Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

Friday, December 30, 2005

Hiatus.

Yes, I know I've done this before and then posted up a storm, but this time I mean it. I'm taking a few days off. I'll get back to posting when I feel like it.

Thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Slowly Rising Tide.

Well, my essay Reasonable People has drawn a lot of eyeballs and a lot of comments, even a few response essays. I'd like to touch upon a couple of the responses, on at least one point.

Posse Incitatus writes:
The Posse agrees that the anti-war left has long left rationality behind and that mass movements need no real reason (in the logical sense) for being, merely a cause.

However we do not share his belief that the leftover left, pathetic anti-war movement and waning gun control lobby are either growing or of much long-term consequence.
Kim du Toit agrees:
Where I disagree with Kevin is that there’s a “slowly rising tide” of Lefty malcontents.

Frankly, I think that the “mass movement” in America is probably a more-or-less fixed number, and has been since, oh, the late 1970s. Yes, new recruits arrive each year, principally among young people—but an equally-large number depart their ranks too, as people graduate, get jobs, start families and just plain grow up.

What we are seeing is not a movement in growth, but a movement whose voice is becoming ever more shrill and more desperate.
As I said in a comment at Posse Incitatus, I hope they're right. I really do. However, I don't think humanity has changed all that much in the last two milennia, and I think Eric Hoffer's observations on the nature of mass movements are frighteningly accurate. What a successful mass movement does is motivate people to action. The spread of Bush Derangement Syndrome among otherwise nominally sane people is greatly disturbing to me.

Right now the only thing holding it all together, as far as I can see, is economic prosperity. If the jihadis manage to strike at something that creates a real economic depression, I fully expect the rise of that mass movement.

What I think both Kim and Posse Incitatus lack is much exposure to the "reality-based community." That's why they blow off Dr. Santy's observation:
But what about the average person on the street who has, or has come to have a visceral hatred of President Bush? Perhaps they simply didn't vote for him in 2000, believing the media propaganda or caricature of his intellect and capabilities; or perhaps they simply didn't like him because he was from the opposition party, or a Texan. or any other number of normal reasons.

It seems to me that the Democrats and the Left have used their continuous propaganda well, but there is a also a strong personal psychological factor involved in being able to convince normally sane people that the source of all evil in the world is George W. Bush.
Normally sane people.

They're out there, and I think in growing numbers. How much of it is due to the "continuous propaganda" of the Left and how much is other factors, I don't know, but I see them. I interact with them on a fairly regular basis.

Henry Louis Mencken pointed out in the 1930's,
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
The Left and the Right have been doing this for decades. They're doing it now. But now some of the hobgoblins aren't imaginary. Still, most are. Others are more nebulous. Let's run a short list:
Global terrorism

Global warming (a.k.a. "Climate change")

Overpopulation

Overfishing of the oceans

"Peak oil"

Other diminished resources

Voter fraud and stolen elections

"Jobless" economic recovery

Weapons of mass destruction

Rising fascism in government

Erosion of individual rights

Avian flu / AIDS / other epidemics
I could go on. For quite a while.

I've spent a considerable amount of time with this blog pointing out the failures (deliberate or not) of our public education system. There's a set of links on the left there to people who concentrate on the education system and its deficiencies. We've had literally decades of indoctrination rather than education for a large portion of the population. There are a lot of people out there who don't have the tools necessary to think rationally, but are quite capable of feeling both fear and dependency. Things are not as they have been.

Kim stated,
Election 2004 gave the presidency to GWB by a thumping majority.
I'm not sure he and I saw the same election. Bush won by a margin of just over 3,000,000 votes out of over 122,000,000 votes cast, or less than 2.5%. The by-county election map wasn't bright red, but a vast sea of purple. Ohio won the presidency for Bush, so of course "the Republicans stole Ohio" with rigged Diebold voting machines. This is, of course, "proven" by the recent resignation of Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell.

There are a LOT of people out there whose emotions range from the raving paranoid to the merely uncertain. (Reason need not apply.) They've been told for decades that disaster lays just around the corner, that it's all Man's fault, and that something must be done to avert it. And now, for the last five years they've been told that George W. Bush and the Conservatives are not only not doing anything to help the situation, but are actively pursuing disaster in order to make their rich friends richer and the poor, poorer by nearly every talking-head and media outlet out there.

And more are, I am convinced, beginning to believe.

Right now the Left lacks two things necessary to galvanize that mass movement: an effective demagogue, and a real, tangible crisis. Eric Raymond said that he feared a "city-killing attack" that would transform America into something he didn't like, and I agree with him. But I also think that something slightly less than a city-killing attack, something that, for example, crashed the world's economy, would serve as the catalyst for that mass movement - transforming America into something else that neither he nor I would like.

Kim pointed to Albert Jay Nock's essay Isaiah's Job by way of encouragement. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. It's only six pages long. I would like to remind Kim that, while the Remnant never goes away, "the masses" are always lead by a minority. It is which minority that concerns me. Posse Incitatus asks: "What kind of fortress can one build with marshmellows?" His contention is that the "mass movement" I fear is made up of the spineless.

But not all of them are spineless. And the question I asked him in response was this:
What happens when you give cowards the power of life-and-death, backed up by the State?
History tells us. After the slaughter is over, they claim they were "only following orders."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Me Too, Little Girl. Me Too.

Via Roger.
Merry Christmas to All.

And Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Solstice or Festivus or whatever holiday (or not) you celibrate, from an atheist and his not-remarkably-devout Buddhist wife. (Which is why "Happy Holidays" is in use - so much easier to say!)

This is that time of year I like because people are reminded to behave more as they should than as they do.

And, via Dean Esmay, let me share a gift with you. A great video.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Other People's Ideas.

(Sorry about the lull in posting. It wasn't that Reasonable People took a lot out of me, it's that I managed to come down with the creeping crud making its way through the rest of the family on Monday. Commenting was about all I was up for for the last few days. It still sounds like a TB ward around here.)

One of the things I often get in comments is that my posts run too long. (No, this is not specifically targeted at you, Mark.) Reasonable People runs about eight and a half printed pages. Why Ballistic Fingerprinting Doesn't (and Won't) Work about eleven. Ravenwood dubbed it "Longest post ever." The self-consciously named Blog that Ate Poughkeepsie runs about seven. I guess Reasonable People ate Cheboygan.

The point is, I'm fully aware that my posts often require a longer than average attention span. I will happily admit that they could be improved with some judicious editing for length and precision. However, while my audience is important to me, and what I'm doing is quite plainly open advocacy (thus necessitating said audience), my posts are more (and admittedly often less) than that.

Mark Alger wrote a piece at Baby Troll Blog that touched on the length of Reasonable People which inspired this post (now that I feel up to writing it.) Here's the pertinent part for this discussion:
I want to offer this piece of gratuitous advice: an op-ed is 500 words. A regular column maxes out at 1500. By the time you get to 2,000 words, you're in short story territory. At 7,500 words, you go into novelette mode, and at around 15,000 you make it to novella -- which rolls over into a full-blown novel at 40,000 words or so.

Kevin's post is (by MS Word's count) 5,692 words. 'Way too long.

So -- as Kev himself might say -- the fuck what?

Well, Baby Doll, it's this: I think his thesis -- as vaguely as I understand it -- is worthwhile. It deserves consideration. It deserves discussion. It needs to be disseminated far and wide.

There's a joke among writers. It goes: "Sorry it's so long; I didn't have the time to make it short."
A joke I deliberately used in the post, about word 5,200, which makes me think that Mark didn't get that far.
Distillation adds to the dwell time on an article, and delay in posting can be deadly to a blog post. By the time you consider and mull over a subject long enough to bake it down to the bare minimum necessary, a couple of days may have gone by. You're yesterday's news. Not exactly good for the old relevance quotient.

It's a lot of pressure. And competing needs drive the blogger -- the need to get a post up in a timely manner, versus the need to exposit clearly and with economy his thesis.
As Dirty Harry said in one movie or another, "A man's got to know his limitations." And I know I'm not my own best editor. But I'm a blogger. I'm all I've got.

I also know I'm not an original thinker. I'm never going to sit under an apple tree and invent the next big thing in mathematics since chaos theory. I studied physics in college for three years before convincing myself that it wasn't a good choice of major because I'd have to get a PhD before I could get a decent paying job. With just a wee bit of hindsight, and someone else's quotation, I understand much better why I became an engineer:

Engineering is very different from physics.

