of injustice—even if the man accused of murdering King was guilty.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born Michael King, Jr. in Atlanta on January 15, 1929.  (His father changed his own and his son’s name in honor of Martin Luther.)  He is well known and celebrated for his tireless efforts for genuine racial equality (including his nonviolent protests in Montgomery, Alabama and his 1964 march in Washington, which culminated in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech).  In his preeminent “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” the celebrated intransigent lawbreaker wrote that he reluctantly accepted the term “extremist” and that the relevant issue was not whether or not an individual is an extremist but what kind of extremist he is.  Many critics of his leftist politics nonetheless admire his commitment to passive civil disobedience and his success thereat, as well as his commitment to respect among individuals of all races (in contrast to racist “anti-racism” activists).  As the 1960s dragged on, he became more controversial: his radical socialism distanced him from liberal non-leftists, and his criticism of the Democratic Party’s Vietnam War effort drove a wedge between him and his putatively “liberal” (i.e., Democratic Party) supporters.  Racists offered bounties for his head.  Someone sent him a letter threatening to expose his alleged marital infidelities if he did not commit suicide.  (Some believe the letter is linked to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.)  On the evening of April 3, 1968, he delivered his famous “promised land” speech in Memphis, Tennessee, reassuring his supporters that they would reach his and their goals even if he did not live to see the day.  
The following day, someone killed him while he was standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.  One shot rang out at approximately 6:00 PM Central Standard Time.  He was thirty-nine.  A career criminal and fugitive named James Earl Ray quickly became the prime suspect in the crime.  He was apprehended about two months later at London’s Heathrow Airport on June 8, 1968.
Much has been written about The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his putative assassin (and much of it has been largely ignored).  King’s life, achievements, virtues, and vices are beyond the scope of this piece.  (As a personal aside, I have long admired his virtues while acknowledging his flaws, political and otherwise.  There are also vague, loose connections between us.  I was born on the fifteenth anniversary of the start of his Birmingham Campaign and the tenth anniversary of his last full day and “promised land speech.”  He received his Doctor of Divinity degree at the venerated institution for higher learning that almost destroyed what was left of my mind—fortunately I have recovered it and then some.  All of the above is coincidence, of course, but it leads to a personal interest in the personage I might not otherwise have had.)  Ray’s guilt or innocence is also beyond this piece’s scope—though the reasonable doubt of his sole culpability (even if he acted alone) is not.  Ray may or may not have shot King, and, if he did, he may or may not have acted alone.  A tremendous, decades-long injustice was perpetrated and maintained anyway.  Considering the continued reverence for King by this culture and the representatives of its government, the injustice is particularly ironic.
Ray initially pleaded guilty to King’s murder to Tennessee judge Preston Battle; Battle sentenced him to a lengthy prison sentence.  Ray’s famous attorney, Percy Foreman, publicly commented that, guilty or not, his client probably would have been convicted.  All he could do was plea bargain and save his life.  Ray almost immediately fired Foreman, recanted his plea, and requested a trial.  Battle was considering Ray’s request for a trial when he suddenly died of a heart attack.  Battle’s replacement denied his request.  For the rest of his life, Ray and his defense attorneys maintained his innocence and tried to obtain a trial.  (Ray’s last attorney, William Pepper, was a friend of King’s and his family.  Pepper represented the King family, who believe Ray was not guilty, in a successful wrongful death civil suit against alleged conspirator Loyd Jowers.)  Ray died in prison in 1998 at the age of 70.
There is a fairly convincing circumstantial case against Ray (who was an unsympathetic, disreputable person to begin with).  At the time of the assassination, he was an escaped convict.  He had a criminal record with some serious offenses (including armed robbery).  He had never been accused of killing or injuring anyone.  He did not have much (if any) reputation for being a racist, as even Gerald Posner (author of Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.) conceded that his motive would have had to have been money.  There is no evidence he knew about or tried to collect the bounties offered for King, but he was certainly in Memphis at the time of the assassination with a rifle he had recently purchased.  He had rented a room in a boarding house with a communal bathroom that overlooked the assassination site, the Lorraine Motel’s balcony.  Skeptics aver that it would have been difficult and unlikely, especially with Ray’s lack of firearms knowledge and experience, to successfully shoot King from that bathroom window, but almost anything is possible.  Someone dropped a duffel bag with Ray’s rifle and other incriminating, identifying objects (including his prison radio with his inmate serial number scratched into it) in the doorway of a business in the neighborhood of the Lorraine Motel and the boarding house around the time of the assassination.  Guy Canipe, the business’s owner, was an important witness—and may have been the primary reason Tennessee authorities were determined Ray would never receive a trial.  (More on Canipe shortly.)
