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.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Another Week to Remember

And I thought that the week prior to the one that just passed was memorable ....

Here are just a few highlights of the ineluctable implosion of life as we know it in the West as manifested in unfolding events last week (in increasing order of gravitas), two of which came and went with a whimper and one of which with a relative bang:

Last Saturday morning was the first Saturday morning in the lifetimes of most of us in which no television network broadcast cartoons.  As is often the case in seemingly trivial events, the reasons behind the change (and what they portend in other concerns and endeavors) are more significant than the specific loss iterated (though most would probably feel a pang of loss at the news before shrugging and moving on to the latest episode of America's Got Ballast or their favorite stupidphone app).  See the linked article for the specific alphabet agency (guess which) that played an integral part in this elimination (and never forget that that agency is just an application of a more integral ideology).

In the capital city of the former land of the free (south of what is currently the freest country in North America), friends, relatives, and other activists silently protested the official and legal silence surrounding the Secret Service- and Capitol Police-related shooting of Miriam Carey on the first anniversary of the killing.  (The earnest, compassionate race- and "social justice"-minded professionals in the media were too busy turning the less innocent Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin into household names to inform about the firearm-related death of this black individual and pry answers out of the clamped-shut maw of the authorities, which is one of the reasons I have to link to a religious conservative site with which I have reservations.  Their reporting on this incident comes across as objective, however--and do stay tuned to the final punchline.)  (And due note the metairony that unarmed Miriam Carey was shot miles away from the White House while the recent armed intruder inside the venerable building was not.)  (Martin McPhillips alerted me to this elusive, shameful secret and the aforementioned article.)

And then--by far the most memorable event in some time--there is the Ebola-related scare in Dallas, which caused relatively significant alarm but was, for the most part, downplayed or ignored on the (literal and cyber) street (for better or for worse).  As usual, Mark Steyn provides the mandatory reading (and do resist the urge to cachinnate perusing such a serious piece on such a serious issue).

To recap: what P.J. O'Rourke calls big, intrusive, obnoxious, bumptious, presumptuous, destructive government is now quietly "nudging" (beyond Cass Sunstein's wildest dreams) cultural institutions into extinction (while, contrary to stated intentions, failing to replace it with programming of any demonstrative educational value).  It is shooting innocent people far away from protected locations who didn't even break one of its countless intrusive laws (and it is quite a challenge to avoid breaking any of them these days) while taking armed threats inside the protected locations alive.  And it is imperiously and implacably barring harmless Canadians (who are now the real "free Americans," relatively speaking anyway) from crossing the border while failing to stop a resident of a plague-infested nation from landing in the former home of the brave.

And Wells's Eloi (or Mencken's booboisie, if you prefer) will line up to re-sanction more bipartisan big, intrusive, obnoxious, bumptious, presumptuous, destructive, incompetent, reticent government next month.

Ensuring an endless parade of memorable weeks (until the implosion is complete--or enough human individuals once again live up to their nature as the rational animal despite all of the cultural and political impediments in their way).

I wonder what's next.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Week to Remember

