Propaganda: Don’t Acknowledge Any Argument

I think it was Goebbels who said: Lie big, and stick to it. Never answer, or even acknowledge, any criticism. Soon, your lie will become accepted wisdom, and any questioning of it will be seen as insane, evil, or both.

We’re there. The successes of this strategy are not merely numerous and ubiquitous, but form the basis of modern culture. For example:

Marriage is optional. Divorce is morally neutral, if not a positive good. Nothing bad happens when families are built on less than a handshake and destroyed on less than a whim. The vey idea that it is a great evil for a child to be deprived of a mother and father and a home is terrible bigotry.

Homosexuality is a positive good, at least as good as heterosexual relationships. The very idea that there is any reason besides base bigotry and fear (‘homophobia’) that virtually every culture throughout human history has condemned homosexuality, let alone that it is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance, is insane and a foundational evil. Only an evil person would dare notice the shortened, unhealthy, and unhappy lives typical lived by gay men, or the violence rampant among gay women, because such things are a) not true, and, simultaneously, b) caused by bigotry and homophobia.

Marriage has no basis in anything other than the desires of the people who want to call their relationships to any number of people, animals, things, or ideas a marriage. To say otherwise is rank bigotry.

Race doesn’t exist, can be freely chosen, and is determinative of one’s oppressor/oppressed status. Hating people for being white is not racism; failure to note so0mebody’s race and react according to the current oppressor/oppressed status of that race is racism.

Sex doesn’t exist. Gender, of which there are any number of flavors from which anyone can choose, and choose again upon a moment’s notice, is a thing the choice of which is both a sacred right and a social construct. Saying otherwise is rank bigotry.

Everything is a social construct. Failure to believe this is objectively wrong and evil.

And so on. These beliefs, which in every culture that has ever existed would get you locked up, shunned, or worse, are now REQUIRED in order to hold a job in many industries. It is not merely morally required to hate anyone who does not accept these ideas, any mitigating activity, up to and including murder, is appropriate and will soon be required.

A comparatively minor one: COVID 19 is worse than the Black Death, worse than the 1918 Spanish Flu. 200,000,000 people have died of it – Biden and Harris say so!- it is a crazy conspiracy theory to believe otherwise.

On the docket: Pederasty, child sex, necrophilia, beastiality – absolute acceptance of these is not (unless I missed it – things move fast) required yet, but they soon will be.

Something that can’t go on forever will end. Nobody said that end has to be tidy.

“Replication Crisis” and Other Orwellian Euphemisms…

…and how they’ve brought us to where we are today.

Teaching Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" Speech - Voices of ...
A smart man.

A brief historical recap: There is nothing new under the sun. The strong exploit the weak, thinking: there is no god. Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Ambition and greed blind us to our own foolishness. The first victim of a lie is the liar himself.

All is vanity.

Bringing these timeless observations up to date: as mentioned from time to time here on this blog, Eisenhower, in his famous ‘military-industrial complex’ speech, mentioned problems with the government-science complex as well:

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, 1961

Well? 60 years later, how are we doing on these points?

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields.

Think Large Hadron Collider: cost about $9B all in, employs 2,500 or so people, took decades to design and build. The successor project is on the table, priced as a cool $23B. No Faraday in his loft or Edison at Menlo Park is going to build this thing. Only Imperial Storm Troopers are so precise. I mean, only governments can fund such things.

The counterargument: a geek in his garage can still change the world. Government sponsorship doesn’t seem to be well suited to promoting Mountain Dew fueled creative outbursts by loners glued to a screen. Also, around the fringes at least, industry tends to find and exploit government inefficiencies: from FedEx to SpaceX on the large scale side, to cash only doctors and black markets on the more personal side, government control of the creative process is sieve-like. That lone (figuratively) genius keeps making Uncle Sam look bad.

Thus, government is motivated to plug the holes.

In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The first modern research university, the University of Berlin, was founded in 1809. Promoting the notion that universities exist to extend human knowledge and not to merely pass on a culture and equip their graduates to live free lives, it quickly became the model for universities in Europe and America. Before 1900, all the major US Universities had adopted the Prussian University Model: research was primary and, indeed, the only justification for a university’s existence.

Eisenhower’s idea that research universities were ever a fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery ignores the reality that this sort of university was created by and for the state, for the purposes of the state. All that was happening in the post WWII years was that government funding of the universities began growing quickly and without limit – a phenomenon unchecked to this day.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

He who pays the piper calls the tune. What tune, do you suppose, our government is calling? Not just this year’s elected officials, nor just elected officials over time, but The Government? Think the Praetorian Guard, who chose Emperors based on who would best serve – the Praetorian Guard. Do you imagine that dynamic – people for whom their positions in government are ends, not means, executing their duties in such a way as to ensure their continued and growing power – doesn’t exist today? That would be a claim of American Exceptionalism into truly unique territory.

Tunes are called that preserve and extend the powers of the tune-callers. Projects get funded, schools get grants, based on how well they meet the needs of the people doing the funding and granting. Not that there isn’t overlap and reciprocation. Schools and research foundations send people into government bureaucracies; ex government people find jobs within schools and labs. Everybody takes care of everybody else. Who takes care of us?

The scientific- technological elites holding public policy captive were formed in those schools, and infest those bureaucracies. Are Facebook, Google, and Twitter extensions of and partners with those in government who, like them, think of the state as an extension of their own power?

Back to those schools. In order to grow within the limits and toward the ends set by the state, virtually everything within the university has to be framed up as ‘science’ of some sort, something that can be ‘furthered’ by ‘research’; further, many, many more students had to be admitted. Thus, you get ‘studies’ fields, initially wrapping themselves in lab coats pretending to be science, but soon abandoning the pretext and simply attacking the concept – what is science, anyway, but whatever we say it is?