In the 1990s, one of Ray’s defense attorneys discovered a superannuated Tennessee law that stipulated that, in the event that a defendant requests a trial and the presiding judge dies, the defendant would automatically receive a trial.  Ray’s defense team immediately brought this Tennessee law to the attention of the Tennessee court.  A judge ruled that too much time had elapsed between the initial request for a trial and the citation of the obscure law.  The judge decided that, in this case, the government would not observe that particular law on its own books.
Around this time, another judge, Joe Brown (who would later gain some fame on television), presided over Ray’s interminable case.  He ordered test firings on the alleged murder weapon (which had apparently never been performed).  (Every gun leaves striation marks on every bullet it fires.  The marks are unique, like fingerprints and DNA.  A murder bullet can, at least in theory, be conclusively matched to the gun that fired it.  The bullet that killed King could have and should have been compared to test bullets fired from Ray’s rifle to see if it matched them.)  A Tennessee law enforcement official testified to Brown that the results of initial test firings were “inconclusive.”  (“Inconclusive” is sometimes a law enforcement euphemism for “results we didn’t want.”)  When Brown asked why a process that was supposed to be dispositive was inconclusive, the official testified that the gun probably needed to be cleaned.  Brown ordered him to clean it and retest the weapon.  Shortly thereafter, Brown was removed from the case by a higher court; officials determined he was not “impartial” and was biased in favor of Ray (even though he is a black man who referred to Ray as a bigot).  The tests apparently never took place.
A few years later, Ray died.  As far as the officials of the State of Tennessee were concerned, any attempt to further investigate King’s murder died with Ray.
Did Ray murder King?  If not, did he help someone who did (wittingly or otherwise)?  I do not know.  I do know that those whose purported responsibility and interest was to ensure that justice transpired in this case defaulted.  Justice was not served—even if Ray, alone, was guilty.
There is a platitude—almost a cliché—that it is better to let ten (or one hundred) guilty men free than to falsely impression one innocent man.  Many Endarkenment platitudes are false.  (The namesake of this blog defined “platitude” as a statement that is a. believed by everyone to be true and b. not true.)  With all due respect to the Sage of Baltimore, this platitude  is true.
The representatives of the governments that insist on “justice, “due process,” and the “rule of law” did not follow those ideals in this instance.  They arguably violated Tennessee law by refusing to grant Ray a trial.  They certainly violated ethics and common sense by refusing to adequately test the alleged murder weapon.
All of the above would be true if there were more evidence against Ray and no reasonable doubt about his guilt.  But there is reasonable doubt about his guilt.  There is not time and space here to recount all of it.  The state’s sole witness who initially claimed to (briefly) see a man come out of the boarding house’s bathroom with a rifle immediately after the assassination was extremely intoxicated at the time.  His credibility was impugned by his own friends and family.  He initially identified Ray as the man he saw.  Later, when shown a photograph of Ray on national television, he denied the man he saw was Ray (to the reporter’s palpable shock).  Most of the state’s case consisted of his testimony and the duffel bag found in Guy Canipe’s doorway with contents that linked Ray to the alleged murder weapon also found in the bag.  Canipe vehemently insisted that the bag (with the rifle in it) was in the doorway at least ten minutes before the assassination.  He offered to testify in Ray’s defense in the event of a trial.  Perhaps he was mistaken.  It is just as likely that he would notice something as unusual as a mysterious duffel bag dropped in his doorway before the equally unusual gunshot rang out—and recall the correct order in which he witnessed those events.
Given the above facts and the state’s repeated inability to match Ray’s rifle to the bullet taken from King’s body, anyone interested in justice should have supported a trial in this case.  Given this culture’s continual vocal support of justice and Martin Luther King, Jr. (including the continued display of Lady Justice in the nation’s courts and observance of a government holiday for the civil rights leader), many more people (in government, media, and elsewhere) should have supported a trial in this case.  The standard of evidence in a criminal trial is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Perhaps it was the case that Ray was guilty and would have been acquitted at a trial anyway due to reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds.  That would have been less of an injustice than what actually transpired (even if Ray was guilty).
As most people know, murder is a state crime.  The disposition of an individual accused of murder in the state of Tennessee is the legal responsibility of the State of Tennessee.  However, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution supposedly guarantees due process rights to citizens and supposedly empowers the federal government to interfere when state governments violate rights or fail to safeguard them and uphold due process (it was ratified at a time when rights violations by federal and state governments were comparatively rare).  It is certainly customary for the federal government to investigate (or, at least, go through the motions of investigating) high profile, controversial cases … even those that do not involve citizens who are subsequently honored by federal holidays.  There are at least three Tennessee streets named after King (including one in Memphis).  Neither the State of Tennessee nor the United States Government facilitated justice in the case of King’s death.  It is not entirely consistent to repeatedly and extensively (some might say disingenuously) honor him considering the egregious injustices committed in this case.

