The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: August 2013

Notes on “A Crimson Overture”

Many years ago a fan of my
Chess Hanrahan detective novels who had read all four in manuscript, and, in
fact, had used the manuscript of the last in that series, Honors
Due
, in her detective literature course at a major university, asked me
when she could expect the fifth adventure of the scrutinizer of all things
observable. I do not recall what my answer was then. She had already read the
manuscripts of the first two Cyrus Skeen Roaring Twenties novels, China
Basin
and The
Head of Athena
. Whether or not she had liked them, I cannot recall,
either. But she expressed a preference for another Hanrahan.
This column is about why
there will be no more Hanrahan detective novels, and why there will be no more
Merritt Fury suspense novels, either. I will also explain why I have dwelt in
the past and produced five Cyrus Skeen detective novels set in the late 1920’s,
the latest being A
Crimson Overture
, which edges into the 1930’s.
Before going any further, I
should mention in the beginning that what inspired me to write A Crimson Overture was Diana West’s American
Betrayal
: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character
, reviewed in my
column Our
Enemy Inside the Gates
(June 8, 2013), in which she documents the influence
Communists inside our government had on our foreign policies regarding Nazi
Germany, the Soviet Union, and the conduct of World War II. I had always
suspected that there was something rotten in that particular phase of American
history, and West lays out the whole stinking smorgasbord. She embarked on her
project, not wholly incidentally, because she wanted to know why Islamists were
having such an influence on our foreign policy, a policy which has grown in
suicidal leaps and bounds in scale going back to at least the Carter-Reagan
years.
I will not dwell on West’s
findings here. You must read her book and judge for yourself. I will say that I
agree with her thesis one hundred percent.
In the previous Skeen
adventure, The
Chameleon
, the detective’s curiosity is piqued when he is paid with a
bad check before he has even begun to look into the matter he was hired to investigate.
He discovers a murder and an embryonic Nazi Bund a-budding in a university town
south of San Francisco. And in the previous title, The
Daedâlus Conspiracy
, he journeys north of San Francisco to investigate
and foil a possible plot to assassinate a prominent U.S. Senator.
Both titles led naturally to A Crimson Overture, in which Skeen
delves into the murder of a courier of important information regarding the
Soviet and Communist infiltration of our government, and before the third
decade is even over (the following decade, the 1930’s, will be deemed the
“Red Decade”; that is the allegorical meaning of the title).
The chief attraction for me
as a writer to work in this series, in that time period, is that the
protagonist has far more freedom of
action
than he would have if he undertook the same actions today. More
importantly, he is psychologically
healthier
, as are many characters in the series’ “supporting
cast.” These aspects are important to me as the writer, as the creator.
Were they absent, were they not values I hold in high esteem, I would not be
able to lift a pen or poise my hands over a keyboard to write a single word.
To set a story in my own time,
and imbue the protagonists with the element of unabridged, unopposed volition
that is characteristic of Cyrus Skeen, is psychologically impossible for me to
accomplish. My mind and creative powers revolt against the prospect. They
refuse to generate any ideas that would lend themselves to a credible story. My
mind stops cold.
Call that a failing, if you
like. Or a lack of imagination. But it is my psychological health I am speaking
of here, and no one else can judge it.
Also important to me are the
values that such characters were likely to hold in that period.
I do not know how other
contemporary detective and suspense writers manage to write what they do with
stories set in our own time. I can only hypothesize.
They are clueless about the
peril posed by a government daily acquiring the character of a dictatorship or
totalitarian régime. This cluelessness or perceptual malaise would include not
just the omnivorous power-seeking entities such as the NSA, the DHS, and the
TSA, among other federal usurpers of freedom, but all the other intrusive and
regulatory Goliaths such as the EEOC, the IRS, the FDA, the SEC, the HHS, the
EPA, and other alphabetical abominations. Such writers seem to take these
things as the metaphysical given, or even as metaphysically necessary, and craft their stories to
accept them as benign, practical, or workable.
In the Cyrus Skeen series,
Skeen is often in conflict with the federal authorities of his time, such as
the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Prohibition. He freely, in defiance of the
18th Amendment, consumes alcohol and patronizes restaurants that
serve it. He is not above letting the air out of the tires of the automobiles
of Revenue Agents., or even taking a sock at a Revenuer.
It is interesting to note
that the enforcement of the 18th Amendment began with an arm of the
Bureau of Internal Revenue, responsible for collecting taxes on alcohol. It was
temporarily transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1933, and
when the 18th Amendment was repealed, enforcement and collection of
the alcohol tax was returned to the IRS. The ATF, or the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms, is its SWAT-happy descendent.
Chess Hanrahan, a private
detective who solves moral paradoxes in four titles, and Merritt Fury, a
fiercely independent entrepreneur in three, have been “optimized,” given
the nature and character of today’s political and literary culture. That is, there
are no more credible actions possible to them in terms of the scope of action
they might follow to preserve their values or their lives.
They are men of action. In a
culture that prohibits or regulates the kinds of actions they take, no action
is possible.
When I wrote the Hanrahan
series (With
Distinction
, First
Prize
, Presence
of Mind
, and Honors
Due
), and the Fury series (Whisper
the Guns
, We
Three Kings
, and Run
From Judgment
), I was pushing the edge of the credibility envelope even
then. This was in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, when some leeway in action was
possible and even credible. If they acted in a new story, set in contemporary
America, as they do in those novels, they would immediately run afoul of some
agency of government enforcement. It is a consequence I could not evade. And,
technically, that would be the end of the story that would never be written.
Imagine Merritt Fury, a
globe-trotting entrepreneur, submitting to the TSA’s groping and searching at
an airport. I can’t. I won’t. Imagine Chess Hanrahan ingratiating himself with
a murder suspect, sensitive to hurting the suspect’s feelings and risking a
lawsuit. I can’t. I won’t.
Literarily and existentially,
Hanrahan and Fury would not survive in today’s culture. They would find it as
repellant, esthetically barren, morally bankrupt, hostile, and doomed as I do. The
only alternative for them would be for me to pen a fantasy. I am not a fan of
fantasies. So, Chess Hanrahan and Merritt Fury are on strike. They will not
reappear until, as John Galt says to Dagny at the end of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, “the road is
clear.”
In terms of a political and
philosophical statement, if anything can be called that, my magnum opus is the Sparrowhawk series of novels set in
England and Virginia in the pre-Revolutionary period and ending with the
outbreak of war. That also is a series I wrote because its protagonists had
freedom of action, and the freedom to think without worry of repercussions, and
who were not vehicles of a cramped epistemology, as most men are today.
In the Cyrus Skeen series, I
highlight some premonitions of things to come, and try to emphasize some
parallels between Skeen’s time and our own. Skeen is a man of the mind as well
as a man of action. He is a perfectly integrated man. He notes, on occasion,
the intrusions of the irrational in art and politics and even social mores. In A Crimson Overture, for example, he
wonders about the futility of President Wilson having sent American troops to
restore “democracy” in Russia during that country’s Civil War after
World War I. The parallels between the American role in the Northern Russia
intervention, led by Britain, and our own intervention in, say, Libya, are too
obvious to dwell on here. 
I will write more novels for Skeen
until he reaches a time when he is no longer free to act without incurring
political or social penalties. I will refuse to submit him, and his wife, Dilys,
and their compatriots in spirit, to the indignities and baseness of our time.

