Art and Craft

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I’ve become a horrible person in my old age.  And that goes way beyond falling asleep so hard that I slept through my alarm and left my poor long-suffering blog fans waiting for hours in vain. No, I’ve become one of those terrible people that Heinlein talks about who tell the unvarnished truth in social situations.

To be fair to me (ah!) it’s not on everything but when it touches on one of my areas of specialty.  Or rather, it involves tons of things, but it particularly rankles me when it even vaguely touches on one of my points of expertise.

For instance, yesterday someone was complaining that we shouldn’t measure writing just by output.  (At least I think that’s what she was complaining about.  Later responses edged towards incoherence, so maybe she was complaining about the color of the sky or the fact it hadn’t rained or maybe millennium hand in shrimp.)

This is one of the things that makes my fangs grow, my hair stand on end, and my eyes go blood red.

Look, yeah, I’m not encouraging anyone to write ONLY for volume.  If you’re a lousy writer…  No, actually hold that thought.  But anyway, there are people so bound out in their own issues and their belief of what writing is FOR that they can write dozens of books all completely boring, predictable and preachy. There is more to writing than that.

But supposing you’re just your average newby writer, quite inept and cute as a button, someone who reads for fun and who, consciously or not, internalizes what he reads and the techniques he sees and lets them bleed out into his work, you’ll get better the more you do it.

There are no ifs, ands or buts.  You get better the more you do it.

The countervailing argument is native talent and art.  If you are naturally very talented, do you really need to write a lot?  Can’t you write a book every three years and have your adoring fans follow you around?

Well…. maybe.  How do you feel about your luck?  Do you often win the lottery?  No?
Look at it this way: there are millions of  books out there, more being released everyday. Even if you were a natural hitter like J. K. Rowling with her first book, what are the chances enough fans would find you to give you a slavering fandom, waiting with bated breath for your next release?  Right.  If you have two, or three, or, you know, ten there’s a better chance of being found.

But it goes beyond that, too. Even if you’re a natural (such people exist, but they’re rare as feathers on a bear) you will improve with practice.  Trust me on this, I’ve seen people do it.  You get faster, cleaner and just better.

And as for art, the kind you have to sit around waiting for the muse to pour out the blessed words into your ear…  I’ve written muse-possessed a few times.  Yeah, it’s a high.  Yeah, you the writer love the product.

I call these “Heart stories” and it’s happened to me with a dozen short stories and a few books (the latest being A Few Good Men) two of which have never sold (yeah, I need to rewrite and… well, now I know what sells, don’t I.)

Nothing matches the high of a muse-ride.  Nothing.  But it hits maybe a half dozen times in a lifetime.  And it’s not infallible.  The muse might be screaming in your ears, but if you don’t know how to write dialogue, don’t have practice at immersive description and are iffy on word choice, you will still botch it.  Hell, if you don’t know how to shape the plot the muse is feeding you, it will still throw readers out (which is why I have a three-book fantasy that needs a complete rewrite.)

What I mean is, talent — eh, who knows if you have it? your mommy will always tell you you’re prefect (not my mommy, but probably your mommy) — art — who knows art? Sure, the muse rides people sometimes, but the result can still be a mess — but craft? Craft will stand by you.  Why? Because everything that you’ve done a hundred times you do better.

Unless you’re so bound up in bad ideas and bad techniques (alarm bells for that should be that you write “to send a message”, or that you want to write say in the style of the 19th century (It was a different world.  You might love it, but the reading public isn’t the same.  You have to adapt) or that you’re so wedded to the one first world you created and which is unsaleable in and of itself (I resembled that for years) you will improve.  Heck, even in the later you will improve.  You just get tired of it and move on. I did) you’ll improve with practice.

This is btw known as trust the process, and of course I didn’t because no one could explain to me how ti worked.  I still don’t get how it works, but I know it does.  When I went over my old short stories to collect, there’s a marked break in readability and just quality between before I started writing a short story a week for a year, and after.

Do I know how it works? No.  But I think it applies to everything, not just art.  For instance, this morning I ironed a shirt for my son.  Why? He can do it, right?  Sure, but it takes him an hour or so, while I can do it in five minutes.  I couldn’t when I first got married, but I’ve ironed thousands of shirts since then.  It’s easy and quick.

Or when I was a little girl, I watched my mom peel potatoes with a knife (I don’t know why we never bought a peeler) and get a tiny little peel, so thin you could see the sun through it.  if I tried it I peeled away half the potato.  By 18 and having been set to peel potatoes often enough, I could peel almost as well as mom.

It works for mental skills too.  Part of the issues we have now with people reading fast and writing expressively is that our school system (don’t get me started) as eschewed the “boring” practice which is the only thing that creates those skills.

I can tell you it works with foreign languages.  The method I used both for learning and teaching was/is “learn vocabulary” “memorize basic grammar” “Buy books/texts written for natives and sit down to read them.”  The first book in English took me almost six months, and is scribbled in pencil all over with translations (Dandelion Wine.  I don’t know why I thought that would be a good idea.)  The second took me a month.  After that I was reading at normal speed.