“Justice” is a broad abstraction with all kinds of implications that cannot be properly understood (or even acknowledged) without the context of a rational epistemology (whether in an individual or in a wider culture context).  Until the early 1960s or so (prior to modern philosophy seeping down from academia to government and media and saturating “Progressive”-influenced education), American culture (including its legal system) was primarily rational and primarily lived up to its stated purpose of justice.  Until that time, more people (from the government to the media to the man on the street) apparently understood that it is in no one’s interest to avoid trials for “probably guilty” people to save taxpayer expenses or to reassure members of the public that “the system works” with “closure” and finality at the expense of a continuing injustice.  (As the epigraph above from his famous letter illustrates, Martin Luther King, Jr., a principled man from a more principled time, understood that.)  Until that time, responsible officials may have been as concerned about the prospect of the guilty perpetrators roaming free for all the innocent inmates taking their places than the prospect of the acquittal of a potentially guilty defendant (regardless of whether or not there was a falsely-accused defendant in this particular case).  Subsequently, irrational philosophy (including the militant anti-principled expediency of pragmatism) infected the culture (including its legal system and media).  The decades-long aftermath of the King assassination and the injustice perpetrated against King, Tennessee residents and other Americans (whose government failed them in the name of “justice”), and even Ray (even if he was guilty) are some of the consequences.  (This case is just one example of an ongoing government injustice—and it is hardly one of the most egregious.  I have addressed this topic before and may re-publish one expounding the philosophical issues involved.)  Another consequence is the public’s apathy (which is a necessary condition, both an effect and a cause, of the Endarkenment).