Boycott Kobo Ebooks

The last major ebook
publisher, Kobo Inc. of Canada, has refused to remove its MP Publishing (Isle
of Man, Great Britain) editions of my Sparrowhawk
series from its online catalogue, citing a contract between Kobo and MP
Publishing.  See the Wikipedia entries on
Kobo Inc. of Canada here:
This overlooks and evades the
fact that MP Publishing, with whom I did
not sign
a publishing contract, was sold the publication rights to the
series by a now defunct publishing firm, MacAdam/Cage of San Francisco, which has
not paid me royalties earned by the series for the second half of 2012, per the
now inoperative contract between MacAdam/Cage and me, and as of today’s date. This
is clearly a breach of contract, to which MP Publishing is party, because it,
too, has not bothered to pay me earned royalties, nor sent me a statement of earnings,
and has remained silent on the matter. Culpability in this piracy is clearly
extended to Kobo of Canada, because it now has knowledge of the facts in the
case.
Kobo’s position on the matter
is that the legal relationship is between MP Publishing and me, not between Kobo
and me. This is transparent evasion and dishonesty, reducing Kobo to the
criminal status of a fence.
I am requesting that readers
here who use Kobo ebook readers of any kind refrain from purchasing any Sparrowhawk title from Kobo (and, in
fact, boycott the firm altogether). Regardless of the status of the contract between
Kobo and MP Publishing, it is a contract which expropriates earnings from my
intellectual property, which as of this date, is stolen property.
Legal recourse to correct this
theft or piracy would entail hiring a British solicitor or attorney to
represent me in any action against MP Publishing. This is a costly alternative clearly
beyond my means. MP Publishing knows this, and is counting on the prohibitive
cost such an action would entail to protect it from any just and untoward penalties.
It would probably bring Kobo of Canada into the litigation, as well, making it
an international issue and doubly complicated.
Readers who peruse the
Wikipedia entries on Kobo will see that the piracy of my intellectual property
is international in scope, extending to France, Japan, Australia, and New
Zealand, as well as Great Britain and Canada.
The simplest and most honest
action Kobo could take, considering all the facts in the matter, would be to remove
my Sparrowhawk titles from its sites.
This it refuses to do. It is willfully abetting MP Publishing’s theft of my
intellectual property.
Thanks for your cooperation
in this matter.