A good physicist is a man with original ideas.

A good engineer is a man who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible.

Freeman Dyson

I keep that posted above my desk at work. It draws some interesting comments.

I was not suited to a career in physics. I am ideally suited to a career in engineering. I am also not a philosopher, though I study the subject shallowly. What I do, in my spare time, is read and think. I collect bits and pieces; other people's ideas. I store them in my head, and on my computer, and both consciously and subconsciously fit them together in different ways. I'm interested in what works - in fact, one of the things that caught my attention in Dr. Godwin's post How I Cured Myself of Leftism was this:
(C)onservatism is not so much based on ideas, but on simply observing what works, and then generalizing from there.
There's a whole essay on "Right vs. Left" in that sentence, and not what most would expect, I think.

As I explained to Mark in his comments - and as I want to expand on (Run away! Run away!) here, writing this stuff down helps me get my mind around it. I'm still working out my worldview, hopefully based on what works rather than how I'd like it to be. I am a pragmatist, albeit with an ideological bent. If you want evidence of that, slog through the seven quite long pieces of The "Rights" Discussion linked on the left sidebar. Or just the two pieces on Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection?

I write a lot of this stuff to help me figure it out. And if others can follow along for the ride, the more the merrier.

The process goes somewhat like this:
A) Here's a new (to me) idea.

B) Does it seem logical on its face?

C) Is there evidence to support it?

D) Is there evidence to invalidate it?

E) How reliable is the evidence, either way?
This can take minutes, days, weeks, months. Depends on the idea. I collect these ideas constantly.
F) Does this new (to me) idea support what I already know/believe?
Bear in mind here, I fully understand the difference between knowing via emipirical testing, and believing through mere faith. And I'm also quite aware that what one "knows through empirical testing" can sometimes be proven quite wrong - with the right test. Same for beliefs.
G) Does this new (to me) idea contradict what I already know/believe?

H) Does this new (to me) idea suggest a solution to a problem I already have, suggest a problem I haven't previously considered, or reinforce a concept from an entirely new angle I hadn't seen? (Otherwise, it's not a new idea. It's a restatement of one I've already seen. Though restatement can sometimes be helpful itself.)
Reasonable People is not a stand-alone essay (though it does stand quite well on its own). It's the third (at least) in a series, beginning with True Believers, followed by March of the Lemmings. Hell, it's part of a long ongoing theme here - coming conflict due to the the dichotomy between what works and how we'd like it to be. Eric Hoffer's ideas simply reinforced a concept from an angle I hadn't considered - a new rising mass-movement. But as soon as I processed his ideas it became pretty obvious what "Bush Derangement Syndrome" represents - the attraction of the "average person on the street" to the early stages of the movement. It is a movement capable, as Dr. Santy said, of "being able to convince normally sane people that the source of all evil in the world is George W. Bush."

And that idea scares the shit out of me.

So please, pardon me for babbling.

(103 minutes, 1,250 words!)

UPDATE: D'OH! I knew Newspeak wasn't the right piece when I wrote this seven hours ago. See what happens when you're in a hurry? Your subconscious wakes you out of a perfectly good sleep to go fix your damned mistake at 1AM. I plead illness as an excuse. The piece has been edited to correct the error.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Reasonable People

Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people. - George Bernard Shaw
There's some truth to that, but it is not a truism. Einstein was perhaps the most reasonable person on the planet, and he changed the universe - or at least our perception of it. Stalin was one of the most unreasonable people in the world, and while he attempted to "adapt the world to himself," what resulted certainly wasn't "progress" in any sense of the term - even the Marxist one. Especially the Marxist one.
Reasonable People Can Differ? Not with me they can't.
That's the title of a December, 2000 Slate piece by Michael Kinsley about the 2000 election debacle. It is, perhaps, the first publicly exhibited symptom of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Charles Krauthammer's 2003 Townhall piece describes "BDS" as a psychological condition. (As an aside, I find much of what Mr. Krauthammer writes to be pretty astute, but - as reasonable people - we differ on the subject of gun control.) Since that time, amateur and professional pshrinks alike have expounded on "BDS" with increasingly outré examples to illustrate.

Dr. Patricia Santy, author of the blog Dr. Sanity writes on the topic, for instance:
The psychology of some of the Bush Haters is pretty cut and dried. They hate Bush because he stands between them and the implementation of their collectivist "utopian" vision. I have no time to waste on them, except to note that their intentions are deliberately and decidedly malevolent toward this country. They want it to fail at anything and everything it does and they openly cheer for the barbarians at the gate.

They are indistinguishable from the barbarians we are actively fighting, with the only difference being that they have different ideas about which group of thugs will be in charge of the "utopia". They prefer themselves--a more secularly-oriented set of thugs--to rule.
And this is undoubtedly accurate - for some. But she continues:
But what about the average person on the street who has, or has come to have a visceral hatred of President Bush? Perhaps they simply didn't vote for him in 2000, believing the media propaganda or caricature of his intellect and capabilities; or perhaps they simply didn't like him because he was from the opposition party, or a Texan. or any other number of normal reasons.

It seems to me that the Democrats and the Left have used their continuous propaganda well, but there is a also a strong personal psychological factor involved in being able to convince normally sane people that the source of all evil in the world is George W. Bush.
And that, dear readers, is the subject of this essay.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm reading Eric Hoffer's 1951 treatise, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. I hadn't heard of it prior to my writing an essay on just that topic, True Believers, where a commenter pointed it out to me. (In fact, I'd never even heard of Eric Hoffer, but he's a thoroughly fascinating man. If you're unfamiliar with him, I advise you to peruse The Eric Hoffer Resource page.) Hoffer was a renaissance philosopher - he was self-educated, lived simply, worked at manual labor jobs, read, thought, and wrote. And he saw things very clearly.

The True Believer, being written in the immediate post-WWII years, was primarily about the mass movements of Italian and German Fascism and the rise of Communism, but Hoffer did not limit his observations. He reflected on mass movements throughout history, including the Zionist movement in pre-revolutionary Russia, the French Revolution, the Protestant Reformation, and others. He makes a point, in fact, that,
When people are ripe for a mass movement, they are usually ripe for any effective movement, and not solely for one with any particular doctrine or program.
Which explains in a sentence the current enthusiastic crossover between the eco-movement, the gay-rights movement, the anti-war movement, the socialist movement, et al. But what is it that makes people "ripe for a mass movement"? That's the primary topic of the book, and something I've been struggling with for quite a while, because I see a major conflict coming and I don't know that my side can mobilize to face it, much less succeed. In October of 2003, just a few months after starting this blog, I wrote Not with a Bang, but a Whimper?, that began:
Everybody bitches about how bad things are, politically. (Well, everybody but Bill Whittle.) And the bitching is pretty much evenly divided on both the left and the right. But I've noticed something I find disturbing. It appears to me that the Right is resigning. Giving up. Leaving the field.
And I gave a couple of examples from the blogosphere. This was one of my earlier posts on the cockroach resilience of the Left. I've since written several posts on what I see as a coming conflict, though I've been (until now) unable to determine what the two sides will be. In fact, at one point I convinced myself that there wouldn't be a second Civil War because, as I put it then:
The divide now is philosophical, too, but not as easily demarcated. It isn't slavery vs. abolition, it's "Left" vs. "Right." It's Libertarian vs. Conservative. Green vs. Democrat. Socialists vs. Capitalists. Anarchists vs. Government. Christians vs. Humanists. Jihadists vs. Infidels. Atheists vs. Christianity. Gun-grabbers vs. Gun-nuts. The perpetually disinterested vs. everyone else.

Grab any six random people off the street - chances are they'll have strongly held (and largely unsupported) opinions on a variety of topics, and those opinions will stray all over the philosophical boundaries of the merely Left and Right. It's not a binary division, it's an n-dimensional space of varying density.
I've also recently begun reading David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, and this piece from the introduction struck me:
We Americans are a bundle of paradoxes. We are mixed in our origins, and yet we are one people. Nearly all of us support our Republican system, but we argue passionately (sometimes violently) among ourselves about its meaning. Most of us subscribe to what Gunnar Myrdal called the American Creed, but that idea is a paradox in political theory. As Myrdal observed in 1942, America is "conservative in fundamental principles . . . but the principles conserved are liberal, and some, indeed, are radical."