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Liberalism": Then and Now

Parcbench.com has graciously published another one of my essays.  It can be found here:

http://www.parcbench.com/2015/01/02/the-word-liberal/


Special thanks once again to Gregory Zeigerson.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: "The [Un]documented Mark Steyn"

Parcbench.com has published my book review.  Thanks to Gregory Zeigerson (who drew the striking caricature you can view by clicking on the link) and the rest of ParcBench.  And thanks to Mark Steyn.

In the twenty-first century, after decades of leftist domination of academia and media, learned, articulate, and erudite scribes on the other side of the false leftist/conservative dichotomy are elusive. 
After decades of America’s march toward transformation (fundamentally and otherwise) into a lower-brow, more Puritanical European country without the reverence for philosophy and art (in other words, the worst of both worlds), certain foreign-born-and-raised Americans, who embody the American spirit more than most natural-born citizens, provide some of the most trenchant and enlightening words to the shrinking minority who retain and sustain that spirit.
Mark Steyn arrived and admirably, effectively, and impressively embodied both elusive phenomena. His admirer Christopher Hitchens was a similar figure to some extent (at least after he partially disowned his past Trotskyism). Now that Hitchens is gone, Steyn (whose views are somewhat different, for better or for worse) may be the most important mainstream public pundit. He is an inestimable happy warrior (as he calls himself).
He was born in Toronto and educated at a boarding school in Birmingham, U.K., before he dropped out (ending his formal education). A former disc jockey, he is still a recording artist (Ted Nugent praised him as “the czar of common sense” as he praised Steyn’s big band rendition of “Cat Scratch Fever”)—his CDs are for sale and his tracks are audible at his website, steynonline.com. But he is best known as an incendiary (and uproarious) writer and conservative pundit, filing his posts for Steyn Online, National Review, Maclean’s, and other publications as well as broadcasting as an occasional guest host for Rush Limbaugh from a small New Hampshire town forty minutes from his home country (he remains a Canadian citizen).
The author of the provocatively titled America Alone and After America (among others) has a new collection, The [Un]documented Mark Steyn: Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned (Regnery), published in October. An anthology of previously published short pieces with diverse subjects, ranging from 1987 to a few months before publication, they are united by an overarching theme: an intransigent, indefatigable defense of the virtues of Western civilization. 
Steyn is using proceeds from the book’s sale to fund his interminable legal battle for defamation initiated by climatologist Michael Mann (inventor of the infamous “hockey stick” graph), but buying this informative, integrated, witty collection is no act of charity. Whether musing on coffeehouse culture (he may disapprove of me writing these lines in a coffeehouse while sipping a “vanilla steamer”), or contrasting hygienic advances taken for granted today with the curious (and antithetical) attitudes of celebrity environmentalists, or castigating the nattering nabobs of “diversity” (“where nations go to die”), or (somewhat bizarrely) composing the “memoir” of Monica Lewinsky’s dress or an interview of an alternative-universe Marilyn Monroe circa 1996, or concluding with a contemplative, earnest, subtly passionate tribute to William Wilberforce (the nineteenth-century British legislator credited with outlawing slavery in the British empire who arguably ushered in the international abolition movement), Steyn skillfully and hermeneutically holds high the banner of Western individualism, virtue, standards, and fiscal restraint (and genuine liberalism) while skewering his “liberal” ideological opponents, from leftist North American journalists to overseas jihadists.
While implicit, Steyn’s logical arguments and grasp of the conceptual level of thought provide a convincing, subtly pro-reason framework that few of the myopic pluralists on the left can match. And the high school dropout’s extensive array of facts, vocabulary, and allusions is matched by few credentialed pundits on either (or no) side of today’s ideological and political conflicts. No matter how sagacious or historically aware you are, you will learn something from Steyn’s facts and integration while being entertained by his wit. (An example of the latter: “James Lileks, the bard of Minnesota, once offered this trenchant analysis of Pete Seeger: ‘“If I Had a Hammer”? Well, what’s stopping you? Go to the hardware store; they’re about a buck-ninety, tops.’ Very true. For the cost of a restricted-view seat at a Peter, Paul, and Mary revival, you could buy half a dozen top-of-the-line hammers and have a lot more fun, even if you used them on yourself.”) One need not agree with all of his views (such as his traditionalism and quasi-Victorianism) to respect the adept prose with which he argues and expresses them.
Unlike the anti-ideological, percept-oriented pragmatists and multiculturalists he ridicules, the perspicacious Steyn makes connections that, while fairly obvious to the relatively few rigorous, rational intellectuals left, are all too rare in a culture of disconnections. Whether objurgating celebrity environmentalists or lambasting leftists for failing to come to the defense of their own (see his impassioned lament on the fate of cartoonist Molly Norris) or teaching his less astute allies that government will not change significantly until (more fundamental) culture is changed, the depth of this author’s perception and conceptions is a vital corrective to a short-sighted, shallow culture.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Difference Between (Most) "Liberals" and (Most) "Libertarians"