As the week winds down (as far as this individual is concerned, weeks end as Saturday segues into Sunday), let us reflect on a week of reports of recent violent incidents in the United States in ways usual and unusual (neither the usual ways nor unusual way were likely to be widely reported by the culture’s professional and veracious mainstream media, but this individual generally ignore the professionals and has been ensconced in work and James Ellroy’s new novel, so he would not know for sure).
As usual, Radley Balko is the best source for the usual ways (and, as a Washington Post contributor, can be considered a consummate and credentialed professional).
Mark Steyn and Larry Elder are non pareil commentators regarding the unusual way.
Balko, the author of Rise of the Warrior Cop (New York: Public Affairs, 2013), relayed (via the Post, no less) in a Thursday article that, on August 5, police in an Ohio Walmart shot and killed John Crawford III, a 22-year-old man who was holding an unloaded air rifle he had taken off one of the store’s shelves.  A witness had told a 911 dispatcher (and, later, the media) that Crawford was pointing the gun at children.  He subsequently retracted that assertion, apparently after viewing surveillance video of the incident (which is available to view at the link).  As Balko notes, “… the video makes clear that Crawford never pointed the gun at police, and strongly suggests they never gave him an opportunity to drop it.”  A grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved in the shooting.  Balko, who, in his book and elsewhere, has chronicled the encroaching militarization of the inchoate police state more effectively and extensively than anyone else (certainly more effectively and extensively than any other professional), articulately and persuasively argues that exaggerated public and private hysteria as a result of rare mass shootings has contributed to an atmosphere in which the public and police overreact to harmless (if often eccentric) individuals, often resulting in lethal force against innocents.  (Some sources report that an unarmed, compliant, peaceful citizen is now eight times more likely to be shot by police than by criminals in the United States.)
Yesterday, Balko recounted the September 4 shooting of unarmed Levar Jones by South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert during a routine traffic stop for seatbelt violations.  Jones behaved impeccably; Groubert shot him when Jones ducked into his vehicle to retrieve the license Groubert requested.  (Those who live in the United States could reread the two proceeding sentences, especially the last five of the former, and reconsider the status of their putatively free country.)  Groubert was fired, and he has been charged with felony assault.  Balko articulately and persuasively argues that a “police culture” endemic with unfounded paranoia about officer safety (despite steadily decreasing officer fatalities and serious injuries) likely contributed to Groubert’s actions and similar incidents (and will contribute to more if the views and training underlying them do not fundamentally change).
For decades (and especially the last decade), U.S. police have been becoming increasingly militarized and aggressive.  (Notably, an attendee at James Ellroy’s book signing in Pasadena on Thursday inquired about the author’s views on the subject, which was, to say the least, off topic.  The topic would not likely be broached during such an event at such a venue if the problem were not systemic and serious.  Ellroy, who could be fairly described as a police apologist, declined to comment, insisting that he does not comment on current events.)  Supporters of such militarization and aggression insist it is necessary, not only for the safety of officers but for the safety and security of the general public as well.  This militarization and aggression has accompanied a metastasized national “security” apparatus (courtesy of the increasingly inaccurately named Justice Department’s FBI, the relatively recent Homeland Security Department, and the NSA) that snoops on and records private telephone calls and text messages.  Representatives of the FBI (which is the oldest of the three but is still younger than some living people) have admitted that agents have been spying on citizens through the cameras of notebook computers for years.  The Islam-inspired terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which an earlier, less robust version of the apparatus failed to detect or prevent, were a crisis that statists of all persuasions (on both sides of the false left/conservative dichotomy and in between them) would hardly let, as one of them put it describing a later crisis, go to waste.  (You may recall that one of the aforementioned attacks was partially thwarted by private citizens on one of the planes, and, while the Homeland Security Department's TSA has yet to foil an attack, private citizens on planes have arrested Islamic terrorists that somehow eluded the consummate, sapient, efficacious professionals of the TSA.)
Presumably, an atmosphere of such all-encompassing surveillance and swift, overwhelming police response would ensure that U.S. citizens were safe (from everyone but police, anyway, and certainly from Islamic terrorists on U.S. soil).
On Thursday, an American Muslim beheaded his former co-worker, Colleen Hufford, in Moore, Oklahoma.  He was about to behead another woman, Traci Johnson, when a sheriff’s reserve deputy (which does not imply a particularly militarized response) shot him.  (Johnson is reported to be in stable condition.)  Steyn notes that the individual had the Muslim greeting “Assalamu Alaikum”—“Peace be upon you.”—tattooed on his abdomen.  Steyn also reports that he tried to convert numerous co-workers to Islam.  If that were not enough, Elder (who links to an Examiner article by Julia Davis) comments that the perpetrator “[d]id everything but take out a billboard” on public social media that he would commit such an act.  (Incidentally, the perpetrator had a long criminal record but was hired by the Oklahoma food processing plant anyway.  He was reportedly terminated immediately before the attack for arguing with his co-workers about the propriety of stoning women to death.  In an atmosphere in which a single arrest for a victimless crime can disqualify one for gainful employment in the United States, such a hiring is, to say the least, curious in the first place.)
Although the first two violent deaths noted above are so familiar as to be as routine in the land of the once-free as a traffic stop for a seatbelt violation, the third is surely unprecedented (or, at the very least, unusual).  Authorities have assured a generally credulous, complacent, and apathetic public that the police militarization of the past few decades is necessary for public safety (implying that more innocent citizens are protected by it than those who are tragically sacrificed to it).  Authorities have also assured the same public that a massive and invasive security apparatus is necessary to detect and prevent terrorist attacks (which have nothing to do with Islam).  The very old and the very young must be molested, groped, and terrified at airports, and the very nerdy must be surveilled while they “fap” (to use the crude demotic of a charming, eloquent culture), to prevent mass death from those who can be detected by confidential, intrusive, privacy-vitiating spookiness (and only by confidential, intrusive, privacy-vitiating spookiness).
Consequently, the death of Colleen Hufford and the assault of Traci Johnson must have been flukes (and the religion of their attacker had no more to do with his crime than institutionalized pragmatism, authoritarianism, and evasion had to do with the deaths of John Crawford III and Levar Jones).  Surely, the restrained and prudent government of the free twenty-first century United States of America will minimize, if not eliminate, future Colleen Huffords and Traci Johnsons, even if it must kill a few John Crawford IIIs and Lavar Joneses in the process (while watching, molesting, and impertinently, implacably insulting the rest of us).

Returning to the governing philosophy of the era before the Hoovers (Herbert and J. Edgar) and learning from superior leaders in freer eras certainly couldn’t be an option.