By granting standing within the state-funded universities to such infantile absurdities as gender studies and critical race theory, our fine institutions were giving the government what it said it wanted: millions and millions of college graduates. That’s what all this funding – the GI bill, government sponsored student debt – is supposed to achieve, right? But you can only crank out so may mathematicians and physicists, even way dumbed down, given the feed stock. So the universities were highly motivated, by government dollar signs, to create ‘fields’ more in tune with the demonstrated capabilities of the vast numbers of high school students they now were supposed to educate, or, more realistically, award degrees to.

Thus, for example, your recent Early Childhood Education master could not have gained entrance to a good college, could not, in fact, have graduated from a good high school, a century ago with the level of knowledge that earned him that advanced degree. But he can tell you all about systemic injustice.

We are now neck deep in well-trained ignoramuses who imagine their college degrees make them the best educated, most moral people the world has ever known. And they believe – because they were told so – that they are *scientific* and what they know is *science*. What a physicist knows about physics and what a women’s studies major knows about the history of sex roles in society are both knowledge, except that her knowledge about suffragettes is *more so* knowledge. She knows that science is a social construct and that physicist – a man, no doubt – is laboring under false consciousness, imagining, as he does, that his knowledge has been empirically verified in an objective world.

We’ve set the stage for a Replication Crisis: what happens when the unenlightened apply the objective rules of scientific inquiry to the conclusions drawn by the wokesters with doctorates in psychology – which doctorates, jobs, and tenure they ‘earned’ via the claims the pedantic fuddy-duddies are now failing to replicate. The frauds – let’s dispense with the euphemisms – thus exposed, resort to the one unfailing weapon long used in such situations: name calling, which escalates quickly to character assassination.

They don’t even have to try to destroy the career prospects of such party poopers – everyone in their fields holds their positions via the exact same mechanisms – mere expressions of popular prejudice masquerading as scientific research – which are very, very unlikely to hold up to the slightest criticism. Like the current position holders are going to *support* the critics? The critic, by his criticism, has committed career suicide.

In such well-trained folks, a claim of science *is* science. What else could science be?

But these are the bottom feeders. Up the food chain a bit are people doing work that involves, cargo-cult style, some real science. The palm leaf planes they build do have propellers and wings – they look like planes! – they just don’t fly. Climate ‘science’ is almost too easy to criticize in this respect. Any halfway serious discussion get down to CO2 being a greenhouse gas. The climate panic sceptic agrees, but asks further questions, at which point the motte-and-bailey is deployed: questions about insane, unsupported extrapolations are reframed as challenges to the Science!: so you’re saying CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas? Science denier!

The legions of rabbits trained in our universities and colleges believe that claims of science are science when made by approved claimants, thus that man caused climate change is real, evil, and can be reversed if we recycle enough straws, and that anything the nice people on the news tell us we should do to ‘fight’ the ‘pandemic’ is OF COURSE what all right-thinking, intelligent, *scientific* people do. It’s interesting that the reaction to challenges isn’t cool, focused discourse, but merely angry gainsaying. Any push back is taken as a personal attack, because the personhood of the well-educated IS their membership on Team Smart, Good, and Scientific.

Reason’s got nothing to do with it.

The ultimate betrayal, the ultimate replication crisis, if you will, is perpetrated by those held up as icons of the Team Smart, Good, and Scientific: the Sagans, Tysons, and (yikes!) Nyes of the world. Instead of teaching people the process by which real scientific progress is made, and the necessary limits to that process, they promulgate select conclusions, or rather, current states, of that process, freely mingled with wishful thinking that flatters what the rabbits ‘know’.

The well-educated rabbits *know* we are destroying the planet. What that means is inscrutable, and is made up of equally vague concepts such as overpopulation, pollution, and global warming. Insisting people define what they mean by ‘destroying the planet’ or any of its pieces is met with anger. How dare we! Our doom is sealed! Bad people – like those who dare question the dogma – will destroy the world if we don’t make everybody eat organic, stop fracking, eschew plastic bags, have fewer children, ban plastic straws, eat bugs, save the whales, wear masks, and so on, in an everchanging kaleidoscope of panicked, self-righteous totalitarianism.

We have created a world of widespread scientific fraud. The replication crisis is the tip of this iceberg, where a few maverick, soon to be silenced, people dare to follow the rules of good science. If even a single-digit percentage of people understood how science actually works, this fraud, and all the other frauds, would have a hard time not merely convincing people, but getting those people to fight for the frauds. How dare you!

Over time, my conception of how many people understand just the basics of how science works has shrunk to – very, very few. I’m not talking about expertise in any particular field – such expertise seems, as often as not, to blind rather than enlighten people to the fundamentals of the process itself. The basics of science are nothing too hard, it seems to me, merely the need for clear statements, clear logic, consistent data, consistent and repeatable methodologies, and a humble submission to the criticisms of others.

The real science, in the sense of the place where an understanding of the process is needed, comes at the beginning, before the math, before the definition of methods, before data collection, before analysis. This level of understanding allows someone to read the abstract and determine if the paper can, in theory, prove what it is claimed to prove. Reading an abstract does not tell you that the paper succeeds, but it can tell you whether it even can succeed. Thus, when I read the abstracts of the studies alleged to prove the efficacy of mask in preventing or slowing the spread of an airborne respiratory virus across general populations, I can tell if it is even possible for the study to support that claim. I didn’t think this was a superpower, I thought it was the baseline of scientific literacy. But it seems rare and poorly understood.

The well-educated and highly-certified rabbits can’t even understand what this even means. They effing love science because they do and believe whatever the member of their team with a lab coat tells them to do or believe. They will fight to defend anything told them, evidence to the contrary be damned! To do anything less, to admit any doubts, would be to risk expulsion from the team. Since they, good front row kids that they are, have no other identity or roots, they will roll over and expose their necks as ordered.

