Reluctant Trump Christians, Where Is Your Confounding Love?

 

Consider this an exhortation. I hear things from Trump-ump David French (“calling balls and strikes,” but never tallying RBIs) and read articles from Christians anguished over the President’s ugly, New York Americanism, and I have trouble finding the Spirit in it. Rather than digging a channel to God’s ocean of mercy, it seems some Christians are trying to dispense it with a teaspoon. It’s all so pinched and joyless and, well, unfamiliar to me as “Christian.”

Donald Trump is a sinner. Christians should not be surprised by this. What is astonishing is the good he’s done and is continuing to do, which must, by necessity, originate with God, who is the source of all goodness. “Oh, but he’s not really Christian, he just mouths the right words about the preciousness of all human life as made in the image and likeness of God,” some say. The subtext of this criticism is he’s hopelessly irredeemable no matter what he says or does! Is that Christian love? Is it even recognizable as faith in God’s ability to work in and through Donald Trump’s life?

A reading from morning prayers from the book of James:

Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

And from Romans:

Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

“Yes, but affiliating with Donald Trump gives Christians and Christianity a bad reputation.” With whom? Are you really concerned about ingratiating yourself with the worshipers of Moloch? 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

In case you haven’t noticed, apologizing and making excuses to the Left is just chumming the water. Donald Trump gets this. Never apologize. You should not attempt to reconcile with evil or evil ideologies.

“But his tweets are embarrassingly juvenile and crass.” Maybe my response isn’t so much about my Christian faith and is more about my family genetics. My family of origin has ornery in its DNA. We like sassy and get a lot of laughs out of each other’s antics. I like to think of us as little lambs frolicking in the Lord’s pasture, and get the feeling He gets a good laugh, too.

It’s not that I don’t believe we’re all called to holiness, it’s just that these are minor infractions against the calling and I do believe we’ll all get there by the grace of God — eventually. And “holiness” doesn’t mean boring. Even Saint Augustine prayed, “Lord, make me holy, but not yet.” Father Michael Gaitley likes to say, “Make me a saint, but be gentle.” Our Good Shepherd is gentleness personified. Mercy Himself. We should strive to be imitators of Him.

And finally, “But Donald Trump once said he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness, even though he’s been an adulterer, a fornicator, a liar . . .” Were you born knowing you need a Savior? When did you figure it out? Have you never failed to ask for forgiveness when you should have? Have you come to know God better than you did 20 years ago? Why would all these things not also be true of Donald Trump? Whose timetable is he on anyway? Yours or God’s? 

Frankly, I see a lot of ego and pride sneaking into the Christian angst over Donald Trump. And we all know where that leads. Will you be a joyful, loving, merciful disciple of Christ? Or a joyless scold, attracting no one to the faith? God gives us free will to choose.

Would Lenny Bruce Be a Trump Voter Today?

 

I can’t explain why but topical humor has always appealed to me. Entering high school, when I was supposed to be studying algebra, I usually had my nose in the latest edition of Mad magazine (I still have issues dating back to 1962). When the other kids were watching cop shows and westerns, I was watching “That Was The Week That Was” (like a lot of other 16-year-old boys, many of my fantasies revolved around the “TW3 Girl,” Nancy Ames). While my classmates were watching American Bandstand, I was listening to the comedic routines of Bob Newhart and Mort Sahl.

A hitch in the Army and four years of college did nothing to change my proclivities, except that I graduated to sophomoric humor such as National Lampoon (the parody ad showing a floating Volkswagen Beetle and the caption of “If Teddy Kennedy Drove a Volkswagen, He’d be President Today” is a classic) and idiotic movies such as Porky’s and Naked Gun.

Now, what does this have to do with anything? In a word, nothing; I’m just attempting to make the point that we, as Americans, have the right to determine for ourselves what we think is (and, is not) humorous.

I thought about this a few days ago as I was reading an article in the Washington Examiner which dealt with a fairly new website known as the Babylon Bee. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Bee. It was launched back in 2016 with a format based loosely on that of The Onion and a penchant for satire that, evidently, makes the liberal establishment quite uncomfortable (examples: blaring headlines that feature stories such as “Coronavirus Polling Higher Than All Presidential Candidates” and “Democrats Warn That American People May Tamper With Next Election”).

Incredibly, the Bee has driven the mainstream media into paroxysms of indignation with dark warnings that this type of humor poses an existential threat to us all. In a laughable editorial last summer, the New York Times intoned, “The line between misinformation and satire can be thin, and real consequences can result when it is crossed … humor has been weaponized to help spread falsehoods online.”And, not to be outdone, Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, chimed in, “Maybe you know that (an) article is satire, but a lot of people can’t tell the difference.”

Now stop, stop, and think about this. Consider the implications. One of the things that makes this country, and we as Americans, unique is our ability to laugh at ourselves and to use humor to point out the foibles of our society, our government, and our so-called leaders. From publications such as Mad and the National Lampoon to standup comedians such as Mort Sahl and George Carlin, we may have been angered and perhaps even scandalized but we recognized that this was the price to be paid for our freedoms.

But now, something has changed and I believe that we have a good idea of what that is. Does anyone remember the Our Gang comedies? I remember one episode in which one of the kids had been hurtful toward one of the others. Naturally, there was some payback and this payback was accompanied by the line, “You can dish it out Spanky but you sure can’t take it.”

And this is precisely where we are today. For decades the Left has been comfortable in that most, if not all, social satire was directed at conservatives. Pro-life? Pro-Second Amendment? That was all grist for the (supposedly) better educated “sophisticates” of our ruling classes. Most of them eagerly tuned in to Comedy Central every evening to chuckle at Jon Stewart’s “news” broadcasts. Appallingly, some of them viewed Stewart as a “trusted news source.” Funny thing; The New York Times and Harvard University didn’t seem to be as concerned back in those days.

I don’t believe that there’s any question that the Left has always had a “Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee” philosophy but now they have become truly brazen about it. What is particularly galling is that they have clothed their attempts at outright censorship in flowery language such as “the avoidance of misinformation” and the ever-popular “hate speech.” Does anyone still remember Garry Trudeau’s nauseating remarks following the murders at Charley Hebdo? In a typical act of liberal hypocrisy, the Doonesbury creator bloviated, “Freedom should always be discussed with the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious.” In other words, “I’m safe to write anything I wish, but those guys over in Paris deserved it because they made the wrong people angry.” Gutsy guy, that Garry Trudeau. But, sadly, he’s not alone. There are unprincipled cowards aplenty in the Fourth Estate.

One of the most heard phrases that we hear coming from the Left is that anyone who disagrees with them is a “hater.” Each time I hear that I think of two things; one, the definition of projection (the act of projecting one’s feelings onto others) and two, George Bernard Shaw’s phrase, “Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.”