Same goes for things like speaking in panels.  The more you do it, the easier it gets, the more the answers come almost automatically, the more you can do it while dying or asleep (I’ve done both) and still be entertaining.

The truth is, anything you CAN do, from brushing the cats to composing music gets better if you do it a ton.

Now we all start from different places and for instance if I decided to become a dancer it would take me longer than the years I have remaining.  Because I have no balance and my coordination is probably negative amounts.

But unless people are actually insane, they don’t usually fixate on things that they know they are much, much worse than the normal human being.  Though even there you can get gains, if what you want to do is just become closer to normal. Because I’m fairly active, I no longer fall over my own two feet while walking down the street, even though it was a daily occurrence till I was about ten.

So, you want to do something? Practice.  You want to excel at it?  Practice some more.  You’re already good but want to be excellent? Practice.

Ignore things you can’t quantify like art, talent, divine inspiration, etc.

You want to do something? Do it as well, as hard and as fast as you’re capable.  You’ll improve.

Or you can sit and whine.  And then you’ll become an expert whiner.  Which is an accomplishment, I guess.

 

 

It is Fated

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For various reasons, but mostly because it’s now saleable and I have tens of thousands of words in unfinished stories, I went grubbing about in the old Austen fanfic sites for my stuff.  (Remembering the names I used was harder.)

Most of what I found is going to need serious revision.  There’s also the book that is missing most of the middle, because I had a note at the beginning and a thing about not archiving the note.  An inexperienced archivist thought that meant “Do not archive the post.”  Don’t go there.

What is interesting is finding things I don’t have the slightest memory of writing (we’re talking 15 years ago.)  It’s my style, and once I look at it a faint memory-like thing comes back, but I don’t remember what must be months of a chapter a week.  This disturbs me, because it’s like losing part of yourself. Also, am I going nuts?  Or was it just “young mother with young kids, writing late at night?”

But more interesting is reading some of these and coming across things that could be lifted whole from my later “serious” books.

It makes one feel uncomfortably like one is an instrument designed to deliver a certain type of message, which is going to come out no matter what the medium.

Which gets us back to the whole “was I designed to be a writer.”  This is perhaps more important to me right now because for various reasons, some of them physical, I’m having trouble concentrating even to type in/edit stuff much less write.

Which gets us back to the whole fate thing.

I grew up with “fate” as part of my mental picture.  Unquestioned part.  I was rocked to sleep to songs of people being destined to have some fate or other. It was probably the hardest thing to let go of when I acculturated, precisely because it was unquestioned.  Also because frankly most artists have a broken part of their brain that says “I’m meant to be yuge!” [looks at pants size.  Job accomplished.]

But if Himself is anything as an author it’s a pantser.  Sure.  We have the potential to be something, and maybe there’s some message He wants to get out, but in the end what makes you or breaks you is the decisions you make/plot you live in (and weirdly a lot of this is determined by what’s in your head.)

He probably has some dozen people designed to put out the same message I do.  And some of them chose never to write.  And ‘m not even fully sure what the “message” is as it’s woven into who I am.

It comes back to two things: the moment I was in the hospital, trying to die of pneumonia (now 22 years in the past) where what weighed most on me was the children I wouldn’t get to raise (they were 5 and 1 and change then) and the books I’d never written and which would die with me.  And the persistent wish I could go back in time and tell that young mother that yes, she’d get published.  Multiple times. Make a living even.

But if I’d done that, would I have fought so hard to get published?  Would I in fact have got published?

Sometimes, posting at insty late at night, I wonder at the weird trajectory of the little Portuguese girl, in a village of no importance, for whom dishwashers were imaginary, bathrooms inside were a luxury, and a six pack of colored pencils was THE most wonderful birthday gift ever getting the keys to a big site and giving her opinions to people who, had they seen her at that time would have looked at her as a touristic curiosity.

Is this a likely trajectory?  Is it even possible?  It has to be possible, because it happened to me.  But what fiction novelist could make this believable.

And if there were fate what mind would weave that one?

It makes no sense.

There is no scripted fate.  Or if there is, it is not written in stone.

We’re all arrows fired by a blindfolded archer, in search of a unique target.  Sometimes you have to make your own target.

It’s very easy to extrapolate from trends, both our trends and those of the nation and the world.  It’s also very easy to be completely wrong.

All those novelists in the forties and fifties writing of an overpopulated Earth weren’t cranks.  They were writing on extrapolation from the trends of their day.

Don’t be fooled by “perfectly logical” speculation.

The future is unwritten.  You (or the world, or the country) aren’t done till the count is finished, and the count is nowhere near finished.  The fat lady ain’t sung.  (And be glad, I can clear rooms with my singing.)

I hate “today is the first day of the rest of your life” as I hate most hippie slogans, because the answer should be “duh” or “It can also be the last.”

But it is still nonetheless true.  Nothing is scripted.  Sure, the past is prologue, but if you want you can defeat even the most persistent bad habit, the most awful “trend of bad luck.”  Analyze, change, create.

Do you want your story to be one of those that ends on a down note, of despair and inability.  O do you want it to be human wave “and he overcame all this to–”

The future is not formed yet.  Go create it.