Fuel & Tunnels

My wife says I should try to meet Elon Musk. Riiiiight. Her reasoning: I seem to think like him, in the sense that I notice what seems to me overwhelmingly obvious things that, for whatever reason, completely escape the notice of almost everybody else. This ignores the difference in native intelligence – I’m a pretty smart guy, but not in Mr. Musk’s league – and, most important, work ethic – I can and have happily whiled away hours and days at a time without achieving what Musk gets done before breakfast on a bad day. Having known people like that, the kind of people who rest by thinking about solutions to some other problem, I get tired just thinking about it.

Couple cases in point: For decades, my longsuffering spouse has heard me rant about how solar is largely meaningless without vast improvements in storage: until you can save the power on nice sunny days for use at night and on cloudy days, we (collectively) still need traditional power generation capacity at or near current levels. All solar would do is allow us to throttle down on occasion.

Musk founds Tesla and buys SolarCity, in order to develop adequate battery storage systems for meaningful solar power systems.

For decades, my wife has heard me speculate on the need for more traffic tunnels. With the advent of tunnel boring machines, which not only dig the tunnel, but install steel-reinforced concrete liners at the same time, scale and improved efficiencies should enable more and more traffic problems to be addressed by cutting more direct routes that simply go under or through obstacles.

There was a period of half a year when I commuted from a rural area nestled against Mt. Diablo, from where it took about a 10 minute drive to get into civilization. Then, from civilization, the 5 mile drive to work took over half an hour. I had to take a route that is one of only three ways to get from the bedroom communities along the Bay and Delta down to the freeways that take you to Silicon Valley. So, at 7:30 in the morning, lines of traffic traced back over the hills, which then had to merge with other traffic and head down surface streets for about 7 miles to get to the freeway.

A direct route would run smack into Mt. Diablo. Actual routes skirted the mountain, or otherwise went miles out of the way. I would regularly say to my wife: if you threw 6 lanes worth of tunnels through Mt. Diablo from the Delta to San Ramon on the 680, all this traffic could get where they’re going without having to flood the surface streets, making my 10 minute local drive take 45 minutes.

Musk founds the Boring Company.

TMI, but it does show modern tunnel boring machines in action

I’ve long discounted space travel. The economics simply don’t add up. One way to think of the problem: best case (SpaceX’s Starship and Super-heavy booster) it takes about 45 tons of fuel on the ground to put one ton of fuel into low earth orbit. So, if you want to go somewhere, Mars, say, you’ll need 45 times as much fuel to get to the starting line (low earth orbit) as it will take you get to and return from Mars.

Which is a lot of fuel. The Super-heavy booster holds 3,000 tons of fuel, and burns effectively all of it to get Starship 100 miles up. Starship then burns almost all its fuel to get the rest of the way into orbit – with only a max of 150 tons of cargo. You’d need something like 1,000 tons of fuel to get Starship to Mars from low earth orbit – and that’s just a 1-way ticket.

So, to go to Mars using the most efficient and practical methods now in development, you need to launch your spaceship into low earth orbit, then launch about 1/2 a dozen more refueling ships, each burning about 5,000 tons of fuel to get enough fuel to your orbiting Mars bound ship to get it to Mars – but not enough to get it back to earth.

On the plus side, fuel is (relatively) cheap. Haven’t heard yet how they plan to keep the fuel – methane and liquid oxygen – supercooled and liquid while all this refueling is going on, but that’s an engineering problem. The hammer I have is economics (if I wanted an academic title for my expertise, I’d be an Applied Microeconometrician) and so I’ll bang on the economics of the thing.

The challenge is daunting: first, you must fund the development of the tech; then, fund its deployment; then fund its ongoing operation. If the goal is building a self-sustaining settlement on Mars, I cannot imagine how the economics could possibly support that. You’d spend a trillion dollars to get a 1,000 people on Mars, huddled inside probably underground habitats, doing – what, exactly? Mining feedstock for a methane and LOX plant so that they can go home? And? “Outside” is no more hospitable than the surface of the moon. There’s nothing on Mars worth anything like what it would take to get it and send it back to earth….

Musk becomes a billionaire so that he can fund the initial development out of pocket. He comes up with StarLink, a broadband from anyplace on earth system that, it turns out, should generate billions in revenues per year – and is deployed using the rockets he’s developed. He comes up with a series of uses for Starship, each of which has potential revenue streams attached to it: bulk LEO lifter, moon lander, super high speed point to point transport, each with subspecialties under them. If even a few of these things work out, SpaceX will have the revenue streams needed to build a fleet of Starships, without any being attached to a Mars colony.

Well? Could it work? My gut level analysis is: No. A Mars colony would have to be a massive, nation or planetary level, vanity project. Economically, it does not now make sense. The complexity and risk, not to mention expense, associated with refueling LEO spaceships from earth for interplanetary travel looks prohibitive. The chances for any profits from space are fanciful. (The idea that you’ll just go snag asteroids rich in rare elements is – optimistic.)

But…. What if you could refuel from space? The moon has water, it is said, from which methane/LOX can be made. Getting fuel from the moon to orbit is vastly easier. Better yet, there are comets made up of the needed feedstocks…. All you have to do is lasso one….

Or maybe Venus? Drop a factory into orbit, scoop up (somehow) some of that sweet CO2 atmosphere, and boom! (figuratively! I hope!) you’re ready to go.

Best of all, invent Hobartium – that’s the room-temp superconductor from Mike Flynn’s Firestar series – and unfurl the mag sails!

Surprising breakthroughs are made, so this isn’t totally a fantasy. But for now, it’s fuel from earth – and that’s not a pretty sight.

My wife imagines me having this chat with Elon Musk. I imagine he’s thought of all this and more. It would be fun. Not sure what the point would be . Evidently, he likes to hire people who dream big and execute. I’m half-way there!