Each time I see videos of those cute little college students running amok, shouting down any speakers that they disagree with, the first thing I see (other than roomfuls of participation trophies) is the raw hatred in their faces. And then, I can’t help but think that these narcissistic little Torquemadas will be entering the workplace; maybe at The New York Times; maybe at Google or Microsoft and they will be taking that hatred with them. Unlike the tiresome ’60s student radicals, many of today’s college graduates will have the power to shape, and most importantly, censor ideas that come through the internet and over the airways. In other words, they will be able to construct their very own “Ministry of Truth” made famous by George Orwell.

Unfortunately, some of those folks that we have come to know as Never-Trumpers seem to think that this hatred will go away when there is no Donald Trump residing in the White House. They could not be more wrong. Do they actually believe that the hatred of the Left can be placated? I believe that they would do well to take the words of the Babylon Bee’s publisher to heart, “The more zealous a movement is, the less that movement can abide mockery and humor. Since the Left is now a religion, its prophets and priests want to silence the heretics that mock their faith.”

“Avoid zealots; they are generally humorless.” We’ve all heard that proverb. However, we can’t avoid them. We now have an entire political party that has given itself over to far-left zealotry (and bigotry).

There may be a few of you that are unfamiliar with the name of Lenny Bruce. He was a standup comedian who frequently ran afoul of the law due to his frequent use of obscenities during his performances and a drug habit that ultimately caused his death in 1966. His talent as a social critic and satirist was undeniable. I thought about Mr. Bruce a few days ago as I heard the idiotic patter of three “commentators” on CNN.

In one of his routines, back in the early ’60s, Mr. Bruce observed that “We’ve forgiven the Japanese once and the Germans twice, but the white Southerner has been getting kicked in the a** for the last 100 years. ‘Folks, I think this nuclear fission is’… Aw, shut up you schmuck! You don’t know anything.” As a native of Appalachia, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the truths that Mr. Bruce spoke and what I heard on CNN.

A Never-Trumper “Republican Strategist” by the name of Rick Wilson seemed to take great pleasure in the denigration of Trump supporters by labeling them as “credulous boomer rubes” and with an exaggerated Southern accent mimicked them, “Donald Trump’s the smart one – and y’all elitists are dumb.” The host, Don Lemon, seemingly could not contain his mirth and made overblown gestures of wiping his eyes. (I had never heard of the third participant and his name is not worth remembering.) The scene was truly bizarre. The three of them reminded me of the two toothless, murderous mountain men in Deliverance; there was nothing funny in the entire scene. Particularly weird was Lemon’s high-pitched giggling (Note: Please, no comments that Lemon would have been perfect for Ned Beatty’s role). I could almost hear the strains of “Dueling Banjos” in the background as I reflected; after 60 years, Lenny Bruce’s words still rang true.

As strange as this scene was, I would never dream of censoring them. They have the freedom to say anything they wish; the same freedom that they seek to deny us. And, I wonder if our Never-Trumpers have any grasp of this whatsoever. Have they ever contemplated the old saying that “Inside of every Progressive there is a totalitarian screaming to get out?” Do they even care?

I am to the point that I have completely lost my patience with the Never-Trumpers. Before the Presidential election of 2016, National Review ran a special issue devoted solely to the Never-Trump movement. There were several articles and I read each one. There were some excellent points that I agreed with. However, there was not a single one that would have justified the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I admit that there is much about Donald Trump that I do not like. However, he has done nothing to limit the freedoms that I enjoy as an American. Every Democratic candidate that I have heard has threatened to limit my freedoms; from speech to owning a firearm to even the freedom to buy a soda containing sugar. I’m simply not having it.

P.J. O’Rourke once observed that, “The Democrats hate you. They hate you like a prostitute hates her John.” I’m tired of Republicans who just can’t get that through their heads. I’m also tired of Republicans who continually lose elections and still shrug it off with the attitude of, “Sure, we lost again, but we still adhered to our principles.” Although I voted for John McCain in 2008 and the now-Senator from Utah in 2012, I had the feeling that neither one of them had the “stomach for battle” that was needed to defeat Obama. I was right.

So, in answer to my own question, I’m not sure that Lenny Bruce would vote for Donald Trump. One thing is sure though, he would not be pleased with the plunge into totalitarianism that the Democratic Party has taken.

Quote of the Day: President Donald J. MacGuffin

 

To me, the key to understanding Trumpism is remembering why he was elected. What do I mean? Voters chose Donald Trump as an antidote to the growing inflammation caused by the (OK, deep breath…) prosperity-crushing, speech-inhibiting, nanny-state building, carbon-obsessing, patriarchy-bashing, implicit bias-accusing, tokey-wokey, globalist, swamp-creature governing class–all perfectly embodied by the Democrats’ 2016 nominee.

This was from the Op-Ed in the February 10th Wall Street Journal by their Inside View columnist, Andy Kessler. The rest of the column describes all the distractions used by President Trump to set up the press and the other party, to take their attention away from all the positive things getting done behind the scenes. It worked, too, didn’t it?

February Group Writing: Advice from Popular Culture

 

From Hollywood to kids’ cartoons, to sappy inspirational Facebook posts, entertainment culture is full of advice on how to live our lives. Imagine the consequences of taking this wisdom seriously. Actually, you don’t need to imagine: our culture is littered with living examples of men and women who embraced the subtle and not-so-subtle popular messages. Still, it would be interesting to flip through a book called A Year of Living Hollywood. Here is some of the most common propaganda of social media, celebrities, and movies:

1. Follow your heart. This pretty saying comes first because it’s our culture’s favorite. I remember years ago asking a wise older friend for advice about getting married, and this is what she said to me, very tenderly though: Follow your heart. I was confused. My very problem was that I had followed my heart, and it wasn’t getting me anywhere. What I needed was some sensible input, help weighing up the pros and cons and identifying flags of all hues in this relationship.

For big decisions, we need more than a heart: we need a compass. Our hearts are like the weather: changeable, vulnerable to all sorts of variables. The compass helps guide us through the weather. Prime casualties of this heart-following philosophy are young women who are drawn to bad-boy types and then fall in love. Being in love leads them through a string of bad decisions, and then they are dealing with the fallout for the rest of their lives.

2. You can be anything you want to be.  Um, no, you can’t. Just watch a few minutes of American Idol, and you’ll see this isn’t so. You might dream of being a great singer, and even get on TV, but most of us are just not entertainers. Even intensive singing and dancing lessons, makeovers, and special diets wouldn’t help us in that cutthroat world. Same with becoming president. It takes more than wanting it–we’d actually have to win elections. A more helpful way to frame the concept, although not with the same ring as the original, would be, “You have so many career options available to you.” And that is a wonderful reality.

3. Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dreams. Okay, I get it–grit and determination and everything. Stories of strong-willed men and women who succeeded in spite of social, economic, and physical obstacles are inspiring. Their hard work is to be commended. However, as a general statement, Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dreams could mean that whatever you want, you should have. That others in your life, your community, aren’t important. Sometimes, you should listen to those closest to you, especially when they are saying to you, “About that singing career . . . Don’t quit your day job, honey.” They just might know what they are talking about.

4. Just be you. Well, that depends on what you want to do. If being you means relaxing at a party, smiling, telling your favorite story without worrying about what the listeners will think, it’s great advice. But this bit of popular wisdom has the whiff of relativistic, existential claptrap.