When Nudge Comes to Shove


In my past column, “Nudging
Us to Serfdom
,” I wrote that on January 30th, Maxim Lott of
Fox
News
reported:
The
federal government is hiring what it calls a “Behavioral Insights
Team” that will look for ways to subtly influence people’s behavior,
according to a document describing the program obtained by FoxNews.com. Critics
warn there could be unintended consequences to such policies, while supporters
say the team could make government and society more efficient. 
David Brooks of the New York
Times on August 8th entered the “nudging” fray with his
own mild-mannered perspective, “The
Nudge Debate
,” on whether or not the government should
“nudge” Americans to adopt accepted behavior as defined by, well, the
government, advocacy groups, and “public-spirited people” with
influence in Washington D.C.  
I say
“mild-mannered” because to read his op-ed, you would get the
impression that he thinks the semi-subliminal autosuggestions, and some of them
not so subliminal, promoted by government really aren’t so insidious or bad.
The government may or may not know best, but its intentions are benign. You
would turn the page thinking he could perhaps be talked out of his wussily
worded position on Cass Sunstein-caliber “nudging.”
Mark Tapson of FrontPage, in
his August 14thThe
Soft Totalitarianism of Nudging
,” more or less “bitch-slaps”
Brooks for having endorsed the whole idea, commented:
Brooks
looks to saviors he calls “public spirited people” to design ways to rescue us
from our incompetence and sloth. These betters of ours are designing “choice
architectures” that guide us, like cattle, in the direction of what the left
deems to be the proper moral and societal choices. To apply this theory to
policy-making, the public spirited people in the Obama administration recently announced
the creation of a “Behavioral Insights Team.”
Tapson summarizes the Brooks
perspective:
“These
days,” Brooks concludes, “we have more to fear from a tattered social fabric
than from a suffocatingly tight one. Some modest paternalism might be just what
we need.” Actually, what Americans need is less condescension and suffocating
control from arrogant nanny-state elitists like Obama, Sunstein, and Brooks,
and more freedom to exercise our individual rights and personal choices.
The last thing Brooks, Obama,
Sunstein and other ambitious “people managers” would want to be
called is “totalitarians.” After all, some of them have even read
Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or
Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.
They suspect, but do not dwell on the possibility, that “some modest
paternalism” is inherently the parent of immodest, total control. Once established, it knows no bounds. They suspect
the ultimate consequences of such “benign” despotism, but do not identify
them. They do not wish to see the naked core cause of all their condescending
“humanitarian” proclivities. Because that is where a closer
examination of their premises would take them.
All “soft”
totalitarians are walking embodiments of Doran Gray, and the essence of their
“souls” is not hidden in a locked attic beneath a dust cloth, but in
a lightless, dank cellar. They are vampires, and fear the light.
Yes, Tapson is right. What
Americans need is less condescension and suffocating controls from the likes of
Obama, Sunstein, and Brooks – to name but a few in a legion of such arrogant
elitists. But individual rights and personal choices are precisely what they
are the enemies of.
Let’s examine Brooks’ op-ed
in some detail. He writes:
….[P]eople
are pretty bad at sacrificing short-term pleasure for long-term benefit. We’re
bad at calculating risk. We’re mentally lazy.
Let’s take it for granted
that Brooks isn’t speaking for himself, though I am of the opinion that he is mentally lazy, for otherwise, like
“economist” Paul Krugman, he wouldn’t make such blatantly foolish
statements. Who determines what is a “long-term benefit”? Or a
“short-term pleasure”? Congress? Consensus? The AMA? Popular opinon?
What risks are worth calculating? And whose are they? What does Brooks mean
when he says “we’re mentally lazy”?
We
make decision-making errors when thinking in our own language that we don’t
make when thinking in another language. When asked to thin in a second
language, we’re forced to put in a little more mental effort.
Whatever that means. Perhaps
it means, for example, that when we slid into our cars, our purpose is to go
somewhere and return safely and sound. That’s our “own language.”
Perhaps by the “second language” he means the government’s mandating strapping
on a seat belt. Or buying lead-free gas.
As
these cognitive biases have become better known, public spirited people
naturally want to design ways to help us avoid them. In 2009, Richard H. Thaler
and Cass R. Sunstein published a book, called “Nudge,” on how government and
other organizations could induce people to avoid common errors. Last year, Sunstein gave
the Storrs Lectures at Yale on the topic
, which will soon be published as a
book called “Nanny Statecraft.” Last month, the Obama administration announced
that it is creating a new team to explore applications of this sort of
empirical research to policy-making.
There’s an interesting
concept: “cognitive biases.” What it means is that men’s cognitive
faculties are flawed, subjective, and highly prejudicial. Thus Brooks reveals
here that he is WUI, that is, writing under the influence of Immanuel Kant, who
alleged that our minds cannot really see or know reality, but only a filtered
and highly unreliable “impression” of it.   Ergo,
the reality we perceive is deceptive, optional, and malleable. It can be or
mean whatever one’s “biases” wish it to mean, however it imperfectly comports
with our prejudicial “biases.”
But are a government
bureaucrat’s “cognitive biases” more equal than others’? He cannot
prove it – reality is unknowable – but your intake of more calories than what
his scientists say is good for you empowers him to “nudge” you to
consuming calorie-reduced foods, because a “healthy you” is an
intrinsic value. To whom? To him. How does he know this? He doesn’t. It’s just
official policy. There’s no use in resisting a government policy. Just do it.
Brooks’ notion of
“cognitive biases” puts him in the dubious company of Paul Krugman,
whose August 15th New York Times column, “Moment
of Truthiness
,” dwells on how “others” manipulate reality to
make us think wrong things. Writing about the conflicts between voters and
politicians, about misinformation and the lies and half-lies of sitting politicians
and bureaucrats, he notes that
We…all
know that that reality falls far short of the ideal.
Or did Krugman mean that the
ideal falls short of reality? Or of the
reality?  Reality is optional? Kant said
so. “Truthiness” means that there might be an element of truth in an
assertion or observation, but we’ll never know. To Krugman, a Nobel Prize recipient
for his economic flights of fantasy and advocacy of inflationary policies to
spur economic growth (the “Keynesian resurgence”), reality is
discretionary.
If an economy is
“mired” in the consequences of past reckless fiscal policies, the
solution is to adopt even more reckless fiscal policies. After all, reality,
like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Lots of people running around
hectically performing pointless make-work and being paid by the siphoning off
of actual economic values is the way to go. If we can’t know reality, we can