In Praise of Gilgamesh

Sure I read this epic way back, but only vaguely remembered it. Today, with my 8th graders, we read the first half of it in conjunction with our studying of Sumer and the succeeding cultures. At the suggestion of the two moms who make up the curriculum committee, we used a version slightly cleaned up for younger readers – Gilgamesh the Hero – where Shamhat merely kisses and caresses Enkidu, and untangles the knots in his (body covering) hair – not the 6 days and 7 nights of lovemaking described in the original(s). Also skates around the whole issue of Gilgamesh’s use of the young women of Uruk, which figures in the sources as a complaint of the people against him.

But not too far off the sources. Since we’re reading translations from languages and cultures distant from us in more than just time, anything is going to be somewhat of an interpretation. It was sufficient.

What struck me this time, after we had just begun studying Sumer, is how perfectly the epic illustrates what I’ve been telling the kids about the fundamental role of mythology: myths are the stories we tell to explain the world and ourselves to ourselves. Consider:

Gilgamesh the historical figure traces back to the original 7 cities of Sumer, around 3200 BC. They were surrounded by Nature in its less cuddly forms.

Enkidu might as well have been an Akkadian: one of the wild men who lived on the borders of Sumer, who built cities of their own in imitation, and conquered it – and were in turn conquered by its culture. It was one of those very common cases in history where less civilized peoples conquer a higher civilization, but then, in turn, absorb and are conquers by it. When the Akkadian empire reverted to the control of Sumerians, did anybody much notice?

Shamhat is the bravest character in the story, sitting naked and beckoning to Enkidu, then ‘civilizing’ him through lots of sex and sympathy (our version emphasized the sympathy, of course -and the two things – sex and sympathy – might not have been all that different in the minds of Sumerians).

Then Nature and barbarism – the two things Sumer knew from experience to fear – embodied by Enkidu, fight the cruelty of of Gilgamesh, who is the corrupted civilized man. Gilgamesh is without any sympathy -he takes the young men of Uruk and spends them like arrows from his quiver, and uses the young women without remorse. But the newly civilized and sympathetic Enkidu – raised to that state by the concubine/temple prostitute Shamhat – fights him to a standoff, and becomes his first and best friend. Their epic tussle destroys much of Uruk, which seems to get reconstructed off screen – at least, it is there to be largely destroyed again by the Bull of Heaven a few tablets later.

So the civilized man by birth, becoming friends with the recently civilized wild man, tempers his excesses, even if unconsciously. The people rejoice because, enraptured by his new friendship, Gilgamesh lays off the wars and rape that have so drained his subjects.

Sumer was built of three materials: mud bricks – very common; fired bricks – less common; and stone – imported at great expense. The locally available timber was meagre, and hardly suited to major projects. So the epic takes our hero and his new friend over to what later becomes known as Lebanon, where suitably epic cedars grow.

With the help of the sun god, they defeat the monstrous spirit who guards the forest. They then chop down the largest tree in the forest, to be used to make city gates for Uruk, and a temple for the sun god. Again, what is more important to or symbolic of an ancient Sumerian city than its walls and gates? Nature is not conquered so much as civilized in an almost comically literal sense.

And so on. We only covered the first half of the story this week, saving the second half for next. All this is very much in keeping with the actual history of Sumer and its surrounding peoples. I imagine it as a Sumerian bedtime story, the sort of tale every kid would learn from infancy. The fatalistic, if not tragic, ending is the only one possible to a people like the Sumerians.

But we’ll get to that next week.

History: Here in the Shallow End…

I just assigned a 16 page (Ariel, 12-point, standard margins) reading from Belloc’s Europe and the Faith to a bunch of 9th graders.

If you were a 9th grader, and some teacher assigned this:

A generic term has been invented by these modern and false historians whose version I am here giving; the vigorous, young, uncorrupt, and virtuous tribes which are imagined to have broken through the boundaries of the effete Empire and to have rejuvenated it, are grouped together as “Teutonic:” a German strain very strong numerically, superior also to what was left of Roman civilization in virile power, is said to have come in and to have taken over the handling of affairs. One great body of these Germans, the Franks, are said to have taken over Gaul; another (the Goths in their various branches) Italy and Spain. But most complete, most fruitful, and most satisfactory of all (they tell us) was the eruption of these vigorous and healthy pagans into the outlying province of Britain, which they wholly conquered, exterminating its original inhabitants and colonizing it with their superior stock.

There went with this strange way of rewriting history a flood of wild hypotheses presented as fact. Thus Parliaments (till lately admired) were imagined — and therefore stated — to be Teutonic, non-Roman, therefore non-Catholic in origin. The gradual decline of slavery was attributed to the same miraculous power in the northern pagans; and in general whatever thing was good in itself or was consonant with modern ideas, was referred back to this original source of good in the business of Europe : the German tribes. 

Meanwhile the religious hatred these false historians had of civilization, that is, of Roman tradition and the Church, showed itself in a hundred other ways: the conquest of Spain by the Mohammedans was represented by them as the victory of a superior people over a degraded and contemptible one: the Reconquest of Spain by our race over the Asiatics as a disaster: its final triumphant instrument, the Inquisition, which saved Spain from a Moorish ravage was made out a monstrosity. Every revolt, however obscure, against the unity of European civilization in the Middle Ages (notably the worst revolt of all, the Albigensian), was presented as a worthy uplifting of the human mind against conditions of bondage. Most remarkable of all, the actual daily life of Catholic Europe, the habit, way of thought and manner of men, during the period of unity — from, say, the eighth century to the fifteenth — was simply omitted!

Europe and the Faith, Hillaire Belloc, CH 3

… would you be overwhelmed by it? Hate it? Love it? I’d forgotten how sophisticated Belloc’s prose is. Given the dumbed-down texts these kids are likely to have read up till now, even though homeschooling does give them a leg up on the horrifying depths to which public school has sunk, is it going to be too hard? Guess I’ll find out. (As a 9th grader, I could have handled it, but I’m a weirdo from way back.)

