Archives for category: Literature

Paul Jacob’s weekend podcast was especially good this current episode; check it out:

This Week in Common Sense, January 15, 2022: audio hosted on SoundCloud.

I help Paul make these podcasts, and mine’s the first face you see this episode. To avoid my face, or Paul’s, listen to the audio version.

Andrew Sullivan tweets:

2016 election. Rittenhouse. Covington. Russian collusion. Vaccines. Bounties on US soldiers. Lab-leak theory. Jussie Smollett. The Pulse shooting. The Atlanta shootings. Hunter Biden laptop. Inflation. Steele Dossier.
The MSM got every single one wrong.

The major (Mockingbird) media didn’t merely get these stories wrong, they told untruths: they lied and spun and propagandized for the maximum state, for their beloved Woke Leviathan.

I confess to having thought that we had reached Peak Progressivism with the mass excoriation of the Covington kids, but O, how much lower journos could go!

In Sullivan’s think piece he links to, he writes that

when the sources of news keep getting things wrong, and all the errors lie in the exact same direction, and they are reluctant to acknowledge error, we have a problem. If you look back at the last few years, the record of errors, small and large, about major stories, is hard to deny. It’s as if the more Donald Trump accused the MSM of being “fake news” the more assiduously they tried to prove him right.

Regarding the Rittenhouse case, Mr. Sullivan tries to sound level-headed: “Almost immediately, the complicated facts became unimportant. The far right viewed Rittenhouse as a hero — which he surely wasn’t. He had no business being there with an AR-15.” This is very similar to Paul Jacob’s opinion, actually, who makes similar points in his most recent podcast:

But as I mentioned to Paul in this episode (I interview him for this project of his, every weekend), my position is far less centrist.

Now, when the Kenosha, Wisconsin, riots and Rittenhouse shootings occurred, I decided to wait until more information came in. I did not make a big deal of his innocence or guilt. I was willing — nay, eager — to let a jury decide. In that I was being as normal and centrist-civilized as one could hope for. But as evidence mounted, young Mr. Rittenhouse’s innocence looked quite likely. Then, after the prosecution has made its opening “case,” an acquittal seemed to me as obviously the only just result.

All those media mavens, Democrats and beltway libertarians who jumped on the bandwagon against Rittenhouse have lots of egg on face.

Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. The men he shot were trying to kill him. They were criminals and were very much acting in the wrong. Paul Jacob, being a nice person, states that it no one wants to see them killed, but — after the fact — I see no reason to shed the tiniest tear for these miscreants.

And while I am unclear as to the legality of Rittenhouse’s open carry, I admit: I do not much care. He was just to carry his weapons, and the rioters were in the wrong, generally, and politicians and cops who let it all happen were cowards at best.

Another major defeat for “woke,” riot-loving leftists. Good. They deserve nothing better than our spittle.

And as for Rittenhouse being imprudent for carrying an AR-15 — really? He had “no business” carrying it into a riot zone?

Everybody has by now seen the judge’s remonstrance of the prosecutor for a line of interrogation that is germane to the issue. The prosecutor was trying to show that Rittenhouse came to the event wanting to kill. The prosecutor was aiming to take a weeks’-old statement by KR about wishing he’d had his rifle with him to shoot some looters as evidence. The judge had declared that line of inquiry off limits earlier on, and, after removing the jury from the room, “yelled at” the prosecutor.

The principle the prosecutor relied upon (and got Rittenhouse to admit on stand) was that we do not have a right to defend property with deadly force. Democrats hold this as a bedrock principle. Perhaps that is why they let rioters riot. After all, a mob won’t stop mayhem upon mere instruction. Deadly force is required. So Democrats have convinced me that the use of deadly force to protect property must be at least sometimes OK.

Thanks, Democrats. You’ve changed my mind.

So I disagree with both Paul Jacob and Andrew Sullivan: when cops and politicians don’t do their jobs, it is up to citizens to take up arms and defend life and property. It is obvious that, contrary to the prosecutors, Rittenhouse did not go out hoping to shoot anyone. But taking a weapon did lead the crazies to attack him. And since Rittenhouse had been doing nothing wrong, their attacking him was a gross violation of his rights. His shooting of them was just. But I also go further: his arming himself in the melee was just, and more citizens should have done it.