A day or so ago, I read a post on a certain "social networking" site that inquired about "the difference between liberals and libertarians" (or something to that effect--I can no longer find the post).
     In a Kantian culture ravaged by modern philosophy and "progressive" education, words have, to a significant extent, lost their meaning in the minds of most people.  Most "liberals" today are not liberal--they are leftist (ergo, anti-liberal).  "Libertarian" can mean any number of things at this point (a gallimaufry of disparate individuals have used the term to describe themselves, from Murray Rothbard to Arlen Specter to Bill Maher).  I will use the term below to refer to those who generally advocate free minds and free markets (in other words, consistent liberty and mind-body integration in the politics, though, in a culture that has entrenched a mind-body dichotomy, few would identify it in the latter terms).
     There are still exceptional exceptions among both camps, but, in general, there is not much difference between most leftists and most libertarians--except in politics.  (Which means the leftists are generally more consistent than the typical libertarians.)  Most libertarians (implicit and subconsciously, anyway) share the same fundamental ideas as most leftists and other statists: the primacy of consciousness; metaphysical dualism; irrationalism; and altruism.  Like the rest of their culture, many (most?) libertarians are almost unphilosophical (if not anti-philosophical), and much libertarian discourse is about as crude and amoral as most leftist discourse.  Perusing most libertarian sites, one finds variations of many of the same tired, clichéd, banal tropes, memes, and cultural allusions: "Don't tase me, bro;" "don't touch my junk;" "bitches be like ...;" "keep calm and ...;" "the first rule of [fill in the blank] is don't talk about [fill in the blank];"etc., ad infinitum.  (Long after my most widely read post was published, I discovered a comment by a libertarian on his own blog who apparently did not read my entire post or missed the fact that I had already addressed his criticism of it in the post.  He accused me of something like "nerdage"--or some other neologism--and not understanding that the purpose of a film version of Atlas Shrugged was to increase awareness of the novel, or something like that.  You can see how that has worked out.  Acknowledging the exceptional exceptions, the author of that venerable novel turned out to be right about most libertarians--they not only tend to start with politics as a primary, they show little interest in any other branch of philosophy, even aesthetics.)
     Since most people in a culture tend to share the same fundamental worldview (whether they consciously consider such recondite, all-embracing topics or not), and the Left is a more consistent application (political and otherwise) of this culture's fundamental ideas, it is hardly surprising that libertarians are relatively obscure and marginalized.
     Are there any general differences between leftists and "libertarians" besides the specific political views they advocate?
     Certainly.  I can think of two (and they are closely related).
     Recently, one Internet meme that made the rounds of libertarian pages was: "I'm a libertarian because ..." and the respondent would fill in the blank.  One of the best answers I read: "I'm a libertarian because I understand economics, and I'm not a misanthrope."
     Like libertarians, most modern so-called "liberals" are not misanthropes.  But most of them do not understand economics.  If they did, they would not be "liberals."
     Unless they are misanthropes (and few of them are).
     Libertarians, in general, tend to evince a greater facility with the conceptual level of thought (despite myriad cultural and educational obstacles to it).  They tend to be more logical and can make better arguments for their views (even some of their incorrect views) than the disintegrated mainstream leftists tend to make.  Which is one reason why, when they approach the subject of economics, they can see connections between statism and poverty--between the enormous, often indirect and hidden, costs that the penurious (and others) pay via their own and others' taxes (including taxes on "the rich" and the hidden tax of inflation)--that elude the Eloi's notice.  (And then there are the minimum wage and other laws. ...)  Most of them may not be philosophical enough to integrate their political views with deeper views, but they grasp this much.
     Despite the desperate state of the world, it remains a metaphysical fact that man is good.  Exceptional exceptions always excepted, most people are decent and want to advocate ideas that they believe are moral and that they believe facilitate peace and prosperity.  Those who understand economics, are not seriously confused, and are generally benevolent are somewhere to the "right of center."
     Those who do not understand economics and have an "intellectual" bent gravitate toward the left in a leftist culture.
     Those who do understand economics, are not seriously confused, and are malevolent are bitches who "be like" Paul Krugman.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

You're (Still) a Good Nation, Charlie Brown

“Had H.L. Mencken been revived from his grave to watch the last night of the Republican National Convention, he would have recognized the scene.  He would have heard the anecdotal, folksy speeches, the paeans to family and God, and he would have understood that the booboisie is alive and well in America.  He would have said something wittier than even Mark Steyn or James Wolcott could come up with and then asked to be killed and returned to his grave.”
Myrhaf, “Conventional Republicans”, The New Clarion, August 31, 2012








