Category Archives: happenings

If it is “go time,” where do we go?

Severian, Morgan, and a few of the emigos had a good email exchange in reply to the attempted assassinations of some Republican congressmen by a violent Leftist. Or – to be more precise – the email chain wasn’t so much about the assassination itself, but of the open and unrestrained celebration of the attempt by a non-trivial portion of the country.* We’re not talking mere fringe kooks, either, but plenty of persons gainfully employed in media and entertainment, who hold themselves out as respectable and conduct themselves as if they, and not their critics, are the reasonable ones.

Naturally, the critics might also be unreasonable, but as CS Lewis pointed out, Hell sends its errors into the world in pairs of opposites, hoping that you will fight the one by turning into the other: fighting sloth with wrath, or cowardice with recklessness. The true solution is to insist on the true thing, with the certain knowledge that it is stronger than any of the twisted copies. Courage is stronger than recklessness and beats it at its own game… but the trick is to be really courageous and to stick with it even at the moment where it seems that wild abandon is about to triumph.

I’m not seeing much of that in society today. That’s to be expected; the pendulum never swings to the middle and then stops there, and we also have to deal with the human propensity to revel in finally getting one’s own back. Given that we’ve been living for decades in a society where courtesy, restraint, and principle have been taking it on the chin, it’s even less surprising that those who have thus suffered find much less use for those things.

As I understand it, the Alt-Right has a pretty simple flowchart: they see that the Left has, without scruple or pity, slowly but surely ratcheted the culture and the law ever-further to their ultimate goal. They see an opponent who has been utterly contemptuous of the many warnings against dismantling the Western traditions and underpinnings of civilization: <i>”When the Devil turns round on you, where will you hide, the laws all being flat? Will you be able to stand upright in the winds that would then blow?”</i> As a result, it’s time to reap the whirlwind, and the Alt-Right plans to be the sickle and thresher… and they’re in no mood for “cucks” and “betas” who insist that the above warnings apply to us as well.

The flaw should be obvious. Just as the Left will not always be in power, neither shall the Right… so ultimately the sickle and thresher will pass to the next party, and they in turn will be in no mood to say, well, now we’ve learned our lesson and we must all play friendly. They’re the ones who would stick at nothing before all this happened – what are the odds that they will suddenly find their conscience while smarting from their fresh wounds? For the Alt-Right’s plans to “work” they basically have to remain in power forever, and the only way to do that is to become in practice the very thing they’re in such reaction against, only without even the pretense of the forms of justice. There’s a reason why totalitarian regimes still have sham elections and show trials; would the Alt-Right bother with that, or simply dispense with the pretenses in favor of a muscular honesty?

I’m reminded of the Justice League episode where the heroes are dragged into an alternate dimension where their counterparts have imposed just such an order. No crime, but also no freedom; the Justice Lords (as they are now called) rule. And what the show could not address (but it would have been fascinating)… what happens when the Lords themselves grow old and die? All of them eventually would, perhaps excepting Wonder Woman. Without the godlike power required to maintain such a regime, it would collapse in devastation and ruin.

And yet… well, practicing restraint when your opponent offers none has gotten us in quite a mess indeed. The Alt-Right have correctly diagnosed the situation of the moment, which is that the rules are only ever used in one direction. And they also correctly recognize that merely wringing our hands and bemoaning the state of affairs doesn’t actually correct them. I’ve written it before: “It can’t happen here” is a fiction. Every other place it’s happened, has been one of those places it could never happen – many individual civilizations have collapsed in ruin, conquered from without or decayed from within, with all the misery and decades to rebuild. Those who’ve gone quisling in the face of a spiteful foe have earned every ounce of the contempt shown them.

So it is necessary to fight back, and not merely complain or mourn – and the question remains, how do we fight?

It should be plain that to simply ignore the rules ourselves is not going to suddenly spawn a newfound respect for rules, either among the vanquished or the conquering. A vaccine only works because it contains a dead or weakened form of the disease your body must learn to fight – if you injected the real illness you would kill everybody.  We are faced with the rise of those who think that lining everyone up for the full dosage will result in robust health all around… or else those who have gone past the point of caring, and want it all torn down.