Also assigned were a couple pages from the beginning of Machiavelli’s History of Florence and the Affairs of Italy, but, by comparison to Belloc, that’s easy stuff.

Finally, I’m in the process of picking out some Lafferty, from his Fall of Rome, as yet another perspective. He is a scream:

“The dance is something with no survival, lacking verbal or pictoral record. The Goths may have had it. If they painted, it was not in a medium or on a material that has survived. Their history was unwritten. Their scientific speculation may not have gone beyond mead-table discussions and arguments. There is no record of their early philosophy. Since they were Germans, they must have constructed philosophical systems; and also, since they were Germans, these would have been erroneous.”

Lafferty, the Fall of Rome

Don’t think I’d have gotten that joke when I was 15. I want to find his descriptions of Alaric and Stilicho, and his narrative of the events that lead up to the sacking of Rome. In outline of the raw events, he of course agrees with Belloc; yet he assigns much greater, as in a dominant part, to the continued loyalties and emotions of many of the players, specifically, to Alaric and his men.

This book – how much is it worth to you?

Lafferty is of course not strictly writing history, in the sense that he’s relying on a contemporary poem as his main source for what makes his account different. We know what the Greeks thought about poets. 1

Aside: that book lists for over $800 on Amazon, with used copies running over $50. I’ve bought a couple copies over the years at nothing like those prices, but now…? Somebody somewhere need to reprint all of Lafferty – he’s too good to languish behind impossibly expensive out of print books.

  1. Plato: “Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.” OTOH, Aristotle: “Homer has taught all other poets the art of telling lies skillfully.”

Monday Thoughts

A. Is there anyone in America so clueless as to believe mail-in ballots, without any need for positive ID, are anything other than the hugest election fraud in American history (outside Chicago), and that 2016 marks the last free(ish) election in our late Republic?

Don’t answer that. Strictly a rhetorical question. Of course there are. Millions and millions of them. Many are terrified enough by the lock down & face diaper fraud to believe anything the nice men and women on TV tell them to believe. Many have their self-images so tied up in their political affiliations that they will, at the same time, 1) believe their party wouldn’t do such a thing; AND 2) that they are just stealing the election back from the Russians anyway, not disenfranchising enough people to make Jim Crow look like a friendly mistake.

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

B. Yet, the weirdest thing: when I pray, I don’t worry. These days, at least – I spent much of June, July, and August unable to sleep, waking up at 3 or 4, going to bed only to get up in an hour.

Now? Even though every logical part of my mind says we’re totally doomed, we’ll all be Seattle or Chicago or Baltimore after the next election, and that it would take a revolution we’re far too soft to pull off to escape it – I don’t worry. Not that I know what will happen, nor do I tempt God by expecting a miracle, but – something. It’ll work out, somehow, in some unexpected way, far better than we deserve. I know it’s crazy, and I can’t explain it, but there it is.

I’ve even dreamt of it. I had this one dream where something awful happened to Trump, someone had to replace him at the last minute, and yet, somehow, that person won, and the real battle began – it will start with banning mail-in ballots unless notarized and received before election day, and weapon-purchase-level ID for EVERY VOTER IN EVERY ELECTION. The next day, Trump was diagnosed with the ‘Rona – and promptly recovered (LIKE 99.9%+ OF INFECTIONS WHERE THE PERSON ISN’T ALREADY HALF-DEAD. FOR MORE INFORMATION, DIAL 1-800-GET-A-CLU)

A sign? Hell if I know.

This is totally out of character for me. I’m usually Mr. Doom and Gloom. I sound like a balloon-head Pollyanna, and I offer no reasons, but I can’t shake the feeling this will work out. God has, at times, come to the help of his people, because He remembers His promise of mercy. It’s not like we don’t deserve to burn – nuclear war or a century of gulags would not be unjust, given how we have used our freedom and plenty. But I don’t think so. Let us pray.

C. Invested $25 in a cassette tape player that coverts recordings to MP3 format; dug up some old tapes. Found one with a set of 6 songs I wrote over 25 years ago, and a recording of a choir performing a piece I wrote almost 40 years ago. Recordings of recordings of recordings, in one of the worst formats for long-term preservation devised by man. Which is to say: ended up with slightly glitchy MP3s that nonetheless capture all the wobble and noise of a 25 year old third or more generation cassette. Barely listenable.

I’d throw some up here, at least the choir piece, but it seems WordPress won’t let you upload an MP3 on the free version. Gotta pay the man.

On the one hand, I’ve used this site for free for a decade now, so I can’t say I’ve not gotten my money’s worth. On the other hand, I’m not exactly flush at the moment.

D. Those 6 songs reminded me that, at one point, I actually knew a little MIDI. The songs are entirely virtual instruments run by a computer, with some vocals – me, on all parts – layered over them. Dumped it into one of those old school 4-track recorders (which I still have! Pack rat much?) A buddy of mine did a guitar solo on one song; otherwise, everything one hears is my fault.

I was clearly getting worn out or bored or both by the end, as the vocals and final mixes are pretty poor. Too much bass, everything up front and center, no hierarchy on the part volumes, clearly single takes on the vocals. I did nothing fancy with the MIDI, just the notes, over-quantized, using stock sounds. Didn’t even do any panning or reverb.

Yet – I kind of like it. Of course, only listened to them about twice now. A few more listens and I’ll hate it. There are a few nice touches in the songs. I’m starting to hate them just thinking about it.

But this has made me want to get a decent keyboard (my 20 yr old Alesis died a decade ago) and do some more MIDI. Things are so much less expensive now days.

My Luddite head hurts just looking at this stuff. I like music, not computers.