fake it.
Krugman’s “ideal,”
however, the one that is too good for reality, is a virtual world non-stop
Looney Tunes cartoon, with Krugman in the role of Foghorn Leghorn.
But, enough of Brooks’
brain-brother.
We’re
entering the age of what’s been called “libertarian paternalism.”
Government doesn’t tell you what to do, but it gently biases the context so
that you find it easier to do things you think are in your own self-interest.
Context biasing. There’s
another wussy term for changing the cognitive filters. There’s not much
contextual difference between a mugger telling you, “Your money or your
life,” and if you think it’s in your self-interest to resist him, he will
kill you and take your money anyway – and a government telling you, “File
your 1040’s or we will destroy you,” and if you resist, it will put you in
jail and take your money anyway. In both instances, it is values – your money –
that is the object of theft, together with your future, which is held hostage.
So, the “soft”
biasing in the first instance is in giving the mugger the money and preserving
your life; in the second instance, it is complying with myriad government
diktats to avoid fiat punishment, diktats ranging from paying “your”
taxes, conforming to environmental regulations, not smoking, using seat belts,
eating “healthy” foods, enrolling in Obamacare, and in general
obeying all the prison rules, and preserving your life. And if you are in
business, it is a matter of complying with hundreds if not thousands of
regulations that govern manufacturing and services and other tradable values,
such as various kinds of insurance.
The truth is that virtually
all government policies today are reducible to crude criminality. All employ
the element of force or threatened force via fraud or extortion.
Brooks gives us samples of
his caliber of “nudging”:
Government
could design forms where the default option is to donate organs or save more
for retirement. Individuals would have to actively opt out to avoid doing these
things. Government could tell air-conditioner makers to build in a little red
light to announce when the filter needs changing. That would make homes more
energy efficient, since people are too lazy to change the filters promptly
otherwise. Government could crack down on companies that exploit common
cognitive errors to induce you to pay more for your mortgage, bank account,
credit card or car warranty. Or, most notoriously, government could make it
harder for you to buy big, sugary sodas.
Brooks of course would argue:
Well, a nudge-happy government wouldn’t force
you to do these things. Adhering to the “superior” value
established by government is strictly a “voluntary” choice. And so he
covers his bases this way:
But
this raises a philosophic question. Do we want government stepping in to
protect us from our own mistakes? Many people argue no. This kind of soft
paternalism will inevitably slide into a hard paternalism, with government
elites manipulating us into doing the sorts of things they want us to do.
Policy makers have their own cognitive biases, which will induce them to design
imperfect interventions even if they mean well.
If hell is created by
“good intentions,” then “moderate” paternalism leads to
such things as the regulatory behemoth Environmental Protection Agency, which
began as a miniscule offshoot of the conservation movement. The proposed EPA budget
for 2014 entails spending billions of dollars. Brooks concedes that
policymakers are governed by their own “cognitive biases,” but their
“meaning well” is justified by their ends, not necessarily by their
“means.” The movement that began by advocating the saving of trees has
spawned a gigantic bureaucracy that commands the saving of the planet.
Individuals
may be imperfect decision-makers, but they still possess more information than
faraway government rule-makers. If government starts manipulating
decision-making processes, then individuals won’t learn to think for
themselves. Even just setting a default position reduces liberty and personal
responsibility.
In his single reality-based
observation – in his first sentence – Brooks explodes the myth of a
“planned,” “scientifically managed” economy. But then he
qualifies it with the subtle suggestion that individuals “thinking for
themselves” means thinking the way the government wishes us to think.
The
pro-paternalists counter that government is inevitably setting contexts and
default positions anyway, so they might as well be aligned with individual and
social goals. There’s very little historical evidence that there is an
inevitable slippery slope leading from soft paternalism to hard paternalism. If
companies are going to trick people into spending more on, say, bank overdraft
fees, shouldn’t government step in to prevent a psychological market failure?
Brooks obviously doesn’t know
his history, just as Barack Obama doesn’t know his deepwater Gulf
ports
. There are innumerable instances of “soft paternalism”
morphing into “hard paternalism.” For example, Weimar Germany was a
consequence of the Bismarckian “paternalism” of a welfare state, and
the bloody contest for political power between the Communists and Nazis in the Weimar
Republic itself paved the way for Nazi rule. The agrarian reformers of Tsarist
Russia paved the way for totalitarian Communism and the Soviet Union.
Brooks is right: The role of
government paternalism indeed is a philosophic question. But he is incapable of
answering it because his woozy conception of it leads him to endorse such
paternalism. To wit:
But,
in practice, it is hard to feel that my decision-making powers have been
weakened because when I got my driver’s license enrolling in organ donation was
the default option. It’s hard to feel that a cafeteria is insulting my liberty
if it puts the healthy fruit in a prominent place and the unhealthy junk food
in some faraway corner. It’s hard to feel manipulated if I sign up for a
program in which I can make commitments today that automatically increase my
charitable giving next year. The concrete benefits of these programs, which are
empirically verifiable, should trump abstract theoretical objections.
All the “voluntary”
options cited by Brooks are approved by the government or by one or another
influential advocacy group. In Brooks’ shrunken universe of “concrete
benefits,” organ donations, shunting junk food out of sight to a faraway
corner, and guaranteeing one’s charitable giving are hands-on “empirically
verifiable” imperatives, intrinsic in nature, and not to be questioned. He
has no need for any “stinking” abstract theoretical objections.
I’d
call it social paternalism. Most of us behave somewhat decently because we are
surrounded by social norms and judgments that make it simpler for us to be
good. To some gentle extent, government policy should embody those norms, a
preference for saving over consumption, a preference for fitness over obesity,
a preference for seat belts and motorcycle helmets even though some people
think it’s cooler not to wear them. In some cases, there could be opt-out
provisions.
So, government paternalism is
the same as “social” paternalism. Who establishes social norms and
judgments? What does it mean for us to “be good”? Government should
embody those norms and judgments, and allow individuals to “opt out”
if their “wrong” biases urge them to.
And that’s when
“nudge” escalates to “shove,” and out come the handcuffs
wielded by the “public-spirited” wardens of the “moderate” paternal
state.