Hurray for Thomas Sowell – by Amanda S. Green

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Hurray for Thomas Sowell – by Amanda S. Green

After a break for some snarking, not to mention some family demands that have needed to take precedence over everything, I’m finally getting back to Thomas Sowell. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about the second essay in Black Rednecks & White Liberals. Specifically, I’ll be discussing the second essay in the collection, titled “Are Jews Generic?”. In approximately 50 pages, Sowell once again not only gets to the heart of several social issues the United States faces but he exhibits a knowledge and understanding of history and human behavior all too few of the so-called experts do.

As with the first essay, “Black Rednecks & White Liberals”, Sowell uses historical facts and trends to illustrate why certain things happen today. Sometimes what he writes can be difficult to read. Other times, I found myself almost doing one of those V-8 commercial head slaps and doing my best Homer Simpson “D-oh!” because, with just a few words or a few paragraphs, he made something come into focus that I’d wondered about. Most of all, he made me think critically and, at times, question why I believed something.

That is what makes Sowell so good. He doesn’t shy away from asking the hard questions nor does he hesitate from coming to conclusions – and supporting them with facts – that might not be popular in this “woke” time we find ourselves in.

In fact, very often his research and presentation of facts put the lie to being “woke”. Let’s face it, much of what he said in the first essay proves that much – if not all – of the “woke” movement resemble the same so-called good intentions of the white liberals he wrote about. Intentions that have helped create and perpetuate the problems we see in the inner cities of our major metropolitan areas today.

Perhaps we need to take up a fund and send copies of this book to each of the Stoneman-Douglas kids who are going around the country trying to “educate” the rest of us on gun control. Or how about to all the Hollywood stars who think the way to preserve our civil liberties is to take them away. Of course, were we to do so, we’d probably have to stand over each of them and read the book to them, stopping every paragraph or two and asking questions to make sure they were both listening and understanding what Sowell wrote.

As tempting as such a thing might be, can’t you imagine their response? The twitterverse would explode with allegations that we were torturing them with propaganda that wasn’t woke enough for them. We couldn’t understand the suffering of the underprivileged because of our whiteness, etc. Funny how they seem to forget their own wealth and whiteness and privilege.

Hmmm, much like Sowell commented about the oh-so-helpful white liberals.

Instead, the best we can do is read the book for ourselves. Then we need to talk about it, first with our families and then with our friends. In other words, we need to educate ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us and Sowell is an excellent place to start.

So, getting down from my soapbox, let’s take a look at the opening pages of “Are Jews Generic?”.

I’ll admit, when I read the title of the essay, I wasn’t sure what Sowell was getting at? Being Sowell, he quickly gets to the point.

[I]n a worldwide perspective, the most hated kinds of minorities are often not defined by race, color, religion or national origin. Often they are generically “middleman minorities,” who can be of any racial or ethnic background. . . . (BRAWL, pg 65)

But what does he mean by “middleman minorities”?

He doesn’t answer that, at least not directly, right away. He does, however, list some of those minorities: Jews in Europe, Chinese minorities in parts of Southeast Asia, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, etc. Students of history might understand what he is getting at but others might not. However, instead of answering the question directly, he continues to build his historical context. By doing so, when he finally explains what a “middleman minority” really is, his point is really driven home. It is just one example of what makes Sowell such an excellent author and why he is so good at making his readers think.

While many kinds of minorities have been persecuted and subjected to violence, the sheer magnitude and duration of the persecution and violence unleashed against the middleman minorities eclipses that unleashed against other kinds of minorities. (BRAWL, pg 65)

The picture he is drawing is becoming clearer. The first, and probably easiest, picture that comes to mind is the Holocaust. Not only because of the title of the essay but because of the historical “nearness” of the atrocities committed during it. But he references others as well: the mass slaughter of the Ibos in Nigeria, “the horrors” inflicted on the Vietnamese boat people, the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Yes, the picture is becoming clearer.

“[T]he scale of lethal mass violence against middle man minorities has been unequalled.” (BRAWL, pg 66) Sowell notes that the number of Chinese slaughtered near Saigon by mobs in 1782 is more than the total number of blacks lynched in the history of the United States. Sure, there will be those who point out blacks have suffered other forms of violence than just lynching but Sowell’s point remains. That violence has been, especially in the modern day, a series of isolated events and not an instance of mass violence.

Or, to put it into better perspective, “[W]hile the Holocaust was the ultimate catastrophe for Jews, it was also the culmination of a long history of lethal mass violence unleashed against middleman minorities around the world.” (BRAWL, pg 66)

So, what do these different middleman minorities have in common and why have they been, within an historical context, hated and resented?

Partly the resentments and animosities against these groups have derived from the economic role they play, a role that has been widely misunderstood and widely resented. . . even when this economic role has been played by people not ethnically different from those around them. Differences of race, religion or ethnicity, added to the resentments arising from the economic role itself, have produced explosive mixtures in many times and places. (BRAWL, pg 66)

Does it really all come down to money? Not exactly. Note how Sowell refers to the “economic role” these groups play.

Think about that and about what he might mean. We’ll come back to that next week when we get into the “meat” of the essay. For now, let me ask you this: who do you see as the “middleman minority” under attack in our country? The correlating question is why? Why is this group resented and under attack? Finally, how do we combat it when one of the two major political parties is touting as its newest rising star someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Castro (oops, Cortez), someone who has declared war on capitalism?