We live in an open society which is organized on the principle of voluntary action, but the determinants of that system are exceptionally constraining. Our society is dynamic, changing profoundly in every period of American history; but it is also remarkably stable.
Well, it has been remarkably stable, excepting that first Civil War, but I no longer believe that "nearly all of us support our Republican system," and I believe the percentage is falling. Please note that Albion's Seed was published in 1989. Much has changed since then.

Another psychology blogger, Robert Godwin, posted this at One Cosmos:
At this point in time, I am more inclined to think of leftism as an intellectual pathology rather than a psychological one (although there is clearly considerable overlap). What I mean is that it is impossible to maintain a priori that a conservative person is healthier or more emotionally mature than a liberal. There are plenty of liberals who believe crazy things but are wonderful people, and plenty of conservatives who have the right ideas but are rotten people. However, this may be begging the question, for it is still puzzling why people hold beliefs that are demonstrably untrue or at the very least unwise.

One of the problems is with our elites. We are wrong to think that the difficulty lies in the uneducated and unsophisticated masses--as if inadequate education, in and of itself, is the problem. As a matter of fact, no one is more prone to illusions than the intellectual. It has been said that philosophy is simply personal error on a grandiose scale. Complicating matters is the fact that intellectuals are hardly immune to a deep emotional investment in their ideas, no less than the religious individual. The word "belief" is etymologically linked to the word "beloved," and it is easy to see how certain ideas, no matter how dysfunctional--for example, some of the undeniably appealing ideas underpinning contemporary liberalism--are beloved by those who believe them. Thus, many liberal ideas are believed not because they are true, but because they are beautiful. Then, the intellectual simply marshals their intelligence in service of legitimizing the beliefs that they already hold. It has long been understood by psychoanalysts that for most people, reason is the slave of the passions.

(F)or the person who is not under the hypnotic psycho-spiritual spell of contemporary liberalism, it is strikingly devoid of actual religious wisdom or real ideas. As such, it is driven by vague, spiritually infused ideals and feelings, such as "sticking up for the little guy," or "war is not the answer." On the other hand, conservatism is not so much based on ideas, but on simply observing what works, and then generalizing from there. It is actually refreshingly free of dogma, and full of dynamic tension. For example, at the heart of conservatism is an ongoing, unresolvable dialectic between freedom and virtue. In other words, there is a bedrock belief in the idea that free markets are the best way to allocate scarce resources and to create wealth and prosperity for all, but a frank acknowledgment that, without a virtuous populace, the system may produce a self-centered, materialistic citizenry living in a sort of degenerate, "pitiable comfort." Thus, there is an ongoing, unresolvable tension between the libertarian and traditional wings of the movement.

There is no such dynamic tension in liberalism. Rather, it is a top-down dogma that is not dictated by what works, but by how liberals would like reality to be. This is why liberalism must be enforced with the mechanism of political correctness, in order to preempt or punish those who deviate from liberal dogma, and see what they are not supposed to see.
In another post, he stated:
People typically think that the right represents the party of sanctimonious and judgmental morality, but this is hardly the case. In fact, this is an exact reversal of the situation. Morality in and of itself is neither moral nor immoral. Sometimes--perhaps more often than not--a moral system can actually be a source of great evil. One of the things that sets human beings apart from animals is that we cannot avoid making moral distinctions. There seems to be a built in need to distinguish between right and wrong. This impulse is just as strong and ubiquitous as the sex drive, and, just like the sex drive, can become distorted and perverted. With the left, we are generally not dealing with immoral people, but with quite serious moral perversion. And I say this in all seriousness and with all due respect.

For example, yesterday on LGF, Charles linked to a photo gallery of the anti-death penalty demonstrators outside San Quentin Prison Monday night. Here are examples of some of the signs that were carried by protesters: "Tookie Has Done More For Kids Than Arnold." "Arnold is a Nazi. Terminate Him Now." "America is Still Murdering Blacks. Slavery: 1492-Present." "Tookie = Greater Integrity. Worth 100 Times as Much to Our World as All of the Neocons, Hypochristians & Fascist Pigs of Profit."

So clearly, there is an extraordinary amount of moral passion behind these sentiments. And yet, it is an insane and deranged moral passion. The philosopher Michael Polanyi pointed out that what distinguishes leftism in all its forms is the dangerous combination of a ruthless contempt for traditional moral values with an unbounded moral passion for utopian perfection. The first step in this process is a complete skepticism that rejects traditional ideals of moral authority and transcendent moral obligation--a complete materialistic skepticism combined with a boundless, utopian moral fervor to transform mankind.
"A boundless, utopian moral fervor to transform mankind." The kind of ideal that attracts and inspires the True Believer. For a moment, let's discuss who these people are. Hoffer writes:
The superior individual, whether in politics, literature, science, commerce, or industry, plays a large role in shaping a nation, but so do individuals at the other extreme -- the failures, misfits, outcasts, criminals, and all those who have lost their footing, or never had one, in the ranks of respectable humanity. The game of history is usually played by the best and worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.

The reason that the inferior elements of a nation can exert a marked influence on its course is that they are wholly without reverence toward the present. They see their lives and the present as spoiled beyond remedy and they are ready to waste and wreck both: hence their recklessness and their will to chaos and anarchy. They also crave to dissolve their spoiled, meaningless selves in some soul-stirring spectacular communal undertaking -- hence their proclivity for united action. Thus they are among the early recruits of revolutions, mass migrations, and of religious, racial and chauvinist movements, and they imprint their mark upon these upheavals and movements which shape a nation's character and history.

The discarded and rejected are often the raw materials of a nation's future. The stone the builders reject becomes the cornerstone of a new world. A nation without dregs and malcontents is orderly, decent, peaceful and pleasant, but perhaps without the seeds of things to come. It was not the irony of history that the undesired in the countries of Europe should have crossed an ocean to build a new world on this continent. Only they could do it.
Or, as George Bernard Shaw put it, "Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves." As a bit of further evidence of how "the inferior elements of a nation can exert a marked influence on its course," let me reiterate on the concept of cultural "trickle up," and how the extremes in society "play the game of history" over the heads of the middle. Theodore Dalrymple has spent most of his life working among the "other extreme" of British culture while living among the elite. His book Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass is specifically on this topic. James Lileks wrote perhaps the most accurate and succinct review of the book:
"Life at the Bottom," an account of the British underclass by Theodore Dalrymple. "Bracing" does not describe it, anymore than "Brisk" describes the sensation of a bucket of lemon juice poured on a sucking chest wound. The book concerns the ideas that animate, if you can use that word, the sullen masses of the impotent and indifferent, where they come from (two guesses) and how uncouthness becomes chic, and trickles up.
Examples range from multiple out-of-wedlock births by different (absent) fathers, to ubiquitous tattooing and piercings, all encouraged as "authentic behaviors" by the liberal intelligentsia, who are just as wholly without reverence towards the present.

Hoffer writes:
A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises, but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence. It cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or by remedying the difficulties and abuses which made their lives miserable, but by freeing them from their ineffectual selves -- and it does this by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely knit and exultant corporate whole.


It is obvious, therefore, that, in order to succeed, a mass movement must develop at the earliest moment a compact corporate organization and a capacity to absorb and integrate all comers. It is futile to judge the viability of a new movement by the truth of its doctrine and the feasibility of its promises. What has to be judged is its corporate organization for quick and total absorption of the frustrated. Where new creeds vie with each other for the allegiance of the populace, the one which comes with the most perfected collective framework wins.

--

The milieu most favorable for the rise and propagation of mass movements is one in which a once compact corporate structure is, for one reason or another, in a state of disintegration.

--

The general rule seems to be that as one pattern of corporate cohesion weakens, conditions become ripe for the rise of a mass movement and the eventual establishment of a new and more vigorous form of compact unity.

--

Another and final illustration of the thesis that effective collective bodies are immune to the appeal of mass movements, but that a crumbling collective pattern is the most favorable milieu for their rise is found in the relation between the collective body we know as an army and mass movements. There is hardly an instance of an intact army giving rise to a religious, revolutionary or nationalist movement. On the other hand, a disintegrating army -- whether by the orderly process of demoblilization or by desertion due to demoralization -- is fertile ground for a proselytizing movement. The man just out of the army is an ideal potential convert, and we find him among the early adherents of all contemporary mass movements. He feels alone and lost in the free-for-all of civilian life. The responsibilities and uncertanties of an autonomous existence weigh and prey upon him. He longs for certitude, camaraderie, freedom from individual responsibility, and a vision of something altogether different from the competitive free society around him -- and he finds all of this in the brotherhood and the revivalist atmosphere of a rising movement.
And, most interestingly, Hoffer discusses the love-hate relationship rising mass movements have with the military:
It is well at this point, before leaving the subject of self-sacrifice, to have a look at the similarities and differences between mass movements and armies.