On the one hand, we have the tyrannical foe… and on the other, we are faced with either becoming their slaves, or their replacements. One way or another, that leaves us holding one end of a chain that binds.

I have no desire to live as an insect in a hive, beholden to the all-powerful State; neither do I wish to live in a kill-or-be-killed post-apocalypse wasteland. It is no good fighting Oceania with Bartertown. Like it or not, if civilization is to endure at all, it has to remain civilized. If there is to be a revolution, it has to be one of law and virtue against mere force. And that takes a conscious effort. One doesn’t drift away from virtue and default to a more primitive, yet still healthy, sense of honor. That state of affairs was itself a long, hard-fought victory against the true default of savagery and horror. We have a society that turns its nose up against the work required to do even that much and yet expects that the results of all that work will survive.

To echo John C Wright in his post here… may heaven preserve us from such folly.

*We have also to deal with their allies who, while not celebrating such things, lay down cover for them in the form of moral equivocations. (“Liberal-conservative vitriol” indeed.) But that is a topic deserving its own post.

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Hugo’s Diner

I’m sad today, folks.

There’s a local restaurant I’ve been happy to patronize for many years now. My dad took me in there when I was a boy, and the habit’s never left me. Many of my friends also grew up hanging out there, and and we’ll stop in together from time to time, for company as much as for the wonderful fare. My own boy’s just a toddler, but they have a kid’s menu that will do just fine for him when the time comes. And best of all, they helped inspire me to cook my own meals around the house when I wasn’t in there sopping up every crumb they had.

That means that I don’t go in quite as often as I used to. Well, you know how it is. But it’s still a popular place. They cater to a lot of tastes and do it very well, through changes in ownership, through new cooks and staff, through competition from other places.

You can imagine how happy I was to hear that a very popular food writer, a chef himself, had been eating there for years, and spoke up about his regular hangout in print, encouraging new patrons to come in.

You can also imagine how shocked I was that many of my fellow regulars reacted to this by being ugly to the newcomers. It’s not that they didn’t tip well, it’s not that they didn’t like the food, it’s not that they were taking the regular patron’s tables. “All they eat is the chicken and steak,” they sniffed. It didn’t change the quality of the food that I saw, and of course they stuck to the vegan and gluten-free stuff – the only place in the whole town you could get it, and it was all right, even if it wasn’t my personal taste.

These things sometimes blow over, but this went from bad to worse. I heard people bad-mouthing the writer, as if it was a bad thing for a guy to have a favorite restaurant and do his part to continue its success. A lot of folks said he wasn’t a real chef and his opinion wasn’t knowledgable like theirs was – even though all he said was that fresher ingredients would improve the quality of the food, which he always enjoyed. Some people confused him with a guy from another city who had a poor experience with a few of the waiters. Other people accused the critic of not really liking the food at all just because he mentioned that the decor could be updated. A few people even ludicrously accused him of being one of the sportswriters who criticized the local team’s players and lobbied to have them all traded; when the team responded by winning the league and parading in triumph through the center of the big city, they watched it on a TV in the corner of the restaurant and booed, even though none of them at all had shown the least prior interest in the team or the game.

Well, I won’t bore you with my personal troubles. The long and the short of it is, the restaurant decided that they were going to have a grand reopening, expanding the seating, bringing back chefs who had gotten their start here and gone on to great things. The press and the local TV came – celebrity in our town! – and bookings were through the roof. It should have been the greatest day ever.

It never happened. The owners came up to the ribbon and cut it, we all went in, sat down, placed our orders – and then the lights went out. “We reserve the right to refuse service to everyone,” the chefs announced, and then left. The maitre’d even bawled out one patron in the middle of the lobby and went off in a huff.

We found out later that the hardcore regulars had threatened to have the whole place shut down for all sorts of bogus health violations. That didn’t stop them from looking well-fed – it also turns out the cooks had made a full variety of the gluten-free items just for them, while all the people ordering fish and steak and such went begging because “not enough people ordered it.”

So what happens now? Well, the diner’s just sitting there empty, and the regulars are actually gloating that nobody gets to eat there anymore. The only joint in town with decent gluten-free and vegan fare is belly-up. A few of the cooks who didn’t want to go along with it are afraid they won’t find work if they complain. And that chef/writer is seriously considering going back to cooking full-time and opening up his own place so folks have a place to eat and hang out and enjoy themselves again.