5. Rules are for breaking. Don’t you know the most interesting, accomplished people are all rebels? If they had been compliant angels, we’d never have heard of them. (It’s beginning to sound like whoever came up with all these wise words had a problem with authority. Plus, when I think of men and women I know who broke rules, both their own lives and the lives of their loved ones are all the more messy and complicated for it.)

Someone once said, “No man is an island.” Maybe it came from a Facebook meme? That one with a famous puppet sipping tea. Or the guy with the mustache and beer bottle. Anyway, if you see that quote in your feed, you ought to share it–once you’ve changed “man” to “person,” of course. On second thought, let it be. Rules are for breaking, after all.

Memories Are Made of This

 

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal has a long story on life for the passengers and crew aboard the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess which is docked at Yokohama. Interesting story but this is definitely the best paragraph:

Ellis Vincent, a 76-year old retired airline executive from Sydney, Australia, said he has spent more time than customary conversing with his wife while cooped up inside. She has an excellent memory, he said: “She is able to bring up every transgression I’ve ever had. I believe she is not finished”.

Friday Food and Drink Post: ‘Meerkat Love’ Edition ❤️

 

Ahhh, “Meerkat Love.” Remember that hoary old song from the mid-1970s by that odd duo, Captain and Tennille? Yeah, I’m sorry to say that I remember it too. (A note to the unwary and to the Ricochet Editor-On-Duty: I know that’s not the actual title of the song, but close enough for gubmint work, and as a “hook” for the purpose of this post, I think.)

As for Captain and Tenille, I have no idea why Daryl Dragon was impersonating some sort of military officer (CPT? Capt? CAPT? Lord, please don’t let me get it wrong; I don’t want to get in trouble), when it appears that he came from a musical family, served no time in the armed services at all, and seems to have spent most of his life in one band after another, until landing Toni Tenille sometime in the early ’70s, and enjoying a pretty successful decade at the top of the pops. What? Oh. Nevermind. I am wrong. Apparently, “Captain” is an honorific, bestowed on him by Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, who called him “Captain Keyboard,” during his tenure with the group. Glad to have that sorted for myself, even at this late date. No stolen valor here. Not in a musical sense, anyway.

Back to the Meerkats. I’ve loved those little guys (and gals) for decades, ever since I saw a TV special about them, perhaps a National Geographic production, also probably in the 1970s or thereabouts. Even the origin of their name is fascinating. If it’s from the Dutch (which it may be, since the creatures’ range is largely southern Africa), then “meerkat” means “lake cat.” However, they’re not cats, and they inhabit the Kalahari and various other smaller deserts, so no water. “Mier” is an Afrikaans word meaning “termite”; therefore, “termite cats.” A bit closer, since 80 percent or so of their diets is composed of small insects, and they’re particularly fond of scavenging in termite mounds. But, still not cats. Then there’s the Sanskrit word which is written in the Roman alphabet as “merkata.”  That means “monkey.” But that isn’t right either. Meerkats are neither monkey nor cats, but are actually mongooses/mongeese. So who knows? As many such things go, probably a combination of all of the above, and of people doing their best to identify a strange mammal that reminds them in size and behavior of both cats and small monkeys, and which eats bugs.

Meerkats weigh only a few pounds, and adults are about 15 inches long excluding their muscular tail, which adds another ten to their length. They live in packs called mobs, usually of a few dozen animals, and three or four mobs will often share a range. They’re social and highly interactive, although with a rigid social structure that limits reproduction to the dominant pair in the mob, and which results in adult death and infanticide, as adults jockey for position to enjoy the top spot, removing those who challenge them, and as any babies born to non-dominant females (who apparently haven’t heard about the pill) are rejected and either killed outright or left to die.

That’s the less charming aspect of their behavior. (We all have one. And some of us have more than one.) What we see on the “family-friendly” documentaries though are the lovely little creatures caring for each other, with both males and females babysitting the mob’s young. One after another takes turns to assume the characteristic “sentinel” pose, keeping watch over their fellow mobsters as they forage for food, and alerting them to predators.

They’re intriguing little animals. Some research indicates that their vicious strictures on, and control of, mob reproduction reduces inbreeding and keeps the genetic stock strong. Males and females who wish to become dominant generally have to leave the birth mob, find another (unrelated) one, and win the top spot there. Studies of the sentries watching over the group have revealed that meerkats have different “alarm” signals for airborne and terrestrial predators, and that their chirping and trilling escalates according to the urgency of the threat. There’s an organized and pre-determined response, based on the nature and threat level, and very often, all are kept safe.

Young meerkats are tended, not only by their parents, but also by submissive females who can lactate without gestating, and who feed them; and they are watched over by non-dominant males. The young are taught to hunt, and since scorpions are occasionally on the menu, they are taught how to kill them, when the adults bring live scorpions into the burrow for the kids to practice on. (Interestingly, the adults bite off the tails of the scorpions first, so that the children will not be stung to death.)

Oy, She! I hear some of you yelling. Why have you gone Full David Attenborough on us? What on earth does this post have to do with food? Or love? Your point is–what, exactly?

My points, and I do have several, are these: 1) I have to work food into this post somehow before it gets away from me; 2) it’s Valentine’s Day; 3) I love animals; and 4) good works are important. So, a charity that combines food, and animals, and Valentine’s Day — winner! And as ever, bonus points for a sense of humor, particularly when it comes to affairs of the heart.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️  

Here we go:

El Paso Zoo will name a cockroach after your ex and feed it to their meerkats:

Not only can you name a cockroach after your ex at the El Paso Zoo, but on Valentine’s Day the zoo will be feeding those cockroaches to the meerkats for their “Quit Bugging Me” event at 2:15 p.m. Feb. 14.

You can submit the name of yours or your friend’s ex by sending a direct message to the El Paso Zoo Facebook page by Feb. 10. On Valentine’s Day, zoo staff will decorate the meerkat exhibit with the submitted names and shortly after, in honor of those names, the meerkats will be fed cockroaches.

“This is a fun way to get the community involved in our daily enrichment activities,” said El Paso Zoo Event Coordinator Sarah Borrego. “The meerkats love to get cockroaches as a snack and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by feeding them a cockroach named after your ex!”

The public is invited to attend the “Quit Bugging Me” event. The zoo will also show the event on Facebook Live and the meerkat webcam available on the zoo’s website www.elpasozoo.org.

The page where you can still, if you’re so minded, do the deed, is here: Quit Bugging Me.

And because we’re all globalists now:

The Helmsley Conservation Centre in the UK also gives you the opportunity to name a cockroach after your ex, although it’s unclear what they’ll do with it, other than that the first name of your former beloved will appear on the “Roach Board” on Valentine’s Day. Sounds good to me.

In addition, for those of you old enough to remember a Bronx Cheer, the Bronx Zoo gets in on the act, and promises to feed your named cockroach to an “animal” on, or just after the day. The San Antonio Zoo is starting its own Cry me a Cockroach program this year, which extends to other life forms, and which might give you the best value, since it incorporates thoughts of snakes, cockroaches, and reptiles all in one tidy little package — a triple whammy as it were.

