Sometimes we must take special note of the obvious.

Why? 

If the obvious can’t be taken for granted, what can?

Well, in politics, and perhaps some other realms of life, vast and audacious engines of hope and desperation mask the plain truth, obscuring what stares us square in the face.

Here is something obvious: it should be an easy glide into office for the Democrats this year, in their bid to recapture the White House. President Donald Trump remains as controversial a figure as he was when elected, and he had just squeaked in to office with slim margins. Any reasonable group of political strategists should be able to appraise the situation, push the most sane and accomplished of the moderate Democrats, and walk right into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It should be easy.

But it won’t be.

The party is in astounding disarray.

Oh, sure, it is the party of government workers and of the some of the biggest and most organized minority groups. It is the party that unashamedly promises to give free stuff to everyone. America’s oldest party has the natural advantage that comes with demagoguery.

But despite this obvious advantage, the party’s leftist ideology is so thread-bare that, despite all the advantages of selling magic beans to rubes, its members cannot help themselves. They are under a spell. The spell is so great that the New York Times, one of the party’s oldest propaganda mills, cannot even decide on one candidate to endorse — the Gray Lady chose two . . . on the apparent ground that both were women.

What a ridiculously superficial criterion.

This sort of shallow pandering becomes a hard sell to anyone with a lick of sense, even to independents who don’t like Trump.

They sure are in a pickle. A pickle jar. Tightly sealed. By their own mad fervor and desperation.

Obviously.

I picked up a paperback in town yesterday, Weird Tales #3, edited by Lin Carter. As is my habit, when obtaining a new anthology, I immediately try one story. This time it’s the title story by Robert E. Howard & Gerald W. Page. Howard is known for his Conan tales, primarily, and this is not one of them. The narrator explains up front what is going on:

The conceit of a first-person account of a buried-in-deep-antiquity tale established, the story proceeds. It is simply and effectively written. And it goes on to advance a familiar idea, of a race of giants — ferocious quasi-human demigods or some such:

The extent to which this is familiar to today’s readers not through Sword & Sorcery fantasy tales, but from the speculations of “alternative archaeology,” is . . . interesting.

We are not far from Burroughsian territory, I guess, in terms of premise and conceit, but the prose is much more elegantly rugged and effectively paced.

As I have confessed before, this is a genre I have not read much. This is indeed my first reading of a Howard story. And, because the writing credit is shared with another, one could argue I still cannot mark the kill on my readerly coup stick.

I will give Howard another chance.

By Gorm.

twv

Tyler Cowen used to be a libertarian. He still has a soft spot in his heart for the idea of liberty, but he no longer believes that universal freedom actually solves many real-world problems. But because of that soft spot, he wants to refer to his current political philosophy as ‘libertarian.’ So, in a recent and much-shared blog post, he prefixes to that old, beloved moniker a new modifier, ‘State Capacity’:

I believe the smart classical liberals and libertarians have, as if guided by an invisible hand, evolved into a view that I dub with the entirely non-sticky name of State Capacity Libertarianism.  I define State Capacity Libertarianism in terms of a number of propositions:

1. Markets and capitalism are very powerful, give them their due.

2. Earlier in history, a strong state was necessary to back the formation of capitalism and also to protect individual rights (do read Koyama and Johnson on state capacity).  Strong states remain necessary to maintain and extend capitalism and markets.  This includes keeping China at bay abroad and keeping elections free from foreign interference, as well as developing effective laws and regulations for intangible capital, intellectual property, and the new world of the internet.  (If you’ve read my other works, you will know this is not a call for massive regulation of Big Tech.)

3. A strong state is distinct from a very large or tyrannical state.  A good strong state should see the maintenance and extension of capitalism as one of its primary duties, in many cases its #1 duty.

4. Rapid increases in state capacity can be very dangerous (earlier Japan, Germany), but high levels of state capacity are not inherently tyrannical.  Denmark should in fact have a smaller government, but it is still one of the freer and more secure places in the world, at least for Danish citizens albeit not for everybody.