The battle lines have been drawn. It is up to each of us to decide where we stand and what we are going to do to fight the slide toward socialism – or worse. The battle begins with education – educating ourselves and our families and then moving on to educating others. Thomas Sowell is an excellent place to start because that education requires more than just political theory. It requires and understanding of human nature, of economics, of history and so much more.

Until next week.

Liberty In A Statist World by Dr. Karma

Liberty In A Statist World
by Dr. Karma

Idealism

Anyone who knows me well would agree that I’m nothing if not an idealist. Idealistic about politics, about medicine, about science, even about my car and guns. But it’s a funny thing about ideals; they never quite have a one-to-one relationship with the real world. The less electronic tomfoolery in a car, the better, I say. Yet the car I drive has one of the more advanced automatic transmissions on the market, and an electronic throttle body (Throttle cable? Kickdown cable? What?). Therapy before pharmacology is my motto, and yet I became a psychiatrist rather than a clinical psychologist, with the primary difference between the two being the ability to dispense street drugs with fancy labels.

But such things are comparatively minor compared to how a liberty-oriented individual is forced to operate in this most statist of all worlds. Just as a surgeon must sometimes remove part of the body to save a life, we may sometimes be forced to advocate legislation where we’d rather none exist whatsoever. Beyond that, we must occasionally push for a direct curtailment of liberty in order to protect that which remains. This situation is best articulated in a quote I’ve seen, roughly paraphrased:

“We’re at an awkward point in American history. It’s too late to work ‘within the system’. But it’s too early to pull out the guns.”

The Problem

The essential problem is that once government has become involved in the regulation and restriction of various aspects of behavior, it is almost impossible to remove government interference from the picture. Furthermore, once involved in a given area, it becomes easier and easier for government to increase its scope and breadth. In other words, free societies will inevitably spiral downward should something occur to upset the balance between individual liberty and government control (as happened after Reconstruction, Roosevelt’s ‘Great Experiment’, Johnson’s ‘Great Society’, and the increasing trend for theocrats and ‘mixed economic model’ advocates to make up the bulk of mainstream political thought).

A complicating factor has to do with people themselves; their attitude toward liberty and government, the superficiality of thought, and the inherent tyranny of democracy. I’ve often thought that many in Europe (as in England, where the backs of their passports bear testimony to this) haven’t yet learned the difference between subject and citizen. Although they participate in democracies, they seem to have an unthinking, unfeeling belief that no matter what one speaks of, ultimately it is government’s responsibility to handle matters. It’s all too reminiscent of the days in which a serf would trade his freedom, his land, and the fruit of his own labor for the knowledge that his feudal lord would protect him. From the speeches of Franklin Delano Roosevelt declaring comfort to be a primary responsibility of government to the political landscape today, where the Democrat platform largely consists of how many ways and how extensively they can interfere with our lives ‘for our own good’. And the Republicans little better with their ever more invasive ‘national security’ programs and insistance on legislating against actions that, though dubious in morality, have little or no effect on others.

In the stark language that I’d use it’s easy enough to see the problem that lies in this mindset. However, it’s all too easy to present it in such a way that it sounds oh so good. Which is exactly what FDR did when he essentially sold us on socialism. A lot of people don’t understand why I vilify the man so much. There is no doubt that the man was between a rock and a hard place during the Depression, there isn’t any doubt that some kind of governmental interference was necessary to bring us out of the doldrums. [According to latest research, no. He prolongued, if not created the depression. We saw a repeat of this with Obama and the Great Recession, so I’m inclined to believe it – SAH] But the way in which he did it was reprehensible. As I was telling Intellect Impure a few nights ago, it reminded me of the way doctors used to function back in the day.

From the first day of medical school onward it’s been beaten into our heads that we do not make decisions for patients; we educate patients about their choices and help them choose their own path. This runs counter to the way it used to be, with the doctor telling you what was to be done, telling you that you needed it, and then doing it. Indeed, letting the patient know what was going on was more a courtesy than part of allowing him to participate in his own health choices. Personally, I’m glad it’s changed.

The doctor used to operate on the principle of unquestioned authority; he simply knew what was best for you whether you agreed or not. Depending on the situation, the patient was all too happy to leave the decision-making and disease management in the doctor’s hands. I imagine being told you have a life-threatening disease can be very daunting indeed, and the ability to leave your health in the hands of someone with more knowledge and skill can be a very comforting thought. There is a problem with this, in that, although the doctor may have your best interest at heart, he’s making the cost/benefit decision for you.

I remember when I had a meningitis scare and mom (a doctor herself) dragged me off to the emergency room at 3 am. The resident on duty handed me some gloopy orange colloid and told me to drink it before mom could stop and ask what it was. After she’d inquired about associated side effects , the resident calmly reported that there was a chance that I could bleed out through my GI tract. Now, if mom had had a chance to get a word in edgewise, she might’ve been able to tell the doctor that when I did get sick (fairly rare), my fevers tended to skyrocket, no matter how minor the infection. She might’ve asked the resident to tell her just how sure she was that I had meningitis before giving me the stuff. Like I said, it’s a good thing that the doctor now dialogues with the patient about treatment.