The similarities are many: both mass movements and armies are collective bodies; both strip the individual of his separateness and distinctness; both demand self-sacrifice, unquestioning obedience and singlehearted allegiance; both make extensive use of make-belief to promote daring and united action; and both can serve as a refuge for the frustrated who cannot endure an automomous existence. A military body like the Foreign Legion attracts many of the types who usually rush to join a new movement. It is also true that the recruiting officer, the Communist agitator and the missionary often fish simultaneously in the cesspools of skid row.

But the differences are fundamental: an army does not come to fulfill a need for a new way of life; it is not a road to salvation. It can be used as a stick in the hand of a coercer to impose a new way of life and force it down unwilling throats. But the army is mainly an instrument devised for the preservation or expansion of an established order -- old or new. It is a temporary instrument that can be assembled and taken apart at will. The mass movement, on the other hand, seems an instrument of eternity, and those who join it do so for life. The ex-soldier is a veteran, even a hero; the ex-true believer is a renegade. The army is an instrument for bolstering, protecting and expanding the present. The mass movement comes to destroy the present. Its preoccupation is with the future, and it derives its vigor and drive from this preoccupation.

--

Being an instrument of the present, an army deals mainly with the possible. Its leaders do not rely on miracles. Even when animated by fervent faith, they are open to compromise. They reckon with the possibility of defeat and know how to surrender. On the other hand, the leader of a mass movement has an overwhelming contempt for the present -- for all its stubborn facts and perplexities, even those of geography and the weather. He relies on miracles. His hatred of the present (his nihilism) comes to the fore when the situation becomes desperate. He destroys his country and his people rather than surrender.
Thus the psychological projection of the Left impugning its opponents as "drinking the Kool-Aid" of the Right - invoking the image of Jim Jones.
The spirit of self-sacrifice within an army is fostered by devotion to duty, make-believe, esprit de corps, drill, faith in a leader, sportsmanship, the spirit of adventure and the desire for glory. These factors, unlike those employed by a mass movement, do not spring from a deprecation of the present and a revulsion of an unwanted self. They can unfold therefore in a sober atmosphere.
See the recent Wall Street Journal piece by ex-journalist and new Marine 2nd Lieutenant Matt Pottinger for an example of devotion to duty unfolding in a sober atmosphere. Just an aside, the modern military no longer "fishes in the cesspool of skid row" for recruits - which is one reason the Left is having a harder and harder time finding examples like Jimmy Massey and Pablo Paredes to promote their cause. The rising mass-movement sees in the military a vast repository of raw recruit material - that has been co-opted by the hated enemy. The soldiers, the "cannon fodder," are merely confused! The officers are the true enemy - thus the exhortations to the soldiers to "frag" their officers and join the mass movement.

What we have in America today is the result of about a hundred years of Leftist influence in American culture, best exhibited by the rise of "Transnational Progressivism" (read the whole thing) - an ideology that essentially places the blame for all iniquity around the world at the feet of a single enemy, the United States; and one group in the United States, heterosexual conservative white males. That's rather narrow. For some it's just "white people." For others it's anyone who is "conservative." (Especially if they, themselves, are white males.) For groups outside the U.S., (and some inside it) it's more broadly "Americans." However defined, this group is symbolized in effigy at the present time by one individual - George W. Bush. But that won't last forever.

Remember Hoffer's words: "It is futile to judge the viability of a new movement by the truth of its doctrine and the feasibility of its promises. What has to be judged is its corporate organization for quick and total absorption of the frustrated." It doesn't matter if the idea is illogical, ridiculous, or outright insane. It matters if you can mobilize the disaffected to the cause.

What we are seeing today is the coalescing of a new mass movement. There are many disaffected out there who are members of various fringe groups and organizations - the ones Dr. Santy defines as those who "hate Bush because he stands between them and the implementation of their collectivist "utopian" vision." But the efforts of the Leftist intelligentsia and the "underclass" have splintered our culture. We are no longer "one people." We are no longer one culture made up of many smaller, meshing cultures. We are "Red America" and "Blue America." There is sand in the gears, and corporate cohesion is being lost. As a result there is a slowly rising tide of the disaffected, frightened of the future and looking for someone to blame and someone to promise them utopia.

Hoffer again:
Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents. It pulls and whirls the individual away from his own self, makes him oblivious of his weal and future, frees him of jealosies and self-seeking. He becomes an anonymous particle quivering with a craving to fuse and coalesce with his like into one flaming mass. (Heinrich) Heine suggests that what Christian love cannot do is effected by a common hatred.

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. When Hitler was asked whether he thought the Jew must be destroyed, he answered: "No.... We should have then to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one." F.A. Voigt tells of a Japanese mission that arrived in Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought of the movement. He replied: "It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can't, because we haven't got any Jews."
Meet the new Jews, and George W. Bush as Satan incarnate.

As an example, let me quote Forrest Church from his Sept. 2002 New Republic essay, "The American Creed":
In many quarters of the world today America is resented--even hated--for its perceived embrace of godless and value-free materialism and the felt imposition of this moral "decadence" on world society. The first American armed conflict of the twenty-first century is being cast by its aggressor in religious terms as a jihad against the infidel, with America blasphemed as "the great Satan." Osama bin Laden proclaimed that those who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were martyrs, servants of Allah dying for a holy cause--a view not restricted to terrorists alone. America is caricatured in much of the Muslim world as a godless society wedded to materialism and wanton in the exercise of its power around the globe.
On the other hand, inside the U.S. it isn't "godless and value-free materialism" that is hated, it is the concept of a rising theocracy and value-free materialism (at least they're consistent on one point.) Read Jane Smiley's most recent Huffington Post piece where George W. is at once responsible for every evil out there. And she's serious. Or just read Robert Godwin's dissection of it, if you can't stomach it unfiltered.

As of yet this mass movement is also splintered, but as Hoffer noted, when people are ripe for a mass movement, any mass movement will do. And the mass movement that is best equipped to absorb them, wins them.

I noted recently that I received a solicitation from "Rev. Billy Bob Gisher" to exchange links to his website Less People, Less Idiots. In an interesting coincidence I came across a comment by Eric S. Raymond at his blog Armed and Dangerous today concerning the kidnapping of four members of a group called Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq who are now threatened with beheading by the very people they went there to "protect."
I like it when villains or dangerous idiots are killed by their own folly. That seems just to me. More importantly, it's how other people learn not to be that way. It's evolution in action; it improves the meme pool, or the gene pool, or both.

This is actually one of my gut reasons for favoring drug legalization, though I'd never thought it through quite so far before. I don't think we have enough selective pressures against idiocy any more; I'd like idiots to have more chances to kill themselves, ideally before they get old enough to vote or reproduce. Not because I relish their deaths, but because I want to live in a future with fewer idiots in it.

By the way, I'm using "idiot" in its original sense here. To the ancient Greeks, an "idiot" was a person too closed in on himself to be a net plus to his neighbors and his society. Distinctions between mental impairments, communicative defects like deaf-muteness, or insanity were not clear and not considered important; the important question was whether the 'idiotes' (private person) was capable of discharging the responsibilities of a citizen in the agora.)
Somehow I don't think that Eric's position is the same as "Rev. Gisher" on the topic. Read the comment thread. Very interesting.

The Rev. Gisher is on a quest, to wit, from the link entitled "Do you want to see changes for the better?":
Do you believe that lobbyists, who write most of the bills that are passed to become our laws, control the American government? Do you believe that it does not matter which party is in office, that other than small shifts in agendas, both sides of the aisle have to cater to the people that fund their reelections? Do you really believe it was absolutely necessary that we sent our young men to Iraq to die? Do you believe that questioning what our government does is not unpatriotic? Do you believe that in less than a hundred years, humans will be in serious trouble, because of the effects of overpopulation, and toxic chemical concentrations, as well as possible wars that break out from a desperate grab for diminished resources? Do you believe that the trouble may be brought upon us faster, because of possible major shifts in climate? Do you believe that the "Crossfire" mentality of arguing a point to death, rather than working towards common ground might be great entertainment, but is putting nails in humanity’s coffin? Do you care about what kind of world we are leaving our children and our grandchildren? Do you want to see changes; do you want things to improve?