The Republican Party is like Lucy van Pelt, and the American electorate is like Charlie Brown.  The former has been holding the football of individualism and a modicum of fiscal sense for almost fifty years (at least—perhaps the venerable and venerated Goldwater was an exception), and hoisting up a thin, shabby booth of mountebankery offering nostrums for their customer’s mental health of little value but exponentially increasing price.  (At least the little girl in the comic strip never raised her nickel admission fee, not even to keep pace with inflation.  Even she had a virtue or two.)  The former has shamelessly yanked that football from out of the path of a desperate, earnest electorate countless times, but precious few of the latter’s members have had the sense to scream “AAUGH!” as they tumble in the air and fall headfirst.  Indeed, the repeated head injuries have knocked precious little sense into their progressive education- and media- shrunken, myopic heads.
Many of the booboisie (if you prefer Mencken’s term) and the Eloi (if you prefer Wells’s)—as well as those with considerably more awareness, including self-awareness—like to parrot a platitude falsely attributed to Albert Einstein: insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  As far as anyone can tell, the platitude, which has its uses was coined in fiction long after Einstein’s death by novelist Rita Mae Brown, who is affiliated with Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia (or, at least, its Young Writer’s Workshop, which I twice attended).  Non-leftists, independents, and “swing voters” have been turning to the stupid party for decades when they’ve had enough of the more consistent excesses of the crazy party … and they apparently expect different results.  Even those who like to mouth Brown’s slogan (which, as I noted, has its uses).  A phenomenon of millions of compartmentalized minds in a culture of otherwise functioning adults is probably nothing new in the history of the West, but its scope appears to be unprecedented now.  Alas, this is no longer Jefferson’s America.  The Enlightenment philosophy that he tried to bequeath to his university and his country has long been supplanted by an antithetical death carrier of a philosophy.  Jefferson’s America (to say nothing of his university) is now John Dewey’s America.  The crown prince of progressive education was also the crown prince of pragmatism, and he taught his unformed charges (directly and indirectly) that there is no such thing as causality, that one can not know the outcome of any action before performing it, and even that good old-fashioned Aristotelian/Enlightenment logic has worked for so long that it’s time to jettison it for something “new.”  Most of the booboisie and Eloi absorbed all of this by osmosis (assuming they’ve ever even heard of Dewey), and most of the more learned of Republican voters (some of whom I hold in the utmost respect) never fell for it in the first place.  But it has ineluctably and inexorably eroded the critical faculties (and the “common sense”) of the members of a once-chary demographic.  (A minority of the demographic retains elements of chariness.  Some of them, like Robert Tracisnki, proffer relatively good arguments for continuing to vote Republican, despite the party’s outrageous otiosity.  The fecklessness of a single vote, coupled with the well-documented voter fraud, all but eviscerate such arguments.)  Brown’s fictional character expressed a vestigial awareness of Enlightenment cause-and-effect, and a some progressivized and pragmatized simpletons continue to spout it and share it online, too percept-oriented and too blind to the conceptual level of cognition to notice its clash with the rest of their behavior and their culture.  It really is impossible to practice bad ideas consistently.
One would never know that watching the professional Republicans, however,  If they have yet to repeal a single entitlement program, it has escaped my notice.  And the federal budget (and state budgets), under their watch, grow to such amounts that Mark Steyn has referred to his adopted country as the Brokest Nation in History, noting that no one in the history of mankind has owed anywhere near this much money—and no one (collectively) has this much money.  If there is a significant difference, in operation as opposed to rhetoric, between the two major political parties that have mulcted American’s wallets and vitiated their rights since time immemorial, it is beyond my ken.  Indeed, the encroaching police state is unquestionably bipartisan.
Despite the peculations, puerile pedagogy, and outrageous molestations and abrogations Americans receive from what their government has become, they remain, in the main, admirable people: benevolent, magnanimous, industrious, and inventive.  Even in Los Angeles the Damned (as the Sage of Baltimore loved to damn it), vestiges of the American character are still evident.  I can only imagine how evident they are in more decent environs where more of the Enlightenment’s vestigial rays still shine.
That will not last forever if decent people continue to reward a party of disingenuous charlatans profiteering from the statism they affect to deplore—and the decent people don’t even hold them accountable.  An “AAUGH!” after every missed kick will not turn Lucy into an honest placeholder.  And before too long, Charlie’s numb skull will crack when it hits the ground.
While one hesitates to predict anything with certainty in these uncertain days of voter fraud and another generation or two of leftists programmed at Charles Sanders Pierce Elementary School, Alexander Sutherland Neill Junior High, William James High School, and John Dewey State University, congressional midterms six years after the election of a two-term president are typically overwhelmingly won by the other party.  Even in 1986, the Great Communicator’s adversaries were triumphant.  His significantly less popular counterpart today, the Great Half-White Hope, has been facing half-empty audiences in the hustings on the campaign trail for his fellow jobholders.  Even the crazy party’s base is catching on.  But these are unprecedented times.  One hesitates to predict anything with certainty.
In the blog post quoted above, on the eve of the 2012 presidential election, Myrhaf observed: “Romney should win in November. With the economy as bad as it is, in the worst recovery since the Great Depression, the election should not even be close. The Tea Party formed spontaneously because the American people were shocked by the Democrats’ power grabs in the first two years of Obama’s presidency. This election should be a landslide on the order of 1972, 1980 and 1984. If it is not, take it as a sign of America’s cultural decline. Take it as a sign that the Democrats have changed the sense of life of the American people. And be afraid.”
The sense of life of the American people has changed significantly, but even many Democratic voters (the older ones, anyway) yet still retain residual virtues from a virtuous past.  The country has been fundamentally transformed (long before the current huckster in the Oval Office came along or was even born), but the transformation may yet be reversible.

It certainly won’t be reversed by voting again.