And this was the problem with FDR’s ‘Great Experiment’. He simply told us ‘Government knows best. We will take care of you. Just put those blinders back on and let us worry about it.’ And so the veritable litany of alphabet agencies was brought into existence from the Works Progress Administration to the Rural Electrification Administration (which still exists, by the way). The way he expanded federal control over our lives was to couch it in the language of a caring authority. He told us of the benefits, he told us that government had a responsibility to take care of us, he used the language of a doting, authoritarian figure to seduce us into serfdom. But he never told us about the costs, he didn’t tell us that because of his transgressions we’d find ourselves wading through the sort of red tape that caused the revolutionaries to take up arms against an oppressive government 150 years before him. And worse, he told us that through government control we would become ‘more free’.

And it is the same sort of language that continues to pervade statist political talk today. “We need to establish this government program for your own good,” they tell us, never asking if the benefit of comfort is worth the cost of freedom. Words are all too pliable, and definitions that were held constant for thousands of years were in the blink of an eye turned on their head in the first half of this century. ‘Freedom’ became a property that required an active role on the part of the government, ‘rights’ could only be produced by taking from the pockets of men the fruit of their hard-earned labor. In short, liberty was transformed into comfort. And so we lost the ability to perceive our freedom taken away bit by bit as government expanded its role in our lives.

It is a central conceit of economic theory that individuals will act in a rational manner. Yet in certain aspects of life, we consistently fail to do so. Beyond the fact that reality is filtered through the imperfect perceptive abilities of the human brain, we are simply too emotional of creatures, too sentimental, too susceptible to romantic ideas. And so, although rationally none could argue that the ‘liberty’ and ‘rights’ that statists speak of represent neither liberty nor rights, such strains of thought will remain and probably continue to expand in popularity. The idea that you can be protected from the slings and arrows of fortune, that someone else can be responsible for your safety, your health, or your well-being, is simply one that will never die. These things are far too precious to us to resist temptation when someone offers promise of them to you on a golden platter.

The Solution

The true ideals of liberty unfortunately stand little chance against the rhetoric of statists and their utopian talk of better living through regulation. We will never be a large part of the population for the simple fact that few are willing to put in the thought and rationality required to wade through the statist nonsense and understand the true meanings beyond the words twisted into shapes like so much modelling clay. Emotions, promises, dreams, though. These are things that all can and do understand. And it is these that most will vote with when it comes time to do so. Unless ever-so-carefully-safeguarded, a liberty-minded state will eventually fall prey to the charismatic powermongers and the very people who make up the republic. Just to get an idea of how difficult this is, remember just what a paranoid, forward-thinking, and all-encompassing document the Constitution really is. Read the strong language, the simple statements, see the truth laid bare for all to see. And think back to the speeches of Bush, of Kennedy, of Santorum, of Boxer or of McCain. Think of how easily they make a sham of the founding document.

No, the regrettable truth is that our ideals, though noble, cannot win against the statist once they have established so strong a beachhead that we find ourselves cowering against our inland borders, cowering as we await the killing blow. But that is not to say we are doomed to failure, or that the time has come to ready those ‘assault weapons’ so deplored by the mainstream left in order to start a revolution. It is simply that in order to win, we must sully our ideals, we must turn to the statists’ own tools in order to prevent further transgressions, and, if we’re lucky, regain a little ground.

The two tools at our disposal are the strength of the federal legislative bodies and the ability to compromise one ideal in order to protect another. Earlier I brought up a medical analogy and I’ll return to different ones here. The first concept can be characterized as ‘Cutting to Cure’ while the second is plainly and simply ‘Triage’.

Cutting To Cure – Reading the constitution, bill of rights, and historical documents of the birth of our nation yields no compelling reason why the second amendment doesn’t apply to handguns, ‘assault weapons’, or to the carrying of said weapons upon one’s person, concealed or otherwise. Furthermore, one cannot find a reason why a man must be prevented from using said implements in the defense of his person and property. Indeed, the definition of ‘to bear’ means literally to carry on one’s person. And for what purpose is a man to bear a weapon if not for the potential of its use. Yet here we sit with ‘assault weapons bans’ in several states, handgun bans in many cities, and even outright bans of all firearms in one or two localities, not to mention restrictions on when and where a man may defend himself. Here, federal legislation, despite being a non-libertarian tool, has been instrumental in at least partially returning to us a right enshrined in our most basic documents.

Triage – Every now and then, a man is forced to make a difficult decision. Does he save the wife he’s pledged his life to? Or the child he’s sworn to protect and raise from infancy to adulthood? Thankfully, the quandaries we are presented with, though ideologically painful, are not so bleak. An example can be found in the illegal immigration debate. Several respected libertarian minds have come out against immigration control and for amnesty. Just as many have come out in favor of strict enforcement and deportation of those who’ve broken the law in coming here. Personally I fall in the latter category (except for the ‘respected mind’ part), even advocating making English the official language and qualifying ‘of the soil’ citizenship with the need for the parents to have been here legally on some sort of long-term visa.