A quick internet search will bring you to several similar endeavors, so please, have at it. Feed the beasties and help a good cause, while scoring some payback on them what done you wrong. Oh, and by the way, if you’re worried about feeding live creatures to the predators, don’t be. The sacrificial victims are already dead, and in fact, frozen. If you’re one of those women people who believes that “revenge is a dish best served cold,” this gives a new meaning to the phrase. (Why didn’t I think of that sooner, myself? Freezer? Duh.)

If, like me, you generally shy away from spilling your guts about too-intimate matters online, or if you can’t quite bring yourself to “out” your mistakes so obviously (my list is rather short, I assure you; I’ve led a sheltered and pretty blameless life, and I’ve been married for almost 40 of my 65 years), just send an animal charity of your choice a small donation to show the love, and call it quits all round.

Wow. I feel so much better with all that off my chest.

Now. The final point of the post.

Who, among us, has eaten bugs? Or other bizarre, revolting, or just plain distasteful foods?

Please share.

And in conclusion, a musical interlude. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and those you love:

.

Rob Long’s Data-Driven Utopian Dream

 

In the first 15 minutes of the latest Ricochet podcast (Episode #483), Rob said a couple of things that caught my attention. At one point, when talking about our communication- and data-centric technical culture, he suggested that the answers to all our big problems were probably in the wealth of data we’ve collected.

What came to my mind when he said that was the movie WarGames (1983), in which a wayward defense computer is discouraged from initiating Armageddon when it crunches the numbers and concludes that there’s no way to win a nuclear war. Setting aside the question of whether or not that’s a correct conclusion (and I recently re-re-re-watched Dr. Strangelove, in which Buck Turgidson makes a compelling contrary argument, so I’m really not so sure), what the computer in WarGames did was reach a kind of meta-conclusion. A thorough examination of the available information suggested that no good answers could be found.

If our “biggest problems,” whatever those are, can be “solved” by the application of ever more refined policy driven by ever more detailed knowledge, then perhaps Rob is right. But if, as I think is more likely, our biggest problems are complex — complex in a formal, and not casual, sense — then all the vast trove of linked and correlated factoids buried in the deep dungeons of Google’s digital fortress will, upon examination, yield not solutions but misplaced hopes for the next generation of technocratic central planners.

On the other hand, maybe all that data mining will lead to the same sensible conclusion reached by WarGames’  WOPR: that, despite all our data and all our brains, there’s no way to plan our way out of complexity’s maze. I’d be down with that meta-conclusion.

A few minutes later, Rob does it again, when he imagines New York City’s congestion and gridlock optimally managed by a centralized oracular database. As Rob sees it, all that’s missing is a knowledge of the destination toward which each driver is bound: given that, it’s merely a matter of crunching the numbers to determine the optimum trajectory for every vehicle, and voilà, unruly chaos is once again brought to heel by superior math skills.

That sounds nice, but it isn’t without its problems.

First, the specific task of optimal routing falls into a very large class of problems that are believed to be non-polynomial, or NP, in their complexity. This means that, as the number of parts of the problem grow, the difficulty of solving the problem grows much faster. Practically speaking, many, perhaps most, NP problems are not considered strictly solvable computationally; at best, decent approximations can be made.

It’s easy to imagine that anything approaching an optimal solution to New York City traffic routing implemented at the level of individual commuters would be so computationally intensive that one would be better off simply walking while the computers worked on the problem.

But this is all begging the question, because Rob was mistaken in his original assumption that knowing the destinations of all those millions of individuals is sufficient. It isn’t. One also has to know the urgency, the priority, the value placed on punctuality, of each of those millions of individuals. Otherwise, the thousand women off to buy new hats will likely have their transportation needs met at the expense of the three surgeons off to perform emergency transplants. Etc.

What Rob seems to be imagining is that central planning for traffic, lacking as it does the knowledge of the market, will nonetheless be better than central planning for anything else.

What the analysis of big data reveals is that simple rules govern independent actors, and that complex behavior arises from the interplay of those independent actors following their simple, but personalized, rules. That’s useful knowledge — and most useful if it discourages technocratic interventions in complex systems.

Flyting: More than 1,500 Years of Rap Battles

 

Battle Rap. Have you heard of it? It’s a fairly new thing that started in the 1980s, I am told. In fact, Wikipedia says:

Rap battle is generally believed to have started in the East Coast hip hop scene in the late 1980s. One of the earliest and most infamous battles occurred in December 1982 when Kool Moe Dee challenged Busy Bee Starski – Busy Bee Starski’s defeat by the more complex raps of Kool Moe Dee meant that “no longer was an MC just a crowd-pleasing comedian with a slick tongue; he was a commentator and a storyteller” thus, rendering Busy’s archaic format of rap obsolete, in favor of a newer style which KRS-One also credits as creating a shift in rapping in the documentary Beef.

It is only when one gets down to the bottom and to the “See Also” links that one finds mention of Flyting. Flyting is the term for poetry battles of the wits, usually involving insults. The term has roots in English going back to at least the Anglo-Saxon invasion. If one investigates Wikipedia’s entry of “Flyting,” one will also find a link to “The Dozens.” This is basically the same thing, but what black Americans called it before there was rap and battle rap as a genre/subgenre.

There is evidence of poetic insult battles in most of the Indo-European traditions, and indeed, outside of the Indo-European language family as well. It is a tradition probably only a few days younger than poetry itself. According to some of the traditions that have come down, apparently before a battle, there would sometimes be a poetry battle before the two sides engaged with sharper implements. Sometimes they were also used to solve disputes.

It was not unusual in many warrior traditions that the warrior should be mentally and physically proficient. He should be able to compose poems and songs, and for the warrior, especially important were flyting and boasts. Even the Spartans had their own version of this, although their challenge was to be the most pithy and sparing in their use of words. (Reading that sentence, no, I am not a Spartan. How did you know?)

In many royal courts, flyting was practiced. We have some examples that have come down to us. It was especially a strong Germanic tradition. An ancient Norse poem that has come down to us is “Lokasenna.” Jackson Crawford, an Old Norse specialist, likes to describe it as Loki’s locker-room banter.

In the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, it was very popular in Scotland, and a makar1 could get away with a lot during flyting that anyone else would be heavily punished for doing.

In the ancient Japanese court, they had other types of poetry. Courtiers were expected to be poets. There was a form called renga that was an interwoven tale that would be composed on the spot by two or more courtiers with the first composing a seventeen-syllable poem to be answered by a fourteen-syllable response and then on to a new verse. That at some point, developed into haikai no renga. Haikai, meaning “vulgar” or “earthy,” brought this quite a bit closer to flyting. The earthiness was often achieved through puns and innuendo.

The much shorter version is that “battle rap” is often much more complex and poetically rich forms is nothing new in our lifetimes. It is something that has existed along with the human race for close to as long as we have had poetry.

My own favorite form is the limerick duel. It can be fast-moving and fun for those involved and the audience.