5. Many of the failures of today’s America are failures of excess regulation, but many others are failures of state capacity.  Our governments cannot address climate change, much improve K-12 education, fix traffic congestion, or improve the quality of their discretionary spending.  Much of our physical infrastructure is stagnant or declining in quality. 

Tyler Cowen, first five (or four and a half) of eleven listed points in “What libertarianism has become and will become — State Capacity Libertarianism,” Marginal Revolution, January 1, 2020.

Professor Cowen began his piece with this declaration: “Having tracked the libertarian ‘movement’ for much of my life, I believe it is now pretty much hollowed out, at least in terms of flow.  One branch split off into Ron Paul-ism and less savory alt right directions, and another, more establishment branch remains out there in force but not really commanding new adherents.” This is the old ‘plumb-line’/‘beltway libertarian’ split, often talked about, but with the ‘alt right’ aspersion cast in, as if its “unsavoriness” were obvious and obviously wrong, and somehow worse than the obviously non-libertarian technically limited statism Cowen is pushing from his beltway security at George Mason University. It is worth noting that Cowen addresses the apparent “alt right’ concern, in that he wants “much more immigration” but “nonetheless” thinks “our government needs clear standards for who cannot get in, who will be forced to leave, and a workable court system to back all that up and today we do not have that either.” I bet most unsavory libertarians would agree.

There is something rather sad about all this, and I am not talking about Cowen’s later-in-life drift from libertarianism — we have been seeing this coming for decades. The sadness is seeing him fall for idiocies like the anthropogenic global warming catastrophism. He laments that ‘it doesn’t seem that old-style libertarianism can solve or even very well address a number of major problems, most significantly climate change.” A free society would easier address climate change by allowing people to adapt better. How so? They would not take it as a government mandate that every crop must be saved in every spot, every beachfront saved as it now is, and all peoples must stay put, unless subsidized to move.

Though I suppose he is really thinking that messianic thought; micromanage the macro-climate! Insane.

Actually, there may be evidence here that Cowen is most moved by the fact — which Mencken and Mises knew better — that liberty is losing in the marketplace of ideas. Cowen says that “smart people are on the internet, and the internet seems to encourage synthetic and eclectic views, at least among the smart and curious.  Unlike the mass culture of the 1970s, it does not tend to breed “capital L Libertarianism.”  On top of all that, the out-migration from narrowly libertarian views has been severe, most of all from educated women.” Another witless interpretation on Cowen’s — and one that he should understand, since he was part of the movement he is talking about. Way back when. The 1970s didn’t breed a large movement of “capital L libertarians,” it merely bred a vibrant tribe of extremely inquisitive and culturally daring individualists. Like Cowen — and, for that matter, me. But we were a small batch. The Net ‘is producing,’ today, far more of us. It is also ‘producing’ a lot more of non-libertarians.

And of course women tend not to be interested, because how our current transfer state policies affects women is very different from how it affects men. I see little indication that Cowen wishes to pull at that thread. I am sure he would see it as “unsavory.”

I am shaking my head, sadly. Especially so since no small part of the commentary on this piece has been so . . . inadequate.

Now, I do not mind a person thinking liberty irrelevant. We can argue. But libertarianism developed to place the State under the same chains as individuals, the ‘chains’ being a rule of law prohibiting the initiation of force. ‘State Capacity Libertarianism’ is conceivable only in the Meinongian sense of ‘round square’ and ‘golden mountain.’

twv

…because ‘hindsight is….’

One of the odd things about UFO sightings is that over and over information is immediately secreted away and classified by military men. 

The wave of ‘humanoid’ sightings in France in the 1950s is a case in point. On September 10, 1954, in Quarouble, near Belgium, a typical sighting occurred,* including 

  1. short, bizarre-looking people in special suits,
  2. a confrontation, 
  3. temporary paralysis of the human observer, and 
  4. a quick getaway in a strange flying craft. 