--

So what can you do to try and turn all of this around? How do you perform this trick without bringing more violence and death to mankind, through yet another armed revolution?

You have something in your possession that you are looking at right this moment that is called a computer. The device sitting right in front of you allows you to reach out and contact anyone in the world who has access to a computer, and the Internet.

You can help humans to move away from the paralysis caused by, greed, apathy, and polarization that infects our current system of government. You can do this by reaching out to someone who has just a slightly different view of the world from your own, and finding areas that you can agree upon. If the other party reaches out to someone else who differs slightly from them, and this process of reaching out continues, eventually it is possible for everyone that has access to a computer to be linked into a system where everyone is attempting to find common ground and moving forward to try and resolve some of our problems.
I won't reproduce the whole post, please read it yourself. What the Rev. is trying to do is reach out to the "reasonable people," to form a network of those who do not necessarily agree on everything, but who are willing to A) agree on some things, and B) agree to at least discuss their differences on other topics. I've got, for example, a problem with some of the items on his laundry-list of grievances, and I'm not sure that he's one of those David Hackett Fischer refers to as being supportive of our Republican system.

It's a noble idea, though. It's an idea made practical by the revolution that is the internet - communication so cheap that all it costs you is your time. (I've been working on this essay for the last four hours, and I haven't edited it yet. And yes, I edit. Voltaire once wrote "I'm writing you a long letter because I don't have time to write a short one." Hoffer once wrote "There is not an idea that cannot be expressed in 200 words or less." With that thought, he established the "Eric Hoffer-Lili Fabilli Essay Award" at the University of California, Berkeley, for the best essay on a topic in 500 words or less. I'd never win it.) At any rate, if the idea appeals to you, go to this link and read more.

I'm not convinced that the Rev's idea will work. The mass movement is growing, and it's not made up of "reasonable people." Perhaps his idea would serve to keep "reasonable people" from becoming disaffected fodder for the mass movement, perhaps not. Perhaps not enough. In another idea, Kim and Connie du Toit are trying to establish a Nation of Volunteers organization, which is much the same idea, but narrower, with a bit more activism involved. And money.

Again, Kim and Connie are trying to reach out to "reasonable people" - mostly conservatives. I applaud the concept - and again wonder how much success it might have in the face of a growing mass movement.

I said at the opening of this piece that I was unable to determine what the two sides will be in the coming conflict. It will be the "True Believers" of the new mass movement against the "reasonable people." And it won't be pretty. Stopping a mass movement can be done - bloodily - by an army. Or from within, by washtubs filled with poisoned Kool-Aid after a Congressional investigation. Hoffer writes:
The problem of stopping a mass movement is often a matter of substituting one movement for another. A social revolution can be stopped by promoting a religious or nationalist movement. Thus in countries where Catholicism has recaptured its mass movement spirit, it counteracts the spread of communism.
The example he was probably thinking of there was post WWII Greece.

In the comments to that piece at Armed and Dangerous, Eric Raymond says:
One of the reasons I support the present war is that killing 50K of the jihadis now may keep them from mounting the city-killing attack that will really enrage the U.S.. Because if that happens, millions on millions of Arabs will die and my country will be transformed by its rage into something I won’t like.
That is an example of how one mass movement can be stopped. As Hoffer says:
This method of stopping one movement by substituting another for it is not always without danger, and it does not come cheap.
No indeed.

But there is a mass movement gathering, and it must be stopped. And reasonable people may not be enough to do it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Gunbloggers (and Other Interested Parties): FIREMISSION!

Being a knuckle-dragging, rednecked, pickup-driving, Bush-loving Neanderthal ignorant racist gun owner with one tooth and a two-digit IQ like I am, I was listening to NPR this afternoon while running some errands. Weekend America was on, and they ran a little blurb for an upcoming segment that piqued my interest. They're going to do a piece on gun control early next year, and they're looking for questions from their audience. The site is WeekendAmerica.org, and if you look over at the right-hand column, you'll find this link to click:
» Sound off: Early next year, we'll take on the hot-button topic of guns and gun control. No doubt, you probably have a few questions of your own. We'd like to hear from you.
Well! Not one to pass up such an invitation, when I got home I headed straight for my computer and (without knocking over my spit-cup on the keyboard!) one-finger-typed in the following:
My question, if I am limited to only one, is why do gun control proponents so often find it necessary to twist, obfuscate, exaggerate, and sometimes outright and apparently quite deliberately lie to support their agenda?

This is not to say that the gun-rights side is pure as the driven snow, but I've studied this topic in detail for the last ten years, and one side is more wrong, more often, more egregiously, and more blatantly than the other by a large margin.

Now, as an informed observer it's generally immediately apparent to me when either side lies, but I find it fascinating that whatever comes out of the gun-control groups is often accepted at face value by the media, (is often, in fact, misinterpreted and/or inflated) and is propagated as though it was unimpeachable, whereas whatever comes out of the gun-rights groups (when it's reported accurately at all) is nearly always prefaced with a warning that it comes from "the gun lobby," or some other disclaimer.

On further thought, let me rephrase my question: Why doesn't the media treat the press releases of gun-control organizations with at least as much skepticism as it does the press releases of the NRA and like organizations?

If you'd like more questions, I have plenty.

Thank you for your attention.
Do you have a question for Weekend America on the topic of guns and gun control? Please, feel free to drop them a line. They'd love to hear from you!

Edited to add: If you would be so kind, please copy your questions into a comment on this post. I'm really interested.

Technical Note:.

My Haloscan comments now have a "Preview" button.

That is all.

Friday, December 16, 2005

If You Need to Lawyer Up, Get a Bulldog.

I reported yesterday that Patricia Konie, the 58 year-old woman who was body-slammed by a CHP officer, disarmed and "evacuated" from her New Orleans home against her will, has filed a lawsuit. I also noted that the story at the time I posted the link wasn't working. It is now. Here's something interesting:
"My client was severely injured in a needless removal from her home," stated attorney Ashton O'Dwyer. "Patricia Konie had food, plenty of water, and a roof over her head. The police who illegally entered her home and imposed their will on a frail, middle-aged female should have been out apprehending armed, male looters instead."
That name struck a bell.

It ought to have. Mr. O'Dwyer was shown on CNN himself during the period where police officers and military personnel were going door-to-door in full military kit. The video is no longer freely available, but if you're a "CNN Pipeline" member, it's still up here. Thanks, however, to Wang Chi's House of Pancakes, the transcript of Mr. O'Dwyer's earlier fifteen seconds of fame is available.
ASHTON O'DWYER, NEW ORLEANS HOLDOUT: Have you, has your neighborhood ever been invaded by state troopers from another state? Sent here by God knows whom?

SIMON: Many of the people continuing to stay in New Orleans were told time was running out. Ashton O'Dwyer is an attorney but says he'll defy any order requiring him to evacuate.

O'DWYER: I will leave when I am dead. OK. Let them be warned. They come to my house, they try to evict me, they try to take my guns, there will be gunfire.

SIMON: With his house intact and with plenty of food and water, O'Dwyer cannot understand why folks like him are being forced to leave.

O'DWYER: Treat me with benign neglect. Get out of my neighborhood, get out of my life, get out of my [ bleep ] city.
I think Ms. Konie has picked the perfect lawyer for her suit.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Like I Said, I Can't Read Fast Enough...

Right now I'm reading three books. Well, two, and one other one got packed away somewhere, but I'll find it. I'm reading Eric Hoffer's The True Believer (my lunchtime book), Conversations with Eric Sevareid, and 1776 by David McCullough (the one that got packed away.) Hoffer's book says more with less than pretty much any book I've read. I will get a post or six out of it. The Sevareid book is a collection of transcripts from hour-long interviews he had with VIPs in the early-to-mid 1960's. It is quite surprising to me the parallels between that decade and this one. I'll get some mileage out of it, too. I'm only a few chapters into 1776, but it's already fascinating.

However, my reading list just got a LOT longer. Billy Budd has posted the Marine Corps Commandant's Reading List at American Dinosaur. Hoo boy. That's gonna take a while.