As several have mentioned, this isn’t a very libertarian way of looking at things. And they’re right. But this isn’t a libertarian world. In this world one has to worry about the statists and how the massive influx of new voters of a neither American nor particularly affluent population will change the political balance. And the answer is perhaps even uglier than Kirsten Dunst. In this place, at this time, the 10-20 million new voters represent a sizeable addition to the ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘mixed economic model’ camps. More social welfare, governmentally mandated bilingualism. Neither things I much look forward to. So I’m forced to choose between my belief that those who wish to come here should be allowed to versus my fear of treading down the road Old Europe has cautioned us against with their own pitfalls, both culturally and economically. Which is more important? To hold true to your ideals as they are all voted away from you? Or to compromise one to save the many? No, it’s not a very fun choice, but it’s one that we have to make.

No matter how we paint it, the future is pretty bleak for liberty; no matter the time or place, it will always be. But by understanding the mechanics of a statist world, we can learn how to cure it, or at least stem the flow of liberty’s lifeblood from our nation’s many ideological wounds.

** Dr. Karma is an attending physician at (information redacted). His many professional accomplishments include contributions to evolutionary biology and saving an untold number of kids from stupid adults and an even more stupid entrenched bureaucracy. His primary accomplishment remains convincing his coworkers that he’s a pediatric specialist rather than a hitman in a mere six months. He specializes in whatever he feels like that day, and his coworkers are too scared to point out that he’s ‘just a psychiatrist’. The kids get better just to get him to stop yelling, singing, dancing, or dressing up like batman. It works, so he’s good with it.

That Guy or Why Communism Won’t Work

 

For those who don’t know, we have a “closed” group of my fans on Facebook, called Sarah’s Diner.

It’s a place with definite rules, because my fans come both from fiction and non fiction, and widely separate streams of thought.  So, no politics are allowed, and no religion and no…

In addition to that, there is a detailed,  list of rules, like you can’t have a link to FB with a sales link.  Most people find this pointless, and some people throw fits because my moderators take their ‘Harmless” amazon link to mugs, or toys or something down.

Yesterday a friend of mine told me that I have control freaks as moderators.  Do I? Would it be easier/better if I let everyone do whatever and only had moderators to stop fights/kick out spam.

I started out that way…

The rule about selling links to Amazon, for instance, started because of ONE main offender, who not only found a way to link his book EVERY TIME in all sorts of unlikely circumstances (so we put in a rule about self promotion) but then found ways to have his friends/relatives/gullible acquaintances post links to his books apropos nothing (rule against linking books) and then started figuring out how to get them to post links to other things (that had his books in the recommends.)

We could have kicked him out, we could.  Only you know, he hadn’t actually broken the laws.  Also, there were three or four people doing the same thing, more subtly, and falling in behind every rule loophole he found.

So my moderators gradually became control freaks.  Sure, I could have gone the other way and given them leave to just let anyone post whatever.  But the problem is that writers are stupid.  No, like, massively stupid when it comes to promotion.

Some of us — me — are embarrassed to do it at all.  And then some people do promo in the most bizarre and unlikely situations.  And I mean that.  Like answering someone saying their spouse has cancer with “I’m sorry, that sucks.  Now, in my book A Bright Promise, the main character has cancer and it turns out okay.  You might want to read it.”

And groups with a lot of writers, which mine seems to be, partly because I support indie, can become nothing but a link fest.  I don’t want that and don’t want to look at that when I visit.

Do the mods hate to have to police at that level?  Sure.  Because, you know, they don’t get paid.  Do I hate to make them police at that level?  Sure, because I’m actually very laid back.

So what does this have to do with communism?  Socialists/communists/the left in general, suffer from the illusion that you can give people stuff for free, and people will take what they need.

Ah!

No, seriously, ah!

Even without rule lawyering, people are STUPID, and some of the dumbest people are the smartest.

For instance I run the book plug here on Saturday and, with Charlie Martin, the PJM Book Plug Friday.  We’re glad to do it.  We don’t get paid.  Well, we get paid for BPF, but only for the article, the links are our own idea and extra.

The rules are simple: send me an amazon link to bookpimping at outlook dot com if you want to be linked on my blog on Saturdays.  Send us a link to Bookplugfriday at gmail dot com if you want to make an appearance on the Book Plug Friday post over at PJ.  IF your blurb is really long, send us a 40 word blurb to PJ, where we’re crunched for space. DON’T send the same book more than once a month.

That’s it.  I’m offering to do something for free to promo people’s books.  People like promo, as I mentioned above. So they make it easy for me, right?

Right…  Like, last week, I got: a message begging us to promo a book… with no link, no name of book. A book, in its entirety, including cover (and an apology for not sending a higher res cover!) but no link.  A long, incoherent ramble about our “rejecting” a book for promo.  I searched the mailbox. We never got the promo request.

Minor stuff includes doing everything right… except sending us the link, or sending us the link to a different book.

Other minor stuff which finally caused me to snap on FB today, includes pinging me on FB (seriously 7 a day) with links, or sending them to my email.

It probably sounds control freakish when I say, when you do that, unless you’re a friend or someone I REALLY LIKE you’re not going to get a plug.