Have you ever been involved in flyting? What form did it take?


1. Scottish term for a poet, especially a court poet

2. You were expecting a second one, weren’t you?

Hidden Costs

 

We had to extricate a driver from a crash early this morning. Two people, both intoxicated (possibly also meth included) crashed into a tree on a rural road. The passenger was transported by ambulance but it took us over an hour to cut the driver out. As often happens, his feet were trapped under the dashboard. Typically, we can push the dashboard up with hydraulic tools but, in this case, he was pushed into a tree in exactly the wrong spot. We had to winch the car away from the tree and still cut it to bits to get him out. The driver had broken his right femur, tibia, and fibula, and had a concussion and serious chest injuries. The passenger was almost as bad.

Now, for the hidden costs: three fire departments took part with hydraulic tools (Jaws of Life). Two of the responders were from the county seat and are paid, but the other seven were volunteers. Two fully staffed ambulances were on scene from our county; I believe that only people who are not residents of the county get billed for services but ALS ambulance operations are not cheap. There were five LEOs helping (deputies and one trooper), and one medical helicopter. The helicopter is the only piece of the response which will probably be completely paid for. Keep in mind that all of the deputies tied up were unavailable for any other duties, just as was true for the four pieces of fire apparatus, all because someone wanted to drive home after imbibing. We talk about the cost of this stuff all the time but rarely consider the second-order costs.

When Is the Deep State Cleaning?

 

I included this chart in a Jan 3 post:

McCabe will walk at the same time as four DOJ attorneys petulantly walked off the Roger Stone case because the USAG intervened to withdraw their vindictive and grossly inappropriate sentencing recommendations. We now know that not only is there a partisan “deep state” mindset across key federal agencies but that they no longer care if we know it.

Durham and Barr need to rectify this with a deep cleaning with consequences at least as harsh as the Mueller thugs sought against their targets to restore public confidence. Also, everything touched by the legacy of “Crossfire Hurricane” has to be undone right now. No convictions left standing—pardons for all those hunted by Mueller with an opportunity to recover legal fees. There also needs to be a quarantine of every government lawyer involved in these witch-hunts from any current or future involvement in cases involving past or present government officials or partisan issues.

At a bare minimum, if McCabe walks, everyone does. No process crimes.

Like the unprincipled scum in the upper ranks of the DOJ who engineered the Ted Stevens prosecution and then went on to instant partnerships in blue-chip law firms and a White House counsel position in the “scandal-free” Obama Administration, the current occupants of the ever-expanding integrity-free zone in the DOJ will likely wind up on the gravy train. At least we can hope to rid our government of them a little sooner.

Group Writing: The Art of Flirting

 

I used to watch Cambodian films from the 1950s to mid-1970s and it always tickled my fancy whenever characters break into songs (not unlike Bollywood but without the dancing). Sometimes, characters would belt out a cheery song in a cheerful scene and a sad song in a sad scene. But when it comes time for the male character to woo the female, he always, and I mean always, breaks into song. One can find the same thing repeated all over Khmer traditional literature such as plays, lyrics, and especially the verse-novels written between the 17th to early 20th centuries. If there is a flirting scene, then there is a song. It even appears in a few epic poems, though curiously enough, only the supporting characters sing.

The most famous scene in Khmer literature is a flirting scene from the verse-novel Tum Teav, where the main characters sing a lengthy duet in their first scene together. You can read the duet near the end of my post here. My all-time favorite comes from The Yaksha with the Magic Finger, a chapter from the epic Ramakerti II (2nd version of the Khmer Ramayana), where the male character upon seeing a woman so beautiful, he bursts into song. She, of course, replies. Here is how the duet goes:

Male:

Come, O dearest treasure! Approach beloved.
I would like a talk with you.
Where are you going? And where have you come from?
I look at you and I want us to be friends.

Female:

You have asked me a question;
I must reply – with warmth, with eagerness, with desire.
I am here to look for a husband. If one pleases me, I will take him on.

Male:

Dear lady, blessed with beauty, you are here looking for a husband, to live together in harmony.
What kind of a man are you looking for, precious love?
Does a man like me please you?

Female:

O handsome young man, I am searching for a husband who can dance.
If you can dance well, I can like you, love you and take you as my husband.

Male:

My treasure, your beauty excels that of all others.
As for dancing the Rae Dance*, whatever the measure, I can perform it.
What’s the difficulty? Dance on my lady.
I shall then follow you and so dance correctly.
Being a man of intelligence, I shall learn all the rules from you, my dear teacher.
Please dance, beautiful lady!

If you are one of those who can’t spontaneously sing or you’re too shy and like to limit your singing to the shower, here is tried-and-true advice to follow when you want to catch her attention: make eye contact and smile.

*Rae Dance is a dance from the Phnong, the indigenous ethnic groups of Mon-Khmer people living in the highlands of Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

The Next Cultural Innovation: Throuples

 

OK, if you’re a naïve rube like me you might ask yourself what is a “throuple?” It turns out it’s a relatively new word formed by the blending of “three” and “couple” and it means “a long-term sexual relationship between three people” per a new entry into the Macmillan Dictionary. They must be ahead of the cultural curve from Webster’s.

You would think that the culture couldn’t sink any lower. Every day this absurdity of changing one’s gender identity takes deeper root. Today we were informed that a biological male (is there really any other kind?) will be competing against women in the Olympic trials.

A biologically male marathon runner who identifies as a transgender woman is set to compete in the USA Olympic trials later in February.

Megan Youngren “is set to make history on Feb. 29 as the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials,” Sports Illustrated reported. Youngren qualified for the trials after a strong performance on Dec. 8, 2019 in the California International Marathon.

This after two men—supposedly spouses—kissed on stage after one was participating in a presidential debate for the United States Presidency. No matter what is written on paper or declared legal Petey and Chasten do not form a marriage. But the culture has decided they do.

As if all this wasn’t spinning a conservative’s head around faster than a demonic possession in a movie, we now have throuples being endorsed on television.

The HGTV show House Hunters featured its first “Throuple”, or polyamorous couple, on its show Wednesday night.

A “Throuple” is a relationship made up of three people. In this case, two women and a man named Lori, Geli, and Brian. The couple has two children, who are biologically related to Brian and Lori.

In the episode, the trio describes their ideal home as one that has a three-car garage, a master bedroom that fits three people, and room for the two children. While looking at a house’s kitchen, Lori remarked on its size as a “couple’s kitchen, not a throuple’s kitchen.”

The episode describes to viewers how the couple met. Brian and Lori were legally married and met Geli at a bar, where they fell in love with her. Brian and Lori subsequently exchanged vows in a commitment ceremony, which their children attended.

The episode was titled “Three’s Not A Crowd In Colorado Springs,” and received mixed reviews. Some viewers disapproved of the show featuring a polyamorous couple, while others lauded it for being progressive.

Oh, how quaint. Love knows no bounds, especially on St. Valentine’s Day. They even invited their children to the ceremony. A ceremony of what and by whom?