Sure, it seems wrong for a 17-year-old to do this job. But that is not his fault. The adult officials who shirked their duty are to blame. And so are the fully adult citizens who should have taken up arms. And, if necessary, did what the prosecutor wanted to convince the jury that Rittenhouse himself itched to do: shoot at rioters.

Mobs are evil. That is, rioting mobs are evil.

At some point, they must be opposed just like we oppose marauding bands.

But Democrats are incapable of admitting that this is what a civilization must do. Democrats are so into “inclusion” that they look at all outsiders as “oppressed” and not, as rioters and illegal immigrant invaders are, themselves the actual oppressors.

Because Democrats no longer believe that the State is justified by the civilizational need to destroy those who would destroy us — hordes and mobs and criminals and even armies — they corrupt the institutions of police and courts and border guards and military so to disenable them from protecting us. I simply submit that when governments give up their prime task, citizens must take the necessary work.

Don’t want to see “vigilantism”? Then make sure the state does its Job One. When the State won’t do this job, it not only de-legitimizes itself, it legitimizes vigilantism.

Don’t want vigilantes? Then make sure the State (including local governments) does Its Job (their jobs) — or else consider institutional alternatives to the State. There are such alternatives, and maybe now is the time to talk about them.

Until then, young Mr. Rittenhouse may not be the hero we wanted, but he appears to have been the only hero on the streets in Kenosha that fateful day.

We just cannot expect the major media to even understand this. They have been trained to serve as (and are paid to be) the lickspittle of the Leviathan State.


The recent ITV reënactment (adaptation) of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair looks really good, but it seems unfortunate that the character Sambo — described as badly legged and black on the first page of the novel — is here a well-shaped, stately black African (played by a British actor), not an Indian, and is called “Sam.”

Racial, racism, stereotypes, blah blah blah. What would Thackeray make of P.C.?

The show is on Amazon Prime, but the book is everywhere. I have in my hand a very nice Könemann two-volume, boxed edition.


The Sambo I knew as a kid.

What is meant by the phrase “there is no god but the unknowable, and Herbert Spencer is its prophet”?

. . . as answered on Quora. . . .

This is a taunt from the pages of Jack London’s great novel Martin Eden, 13th chapter:

Martin had heard Herbert Spencer quoted several times in the park, but one afternoon a disciple of Spencer’s appeared, a seedy tramp with a dirty coat buttoned tightly at the throat to conceal the absence of a shirt. Battle royal was waged, amid the smoking of many cigarettes and the expectoration of much tobacco-juice, wherein the tramp successfully held his own, even when a socialist workman sneered, “There is no god but the Unknowable, and Herbert Spencer is his prophet.” Martin was puzzled as to what the discussion was about, but when he rode on to the library he carried with him a new-born interest in Herbert Spencer, and because of the frequency with which the tramp had mentioned “First Principles,” Martin drew out that volume.

So the great discovery began. Once before he had tried Spencer, and choosing the “Principles of Psychology” to begin with, he had failed as abjectly as he had failed with Madam Blavatsky. There had been no understanding the book, and he had returned it unread. But this night, after algebra and physics, and an attempt at a sonnet, he got into bed and opened “First Principles.” Morning found him still reading. It was impossible for him to sleep. Nor did he write that day. He lay on the bed till his body grew tired, when he tried the hard floor, reading on his back, the book held in the air above him, or changing from side to side. He slept that night, and did his writing next morning, and then the book tempted him and he fell, reading all afternoon, oblivious to everything and oblivious to the fact that that was the afternoon Ruth gave to him. His first consciousness of the immediate world about him was when Bernard Higginbotham jerked open the door and demanded to know if he thought they were running a restaurant.

Martin Eden had been mastered by curiosity all his days. He wanted to know, and it was this desire that had sent him adventuring over the world. But he was now learning from Spencer that he never had known, and that he never could have known had he continued his sailing and wandering forever. He had merely skimmed over the surface of things, observing detached phenomena, accumulating fragments of facts, making superficial little generalizations—and all and everything quite unrelated in a capricious and disorderly world of whim and chance. The mechanism of the flight of birds he had watched and reasoned about with understanding; but it had never entered his head to try to explain the process whereby birds, as organic flying mechanisms, had been developed. He had never dreamed there was such a process. That birds should have come to be, was unguessed. They always had been. They just happened.

Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) was a Victorian Era polymath, remembered for

  • his early development of evolutionary theory — “The Development Hypothesis” (1852), “A Theory of Population, deduced from the General Law of Animal Fertility” (1852), Principles of Psychology (first edition, 1855) and “Progress: Its Law and Cause” (1857);
  • his political liberalism — in Social Statics (1851), Justice (1891, Part IV of Principles of Ethics) and The Man versus the State (1884), all celebrated only by libertarians, today;
  • his pioneering of sociology — Study of Sociology (1878), Descriptive Sociology(19 vols., 1873–1934), and Principles of Sociology (1876–1896 );
  • coining the term “survival of the fittest” after hearing Charles Darwin’s initial presentation of “natural selection,” and as introduced formally in Principles of Biology (1864).

But Spencer first made his name as a metaphysician and religious philosopher. His main concept was “the Unknowable,” as indicated in the quip in above. It received its main exposition in the first half of First Principles (1860). Spencer was trying to show the limits of human knowledge, but also address an understanding of what he regarded as the underlying foundation to all existence, which, he argued, we know of but cannot actually know. Spencer believed that awe and reverence for this “Unknowable” is the remaining — “ultimate” — religious idea, after science had done its work.

The best treatment of this peculiar element to his philosophy is by George Santayana, in his Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford in 1923, “The Unknowable.” I highly recommend this beautiful and profound essay, to every thinking person — see Obiter Scripta (1936), but I first came across it in Clifton Fadiman’s Reading I’ve Liked (1945).

Spencer’s agnostic concept of “The Unknowable” was once all the rage. Victorian scientists such as John Tyndall, rapidly losing their faith, grabbed at it as if a lifeline in deep ocean. Since then, however, it has dropped out of circulation. I did once hear it discussed in the 1990s’ TV dramedy Northern Exposure, though.

So why the sneering remark? It apes the famous Islamic credo, sure. But it was from a socialist character. Herbert Spencer was deeply anti-socialist. No more need be said.


Herbert Spencer

As you can see by the image of my Goodreads review, it took me a while to finish reading it. But since there is no story, no plot, it doesn’t much matter. Little “violence” is done by intermittent reading, as is also the case with Impressions of Theophrastus Such and The Book of Disquiet.

In my reading, though, this long span of occasional picking up and putting down of the book was the result, mainly, of repeatedly losing track of it. My library is too large, my reading spots too numerous, and my office is too messy: it is easy to lose track of books. There was no plan — or even economizing of effort — going on in my seemingly studied inattention.

Gissing’s reflections on the British national spirit.
Gissing was not very “pro-science.”
Back cover to the edition I read.
This reminds me of Pessoa’s reflections.

Since it is mainly just a series of reflections it is not an autobiography. So what is this genre? Belles lettres, I think.


The zodiacal ages since the Ice Age ended.

We have abortion, the ancients had child sacrifice.

We are profane, they were pious.

That was my first takeaway, anyway, from “Ancient Carthaginians really did sacrifice their children,” an article from the University of Oxford.

Next, try to understand the idea of sacrifice. The religious fixation on the rite of sacrifice is fascinating. For years I’ve pushed the notion of the practice as important in establishing a moral universe with an integral cost concept. Without a sense of cost, morality is impossible. Sacrifice is crude but perhaps effective in this task.

I think I have heard Jordan Peterson pushing something like that.

Anyway, the ancient Egyptians sacrificed bulls. But that was in the Age of Taurus. Upper Egypt kept the Apis Bull Worship going even after the Age of Aries began. In Lower Egypt, the folks living next to the Giza pyramids knew better, that the Ram had replaced the Bull. This became a central concept in the development of Mediterranean (“Middle Earth!”) and Mesopotamian religion. Genesis and Exodus both encode that transition. And the BC/AD divide marks the beginning of the Age of Pisces, of the Fisher Kings — the sign of the fish and all that.