Here it is:
PVT/PFC/LCPL:
- A Message to Garcia, HUBBARD
- Blackhawk Down, BOWDEN
- Rifleman Dodd, FORESTER
- The Defense of Duffer's Drift, SWINTON
- The Killer Angels, SHAARA
- The Soldier's Load, MARSHALL
- U.S. Constitution

CPL/SGT:
- Battle Leadership, VON SCHELL
- Fields of Fire, WEBB
- Flags of Our Fathers, BRADLEY
- Gates of Fire, PRESSFIELD
- The Bridge at Dong Ha, MILLER
- The Last Full Measure, SHAARA
- The Red Badge of Courage, CRANE
- The United States Marines: A History, SIMMONS
- Tip of the Spear, MICHAELS
- With the Old Breed at Pelelieu and Okinawa, SLEDGE


SSGT:
- Attacks!, ROMMEL
- Pegasus Bridge, AMBROSE
- Phase Line Green - The Battle for Hue 1968, WARR
- The Arab Mind, PATAI
- The Art of War, SUN TZU (GRIFFIN)
- The Forgotten Soldier, SAJER
- The Village, WEST
- This Kind of War, FEHRENBACH
- We Were Soldiers Once, MOORE AND GALLOWAY

GYSGT:
- Breakout, RUSS
- Citizen Soldiers, AMBROSE
- Command in War, VAN CREVELD
- My American Journey, POWELL
- Navajo Weapon, MCCLAIN
- Savage Wars of Peace, BOOT
- Semper Fidelis: The History of the U.S. Marine Corps, MILLET
- Unaccustomed to Fear, WILLCOCK

MSGT/1STSGT:
- Band of Brothers, AMBROSE
- Bayonet Forward!, CHAMBERLAIN
- Defeat into Victory, SLIM
- Seven Pillars of Wisdom, LAWRENCE
- Strong Men Armed, LECKIE
- The Face of Battle, KEEGAN
- The Mask of Command, KEEGAN
- War in the Shadows, ASPREY


MGYSGT/SGTMAJ:
- First to Fight, KRULAK
- Fortune Favors the Brave, MYERS
- No Bended Knee, TWINING
- Reminiscences of a Marine, LEJEUNE

WO-1:
- Leading Marines: MCWP 6-11
- Small Wars Manual
- The Armed Forces Officer, MARSHALL
- The Quiet American, GREENE
- Victory at High Tide, HEINL

MIDSHIPMEN AND OFFICER CANDIDATES:
- A Message to Garcia, HUBBARD
- Beat to Quarters, FORESTER
- Chesty, HOFFMAN
- The United States Marines: A History, SIMMONS
- Warfighting MCDP 1


2NDLT:
- Cleared Hot, STOFFEY
- Chancellorsville, SEARS
- Fields of Fire, WEBB
- On Infantry, ENGLISH AND GUDMUNDSSON
- Rifleman Dodd, FORESTER
- The Arab Mind, PATAI
- The Easter Offensive, TURLEY
- The Face of Battle, KEEGAN
- This Kind of War, FEHRENBACH


1STLT/CWO-2:
- A People Numerous and Armed, SHY
- All for the Union, RHODES
- Attacks!, ROMMEL
- Company Commander, MACDONALD
- Once an Eagle, MYRER
- Reminiscences of a Marine, LEJEUNE
- The Forgotten Soldier, SAJER
- The Storm of Steel, JUNGER
- The Ugly American, LEDERER AND BURDICK
- Utmost Savagery, ALEXANDER


CAPT/CWO-3:
- Command in War, VAN CREVELD
- Eagle Against the Sun, SPECTER
- Field Artillery and Firepower, BAILEY
- Fields of Battle, KEEGAN
- From Beirut to Jerusalem, FRIEDMAN
- Goodbye Darkness, MANCHESTER
- Infantry in Battle, MARSHALL
- Savage Wars of Peace, BOOT
- Stonewall in the Valley, TANNER
- Terrorism Today, HARMON
- The Art of War, SUN TZU (GRIFFITH)
- Unaccustomed to Fear, WILLCOCK

MAJ/CWO-4:
- A Bright Shining Lie, SHEEHAN
- Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, MCPHERSON
- Cruicibles of War, ANDERSON
- European Armies, STRACHAN
- For the Common Defense, MILLET AND MASLOWSKI
- Grant Takes Command, CATTON
- On War, VON CLAUSEWITZ (HOWARD AND PARET)
- Strategy, HART
- The General, FORESTER
- The Glorious Cause, MIDDLEKAUFF
- The Guns of August, TUCHMAN
- The History of the Peloponnesian War, THUCYDIDES (LANDMARK VERSION BY STRASSER)
- The Mask of Command, KEEGAN

LTCOL/CWO-5:
- A Revolutionary People At War, ROYSTER
- Defeat into Victory, SLIM
- Frontiersmen in Blue, UTLEY
- Masters of War, HANDEL
- One Hundred Days, WOODWARD
- Patton: A Genius for War, D'ESTE
- Seven Pillars of Wisdom, LAWRENCE
- The Army and Vietnam, KREPINEVICH
- The Lexus and the Olive Tree, FRIEDMAN
- The Roots of Blitzkreig, CORUM
- Supplying War, VAN CREVELD


COL THROUGH GEN:
- Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, MCPHERSON
- All Quiet on the Western Front, REMARQUE
- Carnage and Culture, HANSON
- Crusade in Europe, EISENHOWER
- Dereliction of Duty, MCMASTER
- Diplomacy, KISSINGER
- Eisenhower's Leutenants, WEIGLEY
- Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, HUGHES
- Feeding Mars, LYNN
- Generalship; Its Diseases and Their Cures, FULLER
- Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command, SUMIDA
- Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman, EDITED BY MCFEELY
- Military Innovation in the Interwar Period, MURRAY AND MILLET
- Supreme Command, COHEN
- The Campaigns of Napoleon, CHANDLER
- The Conduct of War, FULLER
- The Rape of Nanking, CHANG
- War and Peace, TOLSTOY
I've read a couple of these - Webb's Fields of Fire and Bowdin's Blackhawk Down, the Constitution, of course. Band of Brothers. Gates of Fire has been on my "to read" list for a while, but most of these I am unfamiliar with. There's a bit of duplication between the ranks, and I can skip a few like Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat but still, that's a LOT of books.

Let's see, I'm almost 44...

Some People Have No Sense of Humor.

Remember the Redneck Christmas decoration post? Well, reader Aaron sent me a link to a news story where some neighbors aren't amused, it seems.
Display Shows Bleeding Rudolph Hanging From Tree

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A holiday display is getting some negative attention from neighbors. A homeowner's display in the Hunter's Creek subdivision features Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer hanging from a tree.
"Hunter's Creek"? And they don't like a field-dressed deer?
One red light represents its nose and the rest appear to be blood draining from Rudolph's body. The display represents a hunting technique called field dressing, which is what hunters do to a deer they kill, but many neighbors say it disgusts them.

"It's just kind of sad for the kids, 'cause they see that and it's just not a very good example," said neighbor Kathleen McMahon.

"I don' think it's very nice at all. It's Rudolph and I think that's really nasty," said neighbor Bree McMahon.

The homeowner wouldn't talk to Channel 9 Wednesday night.

Neighbors said they just want the display taken down.
Here's the picture I like best:

The other deer looks a bit spooked.

Honestly, I can see how some people would be offended, and I don't have a white wire-frame illuminated Donner or Blitzen hanging in my front yard right now because of that.

But if I had a suitable tree in my back yard...

Racism, Sexism, and Other "-isms".

A couple of weeks ago I got a solicitation email from "Rev. Billy Gisher" looking for a link to his site, Less People, Less Idiots. I wrote about it on Dec. 1. I perused the site a bit, but am currently unconvinced as to the... well, that's neither here nor there.