HGTV ought to be ashamed of themselves but I’m sure they feel pride. From the absurdity of gay marriage to the absurdity of transgenderism to the absurdity of throuples, we conservatives can’t keep up. Progressives are moving faster than a lump of crap falling off the Empire State Building. And making the same splat.

‘His Thumb on the Scales of Justice’: Chris Wallace

 

I am sorely disappointed in Chris Wallace. He does not usually say dumb things. But when he commented about Trump “putting his finger on the scale of justice” in the Roger Stone case, what he said was really stupid.

President Trump is the chief elected administrator in this country with authority over the Justice Department. When he sees the Justice Department do something unfair he not only has the right but the duty to address it. Isn’t that what we want in a president?

We might quibble about whether it was appropriate for him to express his concerns about the fairness of Roger Stone sentencing via Twitter. Still, Twitter works for the president. He has the same First Amendment right as everyone else to express his opinion.

I want the president to “put his thumb on the scales of justice” when that is tipping the scale toward the just and away from the unjust.

The Zoot Suit Riots and Me

 

Around 1948, Red and I, both around ten-years-old and, true to our Irish DNA, red-headed and as pale as the underside of a trout, wandered into a dicey area of Compton. We were out a bit late and feeling a little adventurous when a couple of tough-looking pachucos (Chicano gang members) spotted us about a half-block away. “Hey, white boys! Watcha doin’ out so late?” (I made up that quote to add some life to this account, but they probably said something like that. That’s the way tough guys talk, isn’t it?)

Red and I had apparently wandered into their ‘hood, which was a violation of some kind of territorial imperative that all urban gangs seem to have.

Then they started running toward us. It looked to me as if these particular pachucos wanted to wail on a couple of little white kids. At any rate, we took off down the street as if we were being chased by the Devil himself.

I can’t remember how we got away. (This occurred about 70 years ago). All I remember is The Chase itself. The image of that running match has loomed large in my consciousness over the years.

Yesterday I had lunch with Red in Las Vegas. I asked him about that episode. He said he had no memory of a chase. Darn, I now think I made up The Chase out of thin air. And I believe I know how that might have happened.

You see, five years before the imaginary Chase took place, the LA newspapers were full of stories about a series of fights and brawls between zoot-suited pachucos and servicemen stationed in LA. (Zoot suits were often worn by pachucos who fancied themselves big shots and criminals. These zoot suits consisted, in their purest form, of a pork pie hat (see photo below), a long coat sometimes reaching to the knees, baggy trousers, and some bling, usually a long watch chain.)

The Zoot Suit Riots, as all the LA newspapers called them, started with a fight between a sailor and a Chicano. The sailor was beaten badly. Upon hearing of the beating, sailors and other servicemen stationed in LA, some carrying clubs and other crude weapons, started roaming the streets of LA looking for any zoot suiter who was unlucky enough to be on the street. After three or four days, the riots had spread to the south LA suburbs of Watts and Compton, my hometown.

The LA City Council finally became so worried that they banned the wearing of zoot suits altogether.

But by that time, we Compton kids had turned pachucos and zoot suiters (often one and the same) into the stuff of childhood nightmares, and I was evidently beginning to shape, in my unconscious mind, the outline of a story in which Red and I were chased down the street.

When Red and I get together in Vegas once a year, we usually compare stories of those long-ago days in Compton. Our memories often don’t jibe. (I’ve already written about our disparate memories of an encounter with a pedophile, who grabbed either Red’s or my crotch. To this day we’re not sure whose crotch got grabbed. I say it was Red’s; he says it was mine.

Each time I come away from meeting with Red (who is a retired professional gambler), I realize that my head is stuffed full of partial memories, edited memories, and false memories; and that I’ve shaped my persona over the years based on those memories. I wonder how I would think of myself if my memories were all based on the unvarnished truth.

Minus these dramatic (and dubious) episodes from my past, the inventions of my fevered imagination,  I’m just a boring, ordinary guy. But my memories make me more interesting, in my mind at the least.

The example I’ve chosen, a false memory with a starting point about 70 years ago that grew through the years, may seem extreme, but my wife and I even have differing versions of the recent past.

According to memory theory these days, every time we recall a memory, we change it slightly. I’d like to ask Socrates how we can know ourselves if our memories, which make up the Self, are so volatile and unreliable.

Member Post

 

We have been reeling after hearing the news that the [In]Justice Department has declined to prosecute the proven liar and treacherous snake known as Andrew McCabe, the one person who single-handedly launched the criminal investigation into the Trump Administration the day after his former boss and equally deceitful Saint James Comey was fired by the […]

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Member Post

 

I have no idea what has happened here except all my familiar ways of doing things have vanished. Max said there is a side bar, but not on the page I am on. I can’t find my Chick-pit or lots of others. I haven’t been feeling well this past few months so haven’t kept up. […]

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Member Post

 

Most people have heard the mocking of Trump supporters by Rick Wilson on the Don Lemon Show. I challenge him to come on R and either in print or on one of the Ricochet podcasts engage with Trump supporters. I’d be happy to do it one on one. @roblong or @peterrobinson must know someone who […]

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It’s Not About You, but the Survival of the Republic

 

We are at a critical juncture in the history of this country: survival of the Republic is at stake. We can’t afford to try to be comfortable with politics; all the evidence points to more disruption, anger, and chaos, as the Progressives realize they are, for one of the first times in their movement, in serious trouble. Now is not the time for conservatives and Republicans to quibble about differences. The moral high ground is not what you’ve always thought it was. And we need to deal with the shift through the power of our own unity.

Donald Trump has been the scapegoat of our rebellion against social and political change. But instead of throwing up our hands in resignation, or blaming everyone but ourselves for the mire we find ourselves in, we have to face the truth: the Constitution itself is at risk. We have violated it by allowing our children to be taught to disrespect it; we continually see the misuse of the court system; we’ve allowed politicians to distort the Constitution and the rule of law for their own purposes. It’s time to act.

We must unify for the sake of the Republic, to honor our founders and to preserve the Constitution.

What does unifying “look like?” We watched an excellent example through the entire impeachment process: Congressmen decried the abuse of due process regularly, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows in the lead. They spoke out repeatedly without personal attacks unless, as in the case of Adam Schiff, blatant lies were spoken. Senators came together, too, voicing their concerns but making a wise decision to acquit the President. We must learn to express outrage with dignity. We have to do it every chance we get, regardless of what the Democrats say and the MSM ignores. We must unify in making our message clear: the public is being betrayed and lied to, and we are losing our country in the process.

We must do even more:

  1. We must transcend to a higher level of values to preserve the Republic. Our personal values (which are usually only personal beliefs and preferences) must be studied carefully, to make sure we are not just making excuses about protecting them because we are afraid of change. We must identify the larger issues, such as freedom and the Constitution, and not demand that our personal agendas are met. We must unify to save the country.
  2. We must weigh the importance of the character of the President against the continuance of liberty. Is it more important to have a President that doesn’t tweet hyperbole, or to have a country that teaches our children about the Constitution, about our American history and heroes, about the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights? We must unify around priorities.
  3. We must constantly hold the bigger picture in mind, whether we think the President does or not. “Keeping America Great” also extends to maintaining the greatness of the most successful Democratic Republic on earth. We must unify whenever we possibly can about the policies he supports, not whether we like the manner in which he presents them.