It’s not. It’s just what will happen, not what I WANT to happen. Why?  Because I’m doing three full time jobs (PJMedia, Baen and Indie) before I even start on things like household, making sure we don’t choke on dirt, and spending SOME time with my family and you know, making sure my husband remembers who I am.  And that’s before the fact that my health has me at half power most of the time. If it’s not essential I’ll space it.  Heck, indie keeps getting spaced, and that has to end.

Which btw, shows you the problem from the other side.  When each is working “according to his abilities” with no compensation, even if you’re really conscientious and really want to do this, stuff will slip.  You’re only human. Add to that that the people receiving things for free, even pre-rule-lawyering are going to do stupid crap.  So much stupid crap, it will make your head hurt and make your job twice as hard.

This is before the rule lawyering.  The group on FB has something like a thousand people, but ALL it takes is one rule-lawyer to make you generate a million more rules, and make your moderators (and you) way busier and pissier.  Which is why every state that tries to give you everything ends up regulating everything.

So, basically yeah, we’ve never had “true communism” (or socialism, or heaven, or whatever you want to call it this week.)  That’s because humans are humans, and there’s always that one guy.

Which is fine.  The same things that make utopia impossible are probably the things that make us a creative and striving species.  And anyway, if you got everything handed to you, you wouldn’t get anything done.

We must forgive other’s foibles as we hope ours will be forgiven.  None of us is without sin, and it’s much easier to see how annoying other people are than how annoying WE are (and I guarantee we are, at least at times.)

I happen to like people, even with all their issues.  Which means I’m okay with no utopia this side of heaven.

And people who want that utopia tend to hate humans with all their might.  Because only angels would make their utopia work.

 

 

 

When The End Justifies The Means, Who Cares About Truth? By Tom Knighton

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When The End Justifies The Means, Who Cares About Truth?

By Tom Knighton

One thing I get to enjoy as a full-time blogger is an up-close look at what the left publishes. I don’t get the luxury of living in an echo chamber, which is for the best. I have to listen to what they’re saying and, more importantly, how they’re saying it.

Now, there are some on the left who I believe may be misguided, but are actually decent folks. They’re True Believers, which can be a different brand of problem, but they also have some sense of morality that keeps some of the worst aspects of humanity in check.

But there are others who don’t really care.

Take this post from over at Medium.

Now, Medium is a pretty open platform and lots of people write at Medium with no audience to speak of, but this one got a little traction. The bulk of the post, despite a title about the supposed American collapse, is about a GOP candidate who is apparently a true racist.

Racists are scum and I would sooner vote for my coffee table than an avowed racist. I don’t have any issue with the author addressing the candidate’s claim that “God is a white supremacist,” which is the greatest load of bunk I’ve heard out of a candidate since “Hope and Change.”

What bothered me was his choice of photograph.

You see, when blogging, artwork matters. I remember the days when no one really cared about pics, but those days are long behind us. These days, the photographs grab people. Here’s the picture that the author, Umair Haque, chose to use:

Racist photoshop

Four women in white shirts at what is clearly a Trump rally saying “Make America White Again.” How was this not news when it happened? How was this not on the cover of every newspaper in the country?

Probably because it didn’t happen.

What you see above is a photoshop job. In this post, you can see these same four women as well a what their shirts really say. “Make America Great Again.” The same thing countless hats and signs at rallies all over the nation said during Trump’s campaign.

Yet Haque makes no mention of this. There’s no disclaimer that it’s not a real photograph, that he’s using it to make a point, or anything. This leaves two possibilities.

The first is laziness. Maybe he simply didn’t know it wasn’t real and failed to do any research on the validity of the image. If that’s true, then why should we take anything else he says at face value? He’s clearly not conducting rudimentary research on something as simple as a photo—Google’s reverse image search is a handy tool, after all—what else is he missing in his diatribe?

He may also have known it was fake and simply forgot to let people know, which is something he should have done from the start. Failure to do so is still laziness, and it also makes one wonder just what else he forgot to mention. If you can fail to provide such an important detail, what else did you fail to provide?

The second option, however, is malice. He knows It’s photoshop and didn’t care to inform his audience because he wants to paint the American right as nothing but racists. This image, and the fact that these four women would be so bold as to wear such shirts (if it were real, naturally) surrounded by thousands of other Americans, would easily show people just how white supremacist the conservative side actually is.

However, I seriously doubt Haque is lazy. It’s a long post with a lot of arguments included designed to dispute the idea that God is a white supremacist. Nothing in that reads as something written by a lazy person in any way, shape or form.

That leaves malice, and if that’s the case, I hope Haque has a good lawyer on standby.

You see, those four women are easily identifiable by those who know them. All it takes is the wrong soul seeing that image and they could lose their jobs and generally have their lives turned upside down. In other words, this could easily be considered defamation.

But for leftists like Haque, who cares?

After all, the American left has made it pretty damn clear that they don’t really care about the lives of people who disagree with them ideologically. They’ve taken to stalking and harassment in public spaces to try and shame conservative leadership into…who the hell knows? I guess they think they can turn the right into leftists with enough shame or something. That’s not how it works, mind you, but that’s what they apparently think.