It’s all so pointless. There was a complete menu for the pickiest tastes and plenty of tables for everyone.

I guess I’ll have to go try out Noah Ward’s place across town. He’s gotten a lot of buzz recently.

Infinite tributes in infinite combinations

UPDATED March 1, 2015: One particular tribute that I missed, as I am not a part of this online community… but that might be the sweetest of all:

Basically, when the news came of Leonard Nimoy’s passing, Star Trek Online players decided, spontaneously and en masse, to go to virtual Vulcan and pay their respects.

It’s seriously dusty around here right now.

ORIGINAL POST: The outpouring of love and heartfelt tributes to Leonard Nimoy have been wonderful to see. And the variety! Quotes, of course. Nearly everyone had some variation of “He lived long, and prospered” when the news first broke. Others have sent out pictures, usually screenshots of Spock, but also of Nimoy in a variety of his guest roles.

The most fun one has been the Twitter hashtag “PutSpockInASong,” which has resulted in a fine paradox: people howling in laughter due to puns about the emotionless paragon of rational thought and dispassion. Yet for all that, I think it is flawlessly logical, and one hopes that he would, at least, quirk a friendly eyebrow at the foibles of humanity.

As my favorite of them (so far) put it:

Some have been touching, some absurdist, some serious, some comic… all have been heartfelt.

One thing I observe is that three men reprised their characters from the original Trek in episodes of The Next Generation – DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, and Leonard Nimoy – and now all three have boldly gone on.

(FUN FACT! Peter Duryea acted with Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek – in the original pilot, The Cage, Duryea played Lt. Jose Tyler opposite Nimoy as Mr. Spock.)

Leonard Nimoy was more than Spock, of course. He sang folk tunes, some of which were original compositions. He was a professional photographer. He wrote and directed as well as acted. He was a veteran of the US Army. He was one of three Star Trek regulars who had been on The Twilight Zone. He acted on Broadway, was the voice of a cartoon robot, and played himself as a head in a jar. (“It’s a life of quiet dignity.”)

All in all, one could do far worse.

Yeah, he was under alien influence, as would happen from time to time. Tough tribbles.

Yeah, he was under alien influence, as would happen from time to time. It still counts, so tough tribbles, nerds.

Getting it wrong

I was offline most of yesterday until late, so I took what I thought would be a quick peek at Twitter over my coffee before work. Heh. I should know better: I saw a tweet go by and felt that old twitch start up, the “shoot off my stupid mouth” twitch.

Alas, I was stupid. And wrong.

Now, it’s been standard practice for Rueters, the AP, et als to get Catholic stuff wrong, often with the classic “accidentally on purpose” method. The earliest example in my adult life was in the early 90s, when the Church was ready to release the latest Catechism. The New York Times went ahead with some pointless verbiage days before the official English translation was even available, and of course it turned out that the Times was talking out its ass.

Further examples are legion. (My well-meaning Aunt emails them regularly.) Therefore I felt no hesitation in scoffing at an AP report (via a Charles Cooke retweet) that Pope Francis had said that violence was understandable regarding Charlie Hebdo’s cartooning.

Mr. Cooke had to put me some blinking knowledge. I had to apologize. I was in error; in fact, it was the same category of mistake as His Holiness made, that of talking off the cuff without thinking. Unlike either of his two predecessors, he seems to make it a lot.

I’m no stranger to shooting off my mouth, but one hopes the actual Pontiff has more restraint than some randomly-chosen Internet-era pontificator.

Still, I am a random Internet-era pontificator. (During our courtship, my wife once offered to buy me an antique wooden soap box, so I could store things in it when I wasn’t up on it.) My measured pontification is that what Pope Francis said was clumsy and inelegant. He ignored the context of what’s been going on in the world for the last several decades.

So, the takeaway from Pope Francis’ interview seems to be that insulting a religion is provocative and you can expect a violent response.

“It’s true, one cannot react violently, but if Dr. Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then he is going to get a punch. But it’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith … make fun or toy with other people’s religions, these people provoke, and there can happen what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he said something against my mother. That is, there is a limit.”

Bitch had it comin’. That’s what you might expect from your garden-variety Islamist, hot to trot for the jihad, but not at all what one wants to hear from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome.