Fear and Loathing are the New Freedoms


Imagine that Lionsgate
Television serialized Jack Abbott’s In the Belly of
the Beast
, shot it as a “comedy-drama” in the spirit of Mork and Mindy, complete with humorous
but serious lessons in life and prolonged observations on human behavior, sans laugh tracks and yuks. Then you’d
have the overall flavor of Orange Is the New
Black
,
a Netflix featured series about a woman’s time in a federal
minimum security prison.
Jack Abbott, for those who
are unfamiliar with the name, was a convicted murderer whose 1981 book about
the cruelty of prison life became a bestseller and was championed by those
literary lights, Norman Mailer, Jerzy Kosinki, and Susan Sarandon. Prison,
averred Abbott, was but a reflection of America society in general. He blamed it
for what he was.
Taylor Schilling, whose last
major role was as a fashion-challenged and acting-deficient railroad executive,
Dagny Taggart, in a skewed, bizarre, and often esoteric production of Ayn
Rand’s prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged,
plays Piper Chapman,  a kind of
conflicted Mindy, a blonde, blue-eyed inmate sent up for fifteen months for drug
trafficking. She is based on the real-life Piper Eressea Kerman, also a vacuous
nonentity on whose memoir, Orange
Is the New Black
: My Year in a Woman’s Prison
, the series is based, who
was also indicted for the same offenses.
Chapman is sent to federal
prison for fifteen months for transporting a suitcase full of drug money for
Alex Vause, a lesbian and an international drug smuggler and Chapman’s former
lover. In the series, Vause also appears in Litchfield Prison, a very
convenient plot development, because if she didn’t show up to confront Chapman about
her sexual proclivities, and to finally “break up” with Chapman, the
series would only be half the length it is.
Kerman married,
a year
after being released, Larry Smith, a
fringe writer who specializes in something called “Six Word Memoirs.”
Kerman reputedly now works as “a communications strategist for nonprofits,”
specifically Spitfire Strategies, which is devoted to advancing “social
change.” Given the content of both the book and the series, that should
not come as a surprise. Did Lionsgate Television contract with Spitfire for
advice on how to indoctrinate viewers? The series certainly qualifies as an
engine for “social change.”
And just when you thought
that Hollywood could not lower the limbo bar of grunge, angst, grossness, slice-of-life
naturalism, and political correctness any lower, along comes Orange Is the New Black (Orange/Black). It accommodates scurrying
human rodents and other vermin small enough in character to squeeze under the
bar.
Orange/Black
may or may not be a subtle metaphor for American society. It is difficult to
probe the motives and intentions of anyone who produces such expensive rubbish.
The excerpts of the
book I read I found boring if not unreadable. I won’t quote them here.
I watched all thirteen
episodes of the series, in order to ensure a fair and objective evaluation of
it. The hard part was recovering from the ennui of watching such rubbish.
When Kerman’s book appeared
in 2011, it was so drowned in establishment praise that it’s hard to rummage
through the layers of exuberant and lavish superlatives to find any substance. All
one finds is a fork-full of dry cake smothered in gobs of icing. One is
expected to care about Kerman’s sojourn in prison. The message is: Confusion
and self-effacing introspection are the new norm. Fifty shades of banality are
the new heights. When you glance down in appreciation at your prison shower
room floppies, you have attained Karma.
Much is made of owning a pair
of shower room floppies in the series, because to not wear them is to risk
contracting a fungus. But the fungus so apparent in this series isn’t physical.
It is mental. It is philosophical.  
Last June, Netflix signed a
second season contract for the series. It might now feature some Muslims as additional
Morks who can instruct Chapman on the art of being human. Chapman, being a
white, infidel female, has no wisdom to offer anyone. I’m sure various Muslim advocacy
groups have protested the absence of female head-bangers in the prison
population. Perhaps Piper Chapman will see the light and champion the creation
of a special arse-lifting room just for Muslims, and the issuing of free prayer
rugs and Korans by the prison
commissary. Just as we do for the killers in custody at Gitmo.
The first season brandished a
gamut of virtually every other “minority” or “oppressed”
group imaginable in American society today, all Morks in their own eclectic
ways: lesbians, butch and covert; a black transgender character and hairdresser
and former fire fighter; Christians, tame, laid-back, zealous, maniacal, and
even homicidal; Hispanics or Latinos of unknown nationality (maybe Mexican,
maybe Colombian, who knows?); various shades of  jive- and street-talkin’ blacks, from Obama
tan to midnight blue; corrupt and conniving prison administrators, and corrupt
and sex-cruising male guards, all white; butch female guards; indefinable
whackos of various stripes; and followers, leaders, groupies, and non-aligned female
felons of virtually every kind.
Then there’s Galina ‘Red’
Reznikov, the incarcerated wife of Russian origin who runs the prison kitchen
and a drug smuggling operation, played by Kate Mulgrew. Anyone familiar with
the actress from the Star Trek: Voyager
TV series, in which she played Captain Kathryn Janeway, will not at first
recognize her, for she has filled out and her faux Russian accent bears little resemblance to her commanding
tones as captain of a research ship roaming the stellar voids in search of plots.
Outside the prison fence in
civilian life, there is a darkly satirical presentation of American society,
dominated by Larry Bloom, Piper Chapman’s fiancé, portrayed by Jason Biggs. Larry
is an angst-ridden wuss of a “journalist” who finally dumps Chapman
because, as he says at the end of the season, he was engaged to her out of fear,
which wasn’t quite right. Double Duh.
Larry has two stereotypical,
nattering Jewish parents. His parents question his choice of Piper Chapman as a
fiancé and wife. Chapman, after all, is a blonde, Waspish shiksa whom they do not approve of. His mother is always serving
food. His father seems never to rise from the kitchen table. Larry hangs out
for wisdom with Chapman’s brother, an obese drop-out who lives in a trailer in
the middle of a forest because he doesn’t like people.
One must wonder: Why is it
okay to stereotype Jewish parents, but not ethnically identifiable criminals or
non-criminals? Say, blacks or Hispanics, or Asians? I guess it’s because most
Jews are “white.” And, of course, in this culture, it’s open season
on anyone who’s white. Or is remotely white. Such as George Zimmerman. In Orange/Black, blacks and Hispanics get a
pass. They’re just victims of “the system.” They are distaff Jack Abbotts.
Some of them have even committed murder, too, as well.
So, Orange/Black is a racist Netflix series. One can’t help but reach
that conclusion.
There are lesbian sex scenes,
and heterosexual sex scenes, all lovingly and graphically depicted by a
creature who specializes in grunge, Jenji Kohan, the series’ co-creator,
writer, and producer. Kohan was also largely responsible for 102 episodes of the
TV series Weeds and 47 episodes of Tracey Takes On. Neither of which I have
seen, because I gave up on prime time TV years ago as fundamentally unpalatable.
But, to judge by their IMDB descriptions, they are all darkly satirical and designed
and produced to elicit chuckles while instructing you on how sick you and American
society are.
Most importantly, Orange/Black on all counts is profoundly anti-man, that is, anti-man the gender,
not the species. There isn’t a single sympathetic male character in the series.
That should not come as a surprise, either. I say “profoundly” because
without the anti-man mantra, the series would not work.
That makes Orange/Black a sexist Netflix series,
governed by feminism. Again, no surprise.
The Washington
Post
, The
New York Times
, The
Advocate
, and other
publications
– all the usual
suspects
– collectively applauded
Orange/Black for breaking new
ground
in the routine cinematic flagellation of America and men. That’s the
new norm, as well. Read these for yourself.
I don’t think I’m spoiling it
for anyone by revealing that in the very last episode of the series, in the
very last minutes, during a Christmas pageant put on by the inmates, Chapman is
cornered by a “meth-head” Christian maniac, Tiffany Doggett, an inmate
with bad teeth who intends to kill Chapman for not respecting her religiosity,
for not acknowledging her “gift” for working miracles, and for
refusing to be “converted” and joining her little gang of groupies. Chapman,
in a rage of fury, winds up beating her to death. I think. Whether or not
Tiffany ascended to heaven in her pageant angel costume, or was put in
intensive care for a smashed jaw and lost teeth, will be revealed in Season Two
of Orange Is the New Black.
Do I care? No. Will Chapman
be exonerated, or sent to solitary, or to a maximum security facility? I don’t care
about her fate, either.
Why do I torture myself
watching this stuff? Because someone’s got to do it, to say the things that need
to be said. Because the establishment isn’t saying them. You would expect Jenji
Kohan to take the Fifth. But she isn’t. She boasts of her ability to produce
grunge. And that is all that is being produced in our culture. Blame Immanuel Kant.
He started it all.
One last word of advice: If you
want to watch an adult depiction of
female criminality, I suggest watching Leave
Her to Heaven
, or Double Indemnity.
Or perhaps the appropriate episodes of the old Perry Mason series.