However, the Rev. sent out similar emails to others, and he got another hit from a pretty far-left blog written by - well, let me reproduce her self-description:
Sexually, I identify as straight, and racially, as Chinese Canadian, Asian American, or Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA). Calling me anything else is unacceptable. Religiously, I identify primarily as agnostic, but I also have tinges of buddhism, christianity, atheism and wicca. Yeah, I know, it's weird. Politically, I'm a feminist (in the equal gender rights way, not the 'die, man-creature, die' way), a libertarian-ish democrat (officially unaffiliated with any party), pro-choice, anti-capital punishment, pro-gun control, pro-gay marriage, anti-stupidity, etc., etc., etc.
Her post about The Rev's site linked to TSM, calling it (and I quote)

a super-duper-uber right-wing gun-blog

Well! I couldn't let that go unanswered, so I left a comment. Come to find out, she's doing graduate work at the University of Arizona here in Tucson, so I made certain she understood that the invitation to go shooting - "regardless of your position on the right to arms" - was most definitely open. The discussion got... interesting. One commenter suggested I invite my wife to join the discussion, since I mentioned she's Okinawan by birth and by citizenship.

Now, my wife dislikes the internet, or at least the blogosphere, and I've learned to limit the amount of stuff I force on her from here, but I took him up on his invitation. Unfortuately, by the time I printed out the comment thread and gave it to her to read, it was time to pack the computer up for the work on the house.

Well, it got a reaction. She did something she's never done before (and swears she'll never do again). She wrote a reply. Longhand. I finally got the computer set back up last night, and I typed it up and gave it to her to proofread. She's happy with it. If you want to know the background, please go to Jenn's post Lesser Idiots, read the post and read the entire comment thread. But I promised her I'd post the piece here as well. Here goes:
Dear Asian Son and Asian Daughter:

My birth name is Hanashiro Kaoru. Hanashiro in both Japanese and Okinawan means "flower castle."

I do not have high respect for people who hide behind a computer screen and argue and degrade each other in blog comments. I prefer face-to-face conversations. But then that's me.

Life is so precious and so short... I'd rather live life. So this will be the first and last article I will ever post on any site. My time is precious. I have grandchildren to love and teach (just like all the Asian grandmothers before me.)

I am writing this not on my husband's behalf. He is too narrow and close-minded when it comes to the Second Amendment. I'm certain that idea comes from his environment. NO! I do not agree with everything he believes. This article is directed mostly to you, "DumbGuy2," who, by the way, requested my comments.

I have read many print-outs my husband has given me in the past ten years. Mostly they bored me. Into a coma. But your comments awakened something within myself that I thought "familiar." The teachings of my grandmother and all the elders who thought that all Americans (Hakujin - whites) are bad. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo. Battles fought in Okinawa. American occupation of Okinawa. So on and so on. Our history!

When I was nine years old I wore the band around my head and joined my fellow Okinawans in a demonstration against Americans, yelling in the loudest voice I could find, "Yankees go home!" How rad, huh? My Asian son, that year my mother remarried.

I was raised by my ancient Asian grandmother. I still remember most of her sayings: "We are from the Lord's house. It is in our blood and in our name." (Some of our ancestors used to work for the King of Ryuku - the Okinawan islands. So she said.) If you left a grain of rice in the bowl, you were yelled at for being ungrateful to the farmers who worked so hard to harvest the rice. Or worse, you were told that all those Chinese gods my grandmother prayed to would be mad, and SLAP!

Jenn, Okinawans from my grandmother's generation lived by the Chinese calendar. Our ways are the same. Jenn you are young and intelligent. I'd like to give you an important (life saving) bit of advice. From an Asian mother to an Asian daughter, DO NOT MEET ANYONE YOU KNOW ONLY FROM THE INTERNET. James is so right. It is not that my husband is dangerous. He asked me to come if you agree to go shooting. (Too cold! I'm not going.) My husband is naive, but believes in his cause. I would not let my daughter do what he is asking of you. To meet a stranger with guns. Are you crazy?!

Jenn, go live life. Meet people face to face. Travel and meet and see and experience different cultures and their people.

Let's go back to my Asian son, DumbGuy2. Hate is non-productive and that mindset will blind you from what is so good and beautiful about life. I know... I've done it myself.

I had a job that taught me the Greatest Lessons of Life. I was a language operator for MCI. We provided I think around 17 different languages for our customers. We were better than the UN. I worked alongside operators from all around the world. We worked beside the English operators - locals. There I learned, no matter where you are from we loved, we cried, we laughed. We all had the same human emotions. When we were physically hurt we all bled red blood. Asians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Arabs, Africans, American Indians, African-Americans, whites, Jews, we are all a human race. I teach my grandchildren (whites) who are raised by their Asian grandmother this: "There is only one race on this planet. A Human Race. Don't ever forget it."

My Asian son, the greatest man who saved me from this race-hatred that was taught to me ever since I can remember was an Irish-American white man. He is my father - my step-father. I never called him step-dad because he is the only father I've known and need. He is my saint and I love and respect him always. But because of all my teachings by the Elders, my father paid for it. Hate is a bad thing.

When my mother got remarried to an American, I was determined to revenge the shame that my mother had placed on my family. (I was only nine years old.) I was bad! My father never gave up on me. He never wavered, had all the patience of all the saints combined. He was always there for me. He taught me the true meaning of family and paternal love. I am writing this article on his behalf. Not all white people are bad. Some are great! My father, George Washington, Einstein, and so on.

So, my Asian son, don't hate so much. Life is not about us being Asians. Life is about how we all live our lives. But due to my grandmother's teaching, there are two promises I made that I can't seem to break:

1) Never forget our language - I just know basic Japanese.

2) Never become an American. Funny, even though I've lived here 37 years I still see my grandmother's face every time I tried to fill out the citizenship papers. So, I am still Japanese. But before my father passes away, I think my love for this great white man will prevail and someday I will become a citizen.

I will end here. No comments please. I'd rather be with people I truly love. Life's short.

P.S.: Why didn't the Elders ever mention Pearl Harbor, or the killings in Nanking when I was young?

Kaoru
Like I said in The Seven Things Meme post, she's not afraid to argue her beliefs -especially when they don't agree with mine!

The Good Guys Score a Big One.

"Steaming Dragon" of Thus Spracht ME details how he managed to entice the upper management at his work into taking his NRA Basic Pistol course - on company time - and even better, he got paid for it.

The pendulum continues its backswing...

Good on ya, mate.

I Hope She Wins a Fortune.

Ravenwood reportsthat 58 year-old Patricia Konie, the woman a California cop assaulted in her own New Orleans home, disarmed and "evacuated" her from that home by force during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, has filed a federal lawsuit. Among other things, she received a fractured shoulder from the assault. The officer assaulted her in front of TV cameras, and the video is still available online. It's pretty open-and-shut in my opinion, but then the .gov is involved, so you never know.

The story is here, but at the time of this posting the link isn't working.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Seven Things Meme.

Gunscribe over at From the Heartland has tagged me with the latest meme. So, here goes:

Seven things to do before I die

Build my '67 Fastback big-block Mustang.

Build a true 1,000 yard-capable rifle.

And learn to shoot it well.

Shoot a perfect 40x40 in IHMSA competition (if I ever start shooting IHMSA again.)

Win the lottery (I can dream...)

Buy my dream house. (We remodeled this one because I couldn't get the house I wanted. Yet.)

Write a book on my philosophy - just so I can get my mind around it all.

Seven things I cannot do

Stay off the internet.

Carry a tune worth a damn.

Sleep peacefully through an entire night.

Speak a foreign language. (Studied Spanish in college. That's gone. Tried Japanese - gotta try again.)

Type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. At least not accurately.

Get a pilot's license. (Don't think I'd pass a flight physical anyway.)

Read fast enough.

Seven things that attract me to my wife

She knows her priorities: Family first.

She's fierce: about family, about loyalty, about honor, about everything.

Her sense of humor has warped to match mine - I can make her laugh.

Her laugh.

She thinks - and she's not afraid to argue her beliefs -especially when they don't agree with mine. (Post to follow illustrating this)

We understand each others space - and we need it. Both of us.

The way she.... No, can't talk about that. (But WHOA!)

Seven things I say most often

This is Kevin, how may I help you? (To the customers.)

Let me drop everything and work on your problem. (To the salesmen.)

(Recently) It's how much?

(Also recently) Put it on the card.

(Most especially recently) Aren't we finished yet?

Sweet bleeding jebus. (Nod to Acidman for that one.)

Thank you. (Really. I say that a lot.)

Seven Books (or series) that I love

The General by S.M. Stirling and David Drake - consists of five books, The Forge, The Hammer, The Anvil, The Steel, The Sword. I read it about once a year.

Eric Flint's 1632 and all of its ancillary works. Hell of an alternate universe he's created there.

Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga - all of it. And pretty much anything else Lois writes.