We need to recognize and accept that the near future will be ugly. We can contribute to the chaos or we can align ourselves around its survival. We can have a knee-jerk reaction to the President’s actions, or we can weigh them against the consequences of their potential failure.

Please know, however, that I am acutely aware of how difficult this sacrifice will be. We will need to sacrifice trying to always realize our personal beliefs around character and decorum. We may need to let go of our strong commitment to seeing the country operate as we wish it would; we have already lost the high ground in many areas to the Progressives. Continuing to lament those losses without unifying around a greater cause will further damage the country.

Also, I want to emphasize that I am not asking people to walk in lock-step. We can disagree with the President without attacking him. We can point out better alternatives; we’ve seen him change his mind. But we can no longer afford to fight interminably among ourselves. We may win a battle or two, but we will lose the war.

We are fighting for the future of our Republic.

FBI Gave Secrets to Steele

 

It has been clear to me for some time that the FBI is corrupt. How corrupt is still open for debate, but there has been no doubt in my mind about it, at the highest levels. This is, of course, nothing new. Under Hoover, it was as corrupt as such things can be. Still, we had hoped, in 2016 that was behind us. Not so.

This at Real Clear Investigations piece is scary. Any American should be horrified, but of course, the left will not be, and Never Trumpers won’t be, because let’s face it, there is nothing that will make either one of those groups change their mind. The Never Trumpers who can be won over have been (welcome all).

A month before the 2016 presidential election, the FBI met Christopher Steele in Rome and apparently unlawfully shared with the foreign opposition researcher some of the bureau’s most closely held secrets, according to unpublicized disclosures in the recent Justice Department Inspector General report on abuses of federal surveillance powers.

That is the opening paragraph. While DOJ lawyers want to put people away for seven years for process crimes, the FBI is breaking the law to help a candidate go after another in a presidential election.

The FBI’s decision to share classified information with a partisan operative and private foreign citizen is all the more curious because the team investigating figures associated with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump made extensive efforts to keep the very fact of Crossfire Hurricane a secret from their own colleagues at the bureau.

I have been in the behavioral health business for almost 30 years. I can tell you when people are hiding secrets from their friends, they are doing something wrong. It is clear the people doing this knew it was wrong when they were doing it.

The closing paragraphs are the strongest:

To appreciate the magnitude of the FBI’s breach of the rules governing classified materials, consider how the bureau’s former Director James Comey and former General Counsel James Baker have used classification to limit what Michael Horowitz was able to ask them. Comey and Baker “chose not to request that their security clearances be reinstated for their OIG interviews,” the Inspector General writes. “Therefore, we were unable to provide classified information or documents to them during their interviews to develop their testimony, or to assist their recollections of relevant events.”

The idea that the FBI is gratuitously sharing classified information with a foreign informant is rather extraordinary, says lawyer Bigley. “If one of my clients did this, they would be stripped of their security clearance, out of a job, and probably facing indictment.”

If nothing comes from this, we can be sure America is a banana republic now. The power of the DOJ is only to be used against conservatives and enemies of the deep state. The rules are only to advance their agenda. The laws are only enforced to attack their enemies.

I expect this information will be ignored across the board.

QOTD: A Fool For Love

 

So I chose Valentine’s Day for my quote of the day, thinking it would be easy to write something about love, since I find myself madly in love with a truly wonderful man who is everything I ever wanted and better than I could ever have hoped for.  While searching for the perfect love quote, I came across this:

“Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.” Samuel Johnson

It reminded me of the section in 1 Corinthians that we had for Bible study a couple weeks ago:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’  Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him,God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached tho save those who believe.  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”  1 Corinthians 1:18-25

At the end of the Bible study, I played the following song for the group “God’s Own Fool” by Michael Card

So Happy Valentine’s Day to all the fools, and I hope you all find the one that you are madly in love with, if you haven’t already.

In Their Own Words and Actions

 

A line taken from my favorite uneducated crafter of words goes: “it has taken me so long, but now I know I believe; all that I do or say is all I ever will be.” Words and Actions. I would like briefly to turn attention to four individuals who have not only authored magnificent words but backed them with lifetime action, examples to us all of human strength, reasoned insight and a keen understanding of the American vision. There are American to the core.

I find it more than timely that a man who is known for having few publicly spoken words but who has (in my limited opinion) written the very best, deepest and most poetic Supreme Court opinions of the last several decades has decided to offer up a straight-forward narration of his remarkable life’s journey in the recently released film CREATED EQUAL. Clarence Thomas has gifted us with his story before in his memoir My Grandfather’s Son. But this film not only adds the visual to that compelling story but also the direct and sincere voice of the man who lived it. There are individuals whose stories greatly help us to become not just better citizens and Americans but human beings also. Thomas’s story and character are both examples of this.

Justice Thomas is just one of those four individuals I am taking this pause for. I will fall back almost two centuries to find the next one and then return to Thomas’ generation to round out the field.

One of the very best written pictures of what Americanism should look like in the life of an individual came from a man who went from a defiant slave to one of the leading intellectual leaders of his, or any other, age. It covers less than forty pages. It was actually a lecture that Frederick Douglass first gave in 1859. He would give it again and again over the next half-century with only slight edits over the years. I consider it one of the great works of American literature. Anyone not versed in Douglass’ Self-Made Men has an incomplete education.

Thomas Sowell was born in the rural South  in 1930 but grew up in Harlem. His father died before his birth and he already had four siblings ahead of him. So, he was “farmed out” to a great-aunt who had two grown daughters. He was in Harlem by his ninth birthday and although an excellent student he dropped out of school to help support the family. When he was drafted into service in 1951, he was assigned to the Marine Corps. It was after that service in the Korean War that he was able to complete his education and begin his career as one of America’s foremost economic minds.

Walter E. Williams is Sowell’s junior by six years. He was from Philadelphia and raised in the housing projects there. He left Philly to live with his father in California and it was there where he too was drafted. While in the service he was independent enough to have a court-martial filed against him and sharp enough (and brave enough) to argue his own case and win an acquittal. Williams also was able to continue his education after the service and it was at UCLA where he was pressed “to look at the evidence” by a professor with whom he disagreed. He had begun to reshape some ideas when he also first met Thomas Sowell who was a visiting professor. They are still fast friends.

Between the two of them, Sowell and Williams have written just south of sixty books. No, I haven’t read them all. Or half of them, yet. If anyone is asked to suggest the best title to start with, the short answer would be any of them. And then start another as soon as possible.

The four voices of Douglass, Sowell, Williams, and Thomas are among the clearest and authoritative on the human benefits of simple liberty. They all express a profound understanding of the role of the American Constitution in the delivery of that liberty to humankind.