This is what I find somewhat frustrating with our current pope: he doesn’t seem to get that he can’t shoot from the lip without having it all taken as the official word of Catholicism. Like it or not, a lot if the world despises Christ and his Church, and they have invested too much of themselves to give the benefit of the doubt. They aren’t going to draw a distinction between a bull session and an official papal encyclical promulgating doctrine. They lie enough to try to damage the faith without being handed a truth to do it with. This is where one should apply the Scripture verse about being both harmless as doves AND as cunning as serpents.

I want to be fair to Pope Francis. I get about 75% of what he’s saying. The word provocative implicitly understands the chance of a violent reply; else we would use a word like annoying. And like he said, it’s a normal human response to respond with force to certain provocations.

I confess that I can’t watch that clip without cheering for Mr. Aldrin. That guy was a jackass, he actively harassed and confronted Mr. Aldrin, and he got chin-checked on merit. More importantly: any society where that kind of a response is permanently out-of-bounds quickly devolves into a society ruled by the rudest and most ruthless among us. Some bullies and cowards will never get the message unless it’s slapped into them; this actually makes society more polite and courteous as a result, because someone with no moral compunction about haranguing an old man in the streets now has a more visceral reason to think twice. This is a well-known paradox, where trying to enforce the “right” choice actually makes the right choice impossible, while permitting the “wrong” choice makes a world where the right choice is much safer and therefore much more common.

That brings us to the other 25%, which is what turned even the reasonable parts of Pope Francis’ statements into nonsense.

Had His Holiness said that he understands the anger because of the slanders that his own faith endures, and then quoted “Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26), then we have a teachable moment that reinforces all that he said about forgiveness during his recent visit to Sri Lanka. More importantly, it would put the blame for murder and mayhem squarely on the shoulders of the actual murderers. There’s a huge difference socking some guy who’s mouthing off and won’t shut up, vs. taking lives because you can’t handle a few insults like an adult.

Because whatever else one could say about the Charlie Hebdo staff and their work, the one thing it doesn’t do is chase you across the street, dodge two people politely insisting you stop, ignore the threat of police involvement, and confront you on camera while you try to mind your own business. It’s beyond easy to shrug off Charlie Hebdo; if one must reply, then one could always do it with words and ideas – much like I’m writing this to counter the careless half-baked statements of my own religious leader. That’s the distinction that Francis glossed over; notably it’s also a distinction that the Islamists do not acknowledge at all. So long as they judge the topic to be important enough, then there is a simple binary test – did you respect it or not? And if the answer is “not” then you may be killed for it.

Under Francis’ logic, I could say with all honesty that he had insulted the memory of the dead victims, and under that provocation I could slug him when he stepped off the plane. On those grounds alone, what he said is provably, logically dumb. And if the jihad took it as an insult, then they would blow up the plane before it landed.

Aldrin didn’t seek out this guy to sock him, even though he’s been preaching for years that the moon landings were faked. He reacted when he was sought out and harassed. Had someone taken copies of these cartoons and stuck them under the wiper blades of every car in a mosque parking lot, and then waited until prayer was over to try to stuff them into the hands of the worshippers, I would neither be surprised nor particularly angry if he got his lights punched out. That very notably is NOT what happened here. Far the reverse – Islamists have been carrying out a constant campaign of murder, intimidation, and conflict simply because such things happen to exist. Charlie Hebdo is not a provocation, but a response to a provocation.

The desire to think of civilization’s struggle with Islam as a mere tussle between brands of the same thing, distinct without a real difference, is morally and mentally blinding. It’s a much more visceral fight – a war launched against civilization itself by a centuries-old enemy, wearing a new costume and waving a new flag of supposed grievances. Giving them any sort of intellectual cover for their operations is a small treason against humanity. Likewise, any mental or moral ammunition to bolster our morale is a boon. In a strange way, those cartoons are more on the side of actual decency and respect than any of the weak-kneed refusals to print them or even mention them. A world where those things are tolerated is a safer and saner world, and using actual death and tyranny to silence them is to submit to the cruel and grim logic of barbarity.

A counteroffensive

Author Sarah A Hoyt is having a small difficulty writing about friendship.