E. Prepping for two middle school history & literature classes is a lot of work. Work I’m avoiding at the moment.

Flash Fiction: All the Stars in the Sky

Night fell, and the sky became suddenly black. Then, slowly, whether due to some unknown process or merely to his eyes needing time to adjust to the deep darkness, the familiar stars appeared.

“Marcellus, come see.”

At his father’s words, Marcellus turned his gaze away from the last glow of the sunset, and walked the few steps along the city walls to where his father was working. Iulus took a step back from the device, clearing room for his son to look through the eyepiece. He saw the flat, elongated disc of a star.

“That’s the one,” Iulus continued.

“Why do you say that? It looks no different than a hundred others.”

“Ah, but it is. I have calculated the relative motion of all the visible stars, from tables that go back 10,000 years, to men who stood in the dark taking measurements until their eyes failed and the next men took their places. “

“As you now stand…”

“Yes, but with my device. To these observations, I have added the spectra, star by star, noting the dark bands…”

“And, applying a theory of your own, have deduced speed….”

“Yes. And now, direction as well.”

The impossible blackness became somehow more black, the stars more bright. It was said that some, on the darkest mountain tops on the clearest nights, could make out more, fainter stars even in the blackness; Iulus’s device proved this true. There was no end to stars.

“That star,” he continued, “is moving directly away relative to us. According to my theory, based on the displacement of the dark bands in its spectrum, we would have been in it about 2 billion years ago.”

In it?”


“What do you think stars are, father?”

In the darkness, Marcellus heard a mechanical rumble, the deep creaking of something large being moved. Siege engines, advancing under cover of darkness.

Iulus looked up into his son’s face. “No one really knows. The ancients thought them much like our sun, despite being able to make out the swirling shapes of a few of the brighter stars with their naked eyes. Some sort of atmospheric distortion, they said.”

“You have another theory, of course.”

Iulus returned to his device. “The stars are not mere balls of burning gas as we think our sun, that much is clear. They have structure. Some are discs; others are diffuse balls; a few are distorted, irregular.”

He looked back up at his son. “Sometimes, I can make out what look to be suns within the stars.”

Marcellus’s thoughts had turned to the battle that was soon to be upon them. They could hold out against a siege for a while, but, barring a miracle he could not believe in, the city he loved, and all within it, would soon enough be dead. Or worse. He himself would die, the young hero upon which the people’s irrational hope was focused, leading the defense of his doomed city. No amount of science in arms or any other thing could prevent it.

“I think,” his father hesitated, “that the stars are enormous collections of suns. Millions, perhaps billions, of suns.”

His son pulled his attention back to his father. “How would that even be possible?”

“The same mechanisms that formed our sun and its 3 planets could form many suns. That force that sends us spinning about, circling our light, could, given enough material and time, form many suns and planets…”

“Why would you propose such a thing? I see no problem your hypothesis would solve, even in theory.”

“Consider this: our best natural philosopher say our earth and sun must be at least 3 billion years old. I have spent my life studying the motion of the stars, comparing ancient and modern records. Almost all stars are moving generally away from us and each other. But only this one star, which we name Glosbe, moves perfectly away. If we imagine how things were two billion years ago, we would have been in that star.”

Marcellus was trying to appreciate the distraction. His father continued. “Our sun and its planets are alone and unique, we have long thought. Why should that be? Everywhere in nature we see repetition, variations on a theme. Why but one sun in what we more and more know to be an enormous universe?”

“What do you think happened, then? How did our sun come to be?”

Iulus fidgeted slightly. “Here I depart from firm science, and indulge in speculation: say the stars are huge collections of suns and planets and things unknown. Many appear to swirl. Perhaps suns are born within these stars, and,” he hesitated. He had always been a careful man. “perhaps some suns and their planets are flung away….”

“What titanic forces could fling a sun?”

“The same ones that hold our earth in its orbit. We see no limit in the scale of gravity. More and more mass would generate more and more force. Billions of suns would generate enough force to fling any number of suns away….” He stopped, almost embarrassed.

Marcellus considered. “This theory of yours presents many difficulties.”

“Yes. But I feel in my bones it is true.”

Marcellus heard a sound like a giant tree falling in the distance, followed by a growing whistling, followed by a loud thud maybe a hundred yards from the city walls. He remembered what makes that sound: a trebuchet. The enemy was finding the range.

Iulus didn’t seem to notice. He was back at his device. “Father, perhaps we should come down off the walls for the night.” Marcellus was considering what would be the pious thing to do. He couldn’t bear the though of what the enemy might do to his father if they took him alive. His father’s idea of honor would not allow him to kill himself. Attempting to escape might be possible, but only in the chaos of the inevitable sacking. He hadn’t planned on living long enough to consider that, as he would be expected to lead the defense. It would be unmanly to try to survive…

Thank the gods his mother and sister were both long dead. “Come, father, lets us return to our home.” His hand found the hilt of his sword.

Andromeda Galaxy (with h-alpha).jpg

(The science here is bad. But I liked the idea.)

Monday Update

A: Lots of important things to discuss, so lets skip that (and the *140* draft posts now in my folder here) and talk about something else!

B: Teaching 8th-grade and 9th grade level history classes is pretty much a full-time job. To prep for 6-8 hours of class a week takes me around 20 – 25 hours. Partly this is due to the amount of research I need to do into areas of which I’m ignorant (that would be most areas); partly because I’m reviewing, selecting, and producing handouts from source materials – the kids have been subjected to excerpts from Herodotus, Thucydides, St. Jerome, Chesterton, Belloc, Tacitus – with plenty more to come. Tack on the organizational and planning aspects and – there’s my week.

It’s fun, and the kids are great.

C. You’re dying to hear about progress on the Endless Front Yard Brick Project and Backache Jamboree, aren’t you? I know you are!