As great as the words and thoughts of these men are, they are still just men. They were not born with these words. They came to them through a life of challenge and struggle. That is the path of man. There was a time in each of these lives when the men felt differently. But their native intelligence and independence of thought helped them to turn the weight of their experience into insight and understanding.

As a young slave Douglass had survived the hardship of having to steal food to barely make it as well being sent to the notorious slave-breaker Edward Covey to have the “boldness” driven from him to finally escaping from Maryland to “free territory”. A dynamic speaker, this self-educated former slave became an important member of William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist movement. Garrison was hostile to the United States Constitution and bitterly denounced it. Douglass naturally took this viewpoint early on. He had experienced the whip of slavery first hand. It was during this period when Douglass told someone, “That is not my constitution”.

It is from this period that some lift Douglass quotes without consideration of what he spent the last fifty or more years saying. Over time, and a relatively short time, Douglass’ own intellect begins to tell him that the Constitution was, in fact, the clear path to abolition of slavery. It was actually constructed for just that. For more than a half-century it was very much Frederick Douglass’ Constitution.

Thomas Sowell has observed that he leaned strongly toward Marxism when in his early 20s. It was in the summer of 1960 working as a government intern that he first greatly questioned public policy such as a minimum wage because he was complying the numbers which proved beyond a doubt it actually harmed the poorest and benefitted few except the unions.

Walter Williams will tell you that during that same “early 20s” stage of life he was “more sympathetic to Malcolm X than Martin Luther King”. Through an honest and intelligent “look at the evidence” and a clear mind determined to seek its own understandings, Williams became the gift to us all that he is today.

Justice Thomas also speaks of being that same angry young man himself. Among those bedrock things which he fell back on during this period were the love and examples of the grandfather who gave him a roof and an ordered life to the young Thomas and those Irish nuns who taught him. And there was his faith.

The phrases “clouded by anger” and “redeemed by faith” used by Thomas to describe the direction of his early life should be digested by us all. The young Thomas prayed to have the anger lifted from his heart and promised if it was he would never hate again. His ability to reach that goal should be a guiding light not just in individual lives but to the whole of humankind.

These four lives, and their words, could be discussed almost endlessly. My abilities and my words are far too limited to do them justice. But we can stop to observe that despite a harsh start in life’s travels, they refused to be victims. They threw off the mantle of victimhood or refused it outright to take charge of their own destiny. They chose to shape their own character with their own reasoned mind and the universal, constant truths it revealed to them. They were not shaped by injustice and so they refused to turn injustice back on the world.

In their wisdom, they realized that every human endeavor has had injustice in it to some degree. We are imperfect men. It is our lot to determinedly strive toward perfection, hopefully moving closer and closer to it without reaching it, at least in this world. But with each baby step taken we become more of what we are made to be.

These four came to understand that the founding of this nation had at its core the mission of limiting that injustice and constantly moving ever closer to eliminating it. Our Constitution is the single more important secular instrument for that purpose. Our Declaration of Independence is the clearest statement of that mission written by man’s hand.

These four understood, with Madison, that men were not angels and would never be ruled by angels in this secular world. That means that principles have to be held above opinions if a free civil society is to exist. In fact, opinions should be the result of principles. For those principles to be just they should be mined from the wisdom and experience of the ages, proven to be constant and universal; an extension of “Nature and Nature’s God.” That wisdom of the universe is there for us to continually seek and learn from, not for us to invent to suit the purpose or feelings of the moment. That is how we move toward that elusive perfection.

Those founding documents and those four men remind us that for one to do injustice to another they must have the power to do it. Those who would do injustice (intentionally or not) would much rather ask “victims” for power (with the impossible promise to fix it) than to ask free men for power. Both the documents and men realize what Dr. Williams describes as “the moral superiority of personal liberty”.

It is this type of inner strength that allows men to endure injustice while fighting it with an open heart. It is that strength, that intelligent strength, that allowed Justice Thomas to quietly but firmly face an unjust and harsh confirmation and when asked if he wanted to withdraw to reply, “I would rather die than withdraw from the process”. He took the “bullets” to place himself in a position so that his words and the profound thoughts behind them could defend ordered liberty for all of us in what is now 600 masterfully written opinions of the Court.

Douglass survived Covey’s whip to be the clearest voice of conscience not only during emancipation but for the decades of struggle that would follow it. Sowell and Williams continue to feed a nation’s mind with books, lectures, and columns with a clarity that belies their eight-plus decades of life. They all have given more than great words to guide our own growth and knowledge but they have lived those words in a way that proves the value of an independent mind planted in a free individual blessed with a society focused on human liberty.

When Trump Almost Started WWIII

 

Soon after Trump had Soleimani killed, a liberal friend of mine phoned.

“Was this not the last straw; even for you?” she queried. I could only say that I thought it was most excellent that this henchman of Al Queda and ISIS (or whatever) was finally meeting his Maker.

But World War III? Didn’t I realize that the Hitlerian Trump had killed this terrorist only in order to rile up the Iranians? Then the demonic Trump could finally justify his bringing us into WWIII, which, apparently had been his entire reason for becoming President. My friend continued: as soon as the Iranian President grimaced or insulted Trump, it would be all over and our planet would be an incinerated ball of ash.

I could only answer that I had no idea what she was talking about. Disappointed in my reaction, she let me turn the conversation to non-political events.

After we hung up, I decided to turn on the TV.

On Fox News, Tucker or Hannity was discussing something unrelated to Soleimani’s murder.

So I turned to the lamestream media. Oh my Lordy. Were they ever having themselves a field day. Nothing even close to the killing of Soleimani had ever happened prior to this. I personally could recall at least several political assassinations I had witnessed through news reports during my life: the killing of the leader in the Congo or Nigeria in the late 1950s, the assassination of the Vietnamese leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, shortly before JFK’s assassination, and others.

Anyway, all the Talking Heads on all the TV stations except Fox were discussing the imminence of WWIII. Plus I was amazed to witness the fact that finally, Trump was fulfilling every dastardly prediction that Rachel, Don Lemon or Joy Reid had ever invoked. Boy, was this all really making them gleeful.

I mean, there were Pentagon analysts, foreign correspondents, and every political commentator and pundit announcing the imminent destruction of our planet. Everyone in lamestream media was pretty much suggesting that within 96 hours the entire planet would be toast. And that although normally this thought would make these folks sad, they couldn’t help themselves as they danced around and were joyous that Trump had finally revealed his real colors.

Now, there were a number of people that Obama had killed, if you can remember that far back. I clearly remember the videos of Khaddafi being assassinated, with Hillary Clinton hearing the news and chortling over his demise. But when such dastardly matters were discussed on the telly, it was always pointed out what bad dudes these people were and how the world was safer.

Only in the case of Trump is it allowable for the TV Talking Heads to ignore how the world is a better place without someone like Soleimani in it. Without acknowledging that possibility,  the TV executives’ then allowed  the TV Fake New-sters to focus on how the President’s action occurred due to a maniacal propensity for wanting world wide devastation and thermo-nuclear war.

How can two opposing sides be so far apart? This is why it is impossible for either side to come together and discuss matters of political importance.

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