Could the Carthaginians have engaged in holdover rites from the Age of Gemini, when twins were the religious fixation? I know not. Seems a stretch.

We are still a ways away from the Age of Aquarius. Or already in it. Depends on who you ask. I am unsure of why this would be of prime importance for philosophy — but the ancients were obsessed with the Great Year. Still reeling from the catastrophes of the Ice Age, they were understandably obsessed. And putting the idea of cyclical regularity into the major religions was, for them, a natural notion. And interweaving it into our collective unconscious with sacrifice? I guess that seemed vitally important.


Remember that much-shared “meme” about how a certain hospital was being flooded with people overdosing on the “horse de-wormer” Ivermectin? Rolling Stone even published an article running with it.

I saw friends share the story on social media. And curse Fox News, Alex Jones, etc. ZeroHedge explains:

The report, sourced to local Oaklahoma outlet KFOR’s Katelyn Ogle, cites Oklahoma ER doctor Dr. Jason McElyea — who claimed that people overdosing on ivermectin horse dewormer are causing emergency rooms to be “so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting” access to health facilities.

“Rolling Stone ‘Horse Dewormer’ Hit-Piece Debunked After Hospital Says No Ivermectin Overdoses,” ZeroHedge, September 4, 2021.

That story has been revealed as completely false. The hospital denies it. ZeroHedge cites the hospital in question:

Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room.

With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months.

NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose.

All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care.

Rolling Stone did not fact check the article before publication. It was completely fake news — likely perpetrated to induce you to take Big Pharma’s experimental pseudo-vaccine.

The story stank as propaganda from the beginning. But until I saw the debunking, I wasn’t going to say anything. Maybe I should have said something. But you are an adult, right?

And as an adult, you know that the whole “horse de-wormer” meme is b.s., right? (Or, as one Twitterer put it, “horse shit.”) Ivermectin has been a prescription drug for the human animal for a long time. It has known and previous uses. Repeating the “horse de-wormer” meme amounts to a lie. It was obvious from its first social media deployment. But because the left is now thoroughly servile to the Therapeutic State, leftists now eagerly defend Big Pharma medicine.

Ivermectin is far safer than the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA treatments. Of course, it is always dangerous to use drugs, and going off established protocols is risky. Take your own risks. Don’t blame others for your anxieties. Be rational.

But remember: ideologues are happy to lie to you, and if you have any political opinion, you will find folks on your side of that issue lying.


Tweet, which I grabbed from the ZeroHedge article, superimposed on story.

N.B. A not-irrelevant meme of my own devising might be worth looking at: Mind+Virus.

Some fantasy literature near at hand, with sf at left: bedside reading.

It’s been said before: science fiction is a conjecture culture. Well, said before, if not in those precise words.

Science fiction is not science. It’s not often scientific even in spirit, for there is no experimentation, public testing, refutation, or even knowledge at the end of it! It is often little more than what cheerleaders are to sports: the rah-rah squad. But there is more to it. Science fiction writers look behind the obvious and offer up a wide series of alternative theories — conjectures — about reality, and then play with them in interesting ways (some more interesting than others), usually focusing on the human results, or on the transcendent.

As such, science fiction has what I think of as a generally salutary effect on the mind.

Except when it doesn’t, as in the case of the inspiration Paul Krugman’s took from Asimov’s Foundation series, to double down on his technocracy. That’s like taking the Bible as an excuse to kill witches or Jews.

And it shows the great danger of science fiction: scientism. That is the misuse of certain outward forms of science to replace religion and influence politics. It is often the worship of science as technique to make a better world — but actually making the world much worse.

Thankfully, this also is a central theme of science fiction: the opposition to scientism. It can be found in a wide diversity of dystopian nightmares and comedies and melodramas, the most obvious being Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and even in space opera, such as C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy.

So, science fiction can serve as the cure for the disease of which it is also, too often, the most obvious symptom.


When Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., 46th President of These Benighted States, speaks, we should listen. Amidst his fits and starts and faux pas we can find real gems of revelation.