FrontPage’s Spitballs Strike Diana West


There is a firestorm
occurring on FrontPage over a purported review of Diana West’s American Betrayal: The Assault on Our Nation’s
Character
, written by Ronald Radosh. Radosh penned a “review”
which questioned the reasoning and scholarship of West’s contention that
Franklin D. Roosevelt consciously, or by subtle policy, boosted the fortunes of
Stalin’s Soviet régime to profit from the course of WWII, aided in large part
by Soviet agents working within and without the U.S. government, and by Harry
Hopkins, FDR’s chief advisor and aide for so many years.
The title of Radosh’s review
telegraphs his hostility towards West and her book, “McCarthy
on Steroids
,” and what he plans to say about the book. It is
interesting to note that some time has passed since the first reviews of West’s
book appeared, one on FrontPage itself, written by Mark Tapson in July, whom
Radosh does not consider an authority on the subject of Soviet espionage and
FDR’s complicity in furthering the interests of Stalin and the Soviet Union.
Significantly, FrontPage’s
editors purged, or removed, Tapson’s objective, short, and informative review
of the West book. It’s too late for that, because, speaking for myself, I already
have a hard copy of the review, together with its now defunct URL. The text of
it can be found here,
on West’s own
blog site. Printed out, it comes to two and a fraction pages. How many reader
comments it generated is now unknown.
Printed out, Radosh’s comes
to nearly ten pages. Radosh may as well have written a book. It has generated,
to date, 182 reader comments, a good many of them criticizing Radosh for
conducting a smear campaign against West or otherwise advising him that he is
talking through his former “Red Diaper Baby
hat. Radosh continually accuses West of weaving a “conspiracy
theory,” when she painstakingly documents every claim, assertion, and
conclusion in American Betrayal.
Why would the editors remove
Tapson’s review? Because it contradicts Radosh’s in substance and in style, in
truth, and in honesty. The removal of Tapson’s review speaks volumes about the
motives of FrontPage’s editors. Instead of issuing a statement to the effect
that while they respect Tapson’s views on West’s book, there is another perspective
and here is Mr. Radosh’s, and even providing readers to a link to Tapson’s
review. But to remove a contradictory and controversial article is a confession
of intellectual weakness and moral turpitude. The editors do not wish readers
to compare the Tapson review with Radosh’s. They wish to play Big Brotherish
Ministry of Truth games with readers’ minds.
In his rambling, Alinskyite
article, Radosh expects West to have read or consulted every book ever
published whose subject was FDR’s conscious, insouciant, or unwitting
complicity in the preservation of the Soviet Union. He claims she didn’t read
this or that authority or author. Her knowledge and command of the field of Soviet-American
studies ought to have been encyclopedic, and if it wasn’t, then, as far as
Radosh and his editors are concerned, she should be shot down, discredited, and
her work consigned to a dustbin.
Reading his purported review,
I was constantly reminded of that old legal saw, “When did you stop
beating your wife?” “But I never beat my wife.” “Prove
it.” “I can’t prove a negative.” “Too bad. Let the implied
charge be entered into the minds of the jury.” “Objection!”
“Objection overruled.”
Reading Radosh’s
“review,” one is first knocked silly by the highly personal animus he
nurtures for West. It colors his purported review and does him no favors, and
certainly, as West herself points out, does nothing to lend his reputation as a
neocon any credibility. I could not shake loose the impression that Radosh was
attempting to defend Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, and even Stalin from West’s
charges. The invective present in his long screed is demonstrable and there for
all to see who choose to see.
But rather than attempt to counter
Radosh’s allegations of West’s incompetency and illiteracy – which in itself
would require a book-length treatment, something I am not willing to undertake because
the soundness and value West’s book speak for themselves – I will simply stress
that FrontPage’s editors have shown their dishonest and manipulative hands by
removing Mark Tapson’s review. That is an unconscionable and unforgivable
journalistic and moral crime.
That is a grave enough charge
that should weigh heavily on FrontPage’s editors. Radosh’s purported review may
as well have appeared in The New York Times, and we all know how committed that
publication is to straight journalism and truth-telling.
But, then, we are dealing
with Neocons here. Neoconservativism is simply a smorgasbord of supposedly
“right-wing” ideologies populated largely by former communists, retired
radical left-wing activists, cringing liberals, and even ex-SDS members such as
Radosh. It is as philosophically rudderless as traditional as “right-wing”
Republican philosophy (provided anyone can find it). As a movement, it is so
open-ended it may as well admit Barack Obama and all three Clintons as honorary
members. Neoconservatism can accommodate just about every ideology but Islam.
Had West written a similar
book about the infiltration of our government, military, and other institutions
by Islamic supremacists, would Radosh have attempted to pick it apart and
wisecrack about West’s insufficient scholarly abilities? I’m betting he would. Would
the editors of FrontPage have sanctioned it? To judge by their behavior now, I’m
betting they would.
They’ve shot their bolt, discredited
themselves, and I’ll never trust a neocon ever again. Not that I ever did.  
I have also reviewed West’s
book on Rule of Reason and Family Security Matters, “The Enemy Inside the
Gates,” here
and here.
Judge for yourselves. I have also critiqued another scurrilous review of West’s
book by Frank Csongo in The Washington Times, “Critical Tunnel Vision at
The Washington Times” (June 27th), here.
I conclude this defense of
Diana West and her book by paraphrasing myself from “The Enemy Inside the
Gates”:
On one hand, the culprits did
not value the truth. On the other, they feared its power and went to
extraordinary lengths to suppress it, erected ideological barricades to block it
from public knowledge, and punished those who spoke the truth or threatened to
tell the truth.
West’s lesson to Americans:
Reality can’t be redacted, buried, fabricated, falsified, or omitted.
And that goes for the editors
of FrontPage, as well.