Short answer: nothing. Back in the summer, when the evenings were still light, I just couldn’t make myself do it. Started a couple times, but the next step – putting in frames and pouring concrete footings for the final 30′ stretch of wall and planter – just no. Started several times, have a nice pile of 2X4s slowly warping into uselessness out front, but – nope. So now I need a long weekend of nice weather and inspiration, or wait till Spring.

My money is on Spring.

D. This is not to say nothing has happened. Consider:

The sacred shrine to the Oracle of the Water Meter

Back in May, I think, when I finished this oddity up, you can see I transplanted some moss – that’s the little tufts of green. It seemed to have died, and weeds started taking over, so I pulled the weeds except for a few I decided to call ‘dichondra’, which they might actually be, who knows.

Threw some water on them when watering the trees and plants. Now:

Please ignore the former flowers in the planting boxes. It’s October. They died.
The moss came back! And is now in a struggle for its very life with the dichondra.

Kind of cute, huh? Give it a rainy winter, and it’ll take over the world.

E. Speaking of Nature in all its glory and horror: my beloved wife suggested, and I enthusiastically agreed, to plant some morning glories.

Well. I stuck some seeds in the ground in a small patch between the fig and citrus trees, behind the brick bench I put in during phase 3.2(b) of the above mentioned Endless Project. Poor things! Took a long time to come up, only 5 did, and the bugs got right after them. So I started a few inside, just in case. Transplanted them outside in June. We had 7 little plants that made it.

But they didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I stuck a light redwood trellis in the ground for them, by way of encouragements.

It evidently worked:

What may not be apparent from this picture: the sheer massiveness of the plants – the only reason I think the trellis hasn’t snapped is because the vines are now strong enough to hold themselves up. The whole mass is leaning dangerously forward. I have a pole propping it up on the far side, as it looked like it was going to fall that way originally. Word is they die with the first frosts, which here in NoCal tend to happen in December. So it’s going to get bigger.

For the last month, I’ve been waging daily war, snipping morning glory vines trying to strangle the fig and citrus. The next day, there are more vines. I think with a little patience, I could watch them grow. I’ve stopped watering it, which seems to have kicked it into flower-making mode.

So I did a little belated research on morning glories. One consistent warning: once you’ve gotten a batch established, it’s all but impossible to get ride of them – they shed millions of seeds that can last for several years, meaning that, even if you pull up a thousand plants one year, you will probably see more the next anyway.

The seeds, which are about the size, shape and color of rat droppings, are already everywhere.

At least morning glories are very pretty.

F. Speaking of unspeakable horrors, my beloved also planted a bunch of sweet potatoes in three planter in the back and side yards that I wasn’t using this year. The plants have done very well, although in my attempts to locate any sweet potatoes I have found only smallish, skinny ones.

But the leaves are edible! Kind of like spinach, but even milder. Since we have tons of leaves, I googled some recipes.

If you are interested, check out some sweet potato leaf recipes from Africa, specifically, Sierra Leone. YouTube has any number of cheerful Africans whipping up dishes that look, if you skip ahead and only see the end products, delicious.

It’s the steps in between that might cause a little squeamishness. I’m absolutely an omnivorous, and would gird up my culinary loins, as it were, and try this stuff if I came face to face with it. And it would probably be good! But –

A recipe that includes chicken feet, fish heads, leftover chicken parts, stray meat, and other probably best left unidentified ingredients, immersed in *cups* of red palm oil and then boiled until not quite unrecognizable – best just eat and not ask questions.

The funny part: they all refer to this as a potato leaf recipe, when the chopped leaves are added at the end and cook down to a mere background. Meanwhile, that catfish head in there is doing the backstroke….

They cook sweet potato leaves all around the world. Wilted in butter and garlic is quite good, although now I feel like a coward going that route.

G. Yesterday, we drove for hours to do some visiting, and so attended mass far from home – at a parish that’s decided enough’s enough. I will be as vague as possible, since the world is infested with Karens and narcs (but I repeat myself).

What I saw: a few nods in the direction of social distancing – people sat every other pew, sort of, which reduced the number that fit into the church proper down to the technically allowable 100. But the choir loft was also full-ish…

The overflow went into the adjoining hall. There, the folding chairs were maybe a little farther apart than usual.

The priest, citing the teaching of the USCCB, stated that it was simply morally impossible for a Catholic to vote for Biden due to his support for abortion. Whoa.

The most telling part: we got there a half hour early; the people from the proceeding mass were still milling around in the courtyard, chatting and visiting. I saw a total of 4 masks. After our mass, people likewise were visiting.

People are starved for basic human contact. Finally given a chance, they embrace it desperately, like drowning men finding a lifeboat. When we were walking in from the parking lot, never having been there before and knowing no one, a man struck up a conversation with us – just because. While waiting for mass, I was standing in the courtyard while a priest was talking with a small crowd nearby. When finished, he approached me to see if I was waiting to speak to him. I think he gets it.

They have evidently been doing this for a while now, so of course we had to step over the dead bodies in the parking lot and stop out ears to the death rattles of the dying.


Seriously, if anything, this congregation has acquired the herd immunity we all would have long ago acquired if the lock down had not been implemented to extend the outbreak. They have refused to trade social sanity for the illusion of safety.

H. Oldest daughter just passed 4 months of married life. She and her husband still seem to get along fine. 😉 She just turned 27, got a new job, and broke her finger. Sigh. Poor kid. She and hubby are looking to buy a house.

Kids these days. I’m itching to build them furniture and maybe a pizza oven for their new house! That’s the ticket!!!

Middle son got himself a serious squeeze, the kind he’s flying across the country so that she can meet the family over Thanksgiving. So far, via Face Time, she seems very sweet.