The police investigated, recovered site anomalies as evidence, the event appeared in the papers, etc. But scientist-researcher Jacques Vallee followed up on the sighting, and in one of his Magonia books reports a key bit of info that had not appeared in any newspaper or study of the event: some time after the event, the local police asked the Air Police that had studied the event for their report. The Air Police could not give it, or even obtain it themselves, for the Ministry of National Defense had taken over it as a classified matter, and nothing was heard from the government again.

This sort of story can be found in modern UFO incidents from the 1940s through the aughts — even unto the present day. 

This presents a challenge for science.

Skeptical people, who are indeed familiar with the scientific method, keep demanding physical evidence of UFOs. With a lack of physical evidence, the plethora of stories cannot be taken at face value. Even photographs and video evidence can be easily dismissed.

Not a bad attitude. But notice what it rests upon: a trust in the availability of evidence and the good will of the investigating professionals. And that is what we do not have, for government militaries have buried evidence, told lies, and, as Carl Gustav Jung protested, apparently deliberately confused the people.

They have confused skeptical-minded people as well as the credulous.

So the demand for physical evidence and scoffing at the lack thereof is witless. For we are not dealing with evidence within the context of a scientific paradigm, we are dealing with a crime scene — thousands of crime scenes — and the ‘investigators’ have proven themselves untrustworthy. Indeed, governments all around the world, but especially in America — the world’s military superpower — have engaged in a cover-up, as well as in psy-ops, complete with false flags and disinformation. The demand for evidence is on the order of Captain Renault’s command at the end of Casablanca: ‘round up the usual suspects’ . . . weather balloons, fraudsters, mass hallucination, swamp gas, and the planet Venus.

We are being played. Those of us who are incredulous about the military-industrial complex’s wars should be able to extend our skepticism to the government’s handling of this issue.

Friends ask me what I think the UFO story means. What can I say? I am not at all sure who is ‘manning’ the UFOs. The craft are generally evasive, and not interested in establishing official contact — or at least APPEAR not to be interested. But I am 90 percent sure we are dealing with government malfeasance. On a grand scale. We can all guess a half dozen reasons off the top of our heads why this would be so, and the situation is so confused that these conjectures cannot be falsified, or weighed against each other competently, though each can be apparently verified [which is scientifically irrelevant] with a lot of seemingly confirming data.

At present, a skeptical person would keep his or her mind open and demand honesty and transparency from governments. But, were we ever to learn the truth about UFOs, we may, as Dr. Zaius warned at the end of Planet of the Apes, ‘may not like what’ we ‘find.’ 

Especially but not only about our governments. Governments are not good at science. Governments are manipulators.

The truth is out there. Way out.


* Wikipedia has an under-researched biography of the French experiencer in the case I offer as an example — one of many, many dozens of cases I could provide. Note that Wikipedia questions whether the article is important enough for inclusion. 

Celebrate that moment when a ‘normal political perspective’ seems radical and revolutionary!

‘There’s no winning here.’

I don’t believe Tulsi is much better than Trump, other than morally, rhetorically, and on the eyes. Policy-wise it could be a wash, between the two; she could be worse. But while Trump defiantly and archly points to the political culture of three decades ago and more, Tulsi does something similar . . . but politely, circumspectly. 

I believe both are wrong in seeing as a solution a past manner of doing business — that manner of doing politics led us here — but it is interesting to see that Republicans like their nostalgist better than Democrats like theirs.

One reason may be that Rep. Gabbard appears to be traditionally patriotic, and young Democrats hate their country, just as they hate those that love their country. Consider this bit of rhetoric:

Tulsi Gabbard quotes the Pledge of Allegiance.

And perhaps I am, just a teensy bit, on the side of the young. The Pledge is no guide for the future — but not because of the inanities of ‘social justice’ youth.

The ‘one nation’ bit was itself a nationalistic betrayal of the Founders’ original confederacy notion: the states, as Jefferson saw it, were the nations, united for convenience and mutual protection. The author of the Pledge was a socialist. The Pledge is an example of nation-building that worked … right up until it didn’t.