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. I. I first read this collection of classics from the Golden Age of SF when I was about thirteen. It absolutely hooked me on science fiction. Incredible collection of short stories. And it's back in print, too.

Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I own everything by Heinlein except his last/first, posthumously published novel. The quality of his work faded a bit with his health, but The Moon is a Harsh Mistress helped mold my political outlook, and it's a damned fine read to boot.

John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels.

Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels. These last two greatly influenced my personal philosophy.

And seven isn't nearly enough to cover my favorites.

Seven Movies I watch Over and Over again

I don't really do this, except when I stumble upon them on TV, but here's a few:

Pretty much anything with John Wayne in it, but especially The Quiet Man, The Shootist, Big Jake, True Grit, and Rooster Cogburn.

Laurence of Arabia - as long as it's shown in letterbox. Without commercial interruption.

Aliens - perhaps the best SF action flick ever.

Seven Suckers I want to infect

Steven Den Beste

Ravenwood

Doc Russia

Fran Porretto

Mike of Feces Flinging Monkey

C. Dodd Harris - Leave it as a comment, Dodd.

Ry Jones

Here's the questions:

Seven things to do before I die
Seven things I cannot do
Seven things that attract me to (…)
Seven things I say most often
Seven books (or series) that I love
Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had time)
Seven people I want to join in, too.

It Takes a Lot to Piss Me Off.


Getting blatantly lied to generally does it. People displaying ignorance, on the other hand, just piques me a bit. But when someone takes ignorance, ingests just enough fact, and then regurgitates - let's not pussyfoot - vomits their asshole opinion, sometimes that's enough.

Today, I had just such an experience.

The lefty blog The People's Republic of Seabrook, run by one Jack Cluth, has as its address "intellectualize.org" - just so we know that Jack's an intellectual, I suppose. Jack is an unabashed Leftist, victim of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and all-around opponent of the war in Iraq, given the postings I've reviewed there. But one really took the cake. Not the post, so much. That's just a combination of his personal political bias combined with his ignorance of matters military and his knee-jerk reaction to a three-hundred word "news" story.

No, what pissed me off was the picture he chose to illustrate his post. I don't know if he created it, or if he plucked it off the web somewhere because it appealed to him - and in either case I don't really give a damn - because it illustrates his derangement perfectly.

Let's discuss the story - hell, let's reproduce it in its entirety:
Family Upset Over Soldier's Body Arriving As Freight

Bodies Sent To Families On Commercial Airliners

There's controversy over how the military is transporting the bodies of service members killed overseas, 10News reported.

A local family said fallen soldiers and Marines deserve better and that one would think our war heroes are being transported with dignity, care and respect. It said one would think upon arrival in their hometowns they are greeted with honor. But unfortunately, the family said that is just not the case.

Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard.

But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.

John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were stunned when they found out the body of their only child, Matthew John Holley, who died in Iraq last month, would be arriving at Lindbergh Field as freight.

Matthew was a medic with the 101st Airborne unit and died on Nov. 15.

"When someone dies in combat, they need to give them due respect they deserve for (the) sacrifice they made," said John Holley.

John and Stacey Holley, who were both in the Army, made some calls, and with the help of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Matthew was greeted with honor and respect.

"Our familiarity with military protocol and things of that sort allowed us to kind of put our foot down -- we're not sure other parents have that same knowledge," said Stacey Holley.

The Holleys now want to make sure every fallen hero gets the proper welcome.

The bodies of dead service members arrive at Dover Air Force Base.

From that point, they are sent to their families on commercial airliners.

Reporters from 10News called the Defense Department for an explanation. A representative said she did not know why this is happening.
Now, I'd like some follow-up on this piece. "With the help of Sen. Barbara Boxer" Matthew Holley was "greeted with honor and respect." Even though, I suppose, he was shipped as (gasp!) AIR CARGO!

This isn't, however, what pissed Jack Cluth off. Let me quote from his post:
OK, let’s imagine something for just a second. Let’s say that Bill Clinton was still in office. And let’s say that the bodies of dead American soldiers were being shipped to their families as freight, stuffed in the cargo hold of a plane along with the luggage?

If Republicans were to get wind of this sort of Democratic perfidy, CAN YOU IMAGINE THE WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH, AND THE PEALS OF RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION that would be raining down upon a Democratic Administration? And guess what? They’d have a damn good point. So why then is it acceptable for Our Glorious Leader’s Administration to be shipping the bodies of fallen soldiers as they would Aunt Ethel’s luggage? It’s simple, really; because Democrats simply lack the cojones to to raise Hell and demand that this disrespect stop IMMEDIATELY.
Old Jack is angry because the Democrats haven't made a talking point out of it.

Here's a clue, Jack: The military has always shipped deceased service members home by air cargo - with escort. Why the Defense Department representative didn't know that is beyond me. Perhaps the reporter didn't call the right department? Regardless, what would you prefer - private jet? Wouldn't you then complain about the expense? Ship them in a first-class seat with a martini to hand? Detail an Air Force cargo jet for each individual soldier?

If you knew anything about the military, you would know that usually - not always, but usually - they treat their dead with the utmost honor. And if you read any of the right-wing or milblogs, you would have read this Rocky Mountain News in-depth report on just how the Marines honor their fallen, Final Salute. However, it runs a wee bit longer than 305 words and it requires an attention span. And some shred of honor.

Let me quote some of it:
The American Airlines 757 couldn't have landed much farther from the war.

The plane arrived in Reno on a Friday evening, the beginning of the 2005 "Hot August Nights" festival - one of the city's biggest - filled with flashing lights, fireworks, carefree music and plenty of gambling.

When a young Marine in dress uniform had boarded the plane to Reno, the passengers smiled and nodded politely. None knew he had just come from the plane's cargo hold, after watching his best friend's casket loaded onboard.

At 24 years old, Sgt. Gavin Conley was only seven days younger than the man in the coffin. The two had met as 17-year-olds on another plane - the one to boot camp in California. They had slept in adjoining top bunks, the two youngest recruits in the barracks.

All Marines call each other brother. Conley and Jim Cathey could have been. They finished each other's sentences, had matching infantry tattoos etched on their shoulders, and cracked on each other as if they had grown up together - which, in some ways, they had.

When the airline crew found out about Conley's mission, they bumped him to first-class. He had never flown there before. Neither had Jim Cathey.

On the flight, the woman sitting next to him nodded toward his uniform and asked if he was coming or going. To the war, she meant.

He fell back on the words the military had told him to say: "I'm escorting a fallen Marine home to his family from the situation in Iraq."

The woman quietly said she was sorry, Conley said.

Then she began to cry.

When the plane landed in Nevada, the pilot asked the passengers to remain seated while Conley disembarked alone. Then the pilot told them why.

The passengers pressed their faces against the windows. Outside, a procession walked toward the plane. Passengers in window seats leaned back to give others a better view. One held a child up to watch.

From their seats in the plane, they saw a hearse and a Marine extending a white-gloved hand into a limousine, helping a pregnant woman out of the car.
The piece runs twelve pages. I guarantee you that if you have a soul, you'll be in tears by the end of it. Barbara Boxer need not apply.

Now I ask you: Which party do you think would be more willing to ship our honored dead home like this:
That's the picture Mr. Cluth used to illustrate his outrage. Which party is shouting "We can't win! Cut and run! Cut and run!"

Marines not honoring their dead? Not on this planet. But I've about concluded that the Democrats in power and their vocal supporters have lost any hint of that virtue.

UPDATE: In true compassionate, inclusive, diversity-embracing Leftist style, Jack's most recent post suggests that he's in favor of the homosexual rape of prisoners by prison guards. So long as the rape victim is a Republican.

But his side deserves to be in charge.

Update II: Jack's discovered this post, and has a reply up. Read the comments.

Update III: Jack seems to think that posting a Ted "I'm a piece of human excrement" Rall "cartoon" is a rebuttal. Or he never bothered to read the Rocky Mountain News piece. Wouldn't want to confuse himself with anything like facts.
I'm Baaaack!.

Screed to follow shortly.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Note to Spoons:.

It didn't work for me!

(But then, I didn't go to Frank J's wedding, either.)

Monday, December 12, 2005

No, I'm Not Dead...

...and neither is this site. I should have my home computer reconnected by Tuesday. However, we still have a lot of reassembly work to do around the house, so my time is going to be severely limited for a bit longer.

Thanks for checking in here, though.