Because of that, I can’t help but think that Haque doesn’t really care what happens to these women because of this photoshop job.

Now, I’m not saying he did it. I honestly don’t know who did the photoshopping here. I honestly don’t care all that much.

What I do care is that Haque has published it and promoted it while apparently presenting it as a factual and accurate representative of what was at a Donald Trump rally at some point in the past.

As of Sunday afternoon, it had almost 9,500 likes (or whatever Medium calls it). That means significantly more people saw that image. I mean, unless you think that everyone who saw the post clicked the little clapping hands icon. The likes to views ratio often varies, but I’ve often gotten hundreds more hits on a post than I got likes, so it’s not unreasonable to say that tens of thousands of people have seen this. It’s also not unreasonable to estimate that the number of reads that story got was in the hundreds of thousands.

In other words, Haque used that image to lie to thousands.

But, when the ends justify the means as so many leftists apparently believe, you can do that. Who cares if these four women have their lives upended? That’s just the broken egg necessary to make an omelet and all those other clichés.

Frankly, it’s just another variety of collectivist thinking. They don’t care what happens to four individuals because they think the group matters more.

What they always fail to remember is that no group of people is made up of a faceless mob. They’re made up of individuals. If you do what is right for the individual, you do what is best for the group as a whole. It’s the natural result.

But, when you do what you think is best for the group, there are individuals that are going to be hurt.

In this case, it’s possible defamation. In another it could be about jobs. Who knows?

What really matters is that collectivists like the American left will always tend to figure they can stomp on the individual, and that’s precisely what Haque is doing here.

If you like this stuff, check me out elsewhere. You can read my non-fiction stuff at PJ Media and BearingArms.com
However, if you want to follow me a little more personally, you can find me at http://byspearandaxe.com 
Additionally, in case you didn’t know, I write fiction from time to time as well, and you can find it and even a nonfiction book I wrote here: https://www.amazon.com/T.L.-Knighton/e/B00KUTEPOI/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1531697823&sr=1-2-ent

Sunday Book Promo and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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Sunday Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us links to books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com.  One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Please do not send me: the entire book; book descriptions; or newsletters.  JUST send me the Amazon link-SAH*

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FROM PETER GRANT:  The Pride of the Damned (Cochrane’s Company Book 3).

The shadow war started as a simple contract to defend a system against asteroid thieves. The harder Andrew Cochrane and Hawkwood Security fought, the worse things became. Now they find themselves embroiled in an interstellar war with an entire mafia!

Worse yet, the proceedings are so profitable – not to mention bloody – that they’ve attracted the attention of some of the worst criminal organizations in the galaxy. If Hawkwood is to survive, it’ll need all the wits, cunning and ingenuity it can muster – and the unwavering courage and dedication of its people.

The galaxy’s not big enough for both sides. One or the other will go to the wall.

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FROM LAURA MONTGOMERY: Rapunzel.

FAA attorney Terrence Rogers dreams of space, but he spends his days on informed consent for space tourists. Young foreign service officer Hal Cooper faces real change with the arrival of an alien spaceship, but it means something else for Terrence.

A short story.

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FROM ALMA T C BOYKIN: The Scavenger’s Gift

Of all the gods, men fear the Scavenger the most. Wise men and women take pains to avoid His notice.

When Osbert Manns’hillda ventures into the mine called Scavenger’s Gift, the Dark One takes notice. Or does he?

Short story: 5000 words

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FROM ROB HOBART:  The Sword of Amatsu (Empire of the Sun and Moon Book 1).

For four centuries, the Empire of the Sun and Moon has been torn apart by war as its samurai Clans fight for the empty throne of the Emperors. The Gray Wolf Clan is one of only six Clans remaining, but faces a deadly threat from the more powerful and ruthless Jade Dragon Clan. Yet the greatest threat to the Empire is not the bloody ambitions of its samurai. The shadowy followers of the Cult of the Mask, worshippers of foreign demons, burrow through the Empire’s society like worms in rotten meat, growing in power year by year.

As battles rage and conspiracies fester, the fate of the Empire will turn on the actions of a handful of samurai. The young lord Ookami Akira, trained by monks to be a master of war but desperately ignorant of the Empire’s civilization, must learn to be the ruler of the Gray Wolf Clan or he and his people will perish. Kuroi Kaede, a naïve girl forced into an unwilling marriage to Akira, must master the courts if she is to survive. The lowly magistrate Kobayashi Mitsui is the only one in the Empire who recognizes the true scale of the threat from the Cult of the Mask. And the murderous wandering swordsman Kenji may hold the fate of all in his blood-stained hands…

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FROM STEPHANIE OSBORN:  Definition and Alignment (Division One Book 7).

When another enhanced human, Mark Wright, unexpectedly shows up at the Agency, Alpha One discovers that they still aren’t done with Slug’s machinations and levels of planning: Wright is there for Omega, and the NEXT generation of assassins will be GENETICALLY programmed to kill Echo! Thus begins a bizarre, inverted manhunt as the telepathically-brainwashed Wright chases Alpha One across the planet, using the pre-programmed mental link that Omega can’t fully block, to follow her anywhere Echo can take her…

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: valuable