The latest examples come from his G7 adventures. Speaking of Russia, he wants to appear smart. He obviously enjoys every old-timey turn of phrase, and he smiles as he says Russians have “bitten off some real problems they are going to have trouble chewing on.” I wonder if he rehearsed that. It is not exactly Shakespeare, but it is the Bard Himself compared to his repeated references to “Libya.”

You see, Biden meant to say “Syria,” which Russia has defended against repeated U.S. attempts at the overthrow of the Alawite regime. Biden wants to make Putin look bad here, for getting in the way of noble, peace-loving U.S. intervention. But Biden ruins this brilliant bit of misdirection by repeatedly bringing up Libya. For Libya’s the far bigger mess, and it was a mess caused by the United States, the Obama-Biden Administration in particular.

So, why would he do that?

I figure that his ability to lie is low, his pre-frontal cortex being so shriveled up that he cannot maintain the prevarication. Libya is the counter to everything Biden wants to say about Russian and Syria. It shows that it is the United States that is in way over its head, or, to use Biden’s preferred cliché, has bitten off more than it can possibly chew. The Obama-Biden-Clinton team ruined Libya. It is the U.S. that is responsible for that mess, and what a mess it is! And Biden knows that HE MUST NOT SAY IT, so he says it.

The Imp of the Perverse is Edgar Allan Poe’s metaphor:

Induction, à posteriori, would have brought phrenology to admit, as an innate and primitive principle of human action, a paradoxical something, which we may call perverseness, for want of a more characteristic term. In the sense I intend, it is, in fact, a mobile without motive, a motive not motivirt. Through its promptings we act without comprehensible object; or, if this shall be understood as a contradiction in terms, we may so far modify the proposition as to say, that through its promptings we act, for the reason that we should not. In theory, no reason can be more unreasonable; but, in fact, there is none more strong. With certain minds, under certain conditions, it becomes absolutely irresistible. I am not more certain that I breathe, than that the assurance of the wrong or error of any action is often the one unconquerable force which impels us, and alone impels us to its prosecution. Nor will this overwhelming tendency to do wrong for the wrong’s sake, admit of analysis, or resolution into ulterior elements. It is a radical, a primitive impulse—elementary. It will be said, I am aware, that when we persist in acts because we feel we should not persist in them, our conduct is but a modification of that which ordinarily springs from the combativeness of phrenology. But a glance will show the fallacy of this idea. The phrenological combativeness has for its essence, the necessity of self-defence. It is our safeguard against injury. Its principle regards our well-being; and thus the desire to be well, is excited simultaneously with its development. It follows, that the desire to be well must be excited simultaneously with any principle which shall be merely a modification of combativeness, but in the case of that something which I term perverseness, the desire to be well is not only not aroused, but a strongly antagonistical sentiment exists.

An appeal to one’s own heart is, after all, the best reply to the sophistry just noticed. No one who trustingly consults and thoroughly questions his own soul, will be disposed to deny the entire radicalness of the propensity in question. It is not more incomprehensible than distinctive. There lives no man who at some period, has not been tormented, for example, by an earnest desire to tantalize a listener by circumlocution. The speaker is aware that he displeases; he has every intention to please; he is usually curt, precise, and clear; the most laconic and luminous language is struggling for utterance upon his tongue; it is only with difficulty that he restrains himself from giving it flow; he dreads and deprecates the anger of him whom he addresses; yet, the thought strikes him, that by certain involutions and parentheses, this anger may be engendered. That single thought is enough. The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing, and the longing, (to the deep regret and mortification of the speaker, and in defiance of all consequences,) is indulged.

Something like that is going on in Biden’s poor head. I suspect it is not unrelated to other impulses, which we see at play in the Law of Nemesis.

Biden knows he must not mention Libya, but cannot help but bring it up.

The imp is upon him, like the narrator in the Poe story, who is mysteriously impelled to run out into the public confessing to murder — inevitably bringing on his own destruction.

He is utterly in thrall to that imp.

That imp now rules America.


Two squibs in Liberty by this site’s proprietor:

The issue featured many remembrances of Murray N. Rothbard, then recently deceased; p. 22.

James Littleton Gill provided illustrations for the ’zine:

pp. 21 & 22

The late Rex F. May placed many of his gag cartoons in Liberty:

p. 52
p. 66
p. 61