Sparrowhawk Rescued from Oblivion


Many readers of Rule of
Reason and other blog sites know me best by my novels, especially the Sparrowhawk novels set in England and Virginia
in the pre-Revolutionary period. This seven-title epic series has been
published by MacAdam/Cage of San Francisco since 2001.
But, no more.
Without going into the many
details of the contentious and often acerbic relationship I have had with the
publisher, MacAdam/Cage, over the last thirteen years, I have determined, after
arduous time- and energy-consuming investigation, that the publisher is no
longer in existence. The California Secretary of State’s records report that
the company has been “merged into another company,” whose identity is
not noted in that department’s records. The founder of the company, David
Poindexter
, died of cancer on April
29th
, this year. The surviving principals of the company subsequently
vanished, or, rather, have rendered themselves incommunicado for months, and have
not acknowledged or responded to queries whether by email, telephone, or regular
correspondence by me, by other authors published by MacAdam/Cage, or by anyone
else.
The Better Business Bureau of
Oakland, California, across the Bay from San Francisco, has reported that MacAdam/Cage
has not responded to my complaint about a breach of contract and nonpayment of
royalties earned from either the printed books or the e-book versions, and
otherwise cannot be contacted.
There is evidence that MacAdam/Cage
and its British affiliated company, MP Publishing, which published the Kindle
or e-book versions of the Sparrowhawk
series, are now mere “shell” entities under which the surviving
principals are hiding.  
In 2011, dissatisfied with MacAdam/Cage’s
failure to market the series, and with its overall dilatory behavior, and because
of delayed royalty payments, which the firm was contractually obligated to pay
twice a year, together with providing a royalty statement, I published the
series on Amazon’s Kindle program. About two months later, and much to my
surprise, I was informed by MP Publishing that I was in violation of contract, because
MP Publishing had purchased the e-book or electronic rights to the series. This
was news to me, not having been informed by MacAdam/Cage that it had sold those
rights to the British company in 2009. I took down my Kindle versions of the
series. I later learned that MacAdam/Cage had sold the e-book rights to MP
Publishing of its entire backlist of titles, presumably to raise cash.
While I knew that MP
Publishing’s versions of the series were being sold on Amazon, my premise and
justification for publishing my own versions were that MacAdam/Cage had already
breached the three contracts I had with the firm, so leave was on my side, not MacAdam/Cage’s.
MacAdam/Cage had made some
disastrous business decisions, among which were the costly bidding contest with
a major mainstream publisher, Random House, for the publication rights to
Audrey Niffenegger’s bizarre novel, The
Time Traveler’s Wife
, which contest MacAdam/Cage won, and the publication
of other novels which did not begin to recoup the costs of their publication. Niffenegger
received a stupendous advance from MacAdam/Cage for her novel. She later
abandoned MacAdam/Cage for another publisher who paid her even more for the
rights to her future books.  
The Sparrowhawk series, however, has been a steady seller ever since
publication of the first title of the series in 2001, but MacAdam/Cage over the
years had never made but token and amateurish attempts to advertise or market
it.
So, to make a long and
depressing story short, based on the evidence that MacAdam/Cage and MP
Publishing have in effect relinquished the publication rights to the Sparrowhawk series, I have reinstated my
Kindle versions of them and also plan to republish the series as
print-on-demand books. I am making this move because, in answer to a request to
Amazon to remove MP Publishing’s Kindle versions of the series, Amazon replied
in the affirmative and will be culling those titles from all its venues.  Here is the text of the notification from
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, dated August 6th, 2013:
Dear
Edward,

Thank you for your message.  Please be advised that we are in the process
of removing the following Kindle titles from all Amazon sites:

Sparrowhawk 1 – Jack Frake ASIN: B002WC95IC
Sparrowhawk 2 – Hugh Kenrick ASIN: B002WC95IM
Sparrowhawk 3 – Caxton ASIN: B002TG443C
Sparrowhawk 4 – Empire ASIN: B002YD7VIU
Sparrowhawk 5 – Revolution ASIN: B002YD7VJ4
Sparrowhawk 6 – War ASIN: B002U0M5FQ
The Sparrowhawk Companion ASIN: B002U0M4UW
Sparrowhawk – Trilogy 1 ASIN: B003LY496I

It typically takes 2-3 days for a listing to disappear once it has been removed
from our catalog. We trust this will bring this matter to a close.

Best Regards,

Regards,

Anne Tarpey
Kindle Direct Publishing

All the cited titles are MP
Publishing versions. They have already been replaced by versions published by
the Patrick Henry Press, that is, by me.
And that is the end of that.

Nudging Us to Serfdom


One may say of that human
poltergeist, Cass Sunstein, even though he left the Obama administration for
the elitist fields of academic Elysium, “He’s back….”
On January 30th,
Maxim Lott of Fox
News
reported:
The
federal government is hiring what it calls a “Behavioral Insights
Team” that will look for ways to subtly influence people’s behavior,
according to a document describing the program obtained by FoxNews.com. Critics
warn there could be unintended consequences to such policies, while supporters
say the team could make government and society more efficient. 
Lost on all these advisors
and bureaucrats is the truism that the most “efficient” society is a free one – not what they have in mind at
all. An “efficient” society, if the notion has any meaning at all, is
one in which the element of initiated force is morally absent from human
relationships. Initiated force, whether physical or in terms of fraud or
indirect force, in an “efficient” society would be treated as a crime.
“Unintended
consequences” can only mean the expansion of government power over
everyone’s lives, and in every instance of expansion it has caused deleterious consequences
in society itself. Most of these consequences are either intended, viewed as
“good,” or remain unacknowledged by our de facto wardens. For example,
the 16th Amendment (and its Civil War and Reconstruction Era
predecessors), sanctioning a tax on private incomes, has grown from one that
was a mere single digit percentage of private income of all kinds, to over 80%
of it if one doesn’t have a pricy tax attorney or CPA to juggle the books and
take advantage of a mare’s nest of loopholes,  exemptions, and special categories. The
federal income tax code has swollen from 400 pages to nearly 74,000
pages
– and counting.
The Environmental Protection
Agency grew from the hippie ecology movement of the early 1960’s to a federal
behemoth with fiat powers to seize, destroy, and regulate all kinds of
property, employing some 17,000 persons and uncounted independent contractors.
It was a Republican, Richard Nixon, who signed it into existence in 1970.  Picture him wearing a Zodiac headband, a
scraggly beard, and a tie-dyed T-shirt with a “Peace” button pinned
to it.
Equally true is the notion
that an “efficient” government should feared by all not in the government. An efficient
government, shorn of all its inherent, bureaucratic ineptness and natural
lassitude, would have the lethal speed and instinct of an annoyed rattlesnake
or a king cobra.
Inefficient governments give
Americans room to breathe and act.
If it weren’t for that
breathing space, nothing would be produced or accomplished. In a mixed economy
such as ours, it is the relatively unregulated and unpoliced portion of it
which, by default, sustains the rest. Command economies are stagnant, and are
sustained only by the relatively freer but mixed economies beyond a nation’s
borders. Mixed economies are doomed to fail, as well, obeying the law of
diminishing returns and ending up as command economies, and ultimately
collapse. Mixed economies also ultimately become authoritarian régimes or dictatorships.
This is a phenomenon we are witnessing now under the aegis of Barack Obama.
The federal government’s
“nudge” program proposal continues:
                                                                                               