Younger daughter spends her days not dating her coworkers at Costco, who regularly ask her out, and not letting her bosses put her on a career track. A cheerful, hardworking, responsible smart kid – gee, they want to keep her? She’s planning to study languages at some grad school in the Holy Land, where Greek and Hebrew are taught conversationally, and the base language of instruction is French. Because why not? She’s barely conversational in French, so might go back to France for more polishing. She wants to study Scripture in the original languages, and will end up with 5 languages: English, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Hebrew is the only one she hasn’t at least got a start on.

Kids these days.

Youngest son was just confirmed in a weird (and holy and wonderful, don’t get me wrong!) outdoor ceremony with the bishop.

Wife is co-running the local 40 Days for Life, the last round of which was ended by the lockup. Now? Masked up and ‘distancing’, we pray.

Reforms; or, If I (God Forbid!) Were King

Not that anybody asked.

Regular reminder: in any area other than the intricacies of equipment finance math, I’m an amateur, a poser, whatever other ways you want to say it. In a preposterous parallel with Socrates, my brag is merely that I’m more often not so much less an expert in other areas than the ones who claim to be so.

Second, I don’t claim these ideas are practical, merely that they are essential. Hopeless, but not desperate? You decide!

Thus hedged, we proceed:

1. Escape the Praetorian Guard

I wonder if those who deny the Deep State also deny the existence of the Praetorian Guard? Because the existence of the latter argues the inevitability of the former. After 3 centuries of Empire, Constantine moved the capital from Rome – and that’s what it took for the Emperor himself to finally get out from under the thumb of the men meant to protect him.

REFORM #1: Move the Capital to the Midwest. While it may be a terrible waste of fine cornfields, let Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri cede a total of 100 square miles at their common border for a New District of Columbia. Forbid any new development outside NDC for a 100 mile radius – nobody gets to live nearby. No new airport – fly into Omaha, 90+ minute shuttle ride to and from the seats of power. Existing DC formally becomes the grand museum/protest zone it is in practice anyway, at least, insofar as it is anything positive.

RESULTS: Love the amber wave of grain and all, but your typical professional reptile won’t. As unattractive as DC is – hot, damp and nasty much of the year – it is just too handy to New York and other East Coast cities. It needs to be physically separated from the Coasts. Make it so that it’s hard(er) to get to and get away from from other seats of power.

The location of our new Capital. Sorry about that, White Cloud, KS (pop: 176), it’s just business.

2. Election Week is a Biannual National Holiday

Either voting is the great honor and duty of all adults in a Republic, or it’s something you fit in on your lunch break.

REFORM #2: By Act of Congress, or, preferably, Constitutional Amendment, the First week of November is declared Election Week in any year with national elections. The first 5 days will be labeled The Great National Discussion, where voters are to meet among themselves and discuss issues and candidates. The last two days are Voting Days. The full weight of social disapproval is brought to bear on any who treat Election Week as a mere vacation – shirkers, traitors, freeloaders, all!

RESULTS: Elections become important. The importance of knowing the issues and candidates is reinforced. Even better, we get to know our fellow voters.

3. Voter Reform

The institutionalized fraud which marks our current elections must be rooted out.

REFORM #3: All voting is to be done in person, with the level of ID required equal to that needed to obtain a firearm. After the 5 days of National Discussion, there shall be one day of silence, where no campaigning is allowed. On the last day of Election Week, voting shall take place within each Century (see below). Absentee voting shall be discouraged, but, upon application, will be allowed, provided the same level of identification is presented and notarized. Voting age put back to 21. Paper ballots will be required. All voting is over at the end of Election Week – no extensions or delays allowed. Counting is performed/supervised by local volunteers

RESULTS: Something like clean elections, and the utter destruction of places such as Chicago and Boston, which haven’t seen an honest election in 150 years+

4. Jefferson Had a Few Good Ideas – Many Small Districts

A voting district should consist of a neighborhood or small town, such that the voters there can at least see each other over Election Week. We’ve reached the point where many individual cities are far larger than the nation the Constitution was designed to govern. Jefferson wanted what we would consider tiny districts, hundred in Virginia alone. Seems like a good idea.

REFORM #4: Voting districts reduced to “Centuries” – roughly, 100 households per district. These are the people who gather to get to know each other and discuss the issues and candidates over Election Week. At the end of Election Week, the properly identified voters in each Century vote. Each district elects a voting commissioner, who, in plain sight of all who care to watch, counts the paper ballots for his Century at the end of Elections Days. Each 100 Centuries elect one of their number – let’s call him a Decamiller? – to tabulate and present the results; decamillers gather and elect a state Voting Commissioner from among their numbers to perform and announce the final results.

RESULTS: Local involvement. Again, clean elections, but most important, LOCAL OWNERSHIP of the process and results of elections.

5. Constitutional Amendment to Neuter the Supreme Court

After decades of protesting that those who objected to the use of the Supreme Court to legislate where Congress lacked the desire or will were parinoid conspiracy theorists, the Left it pretty much owning up, in deed and in word, that that’s exactly the plan and always has been.

We need to put a stop to this, and reestablish the Supreme Court as the backstop to abuses of power, not the main instrument of exactly that abuse.

REFORM #5: no Supreme Court decision that overturns any state law or any longstanding interpretation of federal law goes into effect until confirmed by a 2/3 vote of the Senate.

RESULTS: The Supremes can keep trying to legislate from the bench, but, until the actual legislators legislate from the Legislature, it has no effect. All the crap rulings overturning the express will of the People (Prop 8, anyone?) and the actual laws passed by their representatives (Centuries of locally written and passed abortion laws?) and blatant social engineering (The very concept of ‘gender’?) are just fine and dandy – but have no effect until ELECTED officials WHOSE JOB IT IS TO MAKE LAWS confirm them.

And so on. I’ve got a bunch more, chief of which is removing partican politcs completely from the voting process – why are there taxpayer-supported primaries where we pay to have the parties choose their candidates? Screw the parties – choose whoever you want however you want on your own dime – and then pitch them to the Centuries. And so one.