Real division is fine. The more diverse a people are, the less they must be forced to share. It we still want to keep a “United States” we should give up on “America” and give liberty another try.

No Democrat could push that, of course.

twv

The plural of ‘medium’ is ‘media’ — except, I think, for a plurality of table-tappers. It would be absurd to refer, say, to a convention of spiritualists as a ‘media event.’

You’ve heard of Sanctuary Cities, where corporate subdivisions of the several States attempt to nullify federal laws to protect undocumented aliens. Here is the Sanctuary County movement, which goes up the level of jurisdiction one notch to protect rights far more explicitly guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution — as well as in many state constitutions. In the news, anyway, is the Commonwealth of Virginia: “Second Amendment Sanctuary push aims to defy new gun laws.”

On the map are the counties resisting the brewing gun control legislation. Virginia must seem dangerously green to the Blue State’s rich populations in the Washington, DC, area, and in a few spots elsewhere:

Wikipedia: States and counties that have passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions.

I vaguely recall an ancient tradition that might plausibly provide some legal cover for this, but I have forgotten what I have read. (Do I remember talking with a group called Posse Comitatus? I confronted quite a wide variety of radicals — of all sorts — in my youth.)

In Washington State, where I reside, most counties are labeled ‘green’ (see above; note that it is just coincidence that it is nicknamed “The Evergreen State”) as being sanctuaries against gun control passed by the people (mainly voters in heavily populated counties, not labeled green). And, also in Washington State, Sections 3 and 24 of the State Constitution would seem to bar any legislative action from abridging the right to bear arms:

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Constitution of the State of Washington (last revised 2011), Section 3

Due process of law does not mean legislative action by the government in Olympia or by the people through referendum or initiative.

The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.

Section 24

This is much less confusing than the federal Constitution’s much-loved/much-despised Second Amendment. It clearly defines the right to bear arms as an individual right, not a militia right — the right to form a militia herein denied. (Nevertheless, Heller was almost certainly close to the mark; the Second Amendment was clearly made to secure an individual right to self-defense.)

If Washington State citizens want gun control, I think they would have to overturn Heller as well as pass an amendment to their Constitution. Further, I think that whenever a state’s people, using standard constitutional procedures, attempts to remove traditional rights, counties that do not pass the rights-destroying measure should have the right to secede and form a new state.

We live in interesting times.

The sheer silliness of the House Democrats’ “impeachment” of President Trump was raised to another power by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sequestering of the impeachment bill, not sending it on to the Senate for trial. Some say that makes it not an impeachment at all. The most profound thing I’ve heard so far is from Scott Adams, who predicted an impeachment wouldn’t change Trump, but that Trump would change impeachment. I wonder how the Speaker feels to have fulfilled a prophecy by the creator of Dilbert and Loserthink.

What a nadir she has reached in her roller-coaster career.

But not every comment needs to be profound.

66.666% of all impeached presidents….
See also memevigilante.

Jane Yolen’s “The Uncorking of Uncle Finn” is a droll tale cleverly told. Inhabiting six pages of The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories 13 (Arthur W. Saha, ed., Daw 1987), it is not high fantasy, sword & sorcery, urban fantasy, horror, or any of the more familiar genres included in the generic term, “fantasy.” It is, I guess, a yarn. And very funny.

Opening of Jane Yolen, “The Uncorking of Uncle Finn” (F&SF, v 71 #5, November 1986).

I am not sure I have read anything else by this author, though I have two paperbacks of her fantasies, one of them being the respected Briar Rose (1992). After reading her 1986 short story, I may have to give Briar Rose a try.

Now, I read a lot of short stories and essays, from books in my library. But I almost never record my thoughts, so I of course forget what I have read, no matter how good these shorter pieces are. Perhaps this blog will include little notices of my readings, not by popular demand, but as part of my normal journal writing.

twv


N.B. The image at the top of the page is a detail of the anthology’s cover. It has nothing to do with Yolen’s story.