“Behavioral
sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost
less, and help people to achieve their goals,” reads the government
document describing the program, which goes on to call for applicants to apply
for positions on the team.
The only legitimate
“public policy” of government should be the banning of initiated
force from men’s relationships. All other “designed” policies must
employ force. By “cost” is meant taxpayer-funded,
and we all know that cost is the last thing on policy designers’ minds. Once a
statist agency or bureaucratic budget is implemented, all it can do is grow and
work at a deficit, siphoning off money and energy that would otherwise be
devoted to producing tangible values.
 Governments, after all, produce nothing, not
even the paper on which all the forms, studies, and regulatory diktats are
printed. Search a bureaucrat’s or government employee’s desk for something
produced by the government. You will find nothing, not a single paper clip or
pencil or blotter or computer. All these things and more are produced privately
and bought by the government.
Whose goals would be
achieved, and what goals would they be? Are they the goals of the multitudes of
Nurse Ratcheds in government? If the goals are personal or private, what
business has the government to help people achieve them?
The
document was emailed by Maya Shankar, a White House senior adviser on social
and behavioral sciences, to a university professor with the request that it be
distributed to people interested in joining the team. The idea is that the team
would “experiment” with various techniques, with the goal of tweaking
behavior so people do everything from saving more for retirement to saving more
in energy costs….
Such
policies – which encourage behavior subtly rather than outright require it –
have come to be known as “nudges,” after an influential 2008 book
titled “Nudge” [Nudge:
Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness
(with Richard H. Thaler, 2008)]
by former Obama regulatory czar Cass Sunstein and Chicago Booth School of
Business professor Richard Thaler popularized the term.
The
term “nudge” has already been associated with the new program, as one
professor who received Shanker’s email forwarded it to others with the note:
“Anyone interested in working for the White House in a ‘nudge squad? The
UK has one and it’s been extraordinarily successful.”
This is a prescription for a
society run by an army of Nurse Ratcheds. Maya Shankar is a wannabe Nurse Ratched. She wants
to make sure that you take your calming medication so you can be more easily
“nudged” in a behavioral direction deemed worthy by other clinical
psychologists and authorities in the pay of the government. If you don’t take
it voluntarily, she can recommend less pleasant ways of making you take it. By
force. After all, what’s the point of designating a preferred behavior if no
one prefers it? People can be either fooled into conforming to it (it’s called
” subtlety”), or forced to. Those are the only options a statist government
can and will offer.
Maya Shanker, standing in for
Cass Sunstein, and a mere senior
advisor
to the deputy director of the Office of Science and Technology
Policy in the White House, is seeking ways for the government to
“encourage” people to conform to preferred behavior. After all, she
must exploit her Yale,
Oxford, and Stanford University
degrees.  
Whose “preferred
behavior” has she in mind? Whatever another Nurse Ratched pulling down a
federal paycheck wishes that behavior to be, or a behavior approved of or
frowned upon by a consensus of anonymous ciphers. In short, she is looking for
volunteers who will help nudge people into adopting or abandoning those
behaviors. But it looks more like a program angling for a purpose and Shankar
angling for a super-duper nurse’s station.
Sunstein, now a professor at Harvard
Law School
, would approve of Shankar’s application and expansion of his
“people management” ideas, even though she is a Yale alumnus. In the
past I have written about Sunstein’s hostility to freedom and especially to
freedom of speech (“Your Mild-Mannered
Speech Therapist”
and “Cass
Sunstein: ‘Czar in Wolf’s Clothing”
). He has exhausted my allotment of
words devoted to identifying him as a soft core tyrant and will say no more about
him here.
I have a project for Nurse
Shankar. How would she analyze the epistemology and metaphysics of someone who
was burdened with demonstrable behavioral problems, such as Adolf Hitler? After
all, Shankar did research into the topological theories of perception and
object representation and is alleged to have made several startling discoveries.
What conclusions would she reach, and what would she recommend? How would she
treat his obsession with Mickey Mouse?
Did he enjoy the Disney
humor, or was he fascinated by Mickey
the Magician’s
ability to wave a wand and make every wish of his come true?
Such as a Jew-free world, endless lebensraum
in Russia, and a healthy, strong, and racially pure Aryan race that out-bred
other ethnic groups, and especially non-Aryans of every racial variety?
How would she rate his
perception and object representation? Were they reality grounded, or wholly a
projection of his fantasies and wish fulfillment? And, above all, given her extensive
qualifications, she ought to be able to answer this crucial question: Did Hitler
identify with Mickey Mouse? Was he amused or depressed when Mickey failed, and
looked more like Bullwinkle
pulling everything but a rabbit out of his hat? Or would he persevere in his
own program to “nudge” his nation into Pax Germania?
And if he did, would she
recommend a program of subtle “nudges” so that he wouldn’t become
such a bad person (as defined by the government), or dispense with the nudges
and just let him be?
I’m guessing she would recommend
letting him be. That’s because she apparently shares a similar ambition: To
institutionalize and legitimize force with the fiat power of totalitarianism. If
she did not share such an ambition, she would not have a desk in the White
House. And especially not in Obama’s White House.

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