The difficulty is in the tendency of all too many folks to Werthamize everything. There’s no such thing as text, only subtext, and that subtext needs must be sexual. Oh, but not openly… never openly, because the author is secretly a repressed homophobe of some sort who won’t give the fictional friends their proper due. It’s crypto-closeted.

CS Lewis dealt with this sort of unfalsifiable non-argument with the scorn it deserved in The Four Loves, saying that it was akin to stating, “If an invisible cat was sitting in that chair, it would look empty; it looks empty; therefore an invisible cat is sitting there.” He’s right, but of course the debunkers and scoffers don’t care. The argument HAS to be impossible to prove or disprove. That’s a feature, not a bug.

The Four Loves was published in book form in 1960, and as Ms. Hoyt’s difficulty shows, things haven’t gotten any easier for an author… or, for that matter, a friend. It’s part of the systematic campaign to dehumanize all of us and turn us into insects in a hive: all alike, all interchangeable, and above all, easily controlled and herded. There’s only one queen in a hive, easily overwhelmed by sheer numbers if it came to that. It never does. An ant or a bee that starts to behave erratically and out of concert with the others will be set upon by its fellows and destroyed.

That is the method by which the machine runs. Once social engineering and politic correctness take a deep-enough root, our community gets to the point where any deviation from the common doesn’t have to be dealt with by the leaders or tone setters, but by one’s own neighbors and coworkers. Continue reading

Mobs move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around sometime, you might miss getting trampled.

So, quick recap – OKCupid publishes a full-page ad targeting Firefox users encouraging them to pressure Mozilla to sack their CEO, Brendan Eich. Now, apparently, it’s OKCupid’s turn to face the mob they drummed up.

The machine must run. It consumes first those who labored most to build it. No exceptions.

Reap the whirlwind, saps.

Mozilla, mo problems

Well, that’s it for Mozilla’s momentary CEO, Brendan Eich.

Eich submitted his resignation, days after the dating site OKCupid suggested boycotting Mozilla with full-page ads shown to visitors using the Firefox browser.  This came along with several of Mozilla’s own employees tweeting that Eich was not fit to lead the company.

Was Eich a terrible coder? Did he embezzle? Trash a nightclub? Kick puppies for fun? Not that anyone can tell. What he did do, however, was donate $1000 in support of California’s Proposition 8 campaign, seeking to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

A lot of people thought that this was not in keeping with Mozilla’s commitment to diversity and free speech. In the end they celebrated these things by denying them to their own CEO.

I’m not going to open debate on whether or not his donation is de facto proof of being hateful or divisive. It may well be. It’s also beside the point. Eich helped found this company, he created JavaScript (which is kind of everywhere in computing and on the Internet), he obviously knew his stuff… and none of it mattered.

It’s not that hard a concept, and Shamus is on point about this – this is the sort of thing that, once loosed, lays waste everywhere. It is indiscriminate about its targets. I may as well quote a convo I was having on the Twitter:

When one works with a concrete goal in mind, one’s actions can be evaluated on whether they move the goal closer or further. Once the goal is reached, one can move to the next. But there is no goal in mind with something like this. Try having a conversation about what that goal is, whether we’re closer or further from it, and you won’t get a clear answer – except that if you even ask that sort of a question you’re a bad person, and that’s proof about how much farther we still have to go to get to the goal nobody can bear to have defined.

This is all by design. So long as one can be the one doing the deciding, it’s good times. Ever-wider areas come under this area where “The debate is over.” This is also the flaw, of course, because at any time one’s prior beliefs – even something that was innocent, something one never thought to be on guard about (because who could ever object?) – can suddenly fall outside of the boundary. Share a carefree joke with friends and, five years hence, that humor is a proof that you have secretly harbored wrongthinking the whole time, and those who shared the laughter are your new persecutors.

That’s the thing the deciders never realize: in the end the machine, once built, must run. If that machine is not designed to accomplish a particular thing, and upon completion stop, then by definition it will never stop running, and will always need fuel to consume.  At this point, those who fought hardest against its construction have already been dealt with – the machine’s very existence is proof that they’ve lost the fight. The first victims are always those who labored for the finishing touches, and who are always shocked and stunned at being tossed into the hopper. Surely they proved they were on the right side!